Spiritual Amnesia

My favorite Bible

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-25

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. Thomas Merton

I decided I needed me some Thomas Merton today. He brings me close to nature and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what really matters. Because don’t we all suffer a little bit from Spiritual amnesia? That’s why church, that’s why Scripture, that’s why going out into the yard, gazing up at the moon at night. This ‘ol world just gets too noisy, too outlandish, too filled with things that really don’t matter.

You see, I am guilty. I am guilty of putting myself, my problems, my train wreck, my dysfunction on the throne where God belongs. And in doing so, I steal the joy that resides in every day, the joy that is rightfully mine as His child, the joy that the Holy Spirit longs to lavish on us. I am guilty of making myself God every time I am overwhelmed by my circumstances and give in to fear.

So for this day, I will remember how big God is. I will remember how He holds the moon and the stars and me. And in each and every little thing I do, I will bring Him into it. He’ll be there when I’m washing my car, and going to Costco. What a thought! At work when we wanted to get down to the heart of a problem we used the term “drilling down to the root cause.” Well, when we drill down to the root cause of discontent it’s because we’ve lost sight of how big God is.

I challenge you today to open the Scripture and see where it leads. I can guarantee that it always leads to life, just give a listen:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46: 1-3

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2,3

Lord, I pray for all those today who are overwhelmed with the world, with the mess outside and in, I pray for peace for turbulent hearts, peace in dysfunctional families, and the assurance that God is still in control of everything and that He has a plan and it’s a good one. Amen

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Jesus

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She Waits

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It’s a glorious thing to watch the waking sky glow peach and fill up with birds. I saw that this morning, and thinking back, I remember a time when such a sight left me unmoved due to depression. I never forgot those times, for they make these times so appreciated. Maybe that’s what the the dark teaches us.

This morning my prayer began simply enough…….”Settle the flutter and static in my mind Lord, turn the world down and You up.”

It is still deep winter in the woods I imagine. I am thinking of snowbanks and quiet clearings even though here in the desert it is promised to warm to 70 today. I long to hear the whisper of falling snow as it covers the ground. Sometimes I ache for that deep quiet like no other.

Nature waits at the edges of our whole busy world yet why don’t we make enough effort to join it? To immerse ourselves in its magnificent beauty?

Winter draws her cloak around herself and stokes the fire and embers shoot up toward the morning star……..She settles in for the long wait. Part of the peace of Winter is in the wait. The world lies quiet under wraps waiting the grand rebirth of itself in the Spring–it mirrors a bigger action. A much bigger waiting.

One day the Grand Master will take up His brush one final time and the world will watch in stunned silence as the Earth and Heaven are reborn one final time, restored to its former glory when the morning stars sang together and the Angels joined all of creation in rejoicing.

That day, He will say “It is finished” for the last time.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Romans 8:18-22

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7

Prayer: A way to set the world right.

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 Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Prayer is the one thing that ties this world to eternity and prayer is the one thing that can set the world right. What I mean by that is at the end of a prayer session, everything may be just as messed up as when I went in, but what has happened is a seismic shift between the world outside that I observe, everything I see that’s so out of control, to the reality of knowing that God still and always holds everything perfectly in place.

An active prayer life has also taught me that prayer is not always primarily for changing my own circumstances or that of someone else, though many times that is what drives me to pray. Sometimes God does intervene and change the circumstance, but sometimes He doesn’t. So why pray?

I pray because prayer moves the mountains in my own heart. That’s where God does His best work with all of us. Ultimately that is where it has to start with each one of us.

It’s so easy to throw up our hands in resignation isn’t it? Especially when we look at the chaos swirling around in the world just outside our doors. Maybe there is even chaos inside your own doors too. But seeking His face in prayer reminds us of who is ultimately in control. Just the simple act of prayer is giving God the glory that belongs to Him alone. And here’s what happens…….when we get alone and in the deep quiet, we remember. We remember who He is and how far He’s brought us. And when we turn the pages of God-breathed words in Scripture we see how far He’s brought everyone else. He’s not about to stop now.

Prayer is the simple acknowledgment that God is in control when every circumstance around us makes us think otherwise.

And when we do that, when we give Him the control we tried to wrestle out of His hands, something miraculous happens. We get so lost in His magnificence we forget the chaos swirling around outside and in. For just a little while, the madness stops. The voices are silenced. The images stilled.

