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Archive for September, 2011

Processionals…

Maybe it’s a local thing.  Maybe it is simply how folks in my part of the country talk.  But in all my growing up years (and in many ways even now), when I heard the word “go” or “goes” I always associated it with leaving or absence.  Always.

So I clearly remember thinking the first time I heard the Proverb, “Pride goes before a fall” that it didn’t make sense.  I knew what it was supposed to mean, that if someone was full of pride then he or she would fall.  But the wording didn’t make sense to me.  If pride goes, if it leaves, then why would the person still fall? I wondered.

In one of my first classes in seminary, on the other side of the country, with people of all sorts of English and non-English languages and various denominational backgrounds, I finally began to understand the verse.  One of my classmates was telling us what her class project was centered around and it was the processional language in the Psalms.  She either read or described to us one of the passages and for the first time in my life (that I’m aware of) I realized that “goes” can have another meaning.

It can be processional.

So “goes before” doesn’t have to mean that something leaves prior to

It can mean that it proceeds in front of!

So now every time I read Proverbs 16:18, I think of a processional.  A parade.  With pride out in front like a drum major putting on a show and setting the cadence.  And then destruction and stumbling and hurt and sin and ruined relationships and all those other things that come as a consequence of pride are there following along in the parade.

Pride proceeds destruction and a haughty spirit comes before stumbling.

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anxiously looking about

When I first started doing Lectio I would journal the thoughts that were brought to my mind as I meditated on the passage for the day.  The journal is one I got for  free as a sample where I work when Prince Caspian came out.  It’s labeled “Faith Journal” and is pretty in a plain sort of way and every other page or so has a Bible verse at the bottom which I largely ignore.

Somedays, nothing profound seemed to come during my lectio time and so I would skip the journaling process.  Somewhere along the way I got out of the habit of journaling unless my discovery that day was really profound.  I chastised myself about that this morning and decided to journal my thoughts.  Which were really just repeating some of the verses over and over, allowing the truth of them to sort of soak in…

This is my entry for today, out of Isaiah 41:8-10:

I have chosen you and not rejected you.

Do not fear, for I am with you.

Do not anxiously look  about you, for I am your God.

chosen, not rejected

do not fear, I am with you

don’t anxiously look about, I am your God

chosen – not rejected

no fear – He is with me

don’t look elsewhere – He is my God

Oh how too often I look anxiously about!

– looking for help – comfort – peace –  anywhere –

anywhere but where I should

there is no need to look elsewhere

don’t look anxiously about

for He IS GOD!

O, Lord, forgive me,

Help me

see you

look to you

only

always.

And just as I was coming to the “ys” on always I realized I was out of space and nearly running into the printed verse below.  The position of my hand on the page  allowed me to see only 4 words of that verse.

Your request is granted.

I shifted my hand for more.

Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.

It’s from Matthew 15:28.  But I barely noticed the address because my eyes watered and I started laughing.  A sort of holy laughter.  Because God is well… awesome!

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1 John 4:17-18 was my scripture for Lectio this morning.

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

No fear.  Fear involves punishment. Perfect love casts out fear.

Of course, first to my mind was “but doesn’t the Bible say that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom?”

And it does.  But I’m not sure John would say that type of fear involves punishment.  That fear is an awe, a reverence to Someone bigger, better, more powerful, more holy than we are.  Not a bad, self-conscious, not-trusting, dread type of fear.

And if perfect means “brought to completion” then once love (God’s love) is brought to completion in me, all fear (bad fear) should be driven out.

And this made me pause and think.  What do I – being in, accepting, resting in, abiding in, trusting in God’s love – not have to fear?

