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Posts Tagged ‘God’

house in groundI find the acquisition and/or practice of wisdom a great mystery. We are told throughout the Proverbs and elsewhere in scripture that we can ask for wisdom and it will be granted. In this way, it is a gift. And yet, clearly, wisdom is also wrapped up in experience and the ability to translate understanding into application.

Wisdom built her house; . . .
 “Come, eat my food,
    and drink the wine I have mixed.
Abandon your simplistic ways and live;

    walk in the way of understanding.” [Proverbs 9:1, 5-6, CEB]

gardenI have asked for wisdom but I confess, I don’t have the patience to wade through its giving. I am unwilling to accept that the process of gaining wisdom may be more similar to building a house or cultivating a garden. Both take time. And energy. And persistence. Both take the gifts of God (materials and weather) as well as the participation and knowledge of the builder.

Wisdom may be a gift but it is useless until it is unwrapped and used. And only in its use, does wisdom flourish.

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woman walking labyrinth

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear [as in adore] him,     on those whose hope is in his unfailing love . . . [Psalm 33:18]

I’ve written about “unfailing love” several times. This phrase captures so succinctly my heart toward God and my faith in God towards me. It’s a mantra. I am resolute.

It’s always a challenge for me to select source material for each day. People think of me as creative but really I’m more adaptive. Give me a kernel and from that I can often spring forward. Over time, my structured responses have been around the seasons such as Advent and Lent, and once, for three years, I plodded through the New Testament. That was a wonderful time of discovery. But at the closure of these efforts, I flounder. I once tried the same kind of slow journey, section or verse by verse, through the Old Testament, and although there were many fascinating moments and stories, by the time I reached the histories, I missed experiencing the message of grace upon which I thrive.

So, today, after a two day hiatus from posting, I am going to attach myself to a Lectionary. The concept of lectionary comes down through the Judaic principle of “appointed scripture readings” according to a calendar or given days. This practice is referenced in the gospels when Jesus is asked to read the day’s assigned passage in the synagogue [Luke 4] and it was from Isaiah 61, a prophecy of his own coming. Although there are various lectionaries from a variety of denominations, I’m not really concerned about those differences. For now, I’ll reference the Episcopalian one I found online.

Art by Delores Develde

Art by Delores Develde

And so it has happened today, that I find myself back to my Beloved and the unfailing love of God through Christ Jesus. And for this year, I will be His bride, for I need the protection and stability of that love and the confidence that my Lord will collect my tears.

You keep track of all my sorrows.     You have collected all my tears in your bottle.     You have recorded each one in your book. [Psalm 56:8, NIV]

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The crowd was disappointed in Jesus. He did not turn out to be the Messiah they wanted. He did behave as a warrior king.

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. [Luke 23:20-23, NIV]

disappointmentI had an unpleasant confrontation with my daughter about this very point, but in somewhat different terms. Relatively new to the contemporary and casual worship (having been exposed to Russian Orthodox practices most of her life), over the last couple of years, she was coming into a place of understanding and personal commitment. She was getting direction from the messages and found solace for her many losses as an teen adoptee. And then her father, my husband, died this past December. Her world crumbled and her faith faltered. After all, how many losses can a person take? I knew it was hard for her. But I thought she would bounce back. Today, I discovered otherwise. I could hear in her voice and her attitude that she felt betrayed by God. This God who supposedly “saved” her from her circumstances and yet plunge her into grief.

Jesus had stopped being the kind savior who had intended the best for her. Her seeds of faith had dried in the heat of sorrow.

How can I help her? Although my many years in my faith in God and Christ has sustained me through these months, she has not had the same foundation. She is disappointed like the crowds that day on the streets of Jerusalem. They wanted something else, not what God was offering, not what this Jesus was offering.

I grieve twice over now for my daughter. Nothing is the same and nothing will ever be same. I am sure the disciples were not much better. They scattered at the arrest of Jesus. Only a few came to his execution (John, Jesus’s mother, and Mary Magdalene, who believed). She believed he would survive the cross and live again. So much so, that even in the face of his death, she returned to the grave on Sunday morning, just in case, just in case. When the body was gone, she wavered (and for this reason perhaps, she did not recognized Him).

I believeDisappointment feeds upon our thoughts. We must consciously choose to believe in the face of the “evidence.”

I am reminded of the little girl from Miracle on 34th Street, who rides in the car in the last scene, repeating over and over again, “I believe, I believe, I believe.” Sometimes it simply takes that much.

