Redeeming the Time

 

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“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

Looking Up in 2017

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Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self-pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to Heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus you are lightened. Heaviness is not of My Kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As Jesus and His disciples were walking by the temple one day, one of them remarked on how beautiful it was. I can see Jesus glancing at it, maybe nodding in agreement, then saying (Message version) “All this you’re admiring so much–the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.” Then He goes on to explain just how bad things will get before He comes back and sets everything to rights. At first glance that might seem like a real joy-killer, but then He says at the end of Luke 21, “Look up, for your redemption draws near.”

It’s easy to despair looking at the events of the world around us. And I’m only thinking of the things that happened this past week! It’s easy to forget how to look at the world through the lens of  wonder, filtering out all the anxiety and dread about what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to buck up, or think beautiful thoughts. He points us to Himself. He is our ultimate hope and the hope of the world.

Sometimes He reminds us of this in the simplest of ways. The other morning I took a walk down by the river and the neighbor cat decided to tag along. I watched as she sprang ahead, leaping with a wild joy as she chased blowing leaves. She high-stepped it, and shaking her feet at the wet grass she almost tripped me by running across my feet. I have to admit, I got caught up in her playfulness.

Why do we humans complicate everything so much? Why do we eat ourselves up with worry? On Friday night I lamented that I was worried about finding a new stop on my route. My wise friend said, “You’re not driving it today.” Then I said something else and she repeated, “You’re not driving it tomorrow either, or Sunday.” I was robbing my moments of peace which I do repeatedly.

As I continued my walk, camera in hand, I got several cute shots of the cat comedienne. I laughed and caught the wonder again through my camera lens. I looked up at the sky peeking through the trees. I need to do more of this, I thought. I walked back up and then smiled all over again when I downloaded the pictures to the computer.

This quote by Frederick Buechner kind of sums up my thoughts today:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and the pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

I plan on re-doubling my efforts to keep looking up during the course of the coming year. I plan to remember how to live in wonder at the world around me, and letting Jesus be my filter. I will fail sometimes, of that I have no doubt. But sometimes I will succeed.

What are You Waiting for?

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The end and culmination of all things is near. Therefore, be sound-minded and self-controlled for the purpose of prayer [staying balanced and focused on the things of God so that your communication will be clear, reasonable, specific and pleasing to Him.] 1 Peter 4:7

As I sat this morning in the quiet, my thoughts traveled back through the years to a maroon pew and a summer night. It wasn’t any particular church night,  just a culmination of all of them I guess. I heard the melody of a hymn that I can’t quite place but I wish I knew what the title was. I may have to do a search later, it might be “Calling Today.”  I see the organist at the front, her name was Amy and I see her flowing robes spilling over the bench. I smile when I remember what my Grandma used to say after Amy got her divorce…….”She should be in the back of the church, not up there playing the organ.”

I remember those warm summer nights. The world seemed different then. Across the tracks on the east side, the gangs hadn’t moved in yet. There wasn’t much difference from the east side than the west. The local bakeries were still open. I hear the bell over the door. You could still buy German pastries and fresh sourdough bread that they would bring out in the mornings. The smell was overpowering. I can still see those loaves stacked in the baskets by the cash register, and the trays of long johns and crullers. That was before all the big grocery stores came in.

I long for the simplicity of those times. It seems everyone is waiting for something to get better. Or change. I can see it in the faces of the people. I see it in the faces of some of the refugees on the news. They are waiting to go home, waiting for peace. The world has gone askew. Everywhere, someone is waiting for something, for someone.

If I could just get out of this hospital bed……

If they would just die so I could get my life back…..

If they would just come back to me……

Waiting for birth, waiting for death. Waiting for financial freedom, waiting for the ship to come in. Deep down we sense that things have gone terribly wrong. The whole world is waiting, holding its breath. But here’s what I can tell you for sure. Whatever you are waiting for can be fulfilled in just One person. All of your deepest longings can be fulfilled in that same One person. He came once before and He’s coming again. This is the most important part:

Whatever or whoever you are waiting for doesn’t matter if you don’t know Him.

