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Archive for August, 2012

Last fall at the tea seminar, whenever Bruce wanted to end our breaks and call us all together again, he did the most peculiar thing. He picked up a small bronze bowl, took a small wooden mallet in his hand and then began to very slowly move the mallet around the outside edge of the bowl. The sound was low at first, but it gradually built into a deep, loud and beautiful song. The graduated intensity caused our bustle and conversation to melt into silence. I found it the most calming and beautiful way to call a group’s attention together. So much more peaceful than shouts or whistles or bells and, admittedly, more calming than the sound I’ve been using to start meetings the past several years: the shofar.

I found out that his simple instrument was a Tibetan singing bowl which had been gifted to him by someone sometime somewhere along the way of his many and varied tea travels. And I wanted one.

My desire remained firmly planted… in the very back of my mind. I figured I’d have to save for years and search high and low for one. But a friend’s Facebook status a few weeks ago prompted me to check one of my favorite retailers, Ten Thousand Villages. They have several. Different sizes, different materials. I quickly realized that I knew nothing about singing bowls and did a little quick research. Someday I would like to own a larger, hand-hammered singing bowl. But for now I purchased a very small, simple, sand-casted brass bowl through Ten Thousand Villages. It’s called “Delicate Song.”

It arrived Monday.

I was so excited!

As soon as I unpacked it, I had the mallet out trying to make the bowl sing. Just like Bruce did. It didn’t come right away and over the course of the past week as I have interacted with the bowl, not only have I gotten better at making it sing, but I’ve come to realize it can teach me much about faith and life:

  • Don’t hold on too tightly. The singing bowl sits in the open palm of the hand. Placing fingers up around the sides or, for a very small one like mine, cupping the palm of the hand too much chokes the song. It reminds me again to hold my stuff in open hands. I don’t want to choke the song out of my life by holding onto stuff, onto unnecessary things, nor even holding wrongly onto that which is the current instrument of the song God has given me to sing.
  • Slow down. Don’t rush. Take it slow and steady. The slower and steadier you move the mallet around the outside of the bowl, the stronger, the more unwavering and the more beautiful the sound is. If you rush, the mallet clashes with the fine vibrations that enable the singing and it makes a tinny ringing sound that is quite discordant from the intended song. Likewise, rushing through life, through quiet times and prayer times, through conversations and time spent with family and friends can cause sour notes or kill the song. Slow it down a bit…
  • Be patient. This is not a piano nor guitar nor drum which makes sound the instant you play it. The bowl requires a few (or several) steady rotations for it to begin to sing. But sing it will. And some things are definitely worth waiting for. Not everything in life is instant. And the best things seldom are. So be patient. With yourself. With others. With God.
  • Be unwavering. I read a great article today that brought up “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” The article was speaking of how the success of successful people and organizations can undermine clarity which ends up undermining the success itself. I thought about how we get going and we’re excited and  have this momentum and it can easily become a “more, more; faster, faster!” drive. Yet as I saw early on with the singing bowl, though the tendency is to speed up when it begins to sing in an effort to make it better, louder and longer, this actually undermines the song. It can kill the song. Sticking to the right rhythm unwaveringly is much more productive for the song. Isn’t the same true in life? It’s like that old story of the tightrope walker I heard from Dave Thrush in many a staff meeting all those summers working at camp: the hardest part of tightrope walking is near the end, when the platform is no longer within peripheral view yet it is still too far for a final step or jump. Attempting to speed up or “jump” right to the end causes a perilous fall. I’ve recounted this story many a time to friends, encouraging them to not rush and keep the steady pace.
  • Keep the pressure firm, yet soft. When moving the mallet around the bowl, if you are too firm you will interrupt the vibration or even push the bowl itself. Yet if you are too soft you allow too much vibration between the mallet and the bowl and you get that awful tinny ringing again. There is an appropriate tension that should be kept in order for the bowl to sing.
  • Keep playing. In some ways it seems silly. It’s a bowl and a mallet and you move the mallet around the bowl. Simple, right? How hard can it be? But as I’ve discovered this week, there is much more to a singing bowl than meets the eye. The bowl has taught me so much – and God has taught me so much through it! – but even though I know how to make it sing and what to do and what to avoid, I still don’t get it right every time. The more I play the singing bowl, the better I will be at it. It will take time to get good, to make it sound beautifully seemingly effortlessly, but in order to get there I have to keep going; I have to keep playing it.
  • Time smoothes the rough edges. Unlike the others, this isn’t something I observed on my own. This was mentioned in the comments when I was listening to some singing bowl videos on YouTube. Over time, the constant rotation of the mallet around the edge of the bowl works to smooth it out even more than the artisan already has. It diminishes any friction and the sound becomes even smoother, even purer.

