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Archive for the ‘Walking with 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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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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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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Until a few months ago, I had never heard of an atmospheric river. Apparently it is a narrow stream of a huge amount of water that travels through the sky … basically a river in the sky.

In my neck of the woods, such a river ran through my week and it brought with it the seasonal blues of the bleak winter season.

After more than a generation of life in the Pacific NorthWET, one would think that I would expect it, be prepared for it. And I am. I have had my ‘happy lamp’ plugged in and sitting on the floor by my desk since early December in anticipation of this annual crash … but have I turned in on yet?

As every year in January, every dark season, I simply awaken one morning and know that it is here, that the fight for joy is on. It is not the season to ‘keep calm and carry on’, but to

  • feel the heaviness, acknowledging it is real
  • tell those closest to you (for support and so they don’t feel they are to blame)
  • consciously put what believe into practice
  • repeat the promises
  • remember God’s presence
  • pray without ceasing … like all day, everyday

For those who might need it, take a sick day from work … sick isn’t just a fever. Health is much broader than that. Do something that makes you feel good … buy a new book, get your hair done, book a massage, go for a walk, pick up your favorite bevy, run a bubble bath, pick up your paints … do something that externally brings you joy … the internal will come!

For those who need them, here are a few verses, promises I go to (in my mind and out loud, ALL DAY LONG):

I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

“Trust in the Lord. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord” Psalm 27:14

As the dark day was coming to a close, the atmospheric river dried up, the clouds parted as the setting sun peeked out, bringing light and colors across the sky in a most glorious display.

Though the dark, seasonal cloud still settled over my being, this display of light brought the hope I’d been whispering through the Word all day long. Though these inner atmospheric rivers will continue to rain down on me for days and weeks to come, I was reminded that joy is not the absence of trouble, but real joy is found in the midst of it. That is the promise, that is the difference when walking in the dark with the light of the world.

You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
  but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139:5-12

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The great Greek storyteller, Aesop, has said,

“united we stand, divided we fall.”

Wise, if not simple words. Words that seem to echo in our ears and minds a bit more during this season as this current history is being written, lived. For, has it not felt like division has taken over is so many facets of our lives, from within society as a whole, to workplaces, to schools, to churches and within our family units as well?

The pandemic of the past two past years has interfered with our normal lives, hindering our travel, our social, recreational, educational, business lives, leaving the lonely even more alone, but also leaving families and loved ones to grieve separation … even separation that goes beyond walls and right to the grave.

Beyond the restrictions and vaccinations and documentations …

Beyond the illness, threats to illness and death …

Beyond the physical separation …

Beyond even loss of physical life …

division

has had a profoundly negative effect on us all these two years …

and it has spilled into every people group of society, from families, to work places, to circles of believers and into our churches.

Of division, the Bible does speak, but what it speaks more often of is unity, with an an emphasis on unity as believers.

It would seem that there is only one unity that matters, only one common thread that is woven into the lives of believers … and it has nothing to do with what many of us are speaking most often about these days …

that of our unity in Christ

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 1:10

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:1-5

These passages speak of unity in Christ.

So, here is a question for you, for me …

what do we spend our time with other believers speaking about?

Do we spend the majority of our time speaking about what is going on in the world of or do we spend our time speaking of what Christ is doing in our world?

Do we speak of what we have heard on the news, or what we have read in the Word?

Do we discuss those who are, or are not vaccinated … or do we unite in prayer for those who need the inoculation of the Spirit of God in their lives?

We, who are Christ-followers, have the Good News, the best news that world needs to hear. It is news that can heal, soothe, strengthen. It is news that we are commissioned to share with the weary world. News that changes lives.

The world will see Christ in us, how we live and talk, how we spend our money and in what we post on social media. It, they, will see Christ in how unified we are, as believers, in the things that matter … the matters of the soul.

May we, in these unprecedented times, not allow ourselves to lose each other over the things of earth, when we have been given the One who brought us the best news of all.

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