All the pieces are falling into place just the way He has arranged it. The stage is set in motion. It has been since the beginning of time. But the days are growing darker, even though there is still so much good in the world. Hope remains. Against the backdrop of world events and everything else we see in the news, Scripture speaks with a new authority. Unfortunately, just as many people aren’t listening. Listen to what Scripture says about our times:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. 2 Timothy 3 (The Message)

It’s time to turn toward the Light folks.

For He says,

At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— 2 Corinthians 6:2

Whatever you are longing for, He’s the God who can bring it. Eventually, He is coming to restore all things to what they were in the beginning, back before everything went to hell in a hand-basket. This is not a pipe dream, this is a promise. But until then, let God pitch a tent of peace in your heart and know that whatever you are waiting for will indeed come at the right time.

I have a deposit that’s already been put in my account, safer than any bank or savings and loan. And you can have it too.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13,14

The wait is over.

The Flip Side of Sadness

Last night I had some company. First to show up in my dream was my cousin John with the crazy staccato laugh, huge heart and endless pranks. He and his brother George were always up to something. When they were little, they asked my Aunt Esther if they could decorate their rooms for Christmas. After she told them they could they scooped up buckets and bagfuls of brown pine needles and covered the floor and everything else in their room…..Join me here at Bibledude for the rest of the story…..

Fighting the Change

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30: 19,20

I awoke this morning with a familiar feeling, one I didn’t like. I was flat. Not happy, not depressed……just flat. I am in the beginning stages of that place in life known as, dare I say it? “the change.” Sshhhh, I won’t say it out loud. I didn’t use bold face type or big letters. It is not a real uplifting topic for women, (or the men who live with them.) But it is a reality.

I had a choice in that moment. To settle for how I felt, or to fight for something better. That is what it really comes down to each and every day. A choice for life or death. Victory or defeat. So I got up, grabbed some coffee and sought life in the pages of the book that was lying on the floor by the bed. The one that gives life…….I flipped open to Corinthians and there I found this verse:

“For thanks be to God, who always leads us to triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place, for we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:14,15

God has taught me that I don’t have to settle. I don’t have to slog through the day feeling like this.

I can have victory in Christ.

As I rustled through those pages, I started to feel more like life and less like death. And I realized something else. If I had settled for that feeling?  I would have missed the beautiful fragrance that the people in my life are giving off,  because they are making the choice to get up and give life to me. And I don’t want to miss it.

I don’t want to have to apologize because I have been so focused on myself that I don’t see the hurt in your eyes for being ignored, not appreciated, not valued.  

We all have heard about muscle memory. Trained athletes know it. The muscle remembers. But so does the mind.  

That is what I remembered with tears this morning on the way to work. I remembered how I had to fight for life after my healing from anorexia. The healing of my mind had to come first, but then I had to begin the long battle of healing my body. You don’t starve your monthly cycle away without having to work hard to get it back.    

I remembered getting up in the dark before anyone else was awake, and running….just running. In the cold and in the dark all I heard was my feet slapping on pavement and my heart pounding, my breath coming out in puffs. I didn’t want anyone to see me because I felt I was repulsive. I had ballooned to 125 pounds from 80, largely from fluid buildup that came from wreaking havoc with my hormones.

But morning after morning, I got up, I went out, I fought back.

And today, I can smile on that victory. Because God heard the prayers of hurting parents, and He heard me too, down there hitting the pavement. He was with me.

Later, after I felt a bit more confident my Dad went with me. It was good, just he and I running together. And someone else I didn’t even know was watching too. I later learned that my future husband watched us run from the window of Flame liquors where he worked for years. After we met he told me this. Life is amazing isn’t it?

I can rejoice now in the suffering, because of the victory at the end. Because much of life is getting back up over and over again, no matter how you feel and fighting back, because you know life is always worth it.

