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Archive for June, 2012

The coolest thing just happened.

I sat down to do my lectio (devotions) and it’s pretty late in the day. Typically a morning person, today’s late rising and crazy heat pushed me out the door for errands before my time with God and when I returned I was so drained from the heat that I feared falling asleep if I sat down then.

Now I did talk with God this morning. I was praying from almost the time I got up. It was that informal chat-type prayer as I went about getting ready and eating breakfast and starting laundry…

So when I sat down late this afternoon, not wanting to rush but starting to feel guilty for not “praying”, God reminded of my morning prayers.

“Yeah…” I replied, my disappointment still there. “But I wanted to keep that going longer, through my errands. It sorta dropped off… Shouldn’t I have continued?”

And there was a pause. I could almost feel God giving me one of those raised-eyebrow looks. As though I should know something. As though it was right there.

And it was.

I had just said it.

My “I want to” came before the “I should.”

Somewhere along the way God’s work in my heart and life has produced this change. This swap. This flip flop. My desire to continually acknowledge God’s presence and be in constant communication with my Lord has increased. Increased so much that it comes before my perfectionistic “shoulds.”

I smiled.

God smiled.

As my mei mei would say: This is happy.

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Sometimes when I read my lectio verses I feel stuck. Nothing sticks out because everything sticks out. Nothing in particular “wows” or “connects.”

See, so often God points out a word or theme (or original Greek definition or a Hebrew connotation or the like) and there is amazement and connections and wonder. And so I get into the habit of expecting that. Of thinking my “devo time” isn’t a true devotional time if there is nothing earth-shaking or life-altering.

So sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I forget that often (and really more often than not), life-change (and even heart-change and mind-change) comes in smaller increments.

Sometimes I forget that my time with God is less about “learning” and more about simply “being” with this Lover of my soul.

Because sometimes there are days like today.

Today I read Psalm 63:6-8

Psalm 63 is beautiful and those three verses are no exception.

But there was no grand revelation. Instead, there was just this quiet enjoyment of the Word, a breathing in of its truth – simply knowing it to be true in my life.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

And that’s when I realized that sometimes it’s the little things.

Sometimes it’s reading the verses and saying, “yes, Lord, my mind did turn to you when I awoke in the night and even in the midst of my dizzy dreams.”

And, “Yes, Lord, you have been my help! Oh, how you have been my help! And I do sing, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings!”

And, “Yes, Lord, I cling. And days like today I cling even more, yet still you uphold me.”

Simple truth. Evidenced in my life.

Then, just for fun I read the verse in two other translations. When I read it in Eugene Patterson’s The Message Bible, God whispered into my ears, “Yes, my child, you know this truth. Know it again. It was the right verse for today.”

In The Message it reads:

If I’m sleepless at midnight,
I spend the hours in grateful reflection.
Because you’ve always stood up for me,
I’m free to run and play.
I hold on to you for dear life,
and you hold me steady as a post.

My eyes watered. Because what have I been saying to God all day long? All my dizzy, spinning, vertigo-fighting, walk carefully and try not to stumble day long?

“Lord, you are my balance. You uphold me. You don’t let me fall. You keep me steady.”

Yes, indeed, sometimes it’s in the little things…

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By Faith

Had a small revelation this morning while reading a friend’s blog. He was quoting a pastor who asks “do you want stronger, more faith?” and then turns around and explains through scripture (referencing Galatians) that the point isn’t to focus on faith, but to instead “set your mind on God in Christ.” (Read the original blog post here.)

Of course, focus has been one of the things God has really been pressing on me in the last few months and so as I read that blog this morning it clicked and made so much sense to me! Our focus should be on Jesus, not on faith itself!

Which brought again to mind Hebrews 12:2 where it says to “fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.”

And then I realized. Hebrews 12 follows Hebrews 11!

(I know, “duh”, right? But stick with me here…)

We hear much about Hebrews 11. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen, been taught or even myself taught from the “Hall of Faith” chapter. And generally when we do so we focus on the faith of the individuals described. Their stories. How their faith made a difference. How our faith should be like theirs…

But I realized this morning that the Hall of Faith isn’t about the people in it. And it’s not really about how to attain greater faith. In fact, each verse or section talking about a different person (or incident) starts out saying “by faith.” And all of the most common translations all seem to use “by faith.” I did find one that translates “because of faith” which may perhaps be a more revealing way of saying the same thing.

Hebrews 11 describes what faith is and what it looked like for all these people. How it worked out in their lives. How it showed.

Not how it was obtained.

Towards the end of the chapter, Hebrews 11 begins to speak on how these people were looking forward. To a promise.

