Category Archives: Uncategorized

Staying With God

When I don’t want anxiety to be my first response, I try to imagine myself taking the advice of desert father, Abba Moses. “Go to your cell and it will teach you everything.” In other words, sit in the anxiety with God until the Holy Spirit guides your first response.

Of course this is easier said than done because it requires waiting on God. This kind of waiting is more like staying with. Imagine staying with God until patience and kindness rule your heart rather than irrational jealousies, boastings and pride.

It is not easy to stay. It is taxing to wrestle with my shadow side, especially when I am so tempted to execute any one of the exit strategies my heart, soul, and mind formulate. And it is challenging to know if I have stayed long enough. When is it time to leave the cell? Unless we ask, we won’t truly know.

Recently, I started a conversation with God about whether or not I had stayed and loved well throughout a tough ministry assignment. When I heard God’s thought and not my judgment, I knew I had.  “You did love well because you faithfully stayed with me.” As I considered these words, I realized I had wrestled with God and let him win.

I had a choice; we have a choice. If we leave too soon, chances are we will discover ourselves back in the same or a similar cell. By staying, we receive the wisdom and strength to love beyond our cells and our anxieties.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
~1Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)

Valued for Who We Are

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips. ~Proverbs 27:2

I do not preach often. But when I do, it is stressful simply because it is not part of the rhythm of my week or even month. Writing is my pulpit which means I tend to transform what I have written into a spoken sermon. Sometimes it is as simple as restructuring and other times it becomes a new construction project. Regardless, after the writing there is still the delivery, which I am not as confident with as I am of the words I have written.

So when it all comes together and I feel good about it, I confess I want to know if others feel the same. But more than that I want the praise of others. So even though I do not praise myself overtly, I can embark on a covert operation, hoping to hear the praises of others.

I wonder if the wisdom behind this proverb has to do with letting my heart hear what my ears do not. Can my heart hear praise my ears do not? For instance, recently, I went to lunch with a friend after I had preached. I was a little surprised when we sat down and she asked, “So how did you feel about it?” I replied, “Good.” And that was the end of the discussion.

Driving home I thought about our limited conversation and realized it was a gift. It helped me let go of the morning and return to reality so to speak. It reinforced that, to my friend, who I am is more important than what I do. This had been one of my intentions in the first place. While writing, I decided to bring who I am into the pulpit with me and not who I think others want me to be.

Perhaps that is why I felt good about the sermon. There was a joy and freedom in my preaching I had never fully experienced. Several days later, I received a call from a member of the congregation. She called to thank me for preaching. She did not mention the content; she was grateful I had been invited to preach.

When I waited for my heart to hear what my ears could not, I heard the praise my soul really needed most. May our hearts hear today what our ears cannot. May we know we are valued for who we are, not what we do!

Hearing Ears and Seeing Eyes

The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.
~Proverbs 20:12

In the span of two weeks, I have seen buffalo herds and a young brown bear while driving through Yellowstone National Park and have heard the roar of the ocean and the laughter of children playing on the beach in Northern California. I am so thankful God gave me hearing ears and seeing eyes.

As I go from adventure to adventure with my husband and we navigate miscommunications over directions, I am aware that seeing and hearing make getting lost harder and traveling easier. Ultimately, we find our way because God has equipped us to with eyes and ears that we can use to our advantage.

Eyesight and hearing heighten our ability to communicate with our Creator. Personally, I can think of no greater advantage than to behold the beauty of God’s created order and to perceive the sound of God’s voice. And I am learning to trust that the eyes and ears he has given me are for things beyond the earthly realm. True wisdom comes from seeing what the eyes cannot and hearing what the ears cannot as God reveals through the Spirit.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
 what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
~1Corinthians 2:9-10

May the eyes and ears of your heart and mine be captivated by what we see and hear all around us, but also by what we cannot yet image.

Easter Praise!

The heavens belong to the Lord,
but he has given the earth to all humanity.

The dead cannot sing praises to the Lord,
for they have gone into the silence of the grave.

But we can praise the Lord
 both now and forever!
Praise the Lord!    ~Psalm 115:16-18

In this week after Easter, I have been reflecting one of the last sentences in Trevor Hudson’s book Pauses for Lent: 40 Words for 40 Days.*

We are indeed Easter people living in a Good Friday world.

I mentioned this to someone who agreed but said the Good Friday world can be a hard place to dwell. And it is. The deadening silence and absence of praise on Good Friday can seem to permeate our days. However, in God’s world where death is conquered, but’s are possible. But Easter people can praise the Lord not just on Easter but both now and forever.

May the words of this doxology, permeate our hearts and produce praises for the Lord who has given us this earth and made us Easter people. Amen and amen!

