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Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

When one wants to speak at an Alcohol Anonymous meeting they must state their name and that they are an alcoholic. It is the first step in the twelve step program to recovery.

When I think of 12 Step programs, I often think of the necessity of that first step (admitting that I have a problem) to experiencing the intimacy that is offered to us, through Christ. The humility of admitting wrong, admitting sin with our words helps us to accept responsibility, but it also helps us to accept the grace that is offered to us.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts,
for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

James 4:8

Matthew Henry’s Commentary, on the above passage tells us:

“All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.”

I remember the day we were told, by the principal, that our son had hit another (younger) student and that he had apologized. When he got home, I assured him that I was so proud that he had apologized to the boy, but that I wanted him to call the mother of the boy, because I knew that she too was hurt by his actions. He agreed. I made the call and explained to the mom why we were calling, then I passed the phone to my son, who sincerely apologized for hurting her son, that he knew that his own mom would be so sad if it was he who had been hit (previous bullying toward our son, by an older boy helped his understanding of this) and that he was so sorry for his actions. She told him that she was, indeed, sad that it had happened, but that she was thankful that he had called and apologized to her, and that she forgave him.

Since that day, whenever they see each other, this lady and our son have a different relationship. It is as though there is a bond, an intimacy between them, refined through humble admittance of sin and forgiveness of one hurt.

So is our relationship with God, our savior.

We need to come humbly to our God and confess that we are sinners.

It is through this humble act of contrition that we gain, not just eternity with our saviour, but also an intimate relationship with him.

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14).

“We Your children pray Lord
Humbly seek Your face
We turn from our sin Lord
You hear us as we pray”
(King of the Broken by Darlene Zschech)

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My heart was saddened to hear a colleague speak of a relative’s grim cancer diagnosis. When I expressed my sorrow, he responded by telling me that the family were encouraged by Psalm 116:15 (Living Bible):

“His loved ones are very precious to him,
and he does not lightly let them die.”

Those words sunk into my soul, as I grasped the message within.

I guess I had always presumed that, because God is eternal, he does not look at the end of our earthly lives as significant. Yet, if we look at this verse, from the Psalms, in light of Jesus’ weeping when arrived to the home of the dead Lazarus, we get a glimpse of the significance human death is for our God.

This verse … this week …

The news of the unbelievable damage of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, this week has been humanly heart-rending. Watching the news of those who are missing loved ones is painful. One cannot observe such fear and loss and grief without feeling it within oneself.

This verse from the Psalms reminds me that God feels similar empathy for these people and their heartache … that “he is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18).

Death was never in the plan of God for our lives. It is the result of sin entering our world … a constant reminder to him and us that this is not how it was supposed to be, that we were created for more.

For today, for now, God is mourning along with all of us who mourn … whether from the devastation of a hurricane or a cancer diagnosis.

“Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E’en though it be a cross
That raiseth me.
At the moment of death
My strength is from heaven
God helps, nothing should be feared
For ever”

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Follow the leader is only fun (and safe) if the leader is good.

I can remember, as a child, leaders who took us through mud puddles, had us climb the monkey bars with our eyes closed, or who told us to tell a secret out loud. They may have been popular, confident and eager to lead, but their focus was on that very moment and their own experience, rather than an authentically good experience for all.

Sometimes it seems as though that has been the case within the Christian community.

Leaders rise who are popular, confident and eager to lead, but their focus is on that very moment and their own experience.

And we follow them.

We follow the leaders who are pleasing to our eyes, whose messages in song, in word, in written form are pleasing to our ears. We follow the leaders who have ‘friends’, ‘followers’, ‘likes’ and ❤ . We follow those who speak their truth, opening up their every skeleton’ed closet to do a show-and-tell for us.

We follow those who dress like us, speak like us, think like us … sin like us.

We follow those who have music contracts, book contracts, speaking contracts … those whose podcasts we listen to, books we buy, videos we watch, blogs we read (ouch … but true), churches we ‘visit’ like amusement parks.

Isaiah 53:6 reminds us who we are:
“We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.”

This verse is true of we who follow, but it is also true of those who we are following. If we have a heartbeat and a soul, we are all followers … and we tend to follow whoever smells good at the moment, whoever shines bright, whoever offers us sustenance for the moment (not necessarily long lasting nutrition).

But what, who are we following?

If we are following anyone and anything with more of our time and energy than what we put into following Christ … what the Word of God says of him … we are following the wrong one.

We need to acknowledge that “we have abandoned our first love” (Rev. 2:4) and return to that love for our God, which we learn and understand in his word, which has been here since the beginning of our world.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Let me say, if you are following me as a theological or faith expert … run … run fast and far. I am no expert. I do hope that if you read my words you are encouraged, you are reminded of how much God loves you,

I hope I push you toward God’s word … to read it, search it for THE TRUTH … MY truth is redundant.

We need to follow the leader who will lead us, safely, into the most authentic of life experiences.

God is the leader.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

“Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

“He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

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Ever feel crushed? Like the breath of life is being snuffed right out of you?

Haven’t we all?

This summer I have been aware of new things ripening. Not really new things, so much as renovated, renewed and strength that comes afresh from ones once stripped, pressed and crushed.

The other day I was watching a clip from I Love Lucy. Lucy had gotten a job stomping on grapes. As is common in her sketches, it was hilarious. Later that day my son introduced me to a worship song that had been sung throughout the summer at camp, called New Wine (video clip, below).

Wine is stalking me with deeper meaning.

As I listened to the lyrics, I smiled.

The making of wine has many stages. One cannot awake one morning and simply say, I am going to produce wine and have a glass by evening.

