Friday, April 29, 2011

James 1

The Letter of James is nothing if not direct.  And good at it.  And spot on.  A few practical ways in the first chapter of this letter:

  • Consider it nothing but JOY.
  • Let endurance have its full effect
  • Ask God for wisdom
  • Ask in faith, and DON'T DOUBT.
  • Boast in God's raising up from my lowliness. 
  • Don't be deceived. God is not tempting me.
  • Be quick to listen.
  • Be slow to speak.
  • Be slow to anger.
  • Rid self of all sordidness.
  • Welcome the Word.
  • Be Doer of the Word.
  • Care for orphans and widows.
  • Keep unstained by the world.
These are the priorities he outlines for his listeners.  He addresses their circumstances and how to react to them.  He addresses the Source from which they get understanding about their circumstances.  He addresses practical ways of living in order to survive in their circumstances.  That is chapter one.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lenten Readings (March 13, 2011, Evening)

I read the evening Psalm on my way to bed and had to post something this morning. 

Psalm 103  is one of Thanksgiving for all that God has given, for His Goodness in the middle of it all, and is one of my favorites of all of David's Psalms. 

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name!
Bless the LORD, O my sould, and DO NOT FORGET all his benefits.
He forgives all your iniquity, heals all your diseases, and redeems your life FROM THE PIT.
He crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.
He gives the good so that it satisfies as long as you live!!!

This is how it starts, and just keeps building with all the good that God gives, regardless of the fact that our response to Him sometimes is distrust, or misunderstandings, or downright rebellion. God loves us.  He does.  As we walk through hard things, as I do anyway, I want to choose to Bless the LORD regardless.  I forget to do that alot. 

This Psalm is also, in parallel to my life passage in Lamentations 3, a huge reminder that God's love is steadfast.  It is everlasting.  It goes on forever. 

And the promise made that I really, really needed to hear was that, for those who fear Him, for those who stand in awe of His Holiness and Love, through them righteousness will be passed down from generation to generation. 

Bless the LORD O my soul!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lent Readings, March 13, 2011

Psalm 63

Where has this Psalm been these last months of effort, of feeling like I'm walking around in a desert? 

O God, You are MY God, I seek you.  My Soul thirsts for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

In deciding to try once again this year to read the Lenten Readings from the Book of Common Prayer, I admit I am honestly, in a much more tired place this year.  I stopped abruptly last year as our family suffered a tragedy in the loss of one of our children's birth family members, and that, coupled with continuing to try to recover from major surgery, a loss in and of itself, just threw me.  I shouldn't have stopped, as I am fairly certain that reading Scripture would have gotten me through much better than I got through things myself, but I did, and here I am, wanting more... a year later.

And I read this Psalm, and instant tears and peace flow together. 

I have looked upon you in your Sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  BECAUSE your steadfast LOVE is better than life, my lips will praise you.

That underlined part??? It is the truth.  There have been times when I would say "anything is better than the life that surrounds me this day" but isn't it good, refreshing, hopeful to say... "I can praise you regardless, O LORD, because I live with the assurance that Your Love will be here and overwhelm me each and every day, if only I am open to feeling it.

And David sings these words of praise from the wilderness, or desert, not from a palace.  He isn't saying this out of thanksgiving for that love so much as comfort and assurance that God is indeed present in the wilderness.

And because of this assurance of God's neverending love, "I will bless you as long as I live.  I will lift up my hands and call your name.  My soul is satisfied and my mouth praises you with joyful lips."

I don't do these things, like bless God, lift up my hands to God, call on God's name, joyfully praise him, because life doesn't at times (sometimes all the time?) feel like a desert.  No, it's about the "knowing" that God is here...and His Love endures forever.