I’m really enjoying my singing bowl. I use it when I’m trying to quiet my mind. I use it to help me focus and turn to God. It takes a quiet sort of concentration that is conducive to prayer and meditation. Which makes sense considering its origins are in Buddhist meditative practice.

As as I mentioned, this little brass bowl (and God) have taught me a lot this past week. Some of it I spelled out in more detail, some of it I left for you to make the deeper connections to your own life and faith. So think on…

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Ever since I first heard it, I have loved the story You Are Special by Max Lucado about the Wemmicks. It’s been told hundreds of times and even has a live theatrical version. It shares important truths.

In case you don’t know, the story is based around the Wemmicks, wooden people created by the good carpenter Eli. The Wemmicks go around giving each other stars or dots. Stars for those who look good or do good or have traits and skills the other Wemmicks like. Dots for the not-so-pretty, the not-so-intelligent, the clumsy and such. The point of the story is that our worth comes from God, not others.

And even though I am a thirty-two year old who has heard the story, read the story and relayed the story to others dozens of times, at every new reading my eyes still tear up a bit at its profound truth.

Yet I realized today that there are other lessons the Wemmicks can teach us in that story.

I’ll share with you two:

  1. We too often judge others based on how others have judged them. In the story it gets to the point where Wemmicks give dots or stars to other Wemmicks simply based on the fact that those Wemmicks already have an abundance of dots or stars. I was thinking today about how when one person speaks negatively of another, we automatically want to “give dots” do that person based on our friend’s experience even if we haven’t been close enough to that person to see for ourselves. Same with stars. And when lots of people are saying negative things about someone, it is too easy to be swayed and believe them and then we forget the stars that person also had and all we see are the dots…
  2. Lucia didn’t try and make Punchinello (the main character) better on her own or sit and tell him everything she knew about their Maker to help him see his worth. Instead, she encouraged him to go directly to Eli. Sometimes I want to be a “fixer” in my friend’s lives. Offering sage advice, speaking healing words and so on. But really, others are only truly helped and healed by going to God – the Great Physician – directly.  Not that we don’t have any part (after all, God is the one who created us for and put us in community)… but I think sometimes we try to be the “savior” (often even unwittingly) when that’s not our job. Which is why it struck me today that Lucia was onto something. She knew she couldn’t fix Punchinello. But she knew who could and encouraged him to go there.

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Have you been following along with my “Lectio Thoughts” the last couple of days? If so, have you noticed any pattern like I have? It continues today, causing me to shake my head and chuckle once again at God’s humor and sovereignty.

Wednesday’s scripture was out of Numbers and I was amazed at how God brought new life into a story I had heard, read and taught numerous times, leading me to pray for focus, strength and patience so that I wouldn’t have Impatience On The Journey.

Yesterday I read from John verses which harkened back to the Numbers passage, thinking once again there was nothing “new” to connect and yet again being proved wrong as I intended to meditate on the verses to instrumental music on the drive home only to have God sing “Picture Me” and remind me yet again that when I forget to focus on Jesus is when my strength fails.

Then this morning’s lectio out of Psalm 34:4-5:

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.

I sought the Lord and He answered me,

I sought the Lord. I look. I look to the Lord like the Israelites looked to the serpent when bitten, eyeing the raised symbol of the punishment for their complaints. I look to the Lord who was lifted up on the cross (the elevated symbol of the punishment for my sins) which brought me life. I look. I seek.