The last verse speaks of this “something better” which was yet to come and that together (they and we) would be made perfect.

Enter Hebrews 12.

“Therefore…” it opens and when it gets to verse 2 we have the revelation: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

It’s all about Jesus.

Jesus is the one who authors our faith, who provides for its inception, who made the way for it to come about. And Jesus is the perfecter of our faith, the one who brings completion. Through salvation and sanctification. Through being the sacrifice and being our mediator, our example, our Lord, our focus.

It’s all about Jesus.

So the short and long of it is, if you’re looking for “more faith,” don’t look to faith. Look to Jesus.

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Today’s Lectio is out of Luke 5:1-11

I love this. The nets are breaking, the boats are sinking and where is Peter? On his knees before Jesus.

It’s a position of worship, bowing. His words hold reverence, awe and fear, “Go away from me… I’m too sinful for you.”

Peter saw Jesus’ holiness compared to his frail human sinfulness and he was overwhelmed. He thought he was undone.

Like the Israelites at the foot of Sinai.

How often do I catch a glimpse of God’s holiness in comparison to my sinfulness – God’s greatness compared to my smallness – and am overwhelmed? Undone?

Not enough?

How often do I catch a glimpse of what God is doing – in my life, in other’s lives, around me – and find myself breathless? In awe?

Seeing these glimpses of who God really is…

What do I know of holy?

And then there is Jesus’ response to Peter. I wonder if he grinned, eyes twinkling, as he said it (my paraphrase here), “Oh, this is nothing. You haven’t seen nothing yet! But don’t fear. Just wait until you see what I have in store for you!”

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I will follow

I’m giving you responsibilities,
hardships will come;
but I’m calling you, follow me.
I may do something different with others,
don’t compare yourself to them;
keep your eyes on me, follow me.

Today’s text was John 21:17-22. Before I even read my mind was recalling the epiphany that our previous ladies’ study book author had that became my own. But what I realized this morning was that there was a first part. There are two “follow me”s in the text and each has its own character.

I’ve never quite understood how what Jesus says in verse 18 is predictive of Peter’s death. But John tells us that is and the course of the narrative implies that they both understood it to be so then. So Jesus is basically telling Peter that he would have severe trials ahead, that he would suffer (in Jesus’ name) and that he would die. Yet still he says, “follow me.”

And Peter asks about John, wondering if he will have those same trials, die in that same way… Jesus tells him it doesn’t matter what plans he has for John, instead, “you, follow me.”

Or, in other words:

I’m giving you responsibilities,
hardships will come;
but I’m calling you, follow me.
I may do something different with others,
don’t compare yourself to them;
keep your eyes on me, follow me.

I think of others, doing the things I thought I would do…

I think of the others who studied ministry and graduated college with me, having amazing ministries and seeing God work all over the world. “Lord,” I pray, “continue to bless them and bless others through them. I will follow you.”

I think of my Mimeistry/Innovo friends who are doing mime, dancing, teaching, traveling and wonderfully instilled in that world to bring God glory. “Lord,” I pray, “continue to bless them and bless others through them. I will follow you.”

I think of the majority of my friends (and acquaintances) who are married and have families, living life together and raising children to know,  love and serve God. “Lord,” I pray, “continue to bless them and bless others through them. I will follow you.”

I think of others with disease, especially fibromyalgia, who are receiving treatment that works or who are so much further ahead in the guaifenesin protocol than I am, seeing more good days than bad and feeling like they have their lives back. “Lord,” I pray, “continue to heal them and bless them. I will follow you.”

I think of my newer set of tea friends, actively pursuing their tea dreams and starting to see fruition there. “Lord,” I pray, “continue to bless them and bless others through them. I will follow you.”

Oh, Lord, no matter the cost, no matter the call (no matter how it compares to others), it is my desire to follow you.

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If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know that when they restarted the show in 2005 each season (or “series” if you’re British) has a word or theme which carries through all the episodes and culminates in the (typically two-part) season finale. In season 1 the words were “Bad Wolf” and by episode 11 the Doctor himself comments, “Everywhere we go, two words, following us: ‘Bad Wolf.'”

I’ve sort of felt like that this week. Day after day similar words and themes crop up as a needed truth, a needed reminder.

The word?

Faithfulness.