*Published by Upper Room Books in Nashville, TN copyright 2015

Halfway through Lent

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
    or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
~Psalm 106:1-3

Today is the twentieth day, the halfway point, of Lent. I am thankful for time to reflect on the transforming grace of God’s goodness and steadfast love. I am thankful for opportunities to declare the mighty deeds of the Lord. I am most grateful for the mightiest of all God’s deeds. The Cross…the Empty Tomb…Easter!

Easter is halfway here. For the next twenty days, may we continue to reflect on ways to observe justice and do righteousness. Moreover, may we remember how truly blessed we are to be people who are transformed each new by grace.

Feeling Joy

“Diligently persevere until you feel joy in it.”
~from The Cloud of Unknowing

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe,
and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day
is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” ~Nehemiah 8:9-10

Recently, I quoted these last words from Nehemiah 8 to a friend who was having a hard time feeling God’s joy that day. I felt like I was preaching to the choir because what I admire most about this friend is the way she faithfully seeks to rejoice in the Lord always as the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. ~Philippians 4:4

She was thankful for the reminder. And I had to ask myself whether I was letting the joy of the Lord be my strength. Am I able to receive each new day as a day holy to the Lord and therefore rejoice?

The author of The Cloud of Unknowing encourages me to not only choose joy but to diligently persevere until joy is felt. I wonder if the author is suggesting a life of worship and rejoicing our way into God’s presence.

On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
~Psalm 100 (MSG)

May God be glorified with our perseverance and our rejoicing…amen and amen!

 

Creation Moments

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

And God saw that the light was good.

And God separated the light from the darkness.

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

~Genesis 1:1-5 ESV

I began 2019 with this Scripture passage and here it is the end of the month already. I have a had a conversation with God around what will be formed in me in 2019. I have taken time to stop and notice the Spirit of God hovering over my life. I have tried to acknowledge and appreciate how good the light God created in but a moment is. I have attempted to stop each evening to take a deep breath and remember that with tomorrow comes another first day filled with creation moments.

Throughout 2019, may you and I stop and receive the blessing of God’s many creation moments. Amen and Amen.

Thank You, Lord, for being with us, God with us.

            In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of    Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  ~Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)

This passage of Scripture from Luke’s gospel is a reminder that Joseph and Mary lived the journey God called forth from their lives.  They traveled from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. And while they were there, Mary gave birth of her first born son and Joseph completed his family’s registration. Profoundly, the sacred and the secular met recording for eternity the Good News of God with us.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~Matthew 1:22-23

My husband and I have traveled to many places in the past twelve months. And while we were there we experienced funerals, birthdays, weddings, formal meetings and informal conversations at microbreweries. Our Christmas card highlighted the good news that we have now each been in all 50 of the United States. For another year, we have lived the journey God was calling forth from our lives. And at the many intersections of the sacred and the secular, we stopped to remember again who is with us, Immanuel!

Thank You, Lord, for being with us, God with us.

Thank You, Lord, for all your benefits.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
~Psalm 103:1-5

In this month of giving thanks, I have been praying these verses that beautifully list God’s benefits: forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, goodness and renewal. I have also noticed how readily I list people, places and things among my thanksgivings. Today as I read these verses I notice the verbs not the nouns.

The real benefit in my life and yours is that God forgives, heals, redeems, loves, satisfies and renews. The Lord’s active presence in our lives is not to be forgotten. Ultimately, you and I are God’s beneficiaries and continually crowned with steadfast love and mercy.

Thanksgiving Day can be a tangible reminder not to take God’s benefits for granted. However, the Psalmist reminds us to bless the Lord each new day by remembering the many ways we benefit from God’s presence.

Thank You, Lord, for all your benefits.

Thank You, Lord for knowing my way.

With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
~Psalm 142:1-3

This past month, I have been meditating on Psalm 142, and more specifically David’s words in verse 3: When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! I am not hiding in a cave like David, I really have nothing to complain about, and I can not think of any outlandish troubles on the horizon. Sure, there are petty annoyances and continual confessions that cause me to seek God’s mercy. But, I am not praying as fervently as David in this Psalm or as Paul in the book of Romans:

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right
alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it
doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of
our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we
know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present
before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives
of love for God is worked into something good. ~Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

And yet, I am still drawn to the verse: When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! I cannot help but think of the words Jesus spoke to those with troubled hearts:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my
Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” ~John 14:6-7

Perhaps my heart is troubled and my spirit is fainting even more than I want to admit to myself or others. Perhaps I need reassurance that God’s spirit is alongside me and pointing out the hidden traps on my way. More importantly, perhaps it is when everything appears “fine” on the outside, I need to pay attention to the inner workings of my soul and the way I am praying.

David reminds us that prayer opens our lives up to God and Paul’s words make it hard to forget that prayer also opens God’s life up to us. 

No matter what state my spirit or your spirit is in, God knows our way, and is helping us know the way to pray.

Thank You, Lord for knowing my way.