Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pondering Backyard Lessons

We were in Jeff’s backyard on a lazy Sunday afternoon; enjoying the weather and the fellowship. The fact that Jeff loves to push people into the pool kept several of us ladies on the opposite side of the pool so we could keep an eye on him. There was no way we were going to let him sneak up behind us! So, we just dangled our feet in the pool and caught up on each other’s lives.

We should have known better than to think we could outsmart the trickster. It was obvious he was planning something, but we foolishly felt safe from our vantage point clear across the pool. But then, when we least expected it, fully dressed and all, he took a flying leap into the pool and landed in a cannonball position with just enough of a slant to completely soak everyone within our vicinity! Stinker! He was so proud of himself!

Later, after everyone had changed clothes or dried off, we were enjoying a potluck meal together. I had gone into the house for a moment and returned with a tall glass of ice cold water. As I circled the table to take a seat, I passed behind Jeff who was already seated and chowing down. Suddenly, without any preconceived plan or forethought, I simply pulled back the neck of his shirt and dumped the whole glass right there!

Believe me, I was as shocked as Jeff and everyone else! And even before the glass was completely empty I was apologizing. “Jeff, I am so sorry! I don’t know what made me do that. I can’t believe I did that!” (I think I was just as surprised to find myself apologizing as by what I had done!)

Now, this happened a couple of years ago-at least, but I was reminded of it today as I prepare to teach a Sunday School lesson with the title: The Solution for the Sin Problem. It was this statement that caught my attention, “One of the evidences of a believer’s spiritual heartbeat is how quickly and immediately a sin is confessed and forsaken.”

So, here’s the truth I want to embrace… The LORD desires for me to be as swift to confess and repent of my sins, as I was to respond to this incident…apologizing before the glass was even empty! Now, please don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe pouring water down Jeff’s shirt was a sin and I must confess I would do it again, in a heartbeat, if the opportunity presented itself, I just want to recognize and acknowledge my sins quickly and deal with them immediately and appropriately. No denial. No excuses. No blame game. No hesitation. Just deal with it. For my sake and for His Glory!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pondering... A God Who Looks Like Me?

"My feelings were not welcomed in the Church (or at home, at times).  I learned to deny their existence. When afraid, I was told, "Thou shalt not fear." When angry, "Sin not." When needy, "Know the fullness of Christ." To feel my own feelings was to deny God's all-sufficiency. I learned to swallow my loneliness, anger, and fear. They were imprisoned inside my belly." I’ve been pondering this particular lament since I read it on a friend’s Facebook post a couple of weeks ago. The source of the quote is a book called, A God Who Looks Like Me written by Patricia Lynn Reilly.

I have looked for the book at bookstores and the library, but other than purchasing it on Amazon, I’ve had no luck. Which may or may not be a good thing I guess, because I can’t quite figure out where the feminist author is going with it. At first I was just kind of stunned into silence by the desperation I sense in her words or maybe it is a depressing sense of resignation. And that is probably because I am the one who would be right there offering Biblical comfort, counsel and the peace that I know is found only in Christ. 

So, I am so thoroughly intrigued to find out where she is taking this and in the mean time I am thoughtfully pondering her seemingly hopeless conundrum. Well, here are my thoughts and my questions (and I recognize that I am making them with only the known lament and not the full text or her summation and/or solution/resolution). Maybe as I pose them more clarity will come, but also I would love to know what others think.

First of all the title of the book causes me to question: A God Who Looks Like Me. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in a God Who Looks Like Me. What good would there be in that? The scripture says that we are “made in His image” not He in ours. I don’t understand the mystery of that, but I am content with knowing that my God knows what He is doing.

Secondly, I have learned, in a lifetime of dealing with “my feelings,” that they are not always reliable and they are certainly not the barometer that I want determining how I live my life day-by-day or what choices I make. Feelings are what they are. Yes, I have to acknowledge them. Denying their existence or ignoring them will not help. But, once I acknowledge them I have found it necessary to try to figure out where they are coming from. Once I have a general (or specific) idea of their source I am more able to move on to the next stage. I need to make a personal decision about how I am going to master them. For I am determined that they will not master me! That often leads to a downhill spiral, doesn’t it? And after all, isn’t that part of maturing? Isn’t learning to master my responses to feelings a significant part of growing up? And, I guess a part of that is admitting that I don’t want to live with feelings of loneliness, anger and fear. I’ve been there and it’s not for me. I will not be consumed by loneliness, anger or fear for one moment longer than it takes me to surrender them to the LORD. I will not allow them to burn a whole in my belly by imprisoning them there. I am meant to live free. Unburdened by the slavery of unhealthy or painful feelings, I will walk in freedom. 

At the same time, I will be the first to recognize and acknowledge that we can very well have the head knowledge; We can know every scriptural help and promise of God and still just not FEEL it. There is a vast difference between knowing the truths in my head and feeling them in my heart. That’s where the work continues for me and I believe it is a lifelong process of, one day at a time, “learning to lean” and standing on His promises by faith. Growing in Christlikeness and not expecting my God to look like me! Heaven forbid! Besides, I do believe my God is all-sufficient. Isn't that what makes Him God? Does that make sense?

Friday, June 24, 2011

I SEE Faces

I see faces. I have seen faces for as long as I can remember. I think seeing faces is just one of the childish experiences that lead to some of my fear issues: It was that face I saw looking over the fence in our backyard when I was seven that makes me think this. Maybe he started it all.
But here’s the deal. I see faces in inanimate objects. For instance, I once hung a map of the world on one whole wall in the Prayer Room at Cedar Grove BIC Church. Then, every time I sat in front of it, my focus went to the seven distinctly different faces I could see in the map’s topography. 
I see faces in patterns on curtains, floor coverings, wallpaper, in the clouds...in the most odd and peculiar places faces just pop out! Maybe it is my over active imagination or the fact that I am so visually oriented. Whatever the case may be, I have long since stopped being surprised at the places faces show up in my little world! 