It began on Monday. It was a rough night again and I was extra weary when I got up. Still, I put on my praise and worship music and did what I could of my stretching and “wake-up” exercises. My playlist on random, I was somewhat singing along through “Great is Thy Faithfulness” when the third verse caught my attention:

♫ Strength for today and bright hope for the ‘morrow; blessings all mine, and *ten thousand* beside. Oh, great is Thy faithfulness! ♫

Yes! I cried. I need strength for today… and hope for tomorrow. And blessings? Ten thousand blessings? Like ten thousand gifts? Oh, yes!

The connections were clear and their impact profound. I wrote that section of the third verse in my gift list and on my Facebook page and went on with my day, consciously looking to God for the strength to get me through.

I’ve mentioned the gift list a couple of times before (namely, here and a bit in here). And after I hit 1,000 gifts I stopped numbering them, I merely started listing them as bullets under each day. But then the Matt Redman song inspired me to a new goal of “10,000 (Reasons)”.  So at the end of each day I put the day’s cumulative total. I also note (and often post) each new “100” marker. So that evening as I wrapped up the day’s portion of my gift list and added them to my count, I realized that #1600 was those lines from the song. I smiled at God’s creativity, sense of humor and faithfulness.

Then I had my roughest sleep night yet and woke feeling absolutely weak and drained. Struggled to the shower and “tuned my heart for praise” even if recalling words in order and actual singing were difficult.

“I need that ‘strength for today’ again,” I thought to myself. Then successfully started singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Made it through the first two verses without missing a word… But I couldn’t remember the first part of the third verse, the part that comes before “strength for today.”

And I suddenly felt it was important to know what came before.
And it was.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear Presence to cheer and to guide…”

Ah! God’s presence. That’s what gives us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. “And you know what?” I concluded on Facebook later, “God is present with me today, here, now. So even though scattered and very weak, I can have strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Great is his faithfulness! Great is his faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see! All I have needed, his hand has provided. Great is his faithfulness to me!”

But that wasn’t the end of it. Wednesday morning was rough again. Or rougher still. By then I had noticed the distinct symptoms of a cold on top of my rather unpleasant fibro cycle. Though I wanted to praise, I felt more like lamenting. And then I realized, the structure of most laments in Hebrew poetry includes a vow of praise. So that even if you are struggling in the moment, you vow to praise again… And that thought immediately took my mind to Psalm 42 which is perhaps my favorite lament.

I said the lament’s repeated refrain in my mind, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

But when I went to put it into my Facebook, I wanted to make sure I had the wording right (sometimes I mix and match words from various translations when recalling or reciting from memory). So I looked it up. Biblegateway.com pulled up the New American Standard version of verse 5:

“hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”

Presence? Oh yeah. “…Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for the ‘morrow – blessings, all mine; and ten thousand beside. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Mourning by mourning new mercies I see. All I have needed, thy hand has provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

HA! Everywhere I go, everywhere I turn I am being led back to that verse, that song, that truth! Talk about faithfulness!

God was faithful again yesterday, pulling me through and giving strength and clarity and words of encouragement as needed.

And now this morning. The words weren’t there. But the theme was.

My lectio was Isaiah 43:1-4, but verse two nearly stopped me in my tracks. I read and reread it several times.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”

See that? “Pass through… rivers… fire… not be scorched.”

It reminded me of my “River of fire” dream.

Which reminded me of God’s faithfulness.

Not only that, but do you notice that when he’s talking to Israel he doesn’t say “you won’t pass through waters” and “you won’t walk through fire”… nor does he say “if you…”

Instead it says “when.”

Rather like Jesus telling the disciples centuries later, “you will have trouble” and “when you are persecuted.”

But the point is that Israel wouldn’t be swept away or scorched and the disciples wouldn’t be abandoned or left alone or…

Think of Paul. The clay jar verse. What for years I’ve considered my “life-verse.”

in every (thing) being pressed hard but not being crushed, being at a loss but not being in despair, being persecuted but not being abandoned, being knocked down but not being destroyed

God is faithful. Oh, yes! God is faithful!!

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Regaining Sight

The NASB does it again! I was reading along in today’s lectio (Luke 18:35-43) and when I got to verse 41 my mind read, “Lord, I want to see.”

But then my eyes pointed out that that was not what they were seeing – that’s not what it said. It says,

Lord, I want to regain my sight.

And, sure enough, the Greek word in there connotates to see again. Unlike the man born blind, it sounds like this guy had once been able to see. But along the way his vision was lost. And now he is asking Jesus to see again.

I find that in many ways I can say the same…

“Lord, my focus has turned from you; I want to regain that focus.”

“Lord, the vision you gave is cloudy, uncertain and quickly fading; I want to regain that vision.”

Lord, I want to regain my sight. Eyes focused on you. Seeing as you see. Following you. Glorifying you.

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