  • I don’t have to fear death because God’s love has provided me with eternal life.
  • I don’t have to fear hell because God’s love has taken my punishment and granted me access to heaven.
  • I don’t have to fear failure because God in love will never cast me aside.
  • I don’t have to fear disapproval because through God’s love I am approved by God.
  • I don’t have to fear loneliness because in God’s love I am never alone.
  • I don’t have to fear friendlessness because God in love created community through the Spirit.
  • I don’t have to fear tomorrow because God, who is love, is already there.
  • I don’t have to fear not knowing because God, with love, guides me.
  • I don’t have to fear confusion (from my fibro fog) because God, through love, will see me through as needed.
  • I don’t have to fear chaos because God is love and peace.
  • I don’t have to fear unworthiness because God in love makes me worthy.
  • I don’t have to fear rejection because God’s love accepts me.
  • I don’t have to fear hopelessness because through God’s love there is always hope.
  • I don’t have to fear brokenness because I can trust God’s love to hold me, heal me and even break and transform me as needed.

Because of God’s love, I do not have to fear.

Oh Lord, complete – perfect – your love in me!

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I think Paul has a great diet plan.  And I’m not using the word “diet” as in the “weight loss, restrictive, fad diet” sense.  I’m referring to the more original definitions of food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health, the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group and food or feed habitually eaten or provided.  Diet as the overall outlook and consistency of what we eat on a regular basis.

And I think Paul was on to something.

Now, of course if you asked him directly about his diet plan, he’d probably give you a blank look.  There are no subheadings in any of the epistles he wrote that alert you to his wonderful ideas on the intake of food for health and sustenance.

But I found it.

He writes a letter (actually 4 letters, and we still have 2) to the church in Corinth.  Now the church in Corinth had issues.  Lots of issues.  And, indeed, some did involve food.  People being gluttons and drunkards when they were supposed to be sharing communion and remembering Jesus’ sacrifice.  People having problems or being led astray by food sacrificed to idols in the marketplace.  As well as other issues involving who was best, sexual immorality and more.  It seems as though the Corinthians had picked up on something Paul had preached – freedom in Christ – and ran with it.  Ran too far and ran wild!

So in 1 Corinthians 6 and 10 we find him quoting what they are saying and then balancing it.  It happens twice.

“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.

For some reason that verse, well the first part of both verses, came to mind one mealtime at a restaurant as I was trying to figure out what to eat.

I have never been officially diagnosed with hypoglycemia or pre-diabetes or blood sugar issues.  But simply based on my remaining symptoms and the drastic difference being on a diet to control my blood sugar has made, well, it’s evident that I do need to be wise about what I eat.  So I try to follow the hypoglycemic diet.  Unless I don’t feel like it.  Which is when I get in trouble.

See, since I’ve never been officially diagnosed, it is easy for me to talk myself out of having to be strict about following the diet.  It is all too easy for me to not have to be disciplined.  After all, what’s a little cheat here or there?  Aren’t all foods really permissible for me?

And yet if I am not wise in my choices, there can be consequences.  Greater pain, various GI related issues, even headaches and lightheadedness.  If I go too long in this I can end up with shortness of breath, racing heart and even panic attacks.

“But everything is permissible!” I want to scream… and then I hear Paul’s response to when the Corinthians said the same thing, “but not everything is beneficial.”

What if I changed my outlook on what I eat to 1 Corinthians 10:23?  (Any irony here in that 1023 is my favorite number?) What if when I thought about what I ate I simply stopped to think “is this beneficial”?  Will what I eat benefit the well-being of this body I have been given stewardship of?

And yes, food can and should be enjoyed, too.  But perhaps, like in many other areas, we have lost sight of how enjoying things within boundaries is actually more enjoyable and beneficial in the long run.  Treats are meant to be just that – treats.  Not our main source of intake nor an every day occurrence.  But a treat.  Special.  To be looked forward to and enjoyed.  And “regular” or “healthy” food can be enjoyed as well.

So now my goal is to follow St. Paul’s diet plan.  In regards to what I eat, everything may be permissible, but is it beneficial?

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Laura Story has a song out called “Blessings.”  It catches my attention every time I hear it.  It offers some good thoughts.  I’d recommend a listen.

But one of the very first times I heard it, a line in the second verse caught more than my attention.  It caught my heart.

