Of tears and kitchen sinks …

Psalm 27_13-14

I stood at the sink. Hands wrist deep in suds. Tears streaming down my face. Heart conflicted. On one side, grace, mercy and blessings beyond measure. On the other, grief, pain, dreams unfulfilled. There was no choice but to wrestle with them both.

 

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV)

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again:  Stay with God. Psalm 27:13-14 (MSG)

 

I poured out my heart. The longings that are not buried as deep as I think they are. The dreams of my soul that are rarely admitted out loud. The heart-soreness that is skin deep and always present. It all came gushing forth. Not in bitterness but just statements. Not in questioning His presence but in the wonder and hurt of pain. I am so grateful I have a God who listens.

I laid my heart bare.  I needed the reminders of who my God is.

He is good. Full stop. No change. Regardless of circumstance. Even with the current state of my dreams and longings, He is good. His goodness does not ebb and flow but rather it is constant.

He is faithful. Full stop. He does not change His mind. He does not tire of me. He does not throw up His hands in despair over me. He is there in every part of the journey. The parts I love and am proud of and the ones I’d rather hide away in the darkest of cupboards.

He is present. Full stop. I might pick the spots where I show up. My God is not like that. Instead, He is there for all of it. A constant presence. With me in all of it – the tears both happy and joyful. The happy bits and the ones filled with sorrow. He does not come and go at will. He is with me.

Through tears coursing their way down my face, I chose to speak the truth of who my God is. I needed to hear myself say it. He is the One I need. I crave His presence. I am desperate to experience His ongoing faithfulness. I hunger to see His goodness. Somehow, speaking the truth over my life altered my perspective.

The pain of the unfulfilled is still there. But even more than that, my God is there. At times I have great confidence in His presence and provision. Sometimes, that foundation has gaping holes and water rushes in. But I know the sandbags of God’s goodness are there. Shoring up the weak spots. Preventing the water from spilling over even more. His goodness is on display if I am persistent enough to look for it. To pursue it. It requires a “don’t quit.” Admittedly, I would like to quit. The middle is hard. It is uncomfortable. It hurts. But my God understands the middle parts and the pain. He is good. He is faithful. He is present. I need no more, no less.

 

Pat Barrett’s Sparrows and Lilies

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Servant

philippians 2_7

We had arrived at a school. They were expecting us. They set out their best. We were toured around and enjoyed the delight of a chapel. We saw students learning. We saw teachers and leaders making a difference in the lives of others. Then came lunch. But it was the ceremony prior to lunch that changed everything for me. We stood in a circle and prayed – blessings for the food and each other. Blessings over each other. Then the leader, took to the front of the line. Not to be served first, but to be last. He took the pitcher of water and gently poured water over our hands. And as we washed our hands, he spoke words of encouragement and blessing over each one of us. He served.

 

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion. Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)

 

I marvel at the servanthood of Jesus. He said yes to God’s rescue plan for the world. He chose to leave heaven. He chose to be reduced to the limitations of a human life. He chose to be dependent. He chose to feel bumps and scrapes, bruises and slivers. He chose to submit to the parenting of a mother and father. He chose to experience the joys and trials of siblings. He chose to stay in that human experience. He chose to deal with people who had no idea what He was about – Pharisees, Sadducees, the disciples, the crowds who followed him. He chose to obey the Father’s plan – to sacrifice His life for the sins of the world. He chose love. He chose life by conquering death and rising to life again. He chose. He submitted.

What if He would have said no? Everything would be different. I would be in a constant state of sacrificing to cover my sin. Forgiveness would be a foreign concept. My relationship with God would include fear. My relationships with others would look be less loving, less merciful, less. Every part of my life would be altered.

Jesus servanthood, His willingness to set aside His privileges, makes all the difference in my life. But, is my life a reflection of Jesus? How do I serve others around me? How do I interact with them? Am I a me-first person? Do I barge into the queue wanting to be at the front? To be acknowledged? To be awarded and rewarded? What’s my attitude like? I wonder about how submitted I am. I wonder about how much Jesus shows up in me and through me. I wonder if my hands and feet act as Jesus hands and feet. I wonder what kind of an attitude I share with others around me. I wonder. I know I have not arrived. I have much to learn about serving both my God and the others who are with me on the journey of my life. I pray for a spirit and heart that are being moulded and shaped to be like Jesus. I pray that my heart, mind, soul and attitudes would look and sound like my King, Jesus.

