When I choose a blindfold …

2 Corinthians 4_6.jpg

I don’t really like games where you have to wear a blindfold. The control freak part of me absolutely freaks out! I have to trust someone else. I have to let someone lead me. I cannot see the way ahead and I have no way of knowing what awaits me. Uncertainty is not a good friend of mine.

 

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NIV, emphasis mine)

If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who give us the best picture of God we’ll ever get. Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (MSG, emphasis mine)

 

Sometimes I feel like I wear a blindfold when it comes to my faith. I want what I want. I want it in my timing. I want answers, now now, to the questions that I’ve been asking God. When this blindfold of my faith-on-my-terms is over my eyes, I’m easily disgruntled. I don’t see my Father as the One who is good and loving and faithful. I’m quick to remember the prayers that are still unanswered, the seemingly good desires of my heart that remain unsatisfied. My inner control freak is out front and loud.

There are other times when I live faith with my eyes wide open. In those experiences, I’m listening to God’s voice. God, what do you want for me? What are your desires for me? Are my desires submitted to yours? The questions don’t go away, but they change their tone, their tune. I’m looking for answers but it’s in a just now kind of way. The answer may come soon or it may not. It will come in my Father’s good timing. With my eyes wide open, I am quick to notice my Father’s hand directing and ordering my life. I see His goodness clearly. I see His love poured out for me. I notice His faithfulness over and over again to me. My inner control freak submits to the One who holds the plan.

God, too often I doubt Your goodness and Your plan for me. I wear the blindfold of my self-assurance thinking I can do it all without You and it will all be good. That is such a lie. Nothing in my life is any good without You directing and leading. Father, I long to live with my eyes wide open. Seeing You in all Your majesty and glory. Noticing Your faithfulness to me again and again. May I live in such a way that my eyes are fixed on You always! Amen.

Presence

Isaiah 60_2b.jpg

Lists exist. Places I have been. Things my hands and feet have touched. Checkmark! Places I want to go. I want to experience – see and touch and do. Events I want to go to. Sporting events, concerts, theatre – to have sat in the seat, watched it with my eyes. To be able to say I was there.

 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah 60:1-3 (NIV)

“Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God’s bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all people sunk in deep darkness, But God rises on you, his sunrise glory breaks over you. Nations will come to your light, kings to your sunburst brightness.” Isaiah 60:1-3 (MSG)

 

I am not sure I live with the same awareness of my God. Do I have a list of God experiences that I am anticipating? The experiences? See, touch and do with God?

In some ways, I feel like I have stumbled into God experiences. Moments that have rocked me to the core and have reminded me of God’s presence in a tangible way. My cathedral journal records the evidence of God meeting me in those moments. His words to my soul recorded as fast as my hand could write. Desperate scribbles attempting to capture the moment when God was near.

But shouldn’t every day and every part of my life really be a record of God’s presence?

I think my vision is skewed. I think I’m looking for something big, something demonstrative. God does do big things. But while I’m on the lookout for big things, I’m missing all of the small moments which are also the signs of God’s presence and moving in my life. It’s the small moments I take for granted. It’s the small moments I miss because they don’t seem significant enough.

But those small, ordinary moments of God’s presence are so important. They demonstrate His constancy. They demonstrate His affection. They demonstrate His knowledge of me. They demonstrate His love. They demonstrate His attention to the details of my life. They demonstrate His detail. I think the small reminders of His presence might almost be more important than the big ones. I need to notice them. They are happening all the time and I have been unaware.

I was recently reminded that it is usually in reflection that the moments of God’s presence in a day are noticed. Ignatius Loyola’s followers were asked to reflect on their days as they turned in for the night. In their reflection, they were to ask “Lord, show me how you were with me today.” (Jethani, S., 2017)

I want to be aware of God’s presence. I want to see what He is doing in my life. I want to know because then I will live more fully with the One who loves me best.

 

Jethani, S. (2017) With God Daily:  Ignatius Loyola:  Finding God Everywhere [December 22, 2017 Devotional]. Retrieved from https://skyjethani.com/devotionals/

 

 

 

 

The Songs

 

I Peter 2_9b.jpg

I love Christmas music – in the month of December. November is much too early. There’s songs that get stuck in my head and just won’t leave. I can’t help but tap my toe and sing along.

