Saturday, June 29, 2013

Taking the 'Crazy' out of Busy

I couldn't say it better than Francis de Sales:

Flies harass us more by their numbers than by their sting. Similarly, great matters disturb us less than a multitude of small affairs. Accept the duties which are entrusted to you quietly, and try to fulfill them methodically, one after another. If you attempt to do everything at once, or with confusion, you will not only burden yourself with your own exertions, and by entangling your mind, you will probably be overwhelmed and accomplish nothing.

In all your affairs, rely on God's Providence, through which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part, work on in quiet cooperation with God, and then rest satisfied that, if you have entrusted your work entirely to God, you will always obtain that measure of success which is best for you, whether it seems so or not in your own judgement.

...When your own work or business is not particularly engrossing, let your heart be fixed more on God than on it; and if the work be such as to require your undivided attention, then pause from time to time and look to God, even as navigators do who set their course for the harbor by looking up at the heavens rather than down at the deeps on which they sail. Doing this, you will see that God will work with you, and for you, and your work will be blessed.

What one task can you begin to intentionally share with God? Mine is dishwashing.
Thanks, Francis.

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What to do Today

Moses messed up at Zin.
The Israelites were thirsty and complaining AGAIN, and God told him to speak to the rock to make it produce water, something Moses had done before under God's instruction.
But this time, Moses had enough of the Israelites' griping:
...and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.--Numbers 20:10-11

Pic credit:
You have to feel for the guy. The Israelites were ungrateful, unfaithful, and blasphemous. We would have gotten mad, too. So he hit the rock instead of yelling at it. Big deal.
But you and I have never seen God.
Not face to face like Moses did.
He, more than every other living man, should have known what God wanted.
He wanted Moses to believe Him.
And He wanted him to do it right then, without hesitation.

That's why God excluded Moses from His rest, his promised land.  
In that critical moment, Moses didn't believe.
Moses' fleeting unbelief denied him rest, and it can do the same for us. But God gives us hope:
It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them and did not go in because of their disobedience. 

God links our hope for heaven to something we have to do and He give us a time to do it:
Therefore, God set a certain day, calling it Today...Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.--Hebrews 3:6-7

We are to believe Today.
Today is the day we hear His voice.
Today is the day we believe.
Today is the day we enter into the rest of knowing God.

Do you remember a time when God showed you the heaven to come by giving you something of Himself today?

Friday, June 21, 2013

You've GOT to be Kidding
Don't you hate it when they pout?
After all, what does pouting really say?
"You've got to be kidding."
"This isn't even close to good enough."
"What about ME?"

Teenagers. Go figure.
They are world class pouters.
And I, of course, being older and wiser, am not.

And, then I got out of bed.
"Oh, man...the cat threw up again."
"Who left their wet towels on the floor?"
"Turn on the air, will you? It's really hot out there."
"I don't want cereal for breakfast. Can't we have french toast?"

Complaints. Whines. And yes, pouting.
Nothing is good enough.
And, just like a pouting teenager insults what I have given her, I insult what God has given me.
Yes, the cat threw up, but she also calms and cuddles.
Yes, someone left wet towels on the floor, but the floor is tiled and nothing is harmed.
Yes, it's 90 degrees today, but it's not 30 below and it's not snowing again.
Yes, cereal isn't the most exciting breakfast, but it's easy and nutritious and doesn't burden anyone.

Turn back, my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has been good to you; He has kept my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling. I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.--Psalm 116:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is the gift of God.--Ephesians 2:9

What God gives me is GOOD--not because it makes me happy, but because it comes from Him.
Thinking it is anything else simply becomes pouting.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What He Gave Me

Most people grow up with an expectation of disappointment or an overriding attitude of fear.
It's true.
I didn't know it for a long time but when I started to ask, almost everyone told me this.
Disappointment and fear: is this how we are meant to live?
No, of course not.

I grew up with an expectation of wonder. And I got it from my dad.
When we were young, Dad took us out for rides on Sunday afternoons (gas was 25 cents). He never told us where we were going, so we looked with anticipation around every corner, asking "Are we there yet?"  When we finally arrived, always at a place Dad had found just for the occasion--a waterfall, or a pristine sledding hill, or a remote Hopi village--he presented it to us with a flourish as if to say, "Isn't it wonderful?" And it always was.
And that was our framework for life.
He showed me what a really fine tomato tastes like.
He marked out the profile of the man in the moon.
He plunged my hands into yeasty, rising dough.
He rolled me down a hill fragrant with just-cut grass.
He stood me in front of President Lincoln and told me to think.
He showed me what the world looked like from the sky.
And it was all wonderful.

My father told me to be smart and careful, but not to be afraid.
And, more importantly, he taught me to LIVE. 
And, without meaning to, he taught me about God.

