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Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

I have a love-hate relationship with surprises … I hate to be confronted with surprises, but I love to plan them for others.

The other day I got to surprise a couple of people and it was such fun (at least it was for me). Their reactions were unplanned, without the filters that give us the ‘right’ words to say.

I remember, many years ago, when I was having a milestone birthday. We had booked a sitter for our daughter and went out to a nice restaurant for dinner. When we arrived back home, just before entering our house, I looked over to him and said, “thanks so much for not planning a surprise birthday party, because I really hate surprises” … lets just say, his face said it all … I gulped and opened the door to (you guessed it) a house full of people.

That was an undesired surprise, but then there are other surprises that are simply bad. When a loved one dies, a job is lost, a dark secret or a lie revealed. Those surprises can crush a person, changing the trajectory of life.

The thing is, every surprise we encounter is old news to God. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly that is coming in our lives. He knows the resources that we will need for the surprises to come.

That’s not to say that we actually choose to use or rely on those resources, but he has provided them. As a matter of fact the resource of peace through the Spirit is there for those who choose to accept that in our lives. He is never pushy, but there for our taking … if we so choose.

For those of us who have chosen, it is unfathomable to consider living this life, with all of it’s surprises, without the assurance that we do not have to face them on our own.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it.

Isaiah 43:19

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If you drive or bike by me while I am out for a walk, you will most likely see a woman, face forward, moving at a fast clip that ensures that the wonder-dog is in full panting mode. A brisk pace from beginning to end is what my daily walks are all about. I have a destination to reach and that is the end of the walk.

That’s me … the purpose driven walker.

For a few months there’s been a niggling in the back of my mind concerning these daily scurries around my hood. It has been poking me more and more until I finally had to admit the challenge being presented to me …

how about a slow, meandering walk for a change?

It is a bit embarrassing to admit that it took me months to try this out.

Finally, a couple weeks back, as I tied my runners I determined that my canine buddy and I would challenge the idiom about a dog and a new trick.

We wandered. paused. looked left. and right. and even turned back a few times. we stopped to watch the sheep nibbling on grass. we watched the gentle wind send the trees swaying overhead. we listened to the birds songs. checked out flowers, and shrubs. we breathed slow, deep.

Our walk took double the time we normally walk. We wandered, and lingered, and ambled and dawdled, and maybe even dilly dallied just a bit.

And, you know what?

it was pure delight!

There was no drive, no purpose, other than to enjoy the very moment we were in.

This slower pace may just become a more regular way to walk.

the one who acts hastily makes poor choices.

Proverbs 19:2b

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For a few days now, my daily walk has not been accompanied by podcasts of messages by a couple of my favorite Christian preachers, but music.

The music is a bit different from much of my playlist, for the songs are long (like 7-8 minutes long, each one), with much repetition of lines in the songs. When I slip in my headphones and tie up my runners I am transported to the most beautiful sanctuary of worship within the beauty of the natural creation.

This daily, solo, worship service has facilitated my expressions of trust, love and hope in God alone. It has enabled me to escape the the me centered world I live, and live in. I can spend my walk time focused on the One who is really in control, the One who is always faithful, always with me.

And He alone deserves praise.

One of the worship songs that I have been using as a vehicle for my walking worship is the Doxology (praise God from whom all blessings flow).

It was written in 1674, by Thomas Ken, who had a fascinating life with positions in church leadership that had him mixing with the likes of Princess Mary (later Queen), King Charles 2 (and his mistress) as well as King James 2, whose Declaration of Indulgence, Thomas refused to read in church … and spent some time in the Tower of London.

His doxology was not printed publicly until after his death.

And today, over 300 years later, his penned praise to God is still sung, in cathedrals, churches, and along the paths and sidewalks of the Pacific Northwest.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

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Are you an if/then person?

You know, one of those who sees and seeks understanding of conditions and results.

I am, most naturally an if/then person.

If I study hard, then I will achieve high marks.

If I work with all my might, then I will be successful in my job.

If I sow good things, then I will reap good things.

The thing is … life isn’t always that predictable and it most certainly does not come with guarantees.