When we see Him as He is, that’s when it blooms forth into a wellspring of Thanksgiving and Gratitude…….and Thanksgiving leads to prayer and praise. So it’s an endless circle that begins and ends at the Throne of Grace.

This Thanksgiving, I pray for everyone in my circle and out. I pray for each follower of this blog, whether you are a faithful reader or a casual one. Whether you followed at one time but haven’t read it in months or years, I pray for you. God sees you, friend. He sees your heartache, and your joy and follows your steps.

I pray you would feel Him near.

And now, from my house to yours………

May the Lord bless you
    and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

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Casting our care……..over and over again.

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On my recent vacation I took a walk one early morning in the mist by the sea and I found that all along the pathway someone had left stones. On each stone was scrawled a message, or a date.  Some had paw prints and a name, memorial to a beloved pet, and some had Scripture. Part of the wonder of that walk was that those little stones added something. Those stones served as a marker in my heart, so that I will always remember it.

Jesus mentioned stones too as He rode into Jerusalem. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Those Pharisee’s were such killjoys.

On that walk, those little stones were crying out to me in their own way. Well, it was more like whispers of hope. But sometimes whispers cry out the loudest, don’t they? I wonder about who painted the words on those stones and the rest of them I saw that day. I wonder what cares they had that they wanted to leave there, along that path?

Last night it was one of those tossing and turning nights. I was bogged down in my usual worries that played over and over like a needle stuck in the groove of an old 45. And this morning when I awoke, I decided that I needed to do what this little stone said to do……I needed to cast my care where it counted. To the One who could actually do something about it. And my prayer was simply for God to put the song back in my heart. Just that.

And as I thought back to when I first started my early morning prayer times, I realized that through these few years, my relationship to God the Father has changed. I always talked to Jesus, I always told Him I loved Him, but I never really told God the Father I loved him. Now I do. It’s because of the approachability of Jesus that we can take the blinding Holy brilliance of the Father, even though I know all the Holiness of the Father rests on Jesus as well.

What a perfect plan, what a perfect God.

Somewhere along the line the message has sunk in that God is not out to get me. He already has proven His great love for me even while I was sinning. Even as I disappoint Him again and again even now.

As I open the words to my devotional this morning I read these words:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Psalm 139:7-12

He is faithful friends……..He is the redeemer of days, and comfort in the night. Every hidden thought, and action is exposed to His Holy light and even then, He draws close. He is not surprised by anything we do. And the great miracle and joy of this life is that He cares enough to make a garden out of the wilderness of my heart. Over and over again.

His words fall like rain on my parched and weary soul.

In the light of eternity, where all will be well forever, nothing is a problem down here.

No Wiggle Room in the Beatitudes

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Yesterday I wrote a post. It was after I had read something that fired me up a little. But after I posted it, it didn’t feel quite right. I felt a bit unsettled the rest of the day. And a friend’s comment made me think, (Thank you Mark). Sometimes we get off track a little because we just want to say what we want to say. And sometimes all it takes is a thoughtful nudge to get us going in the right direction again.

I have since taken the post down, but the gist of it was that I didn’t think we had an obligation to pray for our leaders when they are corrupt. Rethinking that position, I think that maybe we need to pray for them even more. The reason why is because when we do that? We get fresh healing ourselves.

So today, I go back to those crowds and that dusty road where Jesus walked in the middle of the throng, and I imagine myself as the woman pressing against Him reaching for the hem of His garment. You see, she had no illusions. She knew she needed healing. Sometimes I forget I still need it to.

This morning as I leafed through the pages of my big old marked up red Bible, the one I reach for when I need to remember when it was all so exciting and new; and I heard Jesus voice ringing through the hillsides when He preached that famous sermon on the mount known as the Beattidudes.  And surprise, surprise……I found no wiggle room there when it comes to love and forgiveness. No wonder those words seemed so radical back then. They still do.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew5:43-45

Even Isis, Lord? Even those who might seek to do me or my family harm? Even those who misunderstand what I am trying to say, who misinterpret and twist my words? Even someone who might even kill someone I love? Even them?

The answer is always the same. Yes. We are called to love and forgive. Anything and everything. Because He did.