Do not fear, for I am with you--Isaiah 41:10
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity--2Timothy 1:7
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.--Psalm 27:13

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today: Don't Miss It
You are missing something.
Right now. This minute.

It's your life.
What happens when you are doing something else.
The bloom opening between breaths.
The tap of first rain.
Silent minutes that neglect to announce their passing.

They belonged to you,
gifts showered one by one.
You were meant to pick them up,
smell each in its turn,
let it run down your hand and arm
until it becomes only cool shine,
and makes room for more.

I sometimes fear that, having ignored too many little drops,
I how hear only the crash of life's wave,
bearing down, almost to shore.

But I looked up today,
and it came.
The one drop.
Fragrant, cool, sweet with washing.

This one, I kept, and savored,
remembering that the waterfall would never roar
if each droplet, in its turn, did not fall. 

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfall.--Psalm 42:7

Saturday, June 8, 2013

In Company with Songbirds

The came in silently, some with shuffling steps, some with walkers. They found the right pages with practiced hands, and looked to casual eyes like a hundred elderly ladies ready for a meeting.
Then they began to sing.
And I realized that I was in the company not of retired nuns at St. Francis House in Dubuque, Iowa, but with songbirds.

"We come to share our story...." they sang.

Their stories not so much as retired nuns, but as redeemed children of Christ.
The story that brings them so much joy, regardless of number of their years or the condition of their flesh:

"We come to break the bread..."

The bread of life, the cup of salvation,
the soaring redemption they all share regardless of their background or origin.

"We come to know our rising from the dead."
They may have trouble sitting, or standing, or walking,
But they know that amidst it all, they rise with Christ.

They taught me this.
Thank you, little birds.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Narrow Way: Still Loving the Law

Moses is dead. Joshua is in charge and the Israelites stand on the edge of the Promised Land. What next?

Joshua knew.
They were to obey the law. Not just the ten commandments,but the whole law, all the instructions God gave His people regarding what to eat, how to judge, when to celebrate, what to do about sin, and when and where to bring offerings and praise...all of it.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.--Joshua 1:7

And why? Wasn't this just a bunch of rules?
Not even close.
Through these laws, God would keep His wandering people close to Him. He still does. 
Through word and song and action, He would give voice to His Holy character and share His glory from His place in the tabernacle.

Picture this for a minute.
God Himself descended to rest between the cherubim in the Holy of Holies and held His law before the people, saying to them: Look on Me. This is who I AM. Draw as close as you can so that you may know Me in your very being.
I give you my law so that, through its execution, you can cleave to me. 
 From there, I will protect and defend a holy people totally devoted to Me.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; to not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.--Joshua 1:9

I want you back.
The way is narrow. Walk in it anyway.

He still says this.
We still must walk the narrow way between the Cherubim.
By the light of the Spirit, we follow Christ, the Slain Lamb, through the torn curtain to the Father.
The same God. The same Christ. The same Spirit. The same law. The same goal.

Do you see the smoke rising from beyond His courtyard?
He is there showing the way, by the same Word.
His majesty is still awful and beautiful, His power still complete. 
Approach Him as did the high priest, on your knees, and He still receives you in love.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sin: Am I Done Yet?

Repentance is a single act.
In that He died, He died unto sin once...--Romans 8:35

A single act, but one that for you and me may not, probably will not, be accomplished all at once.
Repentance is deep, and needs to finish all the way down to its dark, disgusting bottom. 
It is not just "I'm sorry" nor "I'm really sorry" nor "I'm (sniff) so very sorry." Repentance isn't even just "I won't ever do that again."
True repentance rips and racks down to a center that never wants to see the light of day.
It resists exposure to the point that we need to tear it out. 
In short, if one has not been miserable over sin, one has not truly repented.

Repentance requires that we plumb down to the full depths of our own depravity.
Guilt and shame are long and wide and they need to be. It is so for every sin, because the commission of any sin means that we have chosen the way of idolatry. We have chosen to worship other gods. That is the nature, the definition, of sin.
It is not a mistake or misstep. It is betrayal. And it needs to die.

That's the bad news. And it is very bad, indeed.
But there is also Good News, because once we have come to the end of it, once we have reached fully down, pulled out absolutely all of the disease, we can welcome the cure. 
Once I am done, God receives me into His presence, and His reception is complete and eternal. I am clean. He has made a way for me and holds my place.

In that He died, He died unto sin once, but in that He lives, He lives unto God. So reckon yourselves also dead unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.--Romans 6:9-11

God does nothing halfway and neither can I.
I cannot become fully alive until I have rendered my sin fully dead. 
The gateway to death.
The path of life.