If I could remember …

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I suffer from the disease of forgetfulness.

Oh, I have a memory. It works well. But sometimes it works selectively.

I sometimes remember slights that have happened long ago. Those memories colour my present, even taint it. I have believed lies based on those experiences. Those lies have distorted my thinking. Those memories have had power that I did not even understand.

I remember good things. Things that filled my bucket. Things that blessed my soul. I have smiled and laughed as I have remembered. Those memories I hold close. They are dear.

I remember sadnesses. It took one song at an event this past Christmas for the tears to stream down my face in grief. I would love one more conversation. I crave the sage advice brought by the experience of years. I miss the friendship. I cherish all the moments that mentored my soul and spirit. But …

But I forget really well too. A lot of my forgetfulness has to do with the provision of God in my life. Over this past year, the times of silence, where I felt like He had withdrawn any sort of presence in my life were at the forefront of my mind and heart. God was silent. He must be far away. He must be displeased with me. He must be tired of the doldrums I found myself in. Gracious, I wanted to move on. I was sure He did too. But I felt stuck. I felt abandoned. I felt apathetic. Did any of it really matter? Really?

I’m so grateful that God’s moving in my life is not dependent on my memory. I’d be so sunk if it was. But it’s not. Instead, God keeps moving, keeps speaking, keeps lavishing love on me especially when I recognize absolutely none of it. Thank goodness! In the middle of my doldrums, when I was truly desperate for a touch from Him, He showed up. He wasn’t subtle either. My pencil scribbled as fast as it could. The tears ran down my cheeks as I sat completely alone. I was overwhelmed by the presence of my God. I was undone by His love for me. I had forgotten. Or maybe, I had chosen not to remember how good my Father is. Instead of berating me for my short memory, my Father wrapped His arms of love around me and spoke to the deep places of my soul. Instead of being frustrated with me, He comforted and encouraged. Instead of accusing, His calm assuaged my spirit. I was brought back in. I found solace. It became well.

I know the time will come when I forget again. I will feel like an outsider. I will be convinced of a lie. But in addition to God’s Word that shows me how amazingly loving my God is, I have the reminders I’ve written down. I’ll need to read them. I’ll need those tangible reminders. My God is the One who draws near.

 

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits – Psalm 103:2 (NIV)

 

Hillsong United’s So Will I

Matt Redman’s It is Well With My Soul

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Unanswered prayers …

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I’ve read the Gethsemane prayers of Jesus many times. I’ve never read them through the lens of unanswered prayer. I have focused on the reality. Jesus prayed. God’s will was done. Full stop. That seems like answered prayer.

But Jesus first prayer wasn’t “Your will be done.” That came second. The first prayer was a request for a reprieve. A break. A lifting of the burden. That first prayer wasn’t answered. That one hung suspended. Vulnerable. Open. Pain-filled. Agony coming.

I think I have always prayed with an assumption in mind. Jesus will answer the prayer with a “Yes.” I will be given the answer I want. It will be favourable. God will agree with my request. I’ve looked at God as some magnificent machine giving me exactly what I want. In the timeframe that would be most optimal for me.

That would be praying a lie. God’s timing will never be mine. God’s ways are not my ways. His thoughts are above my understanding. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) He does not answer prayers with “Yes” as His only answer.

In fact, if I look at my life, there continue to be prayers that remain unanswered. I’ve prayed. “Yes” has not been the answer that I have been given. I’ve attributed God’s lack of a “Yes” as a frustration. He must be silent. At times, the lack of a response that I’ve wanted has felt like a personal affront. God must be dissatisfied with me.

Those ideas would be more lies that I have easily believed.

The truth is God speaks. He has in the past. He will in the future. His Word is testament to a God who communicates.

The truth is God loves. His love does not mean that He is giving me everything I want. A good parent does not do that. His love means that He is deeply invested in me, His daughter. While He is a God of justice, He is equally a God of love.

The truth is God is relational. His deepest desire is for me to be with Him. He wants me to bring all of my requests to Him. Small things that even seem slightly ridiculous. Big things that are the mountains of my experience. He wants me to talk to Him about all of it.

Jesus first prayer was unanswered. But His second prayer demonstrated a heart submitted to the Father’s authority. A heart that was obedient beyond my comprehension. “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” I don’t think I pray this part of the Gethsemane prayer enough. Truth be told, getting my own way doesn’t really fulfill me. Doing my own thing doesn’t make me happy. Being in charge has all sorts of headaches and hiccups associated with it. “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” If I pray this prayer, I remind myself that my good Father knows what He is doing. He has a plan that is beyond my understanding. His timing will be absolutely perfect. He has put me in the place where I am to walk with me, to fulfill the calling that He has placed on my life. I am being called to a life fully submitted to His plan, His way. His time. It will look nothing like I envisioned. It will take twists and turns that are not anticipated. I will not be alone.