And God answers.

When I seek. When I call.

He is, after all, our Faithful Father.

And this afternoon I caught myself realizing my own prayer from first thing this morning. How I was talking to God, seeking God for  how to proceed with something. And how I hadn’t quite expected (or took the time to wait for) an answer.

Yet when I seek, God answers.

And delivered from all my fears.

What are my fears?

Failure – as though I’m not good enough or can’t do enough things well enough or never finish what I start or that I don’t have what it takes… like Charlie Brown looking at that tiny, dilapidated Christmas tree bent nearly in two by the weight of a single ornament he’d placed on it, bemoaning, “I killed it!” I, along with Charlie Brown, fear that nothing I do turns out right. Not like I’d hoped or planned.

Missing opportunities – I can’t say ‘no’ to this or that because if I do no one will ever ask me anything ever again. I have to do this now or it will never get done. What if this is my only opportunity to (insert random opportunity here) and if I don’t do it I’ll completely lose out? What if my business doesn’t work because I didn’t start now?

Being poorly viewed by others – I don’t want people to think I’m all talk and no action. I don’t want people to laugh at my dreams as though they’ll never come true. I don’t want people to see me as lazy or weak or fickle or full of excuses and reasons…

Insignificance – I want to do something that makes a difference. Even a small one. But, you know, enough of one that’s noticeable so that I’m deemed worthy of being a human and all…

Yes, I have fears. Thing is, as I look at this current set in light of looking to God, I start to see the truth of it… and that God can deliver me – save me – from the hold those fears have on me.

They looked to Him and were radiant,

Radiant.

Like Moses.

In between the previous two Lectio-related posts I sat down and wrote a post on what Lectio is and how it works. How it is a time to seek to know God – not just know about God – by meditating on the Word and letting it sink in through our intellect and into our very core. And as I talked about the last “step” of “living out the text” I made a random little comment about how there should be evidence of our time spent with God… you know, like how the face of Moses radiated…

Time spent with God by which we radiate God’s light to the world.

Like the moon reflects the sun.

Radiant.

When we look to God.

Their faces will never be ashamed.

That line has greater meaning than at first glance, reminding me of my initial discovery of it a couple years back as I posted here.

Those who look to God need not be shamed.

I will look.

I will seek the Lord.

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Picture Me

The past two weeks I’ve been doing something different at work. I’d read some articles that gave me the idea and so about every 45 minutes or so I get up from my desk (where I mostly stare at the computer doing my work all day long) and I make a few laps around the sanctuary. It gets me moving, I stretch a bit and I get a brief mental break that allows me to return more focused, more attentive and in better physical shape to attend to my tasks. I’ve found that not only do I feel better during the work day (and afterwards), but I’m actually getting more work done better.

The bonus is that during these few laps around the sanctuary allow me to hum praise songs or pray and chat with God. Sometimes about how I’m weary and tired and unfocused and struggling at my tasks and other times about completely random things.

At my last “get up and move” break today I was talking with God about the state of my mind and body. I was tired, I’ve been fighting a cold or something, my back and neck hurt, I had a headache and I knew if I went home and sat down to do my devotions (that got pushed back again today) I would most certainly fall asleep.

“Besides,” I was saying, “I want to talk with you on the way home and pray for my friends and family and all.”

But I love that my lectio times often inspire how to pray for myself and others.

So why not read my lectio passage for the day before I left work, meditating on it and then praying on my way home?

Which is why the last thing I did before putting my computer to sleep was to look up today’s passage (John 3:14-15):

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

I chuckled because this comes immediately after yesterday’s passage which was the original story of the bronze serpent in Numbers to which Jesus is here referring. And then I groaned because my mind immediately went to all the meanings and theology and applications that I’ve taught on this passage for years.

The Israelites had to look at the serpent in order to be healed from the snake bites. Jesus is saying He would be lifted up. We are to look to him there on the cross,”that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

Nothing seemed to stand out different from how I’ve always seen the passage today like it did yesterday.