Mark 2: 18-22

I truly need someone to preach on this passage, someone with way more wisdom than I do, to interpret Jesus's words here.  At first reading (which is what I am trying to do here, not what I would do were I to preach this from the pulpit), it seems the people are questioning, and probably trying to catch Jesus doing something wrong.  They want to know why the followers of Jesus are living differently than those who have come before.  Jesus' disciples aren't fasting in a way that "it has always been done".  And Jesus' response on the surface (and that is all this is) seems to me a foretelling about His Plan to make "all things new", to turn the world on its head, to put away the old way of doing things ~ the rules ~ in order to live in our new skins, in freedom from sin because we are redeemed once and for all, rather than in bondage to the rules that keep us from sinning.  And we live now, on this side of Jesus' redeeming act, in our new skins!  What does that mean exactly then, to how we should live???

There's more... but for a Sunday morning, we move forward to worship.  His Blessing be upon us all!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So much of life's battles for me, are fought in the wrong arena, letting others hurt me deeply because they don't say the what I need to hear to be affirmed, or because they put their needs first without considering the sacrifice of others.  Even though I can say I don't sit here and think "what can I do to make myself miserable in this" I let others judge me, my performance, my choices, and put their stamp on it, to my detriment.

Or even, and this is even worse now that I think about it, I do work very hard at time to try to 'gain the world' by seeking to do first what I think others want from saying what I think others want me to giving up my call to speak truth in love to save trying to make sure that I'm doing it all right in the sight of others in order to be accepted, at least for a little while.

I've got it all wrong.

Sara Groves would never say she's a theologian or pastor, but in this song she proclaims the bottom line truth of it all.

As Sara said, "you can't live for someone else" ... the concept of "you complete me" is ludricrous. No other person on earth can fulfill that part. No other person but God gives the final word about who I am and what I've done and whether or not I am worth anything.

I just can't do it anymore.  I can't live trying to make everyone happy all the time, or live up to the expectations others put on me.  I can't always have the right words.  I can't always guard my heart from loving.  I can't always freely love when someone else has hurt me time and again.  And the crazy thing in giving up this needing approval, needing to always say or do exactly what I think others want me to do or say, could possible, probably free me to be exactly who God intended me to be when He created me... who Christ intends me to be because He redeemed me.  That's the neat thing of it all. 

He is my audience. God.  Alone.  This journey is the one he gave me.  I intend not to give up another day trying to live someone else's journey. 

God is my audience of One.

This Journey is no one else's but mine, the one the ONE gave me, and I intend to remember that.

From Sara Groves' album "Conversations":
When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone
This journey is my own
Still I want man’s advice, and I need man’s approval
This journey is my own

Why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
What does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life
So much of what I do is to make a good impression
this journey is my own

And so much of what I say is to make myself look better
But this journey is my own
And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

And I have never felt relief like I feel it right now
This journey is my own
Cuz trying to please the world, it was breaking me down
It was breaking me down

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Cuz I know this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life
And you can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain
I can’t even judge myself, only the Lord can say, ‘Well done.’

Oh, this journey is my own

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Character, you say?

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ~ Helen Keller

We can, if we want, embrace our suffering. You know why? Well... suffering produces endurance... endurance brings on character and character, well, it creates a whole lotta hope and hope, it never, ever disappoints us when we let God's love fill us up. (my translation, Romans 5:3-5)

I can't help it.  I'm a hopeless hoper.  I've been carrying around a whole lot of stuff, unexpected events in our family life that has created small earthquakes in relationships, in our hearts... on top of unhealed, re-opened wounds that just need time I guess... a weariness built over time that hangs on... and yet...

I hope.  I wake up each morning hoping, not out of naivete that the world will right itself before the sun sets, but with the hope that whatever we have endured, or will endure, will produce in us a character that is unstoppable in its ability to move forward, to make a difference, to speak into the lives of others who might be enduring unexpected twists and unrelenting pain. 

I hope anyway... I believe that when God's love is center that hope works, and lasts and I just have to endure. 

And it gets me through the day.  I believe I am better for having endured.  I live in the center of that kind of hope.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Simple

In  trying to live a simpler life in many areas, and right now when it seems impossible, I was encouraged by this quote from Winston Churchill...

