Monday, November 10, 2014

Dashing Things Against the Rocks

I was having a moment in the car today! I was parked, no danger involved, and I was having a phone conversation with Dean about a doctors appointment. The conversation turned into a rant about the recent plethora of doctor's appointments, tests, procedures, the fear and dread of being poked and prodded. In the midst of my rant I may have said a bad word. I stopped immediately and advised Dean, "It's okay that I said that I'm in the car". Not missing a beat he replied, "That's right, God can't hear you in the car!".

The good news here is that I am married to a man who never tries to make me feel guilty about my mistakes (or sins if you prefer the technical term). The BEST news is that God does in fact hear me in the car. Here's why I'm glad God hears it all, from Eugene Peterson:

"Embarrassed by the ugliness and fearful of the murderous, we commonly neither admit or pray our hate; we deny it and suppress it. But if it is not admitted it can quickly and easily metamorphose into the evil that provokes it; and if it is not prayed we have lost an essential insight and energy in doing battle with evil. "

In my conversation turned rant, I went from giving information, to complaining, to hating my circumstances. God saw it all. And later when I prayed this through with God, I was honest with Him about how I felt about the circumstances. He had already heard how I really felt (the bright red cocoon of the Fiat not withstanding), the BEST news is that God can handle my rant, my bad feelings, and my hate for my circumstances. And here's the thing that I forget all the time, and again Eugene Peterson says it better than I ever could:

"No matter how much we suffer, no matter our doubts, no matter how angry we get, no matter how many times we have asked in desperation or doubt, "How long?", prayer develops finally into praise...all prayer pursued far enough, becomes praise."

And today, I found it true again.  Complaints and anger at a situation became praise to God who has already secured eternity with Him for me. I will learn from these days whatever God desires to teach me.  Praise be to God!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not Even One

"Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
 Who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness, 
That we might learn to fear you"
Psalm 130:3,4

At this particular time I have in my circle of friends many who are very ill. Some with cancer, one with diabetes, one recovery from a terrible car accident and others. I call upon God regularly to ask for healing for all I know who are suffering.

Recently, another person with an illness, came to my attention. Let's call her Amanda. Because of several disturbing encounters with Amanda I was struggling to pray for her in a sincere way. I quietly asked God to change my heart. Immediately (and it doesn't always happen this way) I believe God gave me a picture of Amanda's behaviors and failures and a realization that it was an outward depiction of my inner, hidden, secret sins; those of thought, attitude and motive. My carefully hidden sins are no less offensive to God. When exposed they are no less offensive even to me. I lacked compassion for Amanda because she hadn't been able to pull off the righteous facade. The vivid picture of my sins superimposed on Amanda's outward behavior broke my heart.

By giving me the picture of my own sin, I can have love and compassion for Amanda. And now I can confess my sins and call upon God for healing for Amanda and mercy for us all.

"No one is righteous-
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking god.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good
 not a single one."
Romans 3:10-12 
(see Psalm 14 and 53)

Our hope is in Christ alone. With great rejoicing: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Character, not Fleece

So many times I have looked back over the overwhelming number of decisions I have made: decisions I have made on my own, those Dean and I have made for our lives together,  and with great anxiety, the decisions we made with the notion of nurturing and directing our kids. I have asked for God's guidance in the small and always in the large decisions and sometimes I have sadly neglected to ask God for guidance at all. By 'ask God for guidance' I mean I say something like "Please Lord, give me wisdom and direction in this decision" all the while hoping He will put the unequivocal answer in front of me, not wisdom and direction so much as a text message with a photograph, an email with an excel sheet attached, sky writing with a web address. In more traditional and perhaps antiquated terms I really want God to send me a letter with instructions or to write on the wall (it's happened before - see Daniel chapter 5). I've even been tempted to purchase a fleece from Amazon and wait for dew (see Gideon in Judges 6).

My way would lead to a life where God told me the exact right thing to do at the exact right moment and I and my family would then avoid all the sorrows that come from the wrong or not "perfect" decision; but that is not God's way. I read this today and it explained clearly why His ways are higher than my ways especially with regard to decision making:

"The development of character must be the primary purpose of the Father. He will guide us, but he won't override us. That fact should make us use with caution the method of sitting down with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper to write down the instructions dictated by God. Suppose a parent would dictate to the child everything he is to do during the day. The child would be stunted. The parent must guide in such a manner that character, capable of making right decisions for itself, is produced. God does the same."  E. Stanley Jones in Victorious Living

Regrets and "What ifs" are powerful means of entrapment. For those of us in the Body of Christ bad decisions and past mistakes are opportunities for God to shape our character. If we did not take that opportunity at the time we can do it now. Through the power of Christ we can change and grow and be shaped by the good as well as the not-so-good. I will continue to ask God to give me wisdom and guidance but I can trust Him to use my choices good and bad to make me more like Christ. Even so, I would be delighted to find a dew covered fleece on the back porch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Number There in Love was Slain

I heard something today that brought to mind once again the idea that God speaks to us even through unlikely sources; that truth will emerge even when it is unintended; God calls us, draws us to himself even through the words, paintings, inventions and machinations of those who do not know Him. I delight to find God's truth hidden in the secular!

A blogger, Jacob Prahlow, ( )   writes about C. S. Lewis' view of myth:   

"If we are to agree with Lewis' historical account of myth, namely that God reveals Himself to all men through nature, stories, and myth itself, it seems to follow that even pagan philosophers may speak concerning the plan of God, if in some dimly lit way." This next paragraph is particularly delightful to me:

"Lewis wrote that "There is a real connection between what Plato and the myth-makers most deeply were and meant and what I believe to be the truth…One can, without any absurdity, imagine Plato or the myth-makers if they learned the truth, saying, 'I see… so that was what I was really talking about. Of course. That is what my words really meant, and I never knew it'"

The idea that someone would write something, something as mundane as a pop song and "stumble upon the truth" which would really be the hand of God at work and later, again through God's grace discover that they had written the truth without at the time knowing what it really meant is miraculous and encouraging.

John Ortberg writes in Living in Christ's Presence that he once quoted some lines from one of Shakespeare's works to his wife: 

So they loved, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none;
Number there in love was slain.
(the Phoenix and the Turtle)

Ortberg says that Shakespeare is saying that love in two parts had the essence of one. This reminds me of the verse "and two shall become one":
and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? - Matthew 19:5

John Ortberg saw in Shakespeare's poetic verse the idea of the Trinity: "Number there in love was slain". They are three but one--and one infinitely richer, better, deeper, more joyful than it would be if not for the three."

There is a caution worth mentioning in finding truth in secular sources and C. S. Lewis speaks also to this:

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located
will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing.
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we
really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshippers.
For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” (The Weight of Glory)
The sad reality of secular creativity is that many people worship the creation and or the human creator and not the almighty and everlasting God, the ultimate creator. As we enjoy the various entertainments in the arts, media, and nature may we find the true flower, sing loudly the true tune, and visit the true country.