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I am 2It wasn’t the first time Jesus made “I am” statements. In fact, this is the 5th time he is recorded as saying “I am. . . .” The others (all somewhat cryptic and yet captivating as metaphors):

  1. I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  2. I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  4. I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  5. I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  6. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:16)
  7. I am the Vine (John 15:5)

But are they all metaphor? Instead, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus wasn’t using the simplest transformationof language to communicate the most complicated piece of information: his true identity. In all but one of these phrases, there is way-finding or sustenance. But in the 5th phrase, there is something else: transformation! In essence, he is telling us that without the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, we are dead. Jesus is life. Jesus gives life where there is death.

walking deadI’m not just talking about heaven and the after-life. I’m talking about now. Most humans are just “walking dead” (amusing that a television show of this title is so popular). And as long as people are dead, it’s hard to imagine life, true life. It happens in the most extraordJesusinary and paradoxical way. Instead of hanging on, we are to let go. Instead of hoarding, we are to give away. Instead of certainty, we are to walk by faith. Instead of wealth, we are encouraged to embrace poverty.

Authentic Christianity, and by that I mean true Jesus followership, is mind-blowing.

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Purify

Refining-FireJohn MacArthur writes, ” ‘He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness,” [Malachi 3:3] is not agreeable to those who want only a soft and sweet Christ.” In particular, it’s critical to understand that the “sons of Levi” referred to were the priests and caretakers of the Temple. They were the ones anointed for Godly service. And by prophet, the warning came that they would be refined by fire.

This is no different from today. God will purify the body of Christ from corrupt men, perhaps not with the speed we would prefer, and yet, we see many fall from grace and exposed.

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. [Luke 12:48, NIV]

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HosannaI just did a brief review of the other posts I’ve done about Hosanna! Such a powerful word and so poorly understood. Certainly, during the time of Christ, it’s original meaning prevailed: Save us!

The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered:  Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Yes! The King of Israel! [John 12:12-13, The Message]

Of course, in today’s world, the idea of needing to be saved has been usurped by the “born again” crowd (and I can’t exclude myself from this group either).

But I know how off-putting it can be. I had only been a follower of Christ for a few weeks when a friend convinced me to attend his church, a Pentecostal church in upper Manhattan. It was my first time in a church since my teens and although I was sure of my new found elmer-gantry2faith, I had no answer when a well-meaning greeter asked me on my way out: “Are you saved Sister?”

What? Saved from what? All I could think about was Elmer Gantry or Robert Duvall’s The Apostle. So much fire and brimstone and drama. Are you saved?

And yet, Hosanna is proclaimed on Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The people welcomed him and believed in his power to “save them.”

Art by Johannes Bengtsson

Art by Johannes Bengtsson

I have to say, hell-fire and brimstone were never the driving force behind my transformation from self-serving bohemian to Jesus freak. For me, it was pure revelation: truth became evident and indisputable. I could not call Jesus a lie. But I didn’t exactly feel saved either. I was, of course, but I couldn’t see that back then. I couldn’t see my own descent into the dark world of drugs, alcohol, and free sex. I was spiraling dangerously fast until Christ grabbed me by the hand and pulled me out of the maelstrom. But I dhelpidn’t really see it until much later, from a distance.

So, yes. I was saved. I am saved.

Perhaps the cry for us today is simpler: Help! Just help.

And Jesus answers: “I will.”

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anxietyHistorically, I have not been an anxious person but when I checked the definition, I recognize a build up of some anxiety over the last few months, understandable I suppose, as a relatively new widow. The future carries a lot of unknowns that have generated emotionally charged days. Anxiety is a state of mind created from an expectation of future threat. I get that, totally, as they say. But I am told, instead:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Phillipans 4:6-7, NIV]

The essential information here is that anxiety can be pushed back successfully, but not by trying to “not be anxious.” Instead, I am encouraged to actively transfer my anxious feelings into and onto the Holy Spirit, that Presence within, that gift of God, who is willing to apply a strong filter. The future is still unknown and filled with dangers even, but a God perspective minimizes its impact and ability to cause actual anxiety.

It’s important to ask for help. That’s where the prayer part fits in.

grief angelI believe God is actually OK with me learning how to handle some difficult situations (as part of maturing). The more time and energy I spend with God, the more I am able to walk with God, be more like God, and dwell in the Presence of Christ’s Spirit. But, it’s important to keep tabs on this relationship. My tendency has been to blunder along and convince myself that I can do it all, I can manage, I can handle hard feelings and I can make lots of decisions, all the while working full time and running a household (at least, what’s left of it). That’s the old me who used her busyness and quick thinking and “bull in a china shop” approach to everything in order to side-step the anxiety, a fear of failure, overwhelming loss and grief.

That will not work this time. I have discovered that I, too, can drop into a kind of general malaise that manifests as anxiety that is peppered with muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, and problems in concentration.

So, I’m asking God. Right now. I’m asking for that transcendent Jesus to go to work now. Thanks.

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