Restoration and light and life waits at the end of the road. And once we’ve come through? We can help each other find the way out.

When you have had part of your life ripped away is when you begin to know the true value of it.  

All over the world today, people making the choice. Some even when it would be much easier to choose death.

Choose life with me today?

Two Cups with God

 
In the midst of the mess and the beauty of life, He listens,
 He enters into my world and I enter His.
 Two cups with my Father,
two cups with Jesus,
two cups along with the Spirit……
He sups with me and I with Him,
a window of Heaven cracked……
 
Prayer Journal
 
 
The devotional reading I picked for myself today was 1 Corinthians Chapters 1-3. It reads much like a letter from a grieving parent. Paul has spent his own time, money, and resources for 18 months in Corinth. He knew that there was a lot at stake. If the church could take root in Corinth, it could take root anywhere. A city of around 700,000, it was full of every kind of philosophy, thought, religion, as well as every kind of sexual morality you could think of.
 
Certain things were happening in the Church that deeply troubled Paul. They need to be reminded of who they were. It seems they had a case of “spiritual amnesia.” Certain people were queuing up to follow the church leaders instead of Christ. Some followed Peter, some followed Paul, some followed the dynamic new person on the scene, Apollos. Still others followed Jesus.
 
Right now we are in the midst of an election year. We listen to the speeches, we hear who speaks the best, who looks the best, who is the most eloquent, who says what best matches our philosophies and beliefs. But no politician has the power to save us, and neither did any of the church leaders of Paul’s day.
 
But Jesus does. He is our hope, no matter what happens in our economy, our country, our world.
 
Sometimes, like the Corinthian church, I need to be reminded of who I am and who I believe. I take comfort in Paul’s words today.  It is so easy to get swept up in the worries of the world and all the different voices clamoring for our attention.
 
I need to be reminded that what I do matters and that wherever I go, I am taking God with me in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
 
I love how, even though Paul is brimming over with frustration, he is also brimming over with love and thanksgiving.
 
”To the church of God in Corinth (or America), to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together all those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ–Their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul
 
 


Big Red

For the word of God <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>is alive <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>and active. <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>Sharper than any double-edged sword, <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I hold it to my chest, knowing what it contains……..all the mystery and words of life. I felt the power it held as I pressed it close. I would open it, but not yet.

Content in the weight of memory within, I hold it close and feel all the years behind it. It was my first real study Bible, one I bought during a Walk through the Prophets study at my church. It was the most beautiful book I had ever seen. The day I carried it home was April 19,1980.

When I first got it, I devoured it. I read it for hours. I loved the delicate rattle of the pages and the gilded edges when they caught the light of the lamp.

All these years, it has been by my side, though there were years when I left it untouched on the shelf. Even so, I knew the words of life that it contained. I had felt that lifeblood of its pulse flowing through my life. I could never deny it.

For these words are alive with the very breath and Spirit of God.

I have other versions now, but when I need to feel the hope of all that God has brought me through, the Red Bible, “Big Red” I call it, comes out. It is the best prescription I can think of for a heavy heart. It’s amazing really, how I can feel better just by holding it. The words within hold the healing, the hope. I know that without cracking the cover.

It holds memory, it holds life, it holds me.

The verses highlighted in yellow, the ones I clung to when I did my first solo in church, the personal notes I scrawled in the back on special days, things I never want to forget are there.

This old friend is in me and I am in it, I feel it as I hold it close. Tears have spilled on its pages and they do now too, as I remember the times it brought me back from darkness, death. Notes of mine are co-mingled with my Mom’s from when she borrowed it. That makes it even more precious.

I think of all the promises held in the Bible, and how each and every one is true. It is the one thing we can always count on. What in the world gives us that kind of hope? In the beginning was the word……and the word was God……and even beyond eternity it will still be there.

Last year it came unglued from the spine and I had to glue it back on…….and the leather cover is more pliable with every passing year. But its still the most beautiful book on my shelf.

I am celebrating His promises today, won’t you join me?

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18