We live our lives as mere mortals, among mere mortals, in a fallen, sin-saturated world. Therefore, conditions and results do not always line up.

Students who study hard fail exams. Hard working people lose their jobs. We can sow good things in and around us and reap only that which is bitter.

These are the realities of living in this world.

Yet, this does not mean that we proceed through our days and lives with our knuckles dragging on the ground. Even when the if/thens of our life have faulty results, there can be joy.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10

There is a strength that comes, irregardless of circumstances, if/then failures and failed conditions. It is a strength that comes from choosing joy … but not just any joy. It is a joy that we skin-covered souls can only experience and achieve from one source … it is a joy that comes from familiarity with God.

When we look at the failures, pains and destructions in our lives compared with the love and mercy and redemption available to us in Christ … we have true joy at our disposal.

If we choose Christ, then we will have joy in Him … though all around us might fall.

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It’s early on a Sunday morning, of a long weekend, that marks the end of summer in so many ways.

I hear the Wonder dog shake his sleep from his head, then the wet of his tongue on my arm, hanging over the side of the bed. Blech!

I reach to the other side of the bed, empty. This summer has been one of trading places. He often rising before me. So I tap his side of the bed, the known invitation for my buddy to leap up onto the bed with me. I sense him searching, sniffing and looking for my face to lick. It’s his way of saying, hey lady, I don’t have indoor cammode, I need to let out for my relief.

I lift the covers higher, turning to the other side, my face safe from his slobbery expression of love … ok, it’s really his urgency to get me to let him out, but I am the interpreter of this dog.

He settles, a loud sigh, fully communicating his impatience.

I open only one eye, gauging the time of day by the light peeking around the curtains and the sounds of cars passing by. I reckon it is near six. I relax, sleep calling me back to it’s magical place.

This is so odd for me, this slow morning wake up. I can recall mornings as a child, awakening in my childhood bedroom, sun peeking in around the window blinds and my heartbeat racing to start the day. I would leap out of bed, afraid to miss out on one moment of the day (especially if it was a weekend or holiday).

Rise! Shine! Your new day is dawning. The glory of the LORD shines brightly on you.

Isaiah 60:1

That verse describes my typical morning awakening so well. It is as if I had an urgency to start the day. The time on the clock is redundant, it could be 6am, or 4:30am (eye roll). Either way, once my lungs have taken in the deep morning breath, sleep is no more, for I know that my calling is to be awake.

That is similar to the call in Isaiah. Though it were written to Jerusalem, it applies to each of us. We cannot bring the light of dawn, for it is this morning light that is our light. Another way to say it is that we have no light within us, except for the light that God gives. Sure, we might be able to muddle around, using our human instincts, but without the light that comes from Christ, we are not seeing clearly.

The thing is, our walking in the dark, we have chosen this. We chose to muddle through the dark, though each morning we are reminded of the call of God, through the light of the dawn.

This morning light also reminds us of our daily opportunity to start over, fresh. Like the oft quoted words of Anne Shirley, “tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” This daily rise of the light is our morning whisper to choose to live in His light, to shed our pre-occupation with the false illusion of our own good, our own sufficiency.

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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As I sit at my desk I can hear him … off in the distance, somewhere to the east of us, a rooster crows with wild abandon.

When I hear him, my mind ofter recites this, with each call :

before the rooster crows …

My rooster neighbor crows just before 6am, so if Peter were to have denied Jesus three times that day, before the rooster crows … well, it must have been really easy for him to have denied his Lord, three times, before dawn.

What was Peter thinking?

Jesus had pre-warned him of his impending denials, so he knew they might/would occur. One would think that he would be prepared and wouldn’t fall into a trap of saying what he did not want to say! It is like his tongue deceived him.

Have you ever done that … say what isn’t true, what you didn’t want to say?

Once I had an experience where my brain and tongue were not working in co-operation. I had a medical appointment, via phone. I am not a phone person … never have been. Even as a teenager, I dislike phone communication. So, knowing this about myself, I made notes for the appointment.