We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

We doubt.  As if every promise from Your Word is not enough.  As if every promise from Your Word is not enough. As if. Every. All. Each one of your promises. Your. Promises. Promises from the one who made the world. Promises from the one who made us.  Promises from the one who loves us and has given all for us…

As if every promise from Your Word. Spoken word. Written word. Living word. Word made flesh. Is it not enough?

As if… as if it’s not enough…

And as the line washed over my mind, filtered through my heart and soaked into my soul, everything within me suddenly cried out with the words Buttercup spoke to Westley, “I will never doubt again!”

She did, you know. She had doubted. Westely made her a promise. She thought he failed. She doubted. But he found her anyway.  He came for her. He loved her. And then she thought she lost him again. She thought all hope was lost. But he came for her again. For not even death could stop him. “I will never doubt again,” she says this time.

And this One… this Word made flesh who spoke the Word and gave the Word and has promised to be with us to the very end of the age… well, don’t you know, death didn’t stop him either? He came for us. He will come for us. He loves us.

And yet we doubt.

As if.

As if every promise from His Word is not enough!

And I renew my commitment, “I will never doubt again.”

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Steven Curtis Chapman has a song out that came to mind the other evening as I was watching TV.  Not sure what Dad originally had on, but what came on was a series of Pixar shorts.  You know, the old man playing chess with himself, the lamp and the ball… and the ones that stem from movies such as the Jack-Jack short (poor babysitter) and Mike’s new car.

Then the one came on about the Tin Toy.  I may or may not have seen it before, but as I watched it that evening a new thought occurred to me.

Let me sum up the short for you.  A brand new tin toy has been opened and is sitting in the middle of the family room with a few other toys (baby toys) lying around it.  Enter the baby.  At first the tin toy is excited because someone is there to enjoy him.  But as he watches the baby chew, slobber over, violently shake and throw the other toys (and some break), the tin toy gets a look of utter horror on its face.  He tries to back away, but he is a musical toy and so the music plays as he moves.  The baby sees him.  The baby comes after him.  He finally escapes deep under the sofa, out of the reach of the baby, where dozens of other frightened eyes look at him as they also cower in the dusty depths.  And then the baby starts to cry.  The tin toy turns and looks.  He grows sad as he watches the baby wail. He knows he was made to make the baby happy. So he heads back towards the baby, playing music to catch his attention and cheer him up, and fully expecting to be used, abused and possibly broken. The baby is delighted with the music and picks the toy up. But then he puts the toy down. When the tin toy looks again, the baby is off happily playing with the cardboard box and bag. The tin toy is visibly upset by this.

And that’s when the Steven Curtis Chapman song came to mind:

I’m playing Gameboy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon.
I’m eating candy sittin’ at a gourmet feast.
I’m wading in a puddle when I could be swimming in the ocean.
Tell me what’s the deal with me?
Wake up and see the glory!

The baby needed the toy.  The purpose of the tin toy was to be for the baby.  The tin toy felt compassion for the troubled baby and was willing to sacrifice itself for his need and joy.  The baby saw and played with the toy, but it was short-lived. He so quickly forgot and turned instead to play with worthless things.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing here?

Now, of course, the metaphor isn’t perfect.  Dr. Fetters told us again and again that all analogies stand on three legs.  But what I saw that evening was a willing sacrifice accepted but ultimately forgotten. Traded in for worthless things.

And it made me wonder, “Lord, do I do that? How often have I treated your sacrifice as something lesser, or something expected, or something to be taken hold of for awhile but then dropped for new but worthless things that have caught my eye?”

And I fear the answer is, really, “too often.”

How human of us! We as adults often see it in children (or pets)… this losing interest so quickly. But do we see it in ourselves? Do we realize how often we are simply playing Gameboy while standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon? Missing the glory? Missing the point?

C.S. Lewis said

Indeed if we consider the unblushing promise of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Oh, Lord, may I not be too easily pleased and may I not too quickly turn from the good you have given (and the sacrifice) in order to please myself with worthless things!

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