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“May He send you help from the sanctuary (His dwelling place)
And support and strengthen you from Zion!” [Psalm 20:2, AMP]

What is the sanctuary? Initially, of course, my first thought went to the Temple or the Church. After all, it’s the word we have used through the ages to signify God’s dwelling place.

But there is so much more, that place of indwelling within us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” [I Corinthians 6:19, NIV] Oh, how God wants us to search for our help from within! We have an opportunity to experience the support and strength of a Holy God. If we invited God into our lives, then why do we keep trying to operate on our own strength? I do this all the time. Help me, I cry, and then go about figuring my own solution.

I am slowly attuning my heart to questions, particularly the ones I have no ready answers for. This is my response to this scripture: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Matthew 7:7-8, NIV] Not ask for things but answers to the questions of my heart.

And one last thought: I bless you with the same. This is a prayer for you, for my loved ones, and for the strangers who cross my path. Look to the Sanctuary of God for help.

God’s Voice

Many years ago, I remember hearing an audio tape from a Christian teacher entitled “How to hear God’s Voice.” I don’s remember much of the message actually, but I do remember how anxious I was to get there–to hear God’s voice.

Since then, I’ve figured out a couple of things.

First of all : listening. For a person like me who often has to talk just to figure out what she’s thinking, listening has never been my strong suit. Being a natural “over-lapper,” most people find it a challenge to get a word in edgewise. And then, as I age, I’ve found myself repeating myself, particularly if the signals I’m getting from the listener do not correspond with my expectations (in other words, let me say this another way and maybe you’ll agree with me then). None of these strategies work too well when communing with God.

Secondly, God’s voice doesn’t necessarily mean words. Having thