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Posts Tagged ‘God’

waterI am not really that good at breaking down knowledge into sequential bites. Teachers, for this reason, are truly amazing. They understand what a student has to learn first and then second and so on. It’s hard for me to analyze what I know and then back up to how I figured something out or how I learned a particular task or took advantage of an inborn talent.

But this much I know, in order to “come to the water,” a person must realize he/she is thirsty, in other words, in need. Meaningful change cannot happen without acknowledging the status quo as a) not working or b) not acceptable.

All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isn’t food,
    and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy? [Isaiah 55:1-2a; CEB]

Part Two: Once a person figures out that he/she is thirsty and starts looking around for something to quench that thirst, this is the point when circumstances and people play a vital role.

When I am thirsty, I don’t always pick the best thirst-quencher. Intellectually, I may know that water is probably best, but I am guilty of popping a beer or soda instead. Sometimes I choose badly because of convenience, sometimes I choose badly because I am offered something else from a person nearby.

And lastly, accept the paradox of God’s offer: water where there does not appear to be water; food where there is no money to buy food, etc. God, through Jesus, is continually offering and calling and drawing Human to the Godhead, to a life of Spirit, where thirst is perpetually quenched. We are so used to living a life of unmet needs and wants; we can barely comprehend an existence or space in which we would be completely satisfied. This is the life within, not the daily grind. If the Spirit is quenched, the 3-D life can be conquered, the journey can tolerated, the sorrows born, the disappointments made powerless.

Why spend money [time, energy, etc.] for what isn’t food? Believe in a better way.

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prophesyProphecy, predictions, and fortune telling: do we really want to know?

Amaziah said to Amos, “You who see things, go, run away to the land of Judah, eat your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s holy place and his royal house.” [Amos 7:12-13, CEB]

We check with the local meteorologist/weatherman every day; we are obsessed with knowing the weather forecast. Most people have it on the home screens of their cell phone. Will it rain? Will it snow? Will my life be changed by either? Nope.

We say we want to know but then, if it’s not what we want to hear, we speak against it. Chance of rain today, 53%  Oh, please don’t rain, I want weathermanto take a run or a bike ride or a walk or go out in my boat. Tomorrow, warm and sunny with only 3% chance of rain. Of course, the day I have to work indoors, it’s going to be a beautiful day. Yada, yada, yada.

And if the message is particularly grim, the messenger’s credibility is immediately suspect.

Originally, predictors about our world’s atmosphere called it “global warming,” but then the naysayers used every snow storm as an example to the contrary, as though their local snowstorm can counter the scientific evidence that our planet is warmer than ever. So, the analysts switched up the label and now use “climate change” to speak to the future. All the same, very few want to hear this prophecy. Like Amaziah, they say, go somewhere else to tell your tale, we’re all just fine here.

fortune tellingAre you curious about your own immediate future? How many fortune tellers grace our city streets? In some areas, they proliferate more than others (New Orleans has a high number of soothsayers on every corner in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street). Is it a game or do we really want to know? Do we believe these strangers have access to the string of our future? Or do we hope for a tantalizingly dark handsome stranger to be in our stars? Something or someone we can keep a look out for.

Not long ago, I finished listening to a new sci-fi fantasy book, Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price (first in a series, of course). The book has some issues, but I love the way it digs into the idea of time, both future and past as well as alternate lives and worlds, seemingly existing side by side. It’s pretty exquisite world building. For one of the characters, it’s Groundhog Day on steroids, but he doesn’t become a nicer and nicer person, he just kills people sooner to get it over with, etc. He is doing his best to manipulate the present and the future.

We are all manipulating our futures by the decisions we make today and living out the decisions we made yesterday.

There is an exercise in which you can do a review of your past and snip out the pieces that you would (if your could) remove from your past. It’s illuminating actually because few of us can do it. Why? Because every snip would change today and the now becomes too similar to the unknown future we struggle with each day. Would I like to snip out my bi-polar mother? Sure. But then, I would not be in the United States because it was her extreme personality that under girded our emigration.

Why did God provide prophets in the first place? And then, why did they disappear after the coming of Christ?

milk and honeyIn the Old Testament, it’s as thought God acted like a Father, giving fair warning about the consequences of certain choices. There were a lot of “if you do this or that–expect this result.” God tried to lay out the benefits, a land flowing with milk and honey, and yet, it was never enough. Once acquired, the people rejoiced, but it wasn’t long before the land was treated like a entitlement and not a gift. And so, God tried a different tactic, and provided one last prophet, one last shepherd, one last message.

Unfortunately, despite knowing and reading and seeing how things have gone in the past, we continue to make the same mistakes. God says: Accept the Spirit of Christ and “heaven” is a given grace. Follow Christ and live differently, sacrificially, in love and forgiveness and the world will unfold in a completely different way, an incomparable future. And yet, despite the prophesied future, we choose idols instead. We choose our immediate desires over a promised future.

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miracleIn currently voguish vernacular, if something is unbelievable in its stupidity or absurdity, someone might say, “Really?” and pitch the voice very high. This is how I imagine Jesus alluding to the people from his hometown, Nazareth, who could not accept the reality of his miracles.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief. [Mark 6:4-6a, CEB]

Anyone can reject a miracle.

I suppose a miracle can still happen without you, but how you or I respond to a phenomenon is personal and somewhat subjective. If it’s important to you to dissect the event, to find a scientific reason or explanation, to question it’s integrity, then it can be a non-miracle for you. But to assume that your understanding of an event is the only way to see it is absurd and unrealistic, whether from the side of science or faith. People interpret events according to their “Weltenschauung” [a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity's relation to it].

It’s up to an individual to change or adapt the conception of what is possible or impossible. Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.” [Matthew 19:26, CEB] It is the biggest leap of faith, to accept that all things are possible with God, to accept that nature can be manipulated, to accept that there is a reality outside (or beside) of our own.

But if there is a soul, if there is a spark or Qi or spirit that is not limited to our five senses, then God is possible too. And if God is possible then miracles are possible, by definition.

I am open to miracles. I am open to the hand of God in my life.

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adoptionTen years ago, we met our daughter-to-be through a wonderful organization called KidSave that provides summer opportunities for adoptable older children from around the world. Back then, the country of favor was Russia, but they have since closed their doors and their orphaned and abandoned children languish in bulging institutions. Since Liliana was already a young teen (13), she had a say in the matter. She had to choose.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship [The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ . . . [Romans 8:14-17a; NIV]

The choice Liliana made to permit us to proceed with our adoption was only months after another decision she had to make back in Russia. At that time, she was living in a teen crisis center and the director believed it would be to Lily’s best interest to legally sever her birth mother’s rights. As a result, Lily found herself in a courtroom, her birth mother sitting opposite from her, and the judge asking Lily if she wanted to go through with this legal procedure (this is after months and years of emotional trauma, drunkenness, and verbal abuse). She said yes, not so much to a cutting off from the parent, but that life, that life of sorrow and hopelessness.

You would think she would have jumped at the chance to be adopted here in American. But really, she would have to leave everything that was familiar to her. There would be no going back. She was unsure and afraid. She had no way to know that her new family would come with more than just two parents and two brothers, but would also come with a new history and a new future. She would inherit from us all that we had to give. She would be fully ours.

God does the same for his adopted children. When we turn away from the old life, the old “leadership,” we are children of God. We have legal rights in the family of God. We inherit all that God has for us. But we must choose.

 

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Painting by George Oommen, 1997

Painting by George Oommen, 1997

How often do we have the revelation of God’s presence right where we are? Isn’t it more likely that we, too, have missed God and the experience of sacred?

When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. He was terrified and thought, This sacred place is awesome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven. [Genesis 28:16-17; CEB]

Jacob had arbitrarily picked out a place to rest. He selected a rock for a pillow. There was nothing in the physical place that would suggest divine properties. And yet, he dreamed. In that dream he saw visions of holy things and messengers and even a representation of God himself, perhaps in the Christ form (since Jesus is the physical manifestation gifted to humans to “see” God). But most importantly, Jacob recognized the time has holy.

So much is unknown about our dream lives, our sub-conscious existences, our personal spirit time. I have had some dramatic dreams in my life and they remain with me still, in some cases, thirty years later. I know those dreams to be holy, to be sacred, as offerings from God. And from them, I have made choices and decisions, the greatest one, to follow Christ and not a life rooted merely in desire.

But how many dreams have I lost? How many moments have I missed or forgotten?

Truthfully, if I could be more present in the moment, more mindful (as the Buddhists say), I would recognize God’s presence daily. If, like Brother Lawrence, I could practice prayer throughout the day, then I would recognize God’s presence by the hour or even by the breath. God’s promise to be present came as part of our covenant, when I accepted Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Within me lies the sacred. And I keep missing it. For this reason, I have started praying the hours once more, to bring myself back out of the busyness and into the divine.

 

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my storyJesus rarely encouraged anyone to share their miracle stories, most likely to avoid the rumor mill and the masses looking to be healed physically but missing the spiritual context. And yet, specifically, the demon-possessed Gerasene, who wanted to become a disciple and follow Jesus was told to return home and tell his story.

The man from whom the demons had gone begged to come along with Jesus as one of his disciples. Jesus sent him away, saying,  “Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you.” [Luke 8:38-39a, CEB]

Apparently, Gerasa (although there is some controversy about the area where this exorcism took place), was a pagan region. When Jesus exorcised Legion (or the many demons), that evil entity asked to be sent into a herd of swine instead of directly into the Abyss. Although Jesus obliged, it is generally understood when the swine then raced over a cliff, that it represented the demon’s demise as well. They Abyss was their rightful “home.” At the same time, the swine herders raced back to the city to tell of of this event–not the wonder of the exorcism and the healing of the man, but the loss of their herds and their violent deaths. These men created an atmosphere of fear around the work of Jesus. When the crowd showed up, they came in dread, afraid of the next “miracle” and asked Jesus to leave them. They did not doubt that Jesus was powerful, they did not want to know how powerful.

And for this reason, I believe, the man who was healed was asked to stay and counter the stories. Only his own words would have the potential to influence others. His testimony could not be denied and the point of the miracle could be re-focused.

Each of us can only tell our own story.

There is an Australian comedian/musician and skeptic who has made quite a stir and made a lot of money mocking believers as well as “New Agers” but I think it’s primarily because of second, third and fourth hand stories (my cousin blah blah blah, etc.). He symbolizes many people in our world who see no reason for faith or the supernatural.

For this reason, I encourage each person to know and tell his/her own story, not the “teachings” or hearsay or Bible stories, just one’s own experience and how faith in God, in Christ, in Spirit manifested. In the end, that is all we have, this personal witness. It’s enough.

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me and me and meRomans 8:7-8 says this, “So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.” [CEB] And never once did I think of selfishness as being offensive; I just thought being self-centered wasn’t “nice.” I suppose another reason I missed this truth is the translations I’ve used over the years where the phrase “living in the flesh” was used. I allowed that to mean a carnal life and I figured I had that one pretty much under control.

But no. I have fooled myself into a comfort zone.

Selfishness, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and narcissism, they are all threats to the free-flowing of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I am also living in the age and culture of the “self” and the “selfie.” [Our pastor is starting a series at Restore Church called Me, Myself & Selfie, this weekend -- that's no accident either.]  And worse, when I’m in that selfish place, I am actually preventing myself from entering into the secret places of God. I am putting up my own roadblock. I am shooting myself in the foot, as the saying goes.

None of us likes to take the blame for things that happen. It’s simply no fun to make mistakes and then own up to them. But I’m thinking this is a big one.

There are a few simple test questions for this: Do I think about the other person first before I act or speak? Do I register my thoughts within, with the Spirit before I indulge them further? Do I choose consciously or am I living out of a habit of selfishness?

I’m going to take this quiz today.

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