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Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Devotional writing is a state of mind, heart, and soul. It’s not something that can be drummed up out of a dry hole. And so it has been with me. Like Hezekiah, I cry out to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” [Isaiah 38:3, NIV], But what was before is not enough. Devotion to God is daily and present. Like mindfulness, it is in the now.

god-is-nature

Oh my soul, sing again in the place of praise to God alone.

Today is not the kind of day I’d expect a rekindled desire to be with God to overwhelm me. My day ahead is a busy day, a hot steamy day, with a pile of responsibilities. And yet, God broke through the mind clutter. Come to me.

My prayer, a simple one. Keep me in the light of your Presence oh God. Speak into my inmost being, Christ Jesus. Fill me with endurance and promise, Holiest Spirit. Breathe on me and in me.

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mother sacrificeSacrifice is a mystery. One of the many throughout the scriptures and human history. I believe people are wired for life. Oh, I know there is still large numbers of suicides, people who chose otherwise. But still, for now, the norm is to live. Our bodies work hard to keep us alive, sometimes under terrific stress and pain. Stories of torture, starvation, and deprivation abound with the resilience of human courage and yes, even faith.

For this reason, in my view, any story of life sacrifice for the sake of another is hero time: people who leap into rushing waters to save someone or, in broader terms, our first responders and military warriors who go into battle for the sake of others, or parents who die while covering their children from harm, or teachers in the face of murderers shielding their students. Something within causes them to act.

Why do they do it? Love, honor, commitment, and perhaps destiny.

In my faith tradition, the story of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) is a story of sacrifice for the same reasons, but for the sake of the many, not just the one. In the mystery of God’s story, humanity needed a reboot. And only by sacrifice would it work. This idea is foreign to our modern culture. And yet, for 2000 years, embraced and believed.

sacrifice2For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin. [Hebrews 9:24-26, The Message]

None of us know what we will do in the face of emergency. Will we rise to the moment? Will I? I don’t know. But I am grateful for the One who did die and rise, bringing the world full circle. And I thank the individuals who model sacrifice as a way of life, for their actions inspire.

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night messages

Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. [I Thessalonians 5:20-21, CEB]

Tonight, in a program about Artificial Intelligence at the library, one of the participants proceeded to tell the group that she was a vessel, a conduit, and a spokesperson for extraterrestrials. At least, that was the gist of it, in so many words. Everyone stared at her for about four dead seconds and then commenced to talk about something else.

I know she felt strongly about this topic but she is probably schizophrenic. And yet I do appreciate her boldness, that she spoke what she heard in her mind. I understand that we must all be mindful of our surroundings and be sensitive to others, but I find I pass up saying or following many “spirit-inspired messages.” They are so ephemeral.

It’s like a creative solution that comes alive in the middle of the night or perhaps in those first waking moments in the morning. If I don’t capture it on paper, it will be gone. When I am working intensely on a work of fiction and I am unsure where to take my characters next, the Holy Spirit often guides, my true Muse. But what about daily life? Am I as receptive to this nudging and problem-solving in my day to day? Do I reach out to that stranger? Do I speak a word of kindness to that customer? Do I spontaneously enter the moment and do something unprepared? Rare.

Perhaps I’m afraid of those same dead 4 seconds, eyes turned to me, expressions of confusion. What did she just say?

There is mystery and wonder to the world of God, the Spirit realm, and the relationship between God and humans. But I have relegated it to safety and the common place.

God speaksOnce, my pastor, Jess Bousa, preached at length about our small thinking and how we almost insult God with our tiny prayers, our limited expectations. God is a big God. God is a miracle working God who deserves big prayers, big visions, and big challenges.

Just the idea of the Noah story tells it all. Can you imagine the first time he mentioned the plan to his wife or his friends?

Certainly, I’ve never heard a inner voice urging me to build an ark. But what do I hear? And for this reason, during Lent, we are called to pray, seek, listen. The next moment of wonder could be around the corner.

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Feathers

Art by Chris Maynard

Art by Chris Maynard

God will protect you with his pinions [feathers];
    you’ll find refuge under his wings.
    His faithfulness is a protective shield.
Don’t be afraid . . . [Psalm 91:4-5a]

I just moved from a very large to a very small one. The moving process is awful, no matter how you cut it unless you know from the beginning that you’re simply packing everything and taking it along.

In my case, I had to divest myself of at least 2/3’s of my “things.” Every day for six weeks, I was having to decide yes or no, take or store or let go. Exhausting. The longer I did this, the more rash I became. Just take it. I even gave away a $1500 bedroom suite. I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t sell it. What was the point?