When it was time for the appointment, with my list at my hand, I was asked questions … questions that I had written answers to on my paper … right beside me. One of the questions (probably the most important) was, “how has this issue been?” And I answered “a firm okay” … but on my paper I’d written, “rotten”. Right there, I denied my own reality, with not so much as a glance to that paper beside me.

When telling a friend about this she said, maybe, as a people pleaser, I instinctively responded with what I thought my doctor wanted to hear. Maybe I was so eager to have progress to share that I instinctively fabricated it.

If it was that easy for me to deny my own health situation, I think I can understand Peter’s denials before dawn. For, in his case, his denials came out of fear for himself. They were most primitive, for his denials originated in a fear for his life.

The thing is the rooster crows every morning … we have this daily reminder of Peter’s denial of his association with Jesus. We may not be asked directly, or daily about our relationship with Christ, but we still have opportunity to live it. We live our relationship with him in how we love (or do not), in how we use our resources (time, money), in how we behave towards others (in our neighborhoods, in businesses, workplaces, families), in how we think verses what we say (“as one thinks, so is he” Proverbs 23:7).

We all have daily opportunities to live out our association with Jesus … or deny it.

I love how the Contemporary English Version writes this verse (Matthew 26:34):

Jesus replied, “I promise you before a rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you don’t know me.”

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In June I noticed it.

A plant was growing, just outside our garden gate. As my eyes noticed it, I could not remember seeing it the day before, yet it must have been four inches tall. Days and weeks passed, each day the plant’s growth noted. Now, it stands feet above my head.

A neighbor in our complex had taken sunflower seeds out, when they went for a walk. The popped a few outside the gates of everyone in our complex, anticipating a colorful late August floral display.

Of the four planted outside our gate, we have only two (the grounds keepers were rather thorough in their ‘weeding’). The one is a bit of a slow developer … perhaps it’s growth was stunted in our earlier heat dome. But the one still present, that first one I saw.

It has been growing in the shade of a tree, only getting direct sun late into the afternoon and evening.

Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone ever sees it’s bright yellow flower, for it has grown straight up into the branches of the tree.

For the person walking on the sidewalk, all they see is a big stalk, growing up and into the branches of the tree.

But …

I know it is there

So,

every time I walk out my gate,

I lift my eyes,

to see it’s beauty.

Proverbs 8:17 came to mind the other day as I was peering through leaves to see the flower.

those who diligently seek me will find me

What a reminder this hidden flower, this bit of yellow beauty, this gift from a neighbor …

that there is an if/then reality within.

If we look for God,
then we will find Him.

period.

That’s a guarantee we can take to the bank …

and He never leaves us.

Amen

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Summer can be a time of being instead of doing.

Books are read.

Stones are skipped.

Hikes are treked

Picnics are eaten.

Flowers and vegetables bloom and grow.

People are visited.

Trips are taken.

And on, and on go the list of recreation we take part in during this season.

A few days ago, I was stretched out on my back on our outdoor two-seater lounge, legs hanging over the side, book in hand, held up at just the right distance (which is becoming more and more difficult to navigate). Suddenly, something caught my attention and I peeked to the right of my book to see something absolutely glorious …

the cloudless, azure blue sky.

I stared in complete delight for minutes … just taking in the beauty of the day, the moment. I whispered formless prayers of thanks to God for this moment, because this level of beauty cannot go without acknowledgement, gratitude expressed.

Then, in that staring up at the sky moment, I got it. I understood more completely than ever in my life before what God wants from me …

to be rather to do.

2 Corinthians 3:5 tells us:

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves
to claim anything as coming from us,
but our sufficiency is from God.”

Some versions or translations substitute sufficient and sufficiency with competent/competency, or qualified, or adequate. I love how the Good New Translation says it,

There is nothing in us
that allows us to claim
that we are capable of doing this work.
The capacity we have comes from God

To do is often to act on our own strength, our own capabilities. Yet, to truly do the work of God is to let him fill you with his Spirit, his strength. We have no capacity to do for God, if we have not first emptied of ourselves, allowing him to not just provide, but to be the capacity required to

There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work. The capacity we have comes from God, God alone.