In the picture below, I actually saw the faces before I saw the horses and riders. There are eight of them that are simple to find, but there may be as many as 22 faces in this picture. I'm sorry I don't know who created this interesting work of art, someone who doesn't just see faces, but also creates them!
So, if you know me, you know there has to be a spiritual application! What this reminds me of is the story in Mark 8: 22-25 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

I want Jesus to so touch my eyes that I see "everything clearly." Not through fuzzy, distorted lenses or filters, or through prejudice or presumption; not though eyes blinded by my own faulty judgements or past experiences, but clearly through the eyes of Christ. I want to see the people and the circumstances around me though eyes of mercy, grace and the love of God. 
And, I want to see Jesus more clearly everyday. LORD, give me eyes to see! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"There are Three Things I HATE..."

"There are Three Things I HATE, Yea Four I Find Detestable"
“Hate” is not a word I use very often, but lately it has rolled around in my mind like a marble in a pinball machine looking for a place to land.     
I would much rather talk about love; God’s amazing, extravagant and lavish love is a favorite topic for this pastor.  
Or the love I have for my children, my delightful grandchildren and the job I am blessed to have and the extraordinary people who come with it. Those particular subjects, and my love for them, are daily topics of thoughts. But hatred?Seldom. 
Today, though, I need to vent my hatred. 

I’ll do it quickly, I won’t linger. 
I won’t expound or preach. 
I will state it simply and profoundly and with huge, ugly explanation points. 
My list, you will find, is as simple as it is complex.
There are three things I HATE, 
yea four I find detestable:  
a hard unyielding heart, 
a lying tongue that plots destruction, 
words that wound and cripple 
and above all DIVORCE!
I HATE divorce passionately. 
I HATE what it does to individuals, children, extended family, friends, churches and communities. 
I HATE its destructive presence as it destroys and weakens families, leaves children vulnerable and men and women... 

Alas, I am doing what I said I wouldn’t do. 
And so, I will take my lament and leave it at my Father’s feet. 
I know that He knows exactly what I mean. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

When the LOST is FOUND

I had to laugh today. I was just leaving church when I noticed I had a text from my daughter Shawna. She was missing her keys and wondered if I had picked them up last night when I left. I knew I hadn’t, but I checked anyway and texted her a “no.” “Please check again!” She said, “You are my only hope.”
When I arrived at Shawna and Ricki’s for lunch they were still searching desperately. They had actually been ready for church, with the kids packed up and in the car, before they realized the keys were missing. Obviously, they didn’t make it to church. Well, the search went on for the next two hours. Off and on, one of us would start looking all over again. Shawna was sure she had left them on the arm of the couch right inside the door, so I searched there repeatedly; under it, behind it, in every nook and cranny. 
She was ready to give up and call the car company to find out how to get a new set, but had gone outside to check the car one last time when, lo and behold, I reached into a fold in the back of the couch and there they were! We all took a deep breath and were able to relax. 
It wasn’t the first time today that I found what was lost. After church, one of our Messiah Village residents was looking everywhere for the cane she had laid down. She couldn’t leave without it, she needed it! Several of us joined in the search, and, even when she said she had already checked the bathroom, I told her I would check again. She insisted  that it wasn’t necessary, she had already looked there, until I told her, “Well, maybe a second set of eyes will help.” Sure enough, as soon as I opened the door I spotted the cane hanging on the back of a rocking chair. She was so surprised when I walked out with her cane, hadn’t she just looked there herself?
Then there was this past Thursday. Another resident was frantic because she had misplaced her purse. She knew she had it in the salon and was sure she must have left it there. Since there was no way she could concentrate on her physical therapy, or anything else for that matter, I told her I would go to the Salon and check for her, (even though someone else had already been dispatched on a similar errand.) Everyone there assured me that she had left with her purse in hand. She was so disappointed when I returned without it...her money, her hearing aides and other important items were in her purse, she needed it and would have no peace until it was found. 
On a whim I went to her room, opened the top drawer of her nightstand and was not the least surprised to find the missing purse. When I returned and dropped it in her lap the look on her face and the delight and relief in her voice were a perfect reward! All was well in her world again!
Three significant “lost and found” incidents in four days. How could I not be reminded of the three stories in Luke chapter 15: a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. Three stories meant to remind us how much God cares about lost people. 
Have you ever considered the desperation that accompanies the searches for lost people? Think of the little boys or girls, the young women or pregnant mothers who have been at the center of so many highly publicized searches. What I find both heartbreaking and eye opening is the extent that a people will go to search for a physically missing individual and yet, there are people all around us who are spiritually lost, a far more dangerous and desperate state.
So here is my question, “What would it take for our efforts to “seek and save” the spiritually lost to come anywhere near the extent that we go after the physically lost?” Just something to think about...

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Morning Prayer...

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You        in prayer.           
  • For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
  • For the love with which You love mankind:
  • For the love with which You love me:
  • For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
  • For the indwelling of Your Spirit in my heart:
  • For the sevenfold gifts of Your Spirit:                                                                             I praise and worship You, O Lord.
Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the         day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth,           and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;
  • Keeping me chaste in thought:
  • Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
  • Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
  • Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
  • Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
  • Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
  • Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.                                   Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer 1949