Yet I know the verses well enough that they were easy to recite even as I headed out the door and got into the car and headed out. I put on my “Irish/Celtic” playlist which is in my “Instrumental Music” folder figuring it would be nice for the scenic drive home and wouldn’t have words to distract me.

But not all the songs in that playlist are purely instrumental.

And the first one up was “Picture Me” by Eden’s Bridge (off their Celtic Journeys album).

Now you have to understand, I’ve had this album for probably more than a decade. I’ve heard this song a hundred times. But there in the car, with John 3:14-15 still ruminating through my mind, I finally realized what the words were actually saying.

The song is about looking to Jesus.

Sorta like the passage…

Huh.

Here are the words to Picture Me:

Picture Me in time of plenty
Picture Me when the house in empty
Picture Me in the river flowing
Picture Me when nothing’s growing
I am there with you
I am there with you
Picture Me in the Church on Sunday
Picture Me in the car on Monday
Picture Me when it all goes well
And picture Me when it feels like …
And I am there with you
I am there with you

Now and then it’s forgotten
That’s when your strength fails
Lift your eyes to Heaven
And find the way, find the way

Picture Me in the early sunrise
Picture Me in the darkness of night
Picture Me when the way is easy
Picture Me when you are needy
I am there with you
I am there with you

Walk the path that’s waiting
Fears won’t make you stray
There’s a home that’s waiting
If you find the way, find the way

You may not know
And I’d love to show you
That you can make it so
But how can you see with your eyes closed?
Picture Me, picture Me, picture Me, picture Me

Did you notice the chorus? I certainly did.

“Now and then it’s forgotten, that’s when your strength fails.”

That’s when your strength fails.

When we forget.

When we take our eyes off Jesus.

“Lift your eyes to Heaven,” the song instructs.

And then, at the end, “I’d love to show you… but how can you see with your eyes closed?”

Good question.

Picture Me.

Good answer.

So the whole way home I thought on this and prayed, chuckling and marveling at how God yet again speaks directly to me saying exactly what I need to hear.

God is here with me.

May I not forget.

May I continue to look up… to focus… to picture Jesus.

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What is Lectio?

It occurred to me awhile back that I kept categorizing blog posts that stem from my times with God as “Lectio Thoughts” even to the point of making that an official category when I reorganized my blog. Yet I don’t believe I ever fully explained what Lectio is for those unfamiliar with it.

In short, when I refer to “Lectio” I am referring to that devotional time which I spend with God every day. I call it such because for the past three years or so now I have been more or less following the Lectio Divina method of listening and responding to the word of God. So I thought I’d take a few moments to explain what Lectio Divina is and share with you a couple of my most favorite thoughts on the heart of this ancient way.

As mentioned briefly once before, in the course of the past ten years I have read four books which either center around or take a decent chunk of time to delve into Lectio Divina. Unfortunately, two of them are now packed away along with other books I told myself I could do without for awhile (since 6 of my 13 shelves now hold tea stuff). So I will only be able to share from the two remaining.

But for your reference:

  1. I began with Enjoy the Silence: A 30- Day Experiment in Listening to God by Duffy and Maggie Robbins. It is geared towards youth, but nevertheless, it is a great starter book. It gives a basic introduction to Lectio and then walks the reader through 30 days of passages in order to teach and get the reader into the habit. Youth or adult, I would recommend this as a starter.
  2. The next one I picked up was Contemplative Bible Reading by Richard Peace. This one can be done by groups or the individual and gives a bit more depth into the history of Lectio. Another bonus to this one is that it emphasizes both objective study of the biblical context as well as the subjective meditation of the verse. It seeks a balance between the analytical and the contemplative.
  3. A friend recommended (and let me borrow) M. Robert Mulholland Jr.’s Invitation to a Journey a few years back. I loved it so much that I now have my own copy. In chapter 9 when he speaks of spiritual disciplines, he includes Lectio Divina as a model when speaking of the discipline of spiritual reading. He brings out some new understandings of Lectio for which I was grateful. I blogged on one before and hope to include a bit more here. Or you could read his whole book. I’d recommend that as well.
  4. Earlier in the same year I read Mulholland’s book I had also finally gone through Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. That was an insightful and challenging book I now wish I hadn’t packed away because it would be good to go through again since finding out I’d regressed and then restarting my fibromyalgia treatment. But I digress. She also mentioned Lectio in one of her chapters (interestingly enough, it was also chapter 9) and I remember finding some of her descriptions and ways of teaching Lectio to be outstanding. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to them to share on here right now.

