Monday, September 30, 2013

It's Not About The Money...

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on. ~ Mark 12: 41-42

Looking at the young man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. "There is one thing you haven't done [apart from living a morally upright life]," he told him. "Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow follow me." At this the man's face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. ~ Mark 10: 21-22

Most of them were everyday people, neither rich or poor, but financial supporters of the Temple. Some, though, were extremely resourced, and the "have nots" sighed, battled envy, and a tinge of insecurity as they watched, and heard, the large donations of the wealthy hit the bottom of the receptors with a thud. Those negative emotions eased, as one of the town's widows shuffled along at the end of the line. Silently they observed, as her weathered thumb and index finger pulled the drawstring on a worn, puckered, leather pouch. Slowly and stiffly they disappeared into the tiny purse. After a few moments of fumbling they reappeared with two small coins pinched between them. One of the onlookers frowned at the sympathetic figure, and whispered, "Poor thing, thankfully, the rest of us can make up the difference!"

A few feet away sat Jesus--he was taking note, too...

When Jesus spoke, he didn't berate the rich and the middle class, nor did he feel sorry for the widow. What Jesus did feel was a perfect teaching moment for his disciples. They needed continued reinforcement about what life in the Kingdom was about. His point? In her heart, the husband-less woman was giving all she had to God--not what was convenient. She alone, Jesus pointed out, was the commendable exception among the hundreds that filed into the place of worship. The others, said Jesus, gave God what they didn't need. She had given Him all she had.

Another teaching moment took place earlier. (Mark 10: 17-22) It fills out the story of the widow well. A wealthy young man believed he wanted to join the band of thirteen itinerants. Jesus told him, "Sell all you have, give all your money away, and then come follow me." He couldn't bring himself to do it; the cost of follow-ship was too high, the sacrifice to great.

But we must remember, in both of these stories it's not about the money--it's about everything. Just as it was for the Temple givers, and the young man, anything less than all becomes the point where we have walked away. We may even feel sad, but the commitment God requires we deem too much!

Jesus still genuinely loves us, just like he still loved that young man, but when we say "no" to giving our all, we can go no further with Jesus.

It's not about the money, it's about everything.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Cannot Give An Answer...

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The One and Only...Understand?

The most important commandment is this... The LORD your God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these... Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. ~ Jesus, see Mark 12: 28-34
Can you answer these questions? 

"No other commandment is greater than these." Jesus said.

The Bible Scholar concurred. "They are even more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Jesus affirmed him. "If you understand this, you understand a lot, and you are standing at the threshold of the Kingdom of God."

Jesus has been responding to a series of questions meant to entrap him. On the edges of the debate stood an Old Testament scholar listening to the dialogue. He jumped in, and asked, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" Jesus answered, and in so doing, threw down the gauntlet. Mark's Gospel tells us that his concise report cleared away all the topsoil exposing the bedrock of what knowing and loving God was all about. Quoting the most important commandment in the entire volume of Scripture,  Jesus said in effect, You must start here: "The LORD our God is the one and only LORD." With that, the question and answer session ceased.

Unpacking Jesus' response...

He said that belief in the one and only LORD, is a must. It is the only doorway into the Kingdom. He left no theological wiggle room. God is not a god among many gods--He is the One and only.

Transformation starts on the heart level, and believes that God is who he says He is. God makes the first move: It's not a discovery on our part--it's a revelation on His. We move toward God's revelation of Himself, and God moves into us. Centuries of Believers who started this journey will tell you that what was once an impossibility--loving yourself and loving others, is unexplainable apart from a genuine work of God. But their heart was changed, they were enabled to extend God's grace and mercy to themselves, and from there they are able to do the same toward others.

What's not to love? If God loves me--I can love me. If God loves others--I can love others. Is it any wonder that Jesus told the teacher, if you understand this you understand a lot?












Friday, September 27, 2013

More or Less...