He forgave me everything, and He intercedes for me even up to this very day, and pours fresh grace into my life, even when I make bad choices. He has filled me with His Holy Spirit who enables me to do the impossible. I think of the laundry list of things I have neglected to do for Him, times I have turned the other way when someone who glanced my direction may have really needed a kind word.

All the things I said I would do tomorrow.

I am humbled afresh today. I think it’s possible to stand down for peace even while holding up your convictions. The Beatitudes have taught me again how far I have to go in that direction.

Holding onto His hem today……….all I need is one touch.

Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples. And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.”……Matthew 9:19-21

I believe what I believe…….

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I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy.  The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον (Eng. symbolon), a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something.

In the year 325 AD a controversy arose whereby Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that “although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed (not used in Eastern Christianity) describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

On its own, this statement of belief would be only a collection of words, however, since it is rooted and grounded in the Holy Word of God it stands forever as a unifying standard that applies to all Christian Churches. I never recited this growing up as a Baptist but when I visited other churches and they would recite it, I always loved it though inwardly I cringed a bit with the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” because I thought I was being hypocritical saying that part when I wasn’t Catholic. But in this case, the word “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “general”, “universal. (Although some Catholics might disagree on that point)

This morning, millions of churches will gather together and break bread over these words. In this instance, we are totally unified despite our different denominations. I found myself saying these words this morning as a awoke, well really singing them. In the 1970s Rich Mullins wrote a tune to these very words and I played it on the way to work yesterday. Of these words he says:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me”
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man…….

Amen, dear Rich, you have been living that out with Jesus for years already. I can’t wait to meet you……..

My prayer for today:

“Oh Father, though the streams of culture and the world flow swiftly and changeably around us, Your words are like a mighty rock it swirls around. The world has its eyes turned elsewhere, but ours are forever turned to you. You are the first and the last, and your words were formed long before this world existed and they will stand for all eternity. We thank you that though everything else changes, you never do. In an unsettled world, we draw tremendous comfort from that. I pray that the church will continue be an open door for people coming in from the world battered and bruised and that we in the church might be a conduit for the great love and mercy you have shown to us. You are light in our darkness, without you, we have nothing.” Amen

“No perfect people allowed.”

Prayers with no words....

I took a sabbatical from church. I really hadn’t intended to, it just worked out that way. I had a church I loved and then the Pastor retired, after that everything seemed to fall apart. It was like a corporate take-over. One service after we got out I asked Elaine, “Did we just go to church?” It felt like speed church, kind of like speed dating. Fifteen minutes and you’re out the door. The new Pastor was perfect, and so was his wife. I remember she had some fabulously expensive red pumps. Their kids looked perfect too. And the services were scripted and programmed, no room for error. No room for the Holy Spirit either.

There was no prayer, no invitation at the end, I felt like God’s Spirit had checked out.

Then we went to another “Mega-church.”  It was a pretty large congregation but we liked what we heard from the pulpit and the Pastor was a really humble regular guy. We were just on the brink of joining and the same thing happened all over again. The Church lost its lease and the building was sold. The Pastor was given a back-seat, and it was another corporate take-over. Signs were changed out front and the whole church was restructured and made over (there was nothing wrong with it the way it was). The first thing I noticed when I walked in were the flat-screens playing a football game. I was disgusted.

After that, we stayed home on Sundays. Sometimes, we went hiking and had church on the mountain. It was really kind of liberating in a way. After about a year though, we knew we had to start another search. Something wasn’t right. Church has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It set the tone for the week. But I still wasn’t ready to go just for the sake of going.

Each day on the way to work I pass this particular church. The sign out front is the first thing I noticed about it. It said, “No perfect people allowed.” I told Elaine, “I think I could probably go there.” We tried it and we liked what we heard, the message was straight out of the Bible, and it was quite possibly the best sermon on “prejudice” I have ever heard. It was a breath of fresh air. There was also a cool-looking woman in funky dress on stage playing an electric violin which I loved.

When the Pastor and his wife served us communion they spoke words of love over us and looked us in the eye. And at the end of the service there were prayer warriors in front at  for anyone who needed it. There was what I had missed. The spoken Word and the Resurrection power of a changed life, and the hopeful probability that you would walk out differently than when you walked in. That’s church.

That’s home.

And it’s good to be back.