Morning Star

revelation 22_16b

I came out of the hotel and turned right. I had dutifully recorded the directions, as I understood them. Turn right, walk to the end of the street, turn left, walk down to the water. Continue on from there. I was meant to end up at a shop, things to pick up and check on. But the directions I was attempting to follow were less than helpful. My mistake was my very first turn. I had turned right. I needed to turn left. Had I done that correctly, everything else would have fallen into place.

 

“I, Jesus, … am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16b (NIV)

“I, Jesus … I’m the Root and Branch of David, the Bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16B (MSG)

 

I need a Morning Star so desperately.

Left on my own, with my horrible sense of direction, I end up in passageways and tunnels dark and gloomy. Feelings take over. Their unreliable nature skews my reality twisting it into something that it isn’t.

I am easily distracted. Watch this. Do that. Without a sense of direction and purpose, I can wander or people watch for hours. It can be really fun. But at the same time, if I’m meant to accomplish something meaningful, I can miss the thing I was meant to notice all along.

I need the Morning Star, Jesus, to give me direction. He has a plan. He has a plan for my life. He knows the way ahead. I can be lost in the forest and He sees each tree and knows the path better than I ever will. I can be mired in my feelings, He is there, in the thick of it waiting for me to ask for His help. He has never abandoned me. He has never thrown up His hands in despair. Instead, He is faithful to be with me, pointing the way ahead.

I need the Morning Star, Jesus, to give me purpose. He continues to point me to where my focus is meant to be. With my gaze fixed on Him, I can accomplish the things that He has laid out for me to do.

I need the Morning Star, Jesus, to light my path. When the path seems to be overcome by the dark, my tendency is to turtle in on myself. The give-up factor is right there. But Jesus is the Light. As the Morning Star, He does not hide, but instead reveals. He reveals truth regardless of feelings or circumstances. He lights the way promising to always be there. He reveals truth and shines a light on the lies that I may have slipped into believing. The light dispels the darkness. It shatters its power. I need His light!

Praise Jesus! He is my Morning Star!

Rabboni – Teacher

matthew 7_29

I sat in front of them today. Bibles open. Digging into God’s Word. Seeing Jesus demonstrate power beyond our understanding. Power over disease. Power over perception. Power over distance. (Matthew 8:1-17) His miracles reminding us of times we have seen Jesus intervene in the ordinary in our lives. Protection. Healing. Presence. Lives changed because of one man’s intervention in the world.

His miracles demonstrated His power, but, Jesus changed lives with the words He spoke. With the questions He asked. He was more than a miracle worker. He was a teacher, too. One who asked probing questions. One who dug for more than the simple answer. One, I’m sure, who was okay with the silence as those who listened mulled over what He said to them. He “taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:29 NIV)

 

What questions did Jesus ask?

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47 (NIV)

“Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25b (NIV)

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Matthew 7:9 (NIV)

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

“Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” Matthew 9:4 (NIV)

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Matthew 9:28b (NIV)

Jesus questions hang in the air. They have weight. They demand an answer. Simple, pat answers will not do. In my mind’s eye, I can see the disciples squirming nervously, wondering what Jesus could possibly have been pushing at. I can imagine that the crowds who followed him turning to each other with bewildered expressions. Steam must have poured out of the Pharisees and Sadducees ears as Jesus went after them with pointed rebukes phrased as questions.

I think that’s why I am sometimes afraid to let Jesus really teach me. He has questions for me that go to the heart of who I am. It is not because He wants to accuse and guilt me into some sort of behaviour. That is not the God He is. Rather, He is asking questions of me out of love. He desires that my character, heart, soul and mind be aligned with His. He knows my heart. But His questions push me deeper, inspecting the corners I would like to keep hidden. His questions make me squirm. They reveal a truth about my character that I would rather not know, let alone letting Him in on it.