Far better than getting a “Yes” to every prayer I pray is to know the “with” of the God who is “with” me.

 

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NIV)

Childish Listening

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Child.

I’m quite convinced I’m a grownup. Many things about my life confirm my grownup-ness. The job. The bills. The mortgage. The vehicle. The home. These are the encumbrances of a life lived as an adult.

And being a responsible grownup, I’ve left some childish ways behind me. But childishness can sure look enticing. Less responsibility. More fun. Less required. More free time. More wonder. More amazement. More simple joy.

I think I’ve applied the grownup strategy of the bills, mortgage, vehicle, home, and career to my relationship with God. There’s not always a lot of wonder. There can be a decided lack of amazement. Joy can be sometimes hard to find. I don’t think that’s what God intended at all in my “grownup” faith. He desires me to approach Him with wonder and awe. He delights when I do. He longs for me to be filled with joy. As a grownup, I was never meant to lose that ability to delight in the One who is the author and finisher of my faith.

My child.

There’s no randomness in that phrase. There’s endearment. Belonging, a place. You can’t be anonymous when someone calls you, “My child.” You’re known. Loved. Affirmed. Claimed. Recognized. Special. Acknowledged. Smiled on. And to think, God calls me, “My child.” That is wonder. That is amazement. That is love lavished on me.

Listen.

Somehow my child and child just got easier. Listening is hard. If I’m going to listen well, I need to look at the person speaking to me. I need to stop the other activity I’m doing. I need to still my thoughts. Hear the words spoken. Don’t run ahead and solve the problem. Truly listen. This is easier to put in practice with my learners. They’re right in front of me. In my face. They demand attention and we are learning patience and self-control as we all wait to be heard.

Applying these same ideas about listening to my relationship with God, that challenges me on all sorts of fronts. When I’m honest, I admit that I listen selectively. Too frequently, my eyes glaze over when God is speaking to me. My body may be present, but my brain is shut off. I’m inattentive. I don’t always want to stop what I’m doing and listen to what God is saying. I don’t want to obey. I don’t want to be convicted. I don’t want to change. My distractibility is all about avoidance. If I’m avoiding God’s words to me, then it’s also easy to say that He is not speaking.

That would be a lie. God is speaking. He speaks more than I even realize. He showers me in affection. He lavishes me in love. He desires that I would know Him in deeper ways. Nothing can stop my God from loving me, His child.

In tenderness, my Father is speaking to my soul. I pray for ears open to hear. To truly listen to the One who loves me best. To hear Him call me, “My child.”

My child, listen to what I say … Proverbs 2:1a (NLT)

 

Elevation Worship – The King is Among Us

Tender

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I know faith is about experience. I know my faith grows the more I experience God. The more I see Him move. The more I am shaped. The more I grow to understand.

But sometimes my faith is all about the type of experience. I’m convinced God is with me in the high moments. Faith assured and confident. I question His presence, even His existence in the times when my soul is beaten down and discouraged.

 

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what You were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:25-30 (emphasis mine)

 

It’s easy for me to look back at the last few years and see the times where God has showed up in big ways in my life. They’re cathedral moments where I’ve sat still and interacted with God. He’s spoken to my soul in deep and profound ways. I’ve walked away from every one of those experiences changed, tears cried, heart impacted.

The harder ones to see are the subtle moments. The times where it hasn’t felt like a life-altering revelation (and yet it really was). These moments I take for granted. I gloss over them – they can’t really be that important. But they are. They should be reminding me of how deep my Father’s love is for me. Every song that’s been part of my day, every moment where truth has shaken a lie, every friend who speaks truth to me, every moment of quiet reflection – these are all subtle and not-so-subtle ways that God continues to reveal Himself to me.

I’m quick to gloss over the subtle moments. Instead of having a tender heart, I brush the revelation of my loving Father aside. But while I easily limit my faith experiences to the big moments, God wants to again show me that He is in all of it. He knows that in my “wisdom” I will overlook His working in me. But I was reminded again that my “wisdom” is not what is being asked of me. Instead, He desires my heart to be tender to what He is doing. To see anew how He is lavishing me in love and kindness. To have my eyes open to what He is doing so that I am able to join Him on the journey that is my life. To be tender. To be soft so that I may hear His voice and know that it is He who calls me on.

 

Elevation Worship – Your Promises

When I choose a blindfold …

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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

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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

 

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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