Jesus asked his disciples, "What were you discussing on the road?" But they didn't answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, "Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else." ~ Mark 9:33-35

I begged the Lord to take it [thorn in the flesh] away. Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. ~ 11 Corinthians 12: 8-9

Sheesh! Let's just admit it--we want to be great! But to be ruthlessly honest, Jesus' career path model isn't always the one we have in mind--taking the last spot in the line, or serving people until there is no one left to serve. Nope, like the disciples, we prefer climbing one rung higher on the leadership ladder, or maneuvering  one seat closer to the CEO. Prestige would mean we could do more to "serve." You know what I mean--from a position of great strength, rather than one of wobbling weakness. Jesus' question reveals that our logic is about as flawless as our self-advancement is shameless.

In the midst of such grandiose philosophizing, Jesus intrudes on our thoughts and asks, "What was that monologue you were having with yourself?" Like the twelve, we don't want to answer. Jesus' rubric for measuring greatness is quite different and not nearly as glamorous.

But answer, we must.

For me, it's a tough learning curve. In the prime of life, you must lean on a weakness that is leaning on God's grace. In the kingdom stage of life you divest yourself of the assets of power people desire. The "thorn in the flesh" is deeply embedded, and life has unfolded in such a way that you must advance God's way, or not at all. Simply put, if God's power is not resting on you, you have no power.

But last place is a wonderful place. We have more--when we have less. We are stronger--when we have never been weaker.





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Act or Drop Everything?




For He [God] seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to his creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. ~ C. S. Lewis

You feed them... How much bread do you have? ~ Jesus

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. ~ Luke 18:1


Journaling has been a part of my life going all the way back to high school. Last week I unpacked a box of them that dated back to the turn of this century and took some time to peruse them. I came away reminded of a couple of difficulties we all experience as we seek to remain engaged in God's purposes, and staying in sync with His will versus ours...

Remember how Jesus miraculously multiplied a few loaves of bread and dried fish to feed thousands? Before he did, though, he sent his disciples out among the famished crowds to collect what scant victuals would be needed to do so. What if they had said, "No."

Another time Jesus pressed home the point that they should always pray and never give up, and told the story of a penniless widow who trudged before a cold-hearted judge day-after-day. Relentlessly, she  petitioned (nagged) him until she got what he alone could provide. Jesus was clear--the heavenly Father is not a cold-hearted judge, but neither is He at the beck and call of His people to immediately and actively respond to their every request. That raises the question--had the penniless widow just sat at home, rather than sitting at the feet of the judge imploring him to act, would she have found relief?

Do we take action or drop everything and rely on prayer alone?

When do we discontinue praying and take-up action? You know, do the necessary leg work, keep plugging away, find the bread, and then see what God does with our sanctified sweat equity?

When do we discontinue action and take-up praying, alone? You know, drop everything, keep asking, and refuse to take "no" for an answer?





Sunday, September 22, 2013

December 25, 1825


This afternoon I took our friend's son to a small cemetery in Cataula, GA. and showed him how to do a gravestone rubbing. After a little scouting we settled on a corner that was partially overgrown with weeds. Old, gray, lichen spotted stones dating back to the early 1800's leaned at angles that gravity designed. A once decorative wrought iron fence stood only in sections, bent toward the earth, or was in the embrace of twisted vines and small trees. Scott did a rubbing of Minerva D. Rutherford, born on Christmas Day, in 1825. Mrs. Rutherford departed this world about two months shy of her twenty second birthday. Minerva's epitaph was emotional and poetic; all these years later it still carried the essence of her grieving family. Minerva left a young child. The dashes between the time people were born and the time people died was usually a short span of less than fifty five years during that era.




Working next to Scott, I covered the burial marker of William T. Crawford with news print and began to shade its surface. Almost magically--what was once nearly impossible to decipher--the charcoal began to reveal the epitaph. In a few minutes I was introduced to a man who lived one hundred eighty three years ago. William's memorial marker said he was a generous man who showed goodwill toward all mankind. Etched in stone, and still retrievable all these years later, is a portion of the loving prose of those who grieved him...

But all our love, all our tears, all our efforts, could not stay the hand of death, for he was cut down in the springtime of life, at the early age of 32. He died 17th Nov. 1830.


Friday, September 20, 2013

His Stars and Trees and Sunrise...