So, What is Lectio?

Lectio Divina is from the Latin and translates as “divine reading” or “sacred reading” and has been around for more than 1500 years. Instead of merely studying the Bible (in an analytical Western way) and learning about it and all sorts of facts and such, Lectio seeks to go deeper, to hear the voice of God through the text, to open ourselves up to God through the Bible.

It began with monks. They would go to a quiet place and repeat aloud a scripture (often from Psalms or the Gospels). The repeating would continue until a word or phrase stuck out and then they would meditate on that, understanding it to be a word from God. This then naturally led into a response of prayer, offering back what was heard and understood. As the monk moved deeper and deeper into prayer, he would find himself simply at rest in the presence of God.

Benedict (you’ve heard of the Benedictine Rule for monks perhaps?) was the first to commend Lectio Divina as a spiritual exercise. Benedict included several hours of the day in his rule for the practice of Lectio and, interestingly enough, they were to be when one had the most mental energy. But it wasn’t until the 12th century that another monk (Guigo II) laid Lectio out as a step-by-step process as we know it today.

The steps of Lectio Divina

Mostly I hear of four steps in the process, but Mulholland adds a preparatory step and what is essentially an “action” step as well when he describes the process. So I’ll include those here:

  1. Silencio (Silence) – This is the preparation for the reading when one quiets the mind and heart in readiness. Mulholland describes that this should be an inner shift from control to receptivity, from information to formation, from observation to obedience.
  2. Lectio (Reading/Listening) – You read aloud a short passage of scripture. The Duffys recommend reading at least three times. The first time you simply let the words wash over you, the second you listen intently and the third you pray for the Holy Spirit to point out a word or phrase upon which to meditate. The point is, as you read or recite again and again you are seeking for what the Spirit is drawing you towards.
  3. Meditatio (Meditation) – This is the processing stage. Like a cow chewing the cud, over and over and over and over again. Practically, this most often looks like repeating the word or phrase over and over aloud, allowing it to sink in beyond your head to your heart and soul. How does it connect? What is God saying to you through it? Some who follow the ancient ways would say the pureness of meditating on the word or phrase is enough, but Mulholland does include that one can engage in a bit of study here, looking up background information or context or an unfamiliar word. Here the intellect is engaged, yet not only the intellect, but the inner being as well as you allow the truth shown to sink down deeper.
  4. Oratio (Prayer) – This is our response back to God. What was read, what sunk down deep now comes out as a response. We offer back to God the thoughts and connections, giving thanks, seeking guidance, asking for forgiveness or whatever the response to that particular passage and truth may be. One of the most precious aspects of this that I have found is how often what was revealed to me turns naturally not only to prayer for myself, but prayer for others as well (I described that a bit in yesterday’s post).
  5. Contemplatio (Contemplation) – Contemplating in this sense is not how I normally thing of “contemplating” and it is not like the meditation aspect. Here we move from the activity of prayer into the stillness of contemplation. Resting in God’s presence. Simply listening. Yielding and waiting upon God. A time of simply remaining in peace and silence before God. I find it to be one of the most difficult aspects of Lectio, especially at first, and yet I think it is also the most beautiful.
  6. Incarnatio (Incarnation) – “Living out the text.” That’s how Mulholland lists this last step. It is where the rubber meets the road. We should come away different than before, with evidence of our time with God written upon our lives like how the face of Moses glowed after being in the presence of God. “The whole focus of spiritual reading,” says Mulholland, “is to encounter God in ways that enable God to transform our being and doing in the world.” (Notice who is doing the work, doing the transforming…)