 

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:5-9 (NIV, emphasis mine)

 

This year’s felt a little strange. I’ve been sick for all of December. Almost no voice. No singing. Hmmm. It’s not quite the same when you mouth all the words to your favourite carols but can’t join in.

However, the songs of the season have stuck with me and some new ones have joined the list too. Here’s what’s been running through my head in praises to the King.

Emmanuel – Chris Tomlin

He Shall Reign Forevermore – Chris Tomlin

O Holy Night – Chris Tomlin

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – Chris Tomlin

Adore – Chris Tomlin

All is Well – Michael W. Smith

Our God is with Us – Steven Curtis Chapman

Seasons – Hillsong Worship

 

 

 

 

Pleasing

Ephesians 5_8b-10.jpg

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. A good book! Check. A pot of tea! Check. A fireplace on a cold winter’s day. Check. The opportunity to stay home. Check. Time with family. Check. Any of these, or a combination of them, I will be thoroughly content!

 

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. That is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:6-14 (NIV, emphasis mine)

Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that. You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it. Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Ephesians 5:6-14 (MSG, emphasis mine)

 

Figure out what will please Christ and then do it. Immediately, my head wants to turn that around to a “do not” list. Somehow the list of things that I know I shouldn’t do pops into my head a whole lot faster. Do not steal. Do not lie. Don’t murder. Don’t covet or be jealous. A sense of smugness settles in quite quickly. I don’t do those things so all is good.

But a relationship with Christ is not about satisfying a list of dos and don’ts. If I have a relationship with someone, I learn the things that make them happy. I find out what will make them smile. I look to bless them with tokens of affection large or small. I’ve learned these things from spending time with them, building into the relationship, being aware.

Shouldn’t my relationship with God follow the same kind of pattern? Knowing my God and being in close proximity to Him should yield a similar list. How do I show my God affection? How do I pour blessings back on Him? How do I engage in relationship with Him? How do I respond in love?

What does my relationship with God look like? Sometimes its uninhibited worship. Arms raised, head thrown back, tears rolling down my face. It’s times of solace and solitude. A cathedral journal being filled as God and I share ideas. Sometimes it’s prayer. A conversation that flows between us. (I am learning how to listen better.) It’s questions. God show yourself, I’m confused even wandering. Sometimes it’s being in His Word. Digging into Scriptures to know my God better and therefore love Him more deeply. It’s ministry. Figuring out where I can serve and bless others. Sometimes it’s being still. Letting His Spirit minister to my soul in quiet and rest. It’s obedience. Walking in the path He has given me to tread.

I’d love to say that I regularly do things that I know will please God. There are seasons where I’m consistent and I feel like I’m growing in my relationship with God. But there have been seasons, even just within this year, where God has felt distant and removed, silent and separate. But regardless of my feelings or the consistency, my God loves me and desires me to be walking closely with Him. He continues to pour His affection on me. My whole heart longs to please Him in return.

Walking

Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.

We’d arrived at the Waterberg Plateau and immediately after getting bags and rooms sorted, we headed out on a hike. Some parts were easy, a gentle scramble up the path, around rocks. Other parts were challenging, a boost up the boulders. But the view at the top was absolutely spectacular. The Namibian savanna spread out before us as far as the eye could see. Even as we enjoyed the view, the warm African sun was setting. We had come armed – binoculars, cameras, flashlights, headlamps – but we had been warned, descend in daylight. It is too easy to get lost in the dark. Being one who’s on the more cautious side of the pendulum, the advice was heeded and I was down from the top of the Plateau as the last rays of sun fell from the sky.

 

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. John 12:35-36 (NIV, emphasis mine)

Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.” John 12:35-36 (MSG, emphasis mine)

 

Friends of mine waited until the sun had fully set before making their way off the Plateau. They had quite the story to tell of their descent. Scrapes, bruises, getting lost, very late for dinner – these were all events part of their story. I was very glad that I had ignored their calls to stay longer up top.

I sometimes am like my friends. I wander in the dark. I ignore the wise advice of my God and other people who know and love me. I let myself wander in the dark.

I think that I can navigate the darkness well on my own. That’s a lie. Left to my own devices I stumble, fall down, ending up with bumps and bruises and a story of frustration rather than hope. That’s the story of wandering in the dark – frustration, discouragement, bumps, bruises, hurt.