I prefer to be the one asking Him all of the questions. That feels safer. Less vulnerable. It is comfortable. Someone else getting grilled, that has to be better. Right?

I think I may have been missing out on some of the lessons I should be learning. I am certain Jesus has questions for me. Questions that will be revelatory. Questions that will sting a little. Questions that will draw me closer to His heart. Will I sit and listen to the One who made me and knows me? My Jesus is the best teacher I know.

Bread of Life

john 6_35

It was the morning of a funeral. The second within the same month. Two I loved were now in Jesus’ presence. I knew the day would be hard. I knew it would be long. Tears would flow. Grief expressed in memory, laughter, tears, conversation. I wasn’t sure I had stamina for it.

 

“You are the bread of life, Jesus

You are the bread of life, I bow to you”

 

These were the lyrics running through my head. They were on repeat all day long. Each moment when grief seemed to overwhelm, they came back to remind me that death did not have the final say.

 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 (NIV)

 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.” John 6:35 (MSG)

I am in desperate need of the Bread of Life. I long for life. Life that is … and here I need to be careful because I look at other lives and compare mine to theirs. No spouse, a spouse. No children, children. One, a couple. I weigh my life in the balance of my expectations and I declare it wanting, lonely, not good enough.

I need to come back to life that is … unique. I didn’t plan this. It wasn’t what I expected. It’s had blessings beyond what I can imagine. It’s had valleys that dug down deeper into the earth than I could have predicted. But each part of the journey has had a purpose. Life, the Giver of Life, the Bread of Life has been there for all of it.

Bread nourishes. It satisfies and sustains. It fills. How much more so, the Bread of Life. Jesus did not come just to satisfy my physical hunger. He came to satisfy the hunger of my soul for meaning, purpose and direction. The life He promises is one that is beyond my understanding. It is a life with twists and turns. A life with correction and discipline. A life with suffering and sorrow. A life with joy and excitement. A life that looks like what I expected and simultaneously like nothing I could have anticipated. But that life is only found in Him.

When I try to go it alone – to solve my own problems and provide my own joy – I give in to comparison and my feelings outweigh my faith. Discouragement and hopelessness swamp me and doubt rages all around. But, I was not meant to align my life with myself. True life is not found here.

The full life, the life with abundant joy, peace and hope, regardless of circumstance, that life can only be found in the source of all life – the Bread of Life, Jesus.

I bow to Him. He is worthy of my life’s allegiance.

 

Matt Maher Adoration (Live)

 

Adoration [Live] Lyrics. (n.d.). Lyrics.com. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/29106922/Matt+Maher.

 

He calls …

I Samuel 3_10

What gets my attention? What makes me attend to my surroundings? An alarm – time to wake up and begin. A bell – the period is over. Move on to the next thing. A siren – something is horribly wrong, move out of the way, let others through. A whistle – take a look. When I hear my name – someone wants my attention specifically.

 

Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” I Samuel 3:4 (NIV)

Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” I Samuel 3:4 (MSG)

 

I miss clues all the time. Sometimes, I need five more minutes. Sometimes, I can’t make the lane change as quickly as I would like. Sometimes, I blatantly ignore the one calling out to me. My agenda is determined to be more important than theirs. How rude!

God called Samuel four times! (I Samuel 3:4, 6, 8, 10) Samuel did not ignore God at all. Instead, he did not know whose voice was doing the calling. He had listened to Eli call him over and over again. He knew that voice. Eli needed help. His eyes were weak and he was going blind (I Samuel 3:2) and Samuel’s eyes would have been his. This was not a matter of disobedience either. Every time the call came, Samuel got up and answered. He left his bed. Made his way through the temple to where Eli was and answered. But Eli’s voice was not the one calling him.

Samuel already had staked out a place in God’s presence. He was “lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.” (I Samuel 3:3) He would not have been right in the Holy of Holies – the priests only went there once a year. But he was close. The physical manifestation of God with His people – the ark – was close by. He was with God, but he did not know God’s voice. That makes so much sense to me. Much of my life I have been close to God, pursuing Him, wanting to be in His presence. But, I have not known what His voice sounded like. I have had the heart racing and the palms sweating, but, I have chalked it up to nerves rather than acknowledging that God was after my attention and affection. Samuel was right there, too. Inwardly, I accuse Him of not paying attention, he should have known better. But shouldn’t I have known better too?