But there were odd things I couldn’t seem to part with. One small item I packed and unpacked several times: a feather. So odd. It’s a big feather, almost the size of a writing feather. And yet, it’s just a feather. I found it on a beach somewhere, Cape May I think. feathers

I also like feather pillows and I just indulged myself with a feather bed topper.

Forrest Gump, the movie, had a feather symbolically float in and out of the film.

In Native American culture, feathers symbolize the thunder gods as well as the power of air and wind. Other cultures, like the Celtic Druids also wore feathers as symbols of the “sky god.” Some say that back in the day, even Christians took on three feathers as symbols for charity, hope, and faith. That’s a new one on me.

The bird probably thinks differently of his feathers as they are his sole protection, from heat and cold and precipitation. Every bird has feathers and everything that has feathers is a bird. Of course, feathers enable a bird to fly. And lastly, give each bird a unique appearance.

feathers2But what does this have to do with me and God? Nothing much except, this scripture verse has always stayed with me, the picture of safety under a bird’s wing, the feathers covering softly but with strength. When I sorrow, this image is a comfort place for me and has key elements to the Secret Place.

A friend of mine told me a story of a woman who was being sexually assaulted and the only part of this psalm she could remember was “feathers, feathers, feathers.” The attacker let her go.

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reinventThere comes a moment in a our lives when we just know that something has to change. The same choices are no longer working and circumstances are fraying the edges of what has been familiar for so long. Sometimes, it’s a dramatic event that calls us to lay down our cards. Other times, it’s recognizing ourselves in someone else. And still other times, it’s a slow descent until the bottom looms large before us, sure to cause a crash and burn.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. [Ephesian 4:20-24, NIV]

Before Mike died so suddenly seven months ago, after thirty-two years of marriage, we had fallen into a rhythm of the good life. We had figured out who did what and when; we had quietly negotiated the battles worth waging and those that time would address. We had learned to let go of the “small stuff.” We were committed to both our church and our faith and each other. We were comfortable. We were planning our retirements. We were launching our adult children.

Then everything familiar stopped. Oh, there was some semblance of the old life: the house, the dogs, the young people, the work, the church, and the ever present grass needing to be cut. Dishes and dust and laundry  accumulated faster than I could sweep them away.

transformBut eventually, I began to see that I couldn’t keep trying to keep the old life. I had to allow a “me” to ev0lve that was not defined by the old parameters. I needed to try on some new clothes; I needed to experiment. I needed to move the furniture.

In my case, this has all been about grief playing out and my moving on. But I’m not so sure it’s dissimilar to someone who has yet to consider relinquishing his or her soul rights to God, to the Christ. We can keep on going for a while, but eventually, the tally sheet of good choices and bad choices is weighted to one side or the other. To move into a life of faith takes some reinvention, some experimentation, some practice.

Change comes from within. Change comes with discovery. Change comes with acceptance–of what is now, so that what could be has a chance to grow. But change also comes with stepping onto the stones of the creek, testing the stable ones and skipping over the wobbly ones. I’m just glad I have that Jesus to grab my hand when I lose my balance.

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tentWe 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.

 

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prioritiesThis summer, I have moved most of my writing energy to a new online project called Bible Study Together. It started as a request from my pastor to experiment with creating a Bible Study through a Facebook group. That venue proved problematic because of the way the posts bounce around when a person comments on a particular post. As a result, I moved everything to the blog which has proved far more successful.

The process is quite different from devotional work and although the learning and appreciation I have for the book of Ephesians has grown immeasurably, I would not say it has enhanced my quiet time.

How do people balance all of the possibilities? I never seem able to get the percentages right. I enjoy new experiences but they come at a cost. My home environment has reached “chaos” standing, particularly the office. With the kids all in “adulthood” but still living at home, there is a scatteredness to our schedules that makes dinners or “family” time an anomaly. Church time now has additional responsibilities and it is rare to find time for reflection. Besides, our services aren’t even structured for that. I knew that going in.

I remember going on a personal retreat to a convent. It was a wonderful experience in the end, but it took a full day and a half before I really managed to settle into a routine of true contemplation and prayer. The first hours I slept heavily or made lists of all the things I needed to do when I got back. My mind whirred.

So, here I am, making myself another promise: two more weeks of the study and I’ll get back to my first love. But who knows, really, what the next two weeks will hold?

 

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