But I was never meant to wander in the dark. I was always meant to walk in the light. If I walk in the light, I’m a whole lot less likely to stumble. I can see where I’m going. I can see the obstacles in front of me. There’s fewer surprises when the light is on. Even in the light I’m not meant to walk on my own. I have a Father who guides and directs in His great love and mercy!

But even when it’s totally dark outside, I have a good Father who is the Light of the world. With Him, walking with Him, it’s never totally dark because He is the light. So do I choose to walk with Him? Do I choose to follow where He is leading me? Do I choose to put my feet in His footprints? If I do, He is lighting my way.

Jesus, thank you for being the Light that will guide me. You are so good to me – leading, guiding and refining me. Thank you for being the One who lights my way. May I always choose to walk in the light that is You! Amen.

Light and dark places

Psalm 119_105.jpg

We’ve been lighting two candles for Advent this week. The mornings are dark with the sun just coming over the edge of the building as we sit down for our devotions. Two candles wouldn’t seem to create very much light. But even a little bit of light makes an amazing difference.

 

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. Psalm 119:105-106 (NIV)

By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order. Psalm 119:105-106 (MSG)

 

I’m in need of light. Dark has a way of creeping in all over the place. I don’t like how susceptible I am to the dark’s influence.

But I am reminded that I have a light source that trumps any darkness. However, do I access the light available to me? I can have God’s word. I can open God’s word. But is it just there as some sort of guide book? Or is it more.

A guide book can be helpful. It will have maps and directions. Ideas and possibilities of things to do. But God’s word is more than a guide book. A guide book is all about suggestions and ideas. I can ignore them or follow them. But I think I sometimes apply the same mindset to my Bible. Maybe God meant this … Or maybe this passage means something else. I should obey God in this … Do I really need to obey God in that?

God’s Word as a guidebook is definitely not enough. I definitely need more. A lamp for my feet. A light for my path. A God who directs and guides my life. I need this! But do I trust Him? Do I trust His leading? Sometimes. When I don’t trust my God’s leading and guiding, I end up in places I don’t want to be. There’s dark corners I have been in. The rabbit trails I have led myself down have been problematic.  When I do trust my God to lead and direct my life, it’s interesting where He takes me. Light is shed in some unusual places. Change occurs. I become more like the Father! It’s a good thing.

I’m in need of light on my path. God’s Word has all sorts of possibilities to reveal the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in my life. If I pay attention to what God is up to, the light shines a little brighter.

Thank you, Father, for being the light on my path. May You continue to use Your Word to speak Your truth into my life. Amen.

Faith or Fear?

Psalm 27_1.jpg

I am deathly afraid of heights. Not just a little. A lot! I’ve been told multiple times, just look up. It’s okay. That’s no comfort for me either. I know there’s still a down, down there. Sometimes I let fear win.

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

Light, space, zest – that’s God! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. Psalm 27:1 (MSG)

 

I’m not supposed to let fear win. In fact, letting fear win is to believe the lie that the thing I fear is bigger, more difficult, more insurmountable than I understand. I give fear power and control over my life. In those moments, its deadly force wreaks all sorts of havoc in me. It paralyzes me. It overrides rational emotion. It makes everything bigger than it really is. I can build monsters out of almost anything.

But, the truth of God’s word is that God is my light and my salvation. He is the One guiding my path. He is the One who saves me. He is the One who is able to give me hope. Fear is not found in Him.

Not only is my God light and salvation, He is a stronghold. I’ve set foot in some imposing castles. Thick strong walls. Tiny slits of windows clearly prepared for defense. Deep foundations, meant to last the test of time. Moats and high outer walls all meant to stymie the opposition and prevent them from gaining entry.

If people can make strongholds like that, imagine what the stronghold looks like that is my God! His foundation is from everlasting to everlasting. His walls are built on the cornerstone Jesus Christ. There is no darkness because the Lord is the light of His people. He leads and guides the steps of those who trust in Him. What a place of hope. What a source of strength.

I wish I was only afraid of heights. Other fears quickly and easily weigh on my soul as soon as I give them a foothold. Instead of giving into fear, I choose to trust that my God knows me well and that He will always be the One on whom I can depend. It does not mean my life is easy or smooth, but it does mean that when it all seems to crumble around me, I have a God I can depend on.