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.

And I will add to this, the fruit that living a Spirit-filled life brings ~ and the only way that living out the 'great things' of which Mr. Churchill spoke ~ as the Apostle Paul outlined in his letter to the Church of Galatia:

"But when the Holy Spirit controls our life, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness (compassion), goodness (generosity), faith (in relationships and beliefs), gentleness and self-control."  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lenten Readings for Morning

Psalm 41

David talks alot about his enemies.  He does to the point that I times I wonder if he was paranoid about those who might be out to get him.  He seems to trust God to to be gracious to him but still, he worries.  Or at least that is how it seems to this worry wart. 

I'm good at begging for God's grace but not so good at trusting that God will take care of me.  And in the end, I don't think David was paranoid, mostly because there are times where things happen (like this morning...I won't even go into it) where I want to cry out "God, I know that THIS isn't a big deal, but to me, it feels like so much piling on.  Couldn't you be more gracious to me?"  Some days are like that.  Some days are a battle and recognizing that our enemies ~ most often not human but rather situational or even ourselves ~ are God's to take care of as well. We can imagine the worst, and still live knowing that if we live with integrity (12), we enjoy God's eternal presence and blessed grace.

Psalm 52

I don't know about you, but I've always considered the Psalms to be, for the most part, a soothing place.  There aren't the outright fierce battles or onvious betrayal of the historical books.  There isn't the droning on and on of the law.  There isn't the confusion of the prophetics.  But then I read this Psalm and am reminded of how much of praying can be, will be, should be 'lament'. 

Lament is when we cry out to God in our anger, or fear, or frustration.  For me, lament isn't a call for an answer.  It's a vent.  And wow, is the Psalmist venting here.  He is speaking to someone who has betrayed him, deceived him.  And he is mad. 

It's okay to be mad sometimes especially when someone has done wrong against us.  It is not okay to blame God or to seek vengeance.  And it is not okay to carry the burden of the anger around with us, holding grudges, bringing up old things, the proverbial buried hatchet with the handle still exposed.  When we use lament, we also have to take the responsibility upon ourselves of actually leaving it with God and letting him carry out his justice if need be.  It may not seem like God is doing what we think he should, but it isn't our problem anymore. 

Instead,  our job becomes "trusting the steadfast love of God forever" (8), being thankful for what he has done and will do for us and proclaiming his good name to others.  (9) The rest must be left up to God.

Genesis 37:1-11

Joseph dreams.  Poor soul.  It's hard being different from your siblings.  It's hard being misunderstood.  It's hard having a different dream.   I guess what Joseph should have done was kept his mouth shut in order to preserve his place among his brothers.  That would have been the mature thing to do, not to boast about his dreams.  And he learned his lesson the hard way.

Sometimes we say the wrong thing and it messes with our relationships.  I do believe I might be like Joseph in this way.  I am still learning about when to speak up and when to be quiet.  And I just pray that lessons learned along the way will eventually result in God being able to use me is as great a way as he was able to use Joseph, whose leadership abilities, and willingness to speak up even when it could have hurt him, saved the nation of Israel.

Mark 1:1-13

Mark gets right to the point in the beginning of this Gospel.  He doesn't mess around with births and wise men and all that stuff.  His point is about Jesus' calling into ministry, and the miracles he does that shows WHO He is.

And in this passage, the authenticity of Jesus is proclaimed as He was foretold through the work of the messenger that came ahead (2) John the Baptist.  The authenticity of Jesus was witness in Jesus' baptism through the words of God from the skies: "This is MY Son".  The authenticity of Jesus was then tested and Jesus passed with flying colors.  There is no reason to doubt who Jesus is from the very beginning.

Of course, that is easy for me to say. I sit here with Bible in hand, seeing it with full vision of all that happened.  But Mark's opening words were designed to help the hearers see that Jesus was Who He said He was.