Archive for May, 2011

A new thing…

God confused me this morning.  Not a first, mind you… but it happened.

I was reading Isaiah 43:17-21.  And it was verse 18 that tripped me up.

Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.

Don’t remember? Wait a minute… what?  I thought the Old Testament and the New were full of calls to remember.  Remember what God has done for us.  Remember where God has brought us. Remember the commands. Remember the miracles. Remember Jesus as we break the bread and share the wine. Remember Lot’s wife!  Even the bookmark I’m currently using in my Bible says “Remember Me” and has a verse attached.

So why were they told not to remember?  Now to be fair, I had read the rest of the passage, too.  Like verse 19:

Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.

And so I read them both again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Until the words ran through my mind.

Don’t call to mind the things past.  I’m doing something new.  Don’t ponder what was.  Something new is coming.

And in the midst of the words tumbling over and over, God began to clear away what He was saying to them through Isaiah.

Don’t keep looking at things behind.  Don’t dwell on the past.  Or you’ll miss what I’m about to do…

Yes, I had told you before to remember.  I had asked it of you.  I had instructed it to you.  But you failed to remember and you turned instead to sin and now you’re here in exile, your land and your faith in ruins.  But don’t look back now.  Don’t dwell on what has been.  Because if you do you’ll miss what I’m about to do.  I’m about to do something new. Something you’ve never seen.  Something your ancestors never even saw.  A roadway in the wilderness.  Rivers in the desert.  Don’t miss it.

And so my prayer became

Lord, even as I recall and am thankful for what You have done and where You have brought me thus far, help me not to be so focused on it that I miss what You’re doing now.

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Despite the title, this is not a post about faith.  Although, of course, it is faith related.  The focus of this post is actually stewardship.

Stewardship has been a buzzword in my life these past few years. Something I keep coming back to, something that reaches into more and more parts of my life.  See, I firmly believe that God calls us to be good stewards. And I’m not just talking about finances. Stewardship also includes how we make use of our time, our gifts, our skills, our resources and our bodies.

And even though it’s been a thought, a focus – a goal even – these past few years, where I struggle most with stewardship is in relation to my body. My health. Including my fibromyalgia. Knowing when to push and when to “give in” to its demands. Being disciplined about proper nourishment and exercise. Knowing how to react and treat during pains, flares and other issues.  I’ve struggled with that greatly.  I tend to either ignore what my fibro-ridden body needs and end up making myself sicker or I shrink back from doing or trying anything, giving into all its finicky demands.

A few weeks back, sitting in church (though I can not remember now when or what caused this), it suddenly occurred to me that I need to treat my body like a child.  A small child.  Sometimes even a baby.

For those who know me personally, you may laugh.  I don’t have kids at this point.  In fact, I’ve only ever babysat twice in my thirty-one years (and one was quite the story)!  But I’ve seen and picked up a few things nonetheless. I would be an unobservant idiot or an inattentive friend had I not.

So here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Babies and small children can be demanding.  They demand attention and cry for what they want.  It is the parents job to give them what they need – food, shelter, clothing, clean diapers and an appropriate amount of love and attention.  In the same way, our bodies (especially those with health issues) can be demanding.  We need to give our bodies the attention and care they need.
  • Babies and small children can throw fits for what they want, even to the point of making themselves sick.  But good parents know that they cannot always give into the child because not everything the child demands is actually needed.  In the same way, our bodies can be quite demanding and even seemingly get worse when we do not give in.  But we must discern what our bodies truly need and only provide that.
  • Babies and small children have to learn to do things they don’t like – like eating vegetables or sharing toys or taking turns or being patient during car rides and so on.  But good parents know there are some things that children must learn and they have to be firm about the child learning it.  In the same way, our bodies don’t always like when we do with/for them certain things – like avoiding excess sugars and fats and exercising.  In fact, our bodies can crave sugars, give us headaches (and other symptoms) if we try to break away from caffeine (or other addictions) and ache and hurt when we exercise.  But we must discipline our bodies anyway…
  • Babies and small children let you know when something is wrong, although they cannot always articulate exactly what it is.  A baby with an earache is mostly just fussy and school-age kids often complain of tummy-aches when it’s actually stress at school.  Good parents come to recognize and watch for the types of cries and underlying symptoms and reasons (and/or seek a doctor’s help).  They get the child the proper rest, medicine or treatment that he or she needs, rather than ignoring or pushing the child through.  In the same way, sometimes our bodies really do have times they need rest, attention or treatment and we have to learn to discern what it needs and then provide it.