God could have stopped calling. He could have stopped pursuing. He could have given up on a boy. I might have. Or my voice would have become shrill, my temper rising in frustration. God’s tone of voice as He calls Samuel does not change. Samuel is called by name. The last time, God uses his name twice.

My God is One who is gentle. He calls. He repeats Himself until the message comes across. Then when I forget, and fall back into old habits that derail so many parts of my life, God calls again. In love and mercy, He continues pursuing me because He knows how short my attention span is and how easily I forget the truths that He wants me to embrace and live out of. He knows that I can be right in His presence like Samuel and miss it completely. He knows that He can be right with me – beside me – and I will have my attention fixed on something I deem important. He knows that I will hear Him call my name and I will miss it. But my God does not give up on me. He has good timing. His presence never wavers. In fact, when I am ready to go back and revisit those moments, He is only too happy to show me where He has been the whole time. Not out of gloating or an “I told you so” attitude – that’s not my God – but out of gentleness and love. He has promised to never leave me or forsake me (Matthew 28:19-20, Hebrews 13:5). He knows what stirs my soul and what my love language is and He lavishes love on me in exactly the way my heart will hear it. He longs for me to curl up in His presence, abiding there because my God is the One who picked up and moved into the neighbourhood to be with me. (John 1:14)

He is calling. I pray for ears to hear.

Of help and His presence …

Psalm 118_13

I had been in this place before. But, I had never been this desperate. At that time, God and I were on separate tracks in separate universes. He may have been speaking, but I did not hear a thing He was saying. I was beyond frustrated. I needed to get away. Was this faith thing was worth pursuing? I needed to see if God was really all He was cracked up to be. I needed an answer. Some indication to tell me that all of this meant something, was worth something.

 

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:13-14 (NIV) 

I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me. God’s my strength, he’s also my song, and now he’s my salvation. Psalm 118:13-14 (MSG)

 

I got to my destination, dropped my baggage and headed into town. There was a cathedral close by. God and I have a history in cathedrals. I seem to slow down when I am in them. I seem to hear His voice more clearly there. I sat down, journal and pencil ready.

God helped me. From thoughts that were scattered and disjointed to order. From deep discouragement to a refreshing of spirit and soul. From frustration, even anger, to a renewed relationship. From a place of questioning and doubt to a place of hope.

None of it was overnight. It still is not. Tiny steps continue to be taken along the journey.

The journey is all about presence. I cannot be helped by someone if they do not know the need. I cannot receive help if I do not express the need for it. I do not like to admit my need. I tell myself, I can do it. If I cannot do it right now, I will figure out a way to do it. I will problem solve it myself because I do not want to need help. Sometimes that perseverance is a blessing – I get it done. Other times, it is a total hindrance preventing me from receiving the blessing someone wishes to pass on to me. Nevertheless, it is time spent with someone, presence, that makes all the difference

Presence is even more essential when it comes to my relationship with God, my Father. He longs to be with me. He longs for me to be with Him. Nothing gives Him joy like my attention and love. Everything changes when I spend time in His presence. My worries and fears are given their proper perspective. My hopes and dreams flourish because He shares them. He hears me laugh and He laughs with me. My tears do not scare Him, rather the things that hurt my heart hurt Him too. He wants to be so close to me that I cannot help but feel His heart beating with love for me. Out of that affection and love, my heart cannot help but be stirred for the things that break His heart. He sings songs over me and delights in the praises that I sing back to Him in return. In His presence, my plans submit to His and we are able to walk closely together.

It turns out that I am in constant need of His help. I am only one step removed from disaster. But my God is with me in all of it. He is strong. I do not need to be. He is my song. I just need to listen for it and follow His voice. He is my salvation. I am redeemed by the One who loves me more than I can understand. He is closer than the air I breathe. I crave His presence.

Cageless Birds & Joel Case The Lord is my Light