The Heart of Lectio

I’m going to share with you some of Mulholland’s and Peace’s words rather than trying to sum up the heart of Lectio. I think these three selections will help you understand the beauty of this way of spending time with God and the heart of the matter:

From Mulholland on Oratio (Prayer):

We share with God the feelings the text had aroused in us, feelings such as love, joy, sorrow, anger, repentance, desire, need, conviction, consecration. We pour out our heart to God in complete openness and honesty, especially as the text has probed aspects of our being and doing in the midst of various issues and relationships.

From Mulholland on Contemplation:

It is a posture of yieldedness to God. Some translations of the psalm capture it well: “Truly I have set my soul in silence and in peace, like a weaned child at its mother’s breast.” (Psa 131.2) The unweaned child is at its mother’s breast for what it wants – milk. The weaned child, however, is content to rest in its loving mother’s arms and receive whatever she desires to give. Contemplatio is the posture of the weaned child. We abandon ourselves to God and to whatever God wants to do with us.

And lastly, from Peace:

When your attention begins to wander, you go back to the text and start the process over again, listening for a new word or phrase. You read it again, listening for what else God might have for you. Or you end your prayer experience with a “thank you” or “praise God” and enter into the tasks of the day, taking with you this sense of God’s presence, this experience of God’s love and guidance. This “presence” sits in the background as you greet others or start work on the report you must finish that day. It sustains you in your tasks. It softens you with others. It takes the edge off the urgency that so often makes you feel burdened. You live in the world of sense and time, but with the impression of eternity in your heart.

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You know, ever since my first mime workshop, I have been fascinated with Numbers 21:4-9 (the Bronze Serpent). In fact, I’ve taught on it more than a few times. But proving yet again that the Word of God is indeed living and active, God pointed out something new today when the two of us sat down for tea.

It’s right there at the end of verse 4:

and the people became impatient because of the journey.

Due to issues with Edom (who would not let the them pass through their land on the way from Egypt to the Promised Land), the children of Israel had to take the long way around through yet more desert wilderness.

It was taking longer than they had originally anticipated.

It was taking longer than they wanted it to.

And the journey was wearying.

They complained of not having any food and they complained about not having any water and then they said the food they did have was miserable.

Because when one is weary and starts to complain, it’s easiest to just continue.

Once one thing looks bad or bleak, so does everything else.

Reality was, they had everything they needed.

God provided food miraculously.

God provided water every time they asked.

In fact, God even provided protection and guidance and didn’t allow their clothing nor sandals to wear out.

But in their weariness they grew impatient.

And in their impatience they complained.

Nothing was good enough any more.

As I meditated on the scripture, I all too easily found myself in their sand-filled, tired-but-never-wearing-out sandals.

This journey of healing is much longer than I anticipated.

This journey towards the fulfillment of my dreams is taking longer than I want.

And even with something as simple as my blood-sugar-control diet, though I have a ton of wonderful (healthy and tasty) foods I can eat, I all too often find myself saying, “there’s nothing I can eat” and “I hate this miserable food.”

I am too impatient.

It’s a theme that has been recurring much lately.

Which is good because as summer begins its closing ceremonies and we shift our sight towards autumn, it is difficult for me to maintain this “time of rest and healing” wherein I must say “no” to new time commitments.

I must be patient.

So as I wrapped up my tea time with God today I prayed for patience for myself and my long round-about journey. That I would keep my focus on God and God’s promises and not complain and see the whole trip as sour.

And then I prayed the same for my friends and loved ones.

Those who feel as though they are merely walking in circles, taking way too long to break bad habits or grow and mature in certain aspects of their lives.

Those who keep getting slapped in the face with lies, ill-suited words and rejection when it seems that the journey towards healing and reconciliation should more than be well underway.

Those who are uncertain if the Promised Land of their dreams still exists and so struggle with this arid wilderness journey where nothing they expected is in sight.