Now please don’t think I’m naive and under the impression that parenting is easy.  It’s not.  Parents of a newborn can’t distinguish cries right away.  It takes time.  There’s a learning curve.  And I also know that each child is different.  Even down to the way they react and try to convey when something is wrong.  One baby may pull on his ear when it aches, another may turn or tilt her head in a funny way.  It’s a process of getting to know your child and then reacting as a good parent to supply what is needed and when.

And I think that’s the good news!  There is no pat formula for how to be a good steward of your body – one that says “ignore it to control it” or one that says “always listen and submit.”  No, it’s like parenting.  And it can take some time to get the hang of – and even then you may make mistakes – but that’s no reason to give up!  Just as God entrusts parents with children, so we are entrusted with our bodies – and they are built and wired differently.

So I am taking a new approach to being a good steward of my body.  Working on discerning my body’s true needs from what it often wants or thinks it needs.  No pat answers. No easy way out.  But I have a new frame of mind now when dealing with my fibromyalgia-ridden, sugar-sensitive body.  And I want to be a good parent.

Speaking of which, it’s past my child’s bedtime!

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I had no intention of stopping at verse 20.  In fact, after my first read through, I figured I’d go back to meditate on verse 22.  But perhaps this is why they say to read the passage several times and then go back to meditate on a word, phrase or verse which the Spirit points out to you…

The book is Genesis. The chapter is 45. The story is Joseph.  Since the beginning of the year (and not counting the Lenten season for which I had a different devotional), I’ve been slowly going through the story of Joseph. Sometimes a couple  verses at a time, sometimes a couple paragraphs at a time.  I’ve seen the dreams, the jealousy, the betrayal, the obedience, the stewardship, the suffering, the tests, the growth, the forgiveness and now the beginnings of reconciliation.

And I was going to meditate on verse 22 this morning.

But as I reread the passage, God stopped me at verse 20.

Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.

The speaker is Pharaoh. The recipients are Joseph’s family. The brothers are to go back to get Jacob and the rest of the family and bring them to Egypt.  But Pharaoh isn’t sending a moving crew along. Instead he says, “don’t worry about all your stuff, you’ll have the best I have when you get here.”

And that’s where God stopped me. Nothing loud. Nothing super profound. Nothing I hadn’t heard before… although perhaps not in that way… Simply a quiet, gentle and firm reminder:

Do not concern yourself with your goods, for the best of all I have is yours.

It’s a reminder from the Old Testament of some of the things Jesus tells us in the new.  Don’t store up possessions. Don’t worry about things. I got you covered.

Do not concern yourself with your goods, for the best of all I have is yours.

And His “best” doesn’t always mean material things. Not always a ton of possessions or the newest technologies or the fun stuff we like to use, collect and possess.  But the best.  The best of the best and the best of what is most necessary.

And I don’t think that Jacob and his family would have left literally everything behind (though Jesus often calls us to).  But they weren’t to worry with it all.

We aren’t to worry with it all.  Don’t cling to our stuff. Have a lose grip. Hold it in open hands. For if we so tightly grip what we have, we won’t be able to accept what is best. Like the little girl who refused to let go of her toy pearl necklace and trust her father, who would soon give her real pearls instead.

If there is one thing I do not want, it is to end up before the throne of the Lamb of God, with my hands so tightly clutching the burnt tatters of rags, ashamed that He who is All in All was not made all in my own estimation. (young missionary in Russia) 

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