That God, that Spirit within us made available through sacrifice. It is the sacrifice that is what it, life, is all about.

Jesus sacrifice is about who we are,
not what we do.

It is about our being, not our doing. For, there is no doing that will make us able to do his work … be good enough, deserving enough.

So, stop.

Stop doing.

Stop striving.

Stop the busyness

that you say is in the name of God.

and be …

Just let him lead you to Him,

and like Mary who sat at his feet,

listening,

just being with Him.

“(Mary) decided what was important, and she did not let the day-to-day get her away from that. As a result, she was drawn into a greatness we don’t even dream of.” – Tim Keller

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
Ephesians 2:8

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It was an opportunity …

a gift …

one that we knew, but they did not.

It wasn’t huge, nor was it small …

it wasn’t a need, nor was it just a want …

but it would be helpful,

make life easier,

better.

Though we didn’t communicate this as a gift, we also did not, not communicate it.

The offer was in our wording, to be revealed if asked, if the one condition was met.

The one who could benefit from this offer, this gift, had only to meet one condition.

But,

that condition meant hard things …

patience.

humility.

sacrifice.

But,

for us to follow through, to give the gift, they had to take the next step.

The gift had a condition, a hoop to jump through.

I was frustrated as I realized that they were so focused one their goal, they were going to miss what was being offered. That they would miss out on the thing that would bring greater help and ease, long term, because they were so focused on the short term desires.

Then, it came to me …

that’s me.

I want what I want, when I want it. Often, my mind is so focused on my goal and my expediency to accomplish it that I miss out on the longer term goals, that can bring better results.

When I think of this sort of impatience, I often think of times of buyer’s remorse. When I have seen a shiny item that lights up my moment and have to have it! Often I spend too much, or spend money on something that truly has only momentary gain … at the cost of something of better quality, because I refused to wait.

God’s love for us is freely offered to all. It is a gift that satisfies us, not just today, but for always. There is nothing hindering our receipt of his love … except that we have to accept it, accept him as our one and only way to a better life, to redemption.

His word reminds us of what is offered to us, the opportunities and gifts that are ours if we would …

Even John 3:16, no doubt one of the most often verses quoted, has an if – then statement.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The eternal life that is offered to all of humanity is an offer with a condition … and conditions come with some sort of sacrifice. In this case the condition is to believe in God … sounds easy enough. But, when we are in the midst of why God moments … belief is a sacrifice … to our understanding, to our pride. It requires patience and humility. But, our understanding and pride are short term … this life that God offers is eternal. It is the long term goal, over the short term.

When we really take the time to understand the offer, we also have to realize that our sacrifice is nothing in comparison to the cost of it … that of the Son of God.

May our … my … eyes be open to what is being offered to me, every day. I pray my focus is on what lasts.

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So, you made it to Friday … after thinking it was Friday twice this week already.

You feel like you simply are doing your best to put one foot in front of the other, accomplishing each expectation upon you one slow step at a time.

You are living for the end to this day, this week … knowing within your soul that this is not satisfying, not life-giving … not what you were created for.

Bone tired … that is what you feel, what describes you best right now.

It is a weariness that zaps your energy, your joie de vivre (joy of living), drying up the body, mind and spirit.

Refreshment …

That is what you need. Like a cool lake on a sizzling hot day, a tall glass of water when utterly parched. You need to be refreshed, from the inside out.

come …

It is a beckoning, a pursuing, an invitation. A word that opens the door for one on the outside.

to me …

To Jesus, to God himself. He is the one giving the invitation. It is personal. Not an invitation delivered by another, but offered personally, physically.

all …

Not everyone except, not only a certain group, but all.

that labor and are heavy laden …

This covers the things that encompass our work (jobs, physical work) as well as the weight on our hearts and souls. Are you tired from your work and your heavy heart?

and I …

This is gonna be the promise, the commitment. And it comes from the Creator of heaven and Earth, and of us.

will give you rest.

This is the outcome of the promise. The result, the then of the if/then.

This is for you who are bone weary.

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