Those who were hoping for easier solutions and less complicated routes to fix and heal bodies and hearts and relationships that have kept them in a wearying state of flux.

Praying for focus on God and not what we lack.

Praying for strength when we weary.

Praying for patience for the journey.

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Continual Progression

It’s frustrating.

It’s frustrating and I don’t know how to respond.

There is always a telltale sign that it’s about to happen. A look. A sigh. And then there it is.

The question. The statement.

It usually begins well. Fairly normal, actually. An exchange of smiles. An exchange of greetings.

“Could be better, could be worse,” is my usual non-reply when I either want to gauge the other person’s true interest or else don’t want to sound like I’m always complaining when the question is asked of me, “how are you?”

Some chuckle and leave it at that. The more thoughtful (or the more facetious) often reply with “that’s profound” or “aren’t we all?” Then there are those who have the time, interest and/or a more detailed knowledge of my issues…

“Rough day today, huh?”

“A bit, yeah.”

And sometimes I’ll actually list a few of the symptoms I’m dealing with or I’ll make statements on the future hope or on God’s goodness. And sometimes the other person is sympathetic, or empathetic, or at least encouraging.

But then sometimes you get the look.

And then the sigh.

And then the question. “I thought you were supposed to be getting better?”

Or the statement. “You really need to see a doctor who can do something about all this.”

My response either way is the same, “I am.”

But the return look is often disbelief.

Now don’t get me wrong here. The people who give me the look, the sigh, the question or the statement really do care. They are trying to be helpful or encouraging. And I know this.

But how do I explain? How do I get across that I am getting better? That my doctor is doing something for me? It’s just a slow process.

Healing isn’t always instant.

In fact, I dare say, it is most often not instant.

For some reason, we seem to accept that things like chemo and radiation take awhile to work against cancer and that sometimes you get sicker in the process. But for almost everything else we want a quick fix. A pill we can take and be done with it.

So how do I explain to people that even though it seems every time they see me I am still struggling with this, that it is getting better? That this process will take months to make a truly noticeable difference and years to fully work out? How do I explain that not everything happens instantly. That full healing takes much time and much energy and much patience?

It’s frustrating. I don’t know why they can’t see it!!

So many times I go to God, during my devotional times, in prayer or even in our less structured talks, and I ask this Creator of mine why I’m still doing the things I shouldn’t.

Why, when I know my body will pay for it, when I know the truth, when I desire to be  a good steward, do I so often choose to eat poorly or skip exercise or engage in just a bit too much tv watching?

Why, when I know I should bring my thoughts to You and I know that You are always with me, does it take me so long to look to You when I am tempted or am battered by my own negative thoughts or when I hear Satan’s words of half-truths?

Why am I still making the same mistakes over and over and over?

Why am I still dealing with these areas of my life – pride, control, depression, selfishness, etc – when You have already shown me a better way and when I have already surrendered to You?

Why, these 30 years after asking Jesus into my heart and growing up in the Church and knowing the Bible so well, am I not yet perfect?

“I thought I was getting better?” I inquire of God.

“I need to be doing something about all this!”

“You are” comes the reply.

“You are getting better, my daughter. Look how far we have come already! And by coming to Me you are doing something about it. Healing is not instant. Nor is growth. Keep coming to me, spending time with Me, hearing My words, talking to Me, listening to Me, walking in My steps and obeying My voice. Then let Me do my work of changing your heart. Be patient. Trust me. I am the Great Physician.”

A friend and I were talking about some of this yesterday evening. About areas in which we thought we had made progress only to find we still fall so short. And about how we need to be patient and go to God and allow God to work in us.

She typed these characters into our chat window: 天天上上

“But don’t look it up,” she cautioned. “It won’t translate well.”

She was right. Google Translate gives me “every day on.”

“Tiāntiān shàng shàng.” She spoke aloud this time. “Continual progression.”

Continual progression.

Healing isn’t instant.

Spiritual growth isn’t instant.

But so long as we keep going to God and submit to the heart work, it is continual.

And it is progression.

Continual progression.

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