After life gives you lemons and even the lemonade is undrinkable, it’s clear that God has something else in mind. I am, by nature, a doer and problem-solver. I have made a lot of lemonade in my life. But I have come to the borders of my self-sufficiency. Whatever comes next is new territory. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” [Psalm 91:1-2, NKJ] So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. [Daniel 9:3] I am peeling away then at the layers that have shrouded that secret place where God and I have met in the past. It is a slow process, like pulling English Ivy, the tentacles of memories and circumstances, loss and sorrow, missteps and futility, have covered the way. But I must push on and push in, for whatever I do next must be directed by God; I need confidence in the hand of God guiding me. I don’t have that anymore. Whatever has sustained me in the last six months is no longer enough. Even though people offer to help, unless the direction is clear, we are all going in circles. What next? That’s my prayer. What next?
We don’t cry out much anymore. I mean, if I cried out from that deepest place, I’d probably be put in a straitjacket. So much. Just started pulling out of muck and felt a bit of hope again, then another disappointment, another unexpected challenge. I understand why people drown. Too much water.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy. . .
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning. [Psalm 130:1-2, 5-6]
I have my faith. Relax.
But I am crying out, down in that private place only God knows about; the place I reserve for tear collecting, the place I hide, the place I wait. No one can really tell. It’s small and protected. Like a fantasy tale, that place changes shape depending on my state of heart. Sometimes, like today, it’s covered in sound absorbing quilts. Not a black hole yet.
Never just enough for our western culture; we accumulate more and more, whether it is “just in case” or simply because we can. Slowly, movements are rising to counter this addictive behavior, but the change is slow. I am no stranger to largess and its grip on my choices, to my shame. But I’m getting better.
The Israelites did as they were told [by Moses]; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer [2 quarts], the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. [Exodus 16:17b-20a, NIV]
I sometimes make fun of my “crunchy” friends [urban dictionary: used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons], but really, I admire their tenacity. More appropriately, it should be Christians and other believers who lead the crusade for saving our planet from abuse, living simply, and letting go of an “over-abundant” mentality. Throughout scripture, God is shown to meet the needs of the people, if only we would trust.
Slowly, not necessarily by election, but by the circumstances of my losses, I am faced with releasing the amassed detritus of my life. I must choose to sift and consider what is enough. Oh, I know all the cliches of downsizing and that sounds so healthy and smart until it’s “you” who is doing it, sooner than later. But I think I’ve been missing the real lesson here. I have been choosing what to “let go,” when I should be examining what is just enough.
God is about just enough.
Back in the early nineties, a revival of sorts stormed Toronto at their “Airport Vineyard” and among the many phenomenon that manifested during that time, the people would wave and bask in the “spirit” and call out for “more.” Of course, it was the “more of you Lord” that was driving those prayers, but I want to start something else: give me what I need and teach me to embrace and flourish within the hedges of God’s endowment. No more is needed.
It is the secret garden of God.
Life is in the breath of God. And that breath is for all living things, whether creature or human, the sustaining power of Spirit makes the difference between life and death. And who are we, then, to understand such a thing?
When you send your Spirit, they [the creatures] are created, and you renew the face of the ground. [Psalm 104:30, NIV]
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. [Ezekiel 37:4-5, NIV]
Yesterday on NPR, I was listening to an interview with a brain surgeon and he spoke at length how mystifying it is that the soft tissue of the brain holds so much power over the body and mind. The smallest nick could be the difference between health and disability. And although doctors know much about the brain and can see it’s shape and identify its areas, what ultimately make it work, is a mystery.
This is the realm of God. For, human knowledge reaches far and will continue to explore both the farthest point in space and the smallest particle in existence, but there will remain the unknown bit which is God.
Several of our contemporary worship songs speak of “knowing God” but truly, that is not possible. If anything, we might be better in longing to simply recognize the hand of God, the Presence of God, the essence of God in ourselves and the world around us. And to breathe.
Like the life-giving plants around us that give off oxygen and help sustain the circle of life, so does God breathe out what we need. Breathing is one of the foundations to many different spiritual practices for good reason. Breath brings with it a calm and a centering and a silence in the midst of a harried life.
Bring me back to the life You intended. Take these dry bones, these broken pieces, and put them back together again. This is my prayer.
Few us willingly embrace paradox: loss for gain, death for life, serve to lead, and so on. Each and every type is repeated throughout scripture and our first reaction is reason: that is contradictory, that is not possible, that is absurd. Even faith itself is a type of paradox, to believe in what cannot be seen or proved rationally. Paradox is simply inevitable within the Way of Christ. And those who dismiss it, miss it.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. [John 16:7-11, NIV]
And so I wonder about my own loss. I cannot help but read this passage and wonder, is it the same for the death of a loved one? Will there a come a day when I can look back and see, if Mike had not died, we would have missed this other event, this other understanding, this other transformation? I can almost imagine Mike, in his final moments, seeing our future more clearly than we ever could. And perhaps he also thought, I go that they might live in this other way, within this other road.
Mike’s faith was unshakeable and his mantra was that God would provide [Jehovah Jireh]. And he calls me to do the same. Trust God. Let go of what was freely. All will be well.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. [Ephesians 1: 17 – 19a, CEB]
At my church, I often have the privilege of “hosting” one of the morning services. In this capacity, I welcome the people, introduce the substance of the service, pray for the congregants, sometimes lead communion, give announcements, and finally, release the people at the closing with a final word and/or blessing.
Today, I am touched by these words from the lectionary for they speak from my heart what I desire for you, my reader. What greater gift can I offer you than a revelation of God and an open heart to the presence of God in your life whose promises await you (and me)?
This week, on Facebook, a friend challenged her FB followers to define beauty in three words. One of the best answers I read was “Revelation of God.” That made total sense. For all things beautiful have their roots in the creative hand of God.
So, with that in mind, I bless you. I pray for you beauty and all the other benefits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and even self-control. What more do we need in this world to walk the Way?
Posted in Lectionary, Time Up to Pentecost | Tagged beauty, blessing, Christ, Christ Pantokrator, fruits of the spirit, gifts of the spirit, God, Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ, truth, way | Leave a Comment »
How quickly I forget. How quickly the words escape into the ether and my faith-filled experiences and my God-given confirmations become a distant memory. I have had my share of minor miracles and serendipitous encounters with wonder. I have felt the Presence of God. I have prophesied truths that I could not have known except through divine revelation. And yet, I forget. I lose myself in my circumstances and my fears and insecurities.
Fix [anchor] these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. [Deuteronomy 11:18-21]
To remember the stories of our past, we must talk about them. In this way, families develop beloved corporate stories that are passed through the generations. Their exactness is not as important as their intent, the feelings they engender, and the bond of memory.
God offers us this opportunity through the scriptures and texts, the oral traditions put to paper were passed to us for our sakes.
Through the prophets, the people were told over and over again, to remember.
Today marks the fifth month of my husband’s death. Who he was and what he did and what he looked like are still emblazoned in my heart, but for the sake of the children and the children’s children, we must remember and share and talk about this man. And while we do this, let us remember as well, his unwavering faith that became a rock for our family together. Mike was our family’s anchor; Christ, my soul’s anchor.