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Posts Tagged ‘unfailing love’

Psalm 143 is filled with urgency and no less in these two verses:

hidingplaceLet the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,

    for I hide myself in you. [Psalm 143:8-9 NIV 2011]

I don’t know this kind of urgency very often. From day to day, I live a life of relative ease. There might be emotional upheavals and drama (after all, I have two young adults still living at home with us), but none of these cause me to burrow into the hiding place of God. I do not live in a foxhole as many people do throughout the world today. Instead, for all I know, I may be luxuriating in pot of water on the stove, getting warmer and warmer, but not realizing I am actually dying.

Well, we all are. From day to day, closer each day to some inevitable transformative moment that will take us out of our bodies in an instant or on a journey of pain and disease, a slower but nonetheless equally lethal end. This is part of living, the dying.

There have been several deaths around me of late: husbands of friends, old friends, passing acquaintances, relatives of colleagues, and on and on the list seems to get longer each year. We have a patron who comes into the library every week to look at the local newspaper for one thing only, to check the obituaries. There is always someone she knows, she has lived in this same community all of her life.

Is the shadow of death the only real urgency in a life? Or, is that merely self-serving to the end?

Or, are we to live with empathy for others in their crisis?

No one can sustain the stress of true crisis for an extended time. The body cannot generate enough adrenalin. I could help by if I knew how to envelop this person in need with the love of God, with the touch of authentic human, with the promise of rest. But then, I must really know what it means to shelter in God before I can bring someone else into the hiding place.

Back in my childhood, I was never very good at playing hide and seek. Either my hiding place was too good (and no one could find me so I would come out – who wants to be alone in a hiding place?) or the spot was too easy and I was found right away. Often, I would keep peeking out just to see what was going on around me. Just in case. And of course, this would be another way I would be pulled free from safety.

And there’s the problem, the human tendency to peek. To hide in God works better as a permanent solution, not just in a state of emergency. If I could stay in the hiding place of God, within the Spirit of Christ, my view of the world would be through a completely different lens. I would see more clearly; I would recognize needs in others; I could envelope and invite them in, for the place is large and plentiful. The hiding place of God knows no limits, nor does it include chains. It’s a choice to remain, just as it is a choice to enter.

So, does the hiding place mean I won’t experience urgency and fear and pain? On the contrary, those moments will still happen, I’m sure of it. The difference is in walking out trauma with an ongoing confidence in the Presence: “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” [Romans 8:38, The Voice].

And remaining “in” God. No peeking.

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It’s a process, this sowing and reaping thing. Generally, this pairing is used as a metaphor for the bad things that happen in our lives, but of course, good planting makes for good results. Unfortunately, the good seeds seem to grow a lot slower than all the rest.

Hosea 10:12
Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.

I’m not really much of a gardener so I’m sure I’ll play havoc with this metaphor but there are some pictures that come to mind. For instance, the last time I tried to prepare and plant a 10×10 foot vegetable garden in my back yard.

Soil preparation was a complete nightmare. We live in one of those developments and didn’t realize how much refuse is buried on a lot before or while they are building a house. I found huge globs of cement, parts of boards, rocks, and even empty cans in that small plot of land I was trying to plow up by hand. And of course, the soil was as hard as could be. We finally had to buy top soil to dig into the original dirt which was worthless (it’s a wonder that grass could grow).

Finally, I got the dirt to look somewhat welcoming to a small starter plant or seed. And this was probably the best part of the process, the actual sowing or planting. Little did I know that the next challenges would be equally daunting: deer from the woods could easily hop over our split rail fence, our dogs and cats liked the new fresh soil for digging and leaving personal gifts, the weeds were indistinguishable from the plants (to my untrained eye), and the Maryland weather offered no assistance whatsoever.

So, after all that, what did I reap? Two broccoli heads, scrawny tomatoes, wilted lettuce, holey peppers, and three carrots of diminutive size. Go ahead and laugh. It’s a willow tree now anyway.

I’m glad the Holy Spirit is a better gardener/farmer than me. Oh, I know, I still have to participate, but I think the overall procedure is in God’s hands if I release my control, my time table, and my expectations.

Just keep doing the “right” thing, as best I can. Again and again and again. Keep trusting. Keep forgiving. Keep asking for forgiveness.

In both Mark 4:8 and 4:20 in the parable of the sower, I am promised a 30-60-100 fold return, but there is no promise about when.

Sowing in the Spirit realm is a marathon, not a sprint.

I love the idea of “unfailing love.” In this phrase is hope and promise, persistence and progress. I am actually living in the midst of unfailing love right now, no matter what my circumstances might try to negate. I have planted with Christ. Now, I must stand and give thanks because those other roads I could have taken, back there in my past, would have destroyed my garden altogether, I’m sure.

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Thirty years ago, I finished reading the New Testament all the way through for the first time. I had a decision to make. Was it the truth or a lie? I kneeled beside my bed and confessed to this Jesus that the words felt… they resonated like truth. That decision changed my life forever.

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

In some ways, I feel as though I am still on “spiritual milk” and have not matured as I should. After all, it’s been a long time. I have professed followership of Jesus for many, many years. And yet, I still struggle with many of the basics: love, trust, faith, hope…

Perhaps that is the maturity… I recognize I am still struggling. When I was younger in the Lord I can remember attending spiritual retreats where confession was a signature event where we pounded our written sins onto a cross. For many, it was extremely cathartic. But for me, in those early years, I’d struggle with the writing. What should I put on that little piece of paper? What great sin had I committed that still needed to be confessed. Hadn’t I confessed them all by now?

That makes me laugh. These days, I confess my sins daily. They accumulate quickly. I place even the smallest sin at the foot of the cross before that sin can grow, like yeast, to a besetting mountain of emotional pain or denial; before it can darken or harden my heart any more than it already has. And, unfortunately, I confess, some days, it’s the same sin… judging, pride, resentment, self-pity, anger… to name a few familiars.

I understand now, more than ever before, what it means to pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

My sins are legion, which reminds me of the demoniac [Luke 18:30] who was possessed of many demons. In the same way that many demons can be “swept away,” they can also come back to look for purchase in a newly cleaned “soul.” Sins also reappear [Matthew 12:43-45] to plague the spirit.

This is my message to any believer, young or old: confess often, accept grace and forgiveness daily, and give to others what Christ gives to you.

This is not just the beginning of the church year, it is also the beginning of my own new year in Christ. Continue to teach me, guide me, and renew me. Amen.

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Psalm 32:5b, 22
…the earth is full of his unfailing love… May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

The earth is full of examples of God’s love. Today, we have sunshine after long days of rain. The fields and grass are vibrant and green. The flowers are blooming. Early in the morning, the birds sing and celebrate a new day; Children laugh, dogs bark, cats purr. Oh the glory! How can I miss it?

The promise of God’s love is unfailing.

There is only one condition to experience this unfailing love: hope. We are asked to place our hope in His unfailing love. And as we do this, we will have the strength to face anything, to survive anything, to stand.

Whether we are in pain or not, whether we are whole or not, whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, political or apolitical, victim or victor, soldier or slave, does not change God’s unfailing love. The difference is my acknowledgment of this love in the midst of it all. This is a choice.

Today, this is my mantra: My hope is in God’s unfailing love.

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