It is said that there are five main parts of the wine making process including: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and aging and bottling … these don’t even include the processes involved in growing the grapes. The total amount of time from planting a new plant to uncorking the bottle can take five years (or more if aging is desired).

The grapes represented in a bottle of wine have been often been grown on hills, in the hot sun, cut off the branches with sharp blades, then crushed and pressed. It is what has developed inside of them, what has been pressed out of them, that is their finest fruit.

I look back at those times on the hot, parched slopes … when I thirsted for a fertile valley.

Those times that seemed to be death by a thousand deep cuts, draining my soul of it’s life source.

Those times when I was crushed, pressed … the times that dropped me to my knees.

Those times when I felt like a prisoner in a glass house … visible from the outside, but locked in tightly, with no one to pop the cork …

Then, the day came, the cork was released, and I was poured out … the new wine, made from crushing and pressing.

It is a new season. The strength, power and freedom of today is due to the crushing and pressing of many yesterdays. The new wine, made in … “your careful hand. When I trust You, I don’t need to understand”

It means we’re getting back on the altar
Let’s sing this to render everything, Lord
New wine out of me
Jesus, Jesus, bring new wine out of me

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While on our vacation, on the Oregon Coast, we love to walk the beach. Usually we walk one way on the beach and one through the town.

I love this image (left) that I took one day that we walked through the town, then through a hotel to the beach. We had to walk through this dark corridor to get to the beach. We have walked this corridor numerous times over the years, but I have no recollection of what that corridor looks like. I didn’t even realized there were windows there until I looked at the photo. You see …

when the place I am headed is so beautiful
I just keep my eyes straight ahead.

I don’t worry about what is to my left or right, or who or what might be behind me. My eyes are focused on where I am going … not where I have been, or other places I could go.

I think this is what Proverbs 4:25 might be telling us:

Focus your eyes straight ahead;
    keep your gaze on what is in front of you.

It is so easy to do this on my walk to the beach, because I have memories of what awaits me there. But, in our lives, we have similar memories, for we catch glimpses of the glory (holiness) of God, his perfection, his unfading love and pursuit for us, our souls.

Isaiah 4:2 reminds us “in that day the Branch of the LORD (that is Jesus) will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.”

He, Jesus, is always straight ahead of us. It is on him, straight ahead of us, where our gaze should be, with no need to glance to the left or right, or behind us. All we need is in him, straight ahead.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.


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Anyone else out there like to make plans?

I don’t just like to make plans, I like to construct plans that are made in consideration of anything that could go wrong or alter the outcomes from how I envision them. My plans are on my timeline where words like wait and patience are banned.

When I think of my planning and of what the Bible teaches, my mind goes to Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sometimes it is assuring to me that God is a planner, just like myself.

But, God’s plans are not always that same as mine, nor is his timeline.

Unlike myself, who plans while squinting into the foggy future, God has wide eyed sight of the end from beginning, and everything in between.

Proverbs 19:21 is an even better (in my estimation) biblical representation of how I need to think about my planning for the future,

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

The Pulpit Commentary gives a great understanding of what is being said in that verse:

“The immutability (unchanging) of the counsel of God is contrasted with the shifting, fluctuating purposes of man ”

Whereas my planning is temporal, God’s is eternal.

It is not that I/we should not make plans, but that we acknowledge, in our planning, that God needs to not just be involved and consulted in our planning, but also that we ensure that we acknowledge that he is in control … for he truly is.

“As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend.
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my Friend.

But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How could You be so slow”-
“My child,” He said,
“What could I do? You never did let go.”

(author could be
Loretta P Burns, Robert J. Burdette
or anonymous)

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As our household moves toward empty nest, I find myself frequently assessing my parenting years (not that they have come to a close, but referring to those years of parenting children).

We have three fantastic, adult kids. They are all contributing members to society, who have deep empathy with and compassion for “the least of these”. Each one is fiercely independent, in their own way. They also all still connect with me, face to face, by phone, by text … a reality I view as a blessing to be thankful for every day.

As they move forward into their own lives, I find my self-assessment, as a parent, falling below the passing line.

There was a time when I (arrogantly) patted my parental back, praising myself and my efforts for the good job I was doing as a mom. I thought all the successes that they were achieving were because of the investment I was making in them. I never would have said so, out loud, but my inner arrogance was great.

Now, the season of reevaluation has come, and I see that much of what I took credit for, was not due to my efforts. I also see that there were things I missed and areas where I went wrong.

I look back at how my focus on self-reliance, has missed the mark on teaching them of the blessing of community.

In teaching them the importance working toward a goal, I missed teaching them to soak in what the journey holds.

I preached the message of working hard, but I missed teaching them the value of Sabbath (literally or metaphorically).

In my instruction to invest in a home and education, I missed showing them the delight and natural education of travel.

In thinking I was shielding them from time of my own time of weakness and sadness, I missed out on the opportunity of showing them that it’s okay to admit weakness, to ask for help.

In my refusal to see ‘the church’ as perfect (which it is not), I have given license to see more flaws than good in the bride of God.

It would be so easy to wallow in my failures as a mom. It would be so easy to say I am a complete failure.

But …

For myself, and any fellow moms (and dads), who might be giving ourselves a failing mark in parenting …

if we still have breath in our lungs,

it’s not too late

Though the empty nest is the symbol of the end of the most active parenting years of our lives,

it is not too late
to teach our kids
that failure
is an opportunity
to try again

And so, just as a failing mark on a test or report card is a wake up call, so is acknowledging our weakness an opportunity to try again, to refresh our attitudes and efforts, to try again.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!”

(Psalm 116:1-2)

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