View from our bedroom balcony


What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives? ~ E. M. Forster

As the earliest rays of dawn nudged away the darkness on the edges of the horizon, the dim outline of clouds could be seen. I got my camera out in hopes that the conditions were going to be exceptional for a beautiful sunrise. I wasn't disappointed...

His stars and trees and sunrise are ours to enjoy!



Beyond the cottage the sky is ablaze with morning light.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Addendum

For He [God] seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to his creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. ~ C. S. Lewis

How much bread do you have? ~ Jesus


I am going to live with these words for a few days.
Talk to you later...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Let Us Pray...

Peasant farmer in Henan Province, China
[After a night of prayer] Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him... Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach" ~ Read Mark 3: 13-19

He said to his disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." ~ Matthew 9: 37-38

My friend, Bob, called me last week and asked me to go to L. A. with him (Lower Alabama). He was getting his land ready for hunting season. I wrote about that yesterday.

Much Bob would do, I did not know how to do. Like: drive a big, orange Kubota tractor; hook up a bush-hog to its PTO; unhook a bush-hog from its PTO; attach a harrow, and fertilize a bass lake. By the way, who ever heard of fertilizing a lake? Nonetheless, he invited me to join him on the adventure. When we arrived, he instructed me on how to run the john-boat powered by an electric motor, what pattern to run across the lake, and how to distribute the fertilizer over the stern while navigating. I did it, and a few other helpful things while I was there. Bob thanked me and told me he would have gotten less done were I not there.

That story isn't a perfect metaphor, but it does help us learn something about the way Jesus went about things. For instance, the twelve Jesus chose were less than qualified for the job Christ had in mind (Actually, the selection made no sense at all: fishermen, tax collectors, hotheads, political zealots, and a corrupt treasurer). Not a professional "holy man" among them. Scripture's testimony also tells us that when the entire mission hung in the balance they scattered. Yet, Jesus stayed with them, even when they didn't stay with him. Why? Because the Church he was building would be built with the help of his partners. Period.

Isn't it obvious Jesus wouldn't/couldn't do it any other way? Look what Jesus said to his disciples when their work became overwhelming: Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his field. Amazing, is it not? Jesus set that exact example of going to the Father in prayer for helpers, and then told the disciples to do the same thing.

And so it is for us! The mission God has in mind is always more than we can do on our own. We need to pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest. You probably know this first hand, that there is Kingdom work that is not getting done, because there is not the joining of hands and resources to help you get it done. Partners are not a luxury--they are a necessity. Remember too, that all of us workers will be just as imperfect as those Jesus chose, yet God's plan is to put us together, grow us together--heart and soul, and then combine our skills and resources for the sake of the advance of the Kingdom.

Let us pray...






Sunday, September 15, 2013

From Dawn to Daylight

I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words... ~ Psalm 119: 146

On Friday, Bob and I left Columbus, GA. and drove to L. A. On Saturday, we left L. A. and drove back to Columbus (L. A. being "Lower Alabama"). We have been friends for about thirteen years, and both of us really enjoy the outdoors. Bob has a pretty good chunk of land in Alabama with a cabin, five acre bass lake, and deer stands strategically placed to optimize concealment.

We trailered his orange and white Kubota tractor to L. A., off-loaded it, and Bob worked like a trooper bush-hogging his food plots, the perimeter of lake, and a dozen narrow woods roads. Me, I zig-zagged, back-and-forth across the lake in his john-boat, simultaneously pouring a sugar-like pond-fertilizer on it. Most of the time I was back at the cabin reading a book on art, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, practicing drawing, continuing in Psalm 119, journaling, taking a nap, or going outside--camera on the ready--to wander the property.

On Saturday morning, I woke up at my usual time around five a.m., but stayed in bed and lay thinking about a bunch of different things. I can't say that, like David, I was crying out to God, but I was definitely praying through a number of thoughts that have been regularly coming to visit. Soon the black skies began to turn gray and the rays of a fresh new day began streaming through the windows. I rolled out of bed, brewed coffee, and started down to the dock. While we slept, spiders the size of humming birds had stretched their silky strands across the path, and I cringed as I swatted my way through them. The smell of freshly mown grass, the mirrored surface of the water, and watching dawn spread across that little patch of the world made it a peaceful and worshipful time.


Sunday morning, Sandy and I gathered with our church family. As hundreds stood to sing, I stood too. That same prayer list that came to mind in Letohatchee returned to visit me. There was no drama in my posture, or crying out for help, but my heart was filled with hope, an awareness of the presence of God, and a deep desire to hear from Him. It was a peaceful and worshipful time as answers to the weekends prayers began to break like daylight on my heart.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sometimes I Hate Myself...

I watched the wind blow this cup around and around...
I hate those with divided loyalties... ~ Psalm 119: 113


When I read this Scripture I mumbled, "Sometimes I hate myself..."

Also, this picture that is in the archives of my photos  and my memory came to mind. I went searching for it. After I found it I sat looking at it for a few minutes. I remember the day I shot it. Early one morning, Sandy, Justin, and I walked a brisk, windy, and sunny beach in Massachusetts. Sea birds darted in and out of the surf chasing small fish and flipped over big quahog shells in search of anything edible. Back off the edge of the shore the sea breeze hassled an empty coffee cup that whirred and spun around and around. Its every revolution left a circular track in the fine sand. For several minutes I stood waiting for it to stop, so I could click the shutter. I recall thinking how the scene I beheld was metaphor for the way I was feeling in my soul--empty and going around and around.

Take a look for just a moment...

Straighten out all those lines etched in the sand. How far would they stretch end-to-end if that cup traveled a straight course? Like that cup, sometimes we quit moving forward and just go around circles. Divided loyalties can be at the root. Our own breaches of spiritual contracts--not the defaults of others--sends us reeling. I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but don't we just hate ourselves sometimes?

David went on to say, But I love your instructions...I intend to obey the commands of my God...Lord sustain me that I may live...Sustain me, and I will be rescued. And save us, He does. We don't have to stay in those endless, meaningless loops; we can break out of those life-sucking vortexes. Aren't you glad that exit begins with simple steps of obedience--and not groveling? Aren't you glad for this reentry-prayer back into the life of God? Our part is to be all-in, one decision at a time. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hanging In The Balance

I've promised it once, and I'll promise it again, I will obey your righteous commandments...My life constantly hangs in the balance, but I will not stop obeying your instructions...I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end. ~ Psalm 119:105; 109; 112

Promises can be easily made, but kept with great difficulty to. Every last one of us has had to start-over again when it comes to fulfilling our pledges. To say otherwise would be akin to saying we never sin. Our failures should not be taken lightly, but at the same time there is a resident supply of hope, humility, and dogged determination that tells us we can confess our failings, return to our promises, and end strong. I believe that is what David is saying.

No matter how bright and cheery or dark and dismal our days may start, the directions and stories of our lives are always hanging in the balance. Life is about living, and living is an endless series of actions or reactions. For David, there were starts and stops in his commitment to his vows to God, but he tells us he decided that he would always return to his promises.

It is the same with us, we sometimes stop living committed to the righteous life, but like David, we can start or restart doing what we should have been doing all along. Failures will be part of our journey, but they need not define us. The most important thing we can do is realign all the stuff in our lives in obedience to God. His Spirit will always provide the resources to turn the page and get it right.

So...

We promised once--we will promise again. We obeyed once--we will obey again. Everyday two forces are vying to tip the scales of our spiritual gravity: give up, or begin-again. Our lives constantly hang in the balance... 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our Place is Their Place

O how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your laws. Psalm 119: 97-99

As Sandy and I prayed together this morning, part of her prayer was this portion of the Psalms. She was asking for God's wisdom and guidance she would need for those special moments that arise during the day. Sandy is high school teacher--a very good one.

Me, I pastor about four hundred people, but I don't have a church--per se. I work as a corporate chaplain. Both Sandy and I go about our days as teachers and responders. More than anything, we want to speak into the lives of those we encounter with words that reflect God's heart and wisdom. We think about that all day long--having an audience is serious business.

In reality, though, it's the same for every Christ-follower. Our place in this world, no matter our vocation, is to engage with fellow sojourners trying to find their place in this world--a world that has mostly forgotten God. To do so, like David, we need to listen to what we are saying, watch where we are going, and determine whose wisdom we are trusting.  








Monday, September 9, 2013

A New Day...





When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!












When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Friday, September 6, 2013

"36"

On September 10, 1977, Sandy and I said our Vows and set sail on an epic journey--together. From our view of the deck we have seen everything except boredom!

Our adventure has far exceeded even our dreams! From starting a family--to starting churches. We have been lovers--and combatants. Lived in luxury--stayed with Gypsies. Traveled to Greece, Bulgaria, Thailand, China, Venezuela, Mexico, The Bahamas, Bermuda, the backwoods of Maine, the Blue Ridge Mountains, North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Seen indescibable beauty--and unspeakable tragedy. Had more than we needed--prayed for our next meal. Laughed until we cried--cried until we laughed again. Seen the Lord generously give--and inexplicably take away.

Thirty six years later, through thick-and-thin, we have enjoyed the adventure. Transparent honesty also requires us to confess: we have sometimes endured it. But on our drive here--to this High-Rise Paradise--we talked about ending strong, and asked each other the question: how can we most effectively advance the Kingdom--together.

Looking back, keeping God in front has made all the difference in our world. We haven't figured it all out, but we know most assuredly that we have loved each other best--when we have loved God the most!

This is a weekend filled with thanks for our three wonderful children, Justin, Josh, and Meagan; the great gift of our Beautiful and talented daughter-in-law, Erika; our grandson, The Amazing Wyatt; our families; our friends, and most of all, our God, who has blessed us beyond measure!

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill and Sandy








Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Response--A Dialogue With God

Somewhere on the Penobscot River
Where are you... and what is this you have done? ~ God's two questions to Adam and Eve

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more... Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death... No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. ~ Romans 5: 20; 8:31-39

We have just read part of the first recorded dialogue between God and man. You probably know the setting--Adam and Eve sinned. In an instant, their disobedience dissolved the perfect union they had enjoyed with their Creator and separated them from Him spiritually. Their personal shame caused them to flee from God physically. They were naked--soul and body.

Mercifully, God provided a sacrifice for their physical nakedness to grace them with clothes. In so doing, He foreshadowed the sacrifice of His Son for our spiritual nakedness to clothe us with Grace. Sin could be covered. Fellowship restored.

This brings to mind something every Believer struggles with--a feeling of separation from God. Theologically, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus. Yet still, we sometimes live with a sense that we are far from God.

Sometimes we are.
Sometimes we are not.

What should we do when it seems like God is nowhere, rather than now here? We can return to that first dialogue, and personalize those same two questions: Where am I... and what is this I have done? With the first question, we can locate ourselves spiritually. With the second question, we can be honest about our actions.

This is important. "And, why?" You might ask. First, because our feelings can definitely be an indicator that we are not walking in fellowship with God, and we have lost our way. The good news?  Upon asking that question, we can turn back to God (repent), and be fully restored because of His abounding Grace. Also, by honestly asking that second question we can determine if the separation we feel is nothing more than that--feelings. Could it be that we are under a subtle attack by the original Tempter?

Consider this...

The Apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that there is an array of life-experiences the Evil One may cunningly manipulate. In so doing, he plots to create in us an unfounded sense that God has abandoned us. If we are not aware of his devices, we can be thrown into a downward-spiral of doubt, discouragement, and false-feelings of loneliness.

When such feelings creep in, a dialogue with God is the best first-response.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

As I Am--Not As I Should Be

Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand." Then he added, "Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given--and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them." ~ Mark 4:21-25

We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us. ~ C. S. Lewis

Jesus crafted powerful words. Every single one of them was intentional--their target was our hearts. It was never Jesus' plan to spiritually and emotionally steamroll us with his teaching, and then bare before the world all the darkness he found there, like a cheap gossip tabloid. Without question, his words expose our sin, but there was a greater goal in mind, and that was to expunge the record they found--no matter how indelibly written we felt they were. His desire was to leave us with a pure heart that lived in the Light. "You are clean," said Jesus elsewhere, "through the words I have spoken to you."

However, Jesus' words come with a condition--what will we do with the Word once we receive it? Will we try to extinguish its glaring Light? Will we try to paint, in a lesser gray, the blackness it reveals? Will we, as Jesus says here, let his words go in one ear and out the other? If we elect to turn a deaf ear, things will really get out of hand. Jesus said what we needed to see and understand would be taken away. Not good.

This is where Lewis' quote may help us...

We have another option: when God's powerful, intentional Word makes its way into our hearts, we can choose to lay before Him what He has illuminated, and confess: "This is what you have seen. I see it too. I come to you, just as I am--not as I should be."

To play it any other way will not work. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, Jesus said. and every secret will be brought to light. So let's not spend a minute trying to convince God we are something we are not.

  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Stormy Relationships...

Teacher, don't you care that we are going to drown...The disciples were absolutely terrified. "Who is this man?" they asked each other. "Even the wind and waves obey him!" ~ Read Mark 4:35-41

Prayer requires some discipline. Yet I believe that life with God should seem more like a friendship than duty. Prayer includes moments of ecstasy and also dullness, mindless distraction and acute concentration, flashes of joy and bouts of irritation. In other words, prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter... If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer. Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn't act the way we want God to, and why I don't act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge. ~ Philip Yancey




One evening, Jesus told his disciples to climb into a boat and head for the opposite shore. Thirteen men, trailed by a string of paparazzi filled vessels, let gentle breezes power them to their destination. Suddenly, a fierce storm blew in, and the once quiet water churned like a boiling cauldron. Surging winds morphed the waves into battering rams of water, breached the side, and flooded the ship. First, it covered their sandals, then their ankles, and then nets and hand-lines were swirling around their waists. Too much, too quickly--bailing was useless. Sinking. To say the least, the boys were in over their heads, or would be shortly. To the Son of God, they cried out the frantic question generations of Christ-followers have repeated, "Don't you care?"

If you read the entire story, you know that in the midst of all their chaos, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the ship. We moderns may interpret this as our need to arouse a careless God from his nap, inform him of our predicament, and prod him to action by our ardent prayers.

That is not the lesson here. God is aware. He does care.

Maybe it would be best to turn that question around and ask, Do we really care--about the relationship? Is it us who are spiritually asleep and careless? Could we benefit more by looking at our tempests as a chance for a dialogue of prayer that builds trust, faith, and intimacy with God?

Think of these questions for a moment...

We ask Jesus, "Do you care?"

And Jesus asks us, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

Yancey says it well, "Prayer stands as the place where God and humans meet." Two-way conversation converges for a perfect, or should we say, perfecting storm. Our faith deepens. We learn to trust--if not fully understand--that God doesn't act the way we want him to. When in discourse with God, his questions for us lead to discovery: what supplanted our faith, and why didn't we respond the way God wanted us to?

Our relationship with God gets stormy, and that is good, when out of the wild emerges a conversation of prayer that brings calm and peace to our soul. Fair weather sailing could never bring those disciples, nor us, to know "this man--that even the winds and waves obey--does care."

The prayer preceding all prayers is "May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to." ~ C. S. Lewis






Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunrise

I can still see a sliver of the moon in the southeast as the sun slowly climbs over the horizon. Fish are popping along the edges of the pond, and the birds are calling to one another. A tiny toad, smaller than a dime, is hopping across the lawn that is covered with droplets of dew. A thin layer of fog hovers over the pasture, and the hedge of lantana grows brighter as dawn turns to daylight. Not a single leave on the weeping willow stirs, and the surface of the tiny lake is as smooth as glass.

Mama deer and her two little ones haven't shown up for several days. My guess is that this stretch of hot, humid weather has kept them in the cooler, deeper shade of the woods, or they are gleaning nearby gardens.


Tomorrow, along with a couple of friends, we will get on four-wheelers and go to an out-of-the way cemetery to do stone rubbings. Later this month, I begin art lessons and will learn to sketch. Ever since I was a child there has been this niggling to do so, and now the opportunity has presented itself.

For me, natural settings bring out the very best of life. Spiritually, my thoughts are always turned toward the eternal. Creatively, I am always inspired to explore latent artistic abilities yearning to be expressed. Physically, I feel fully alive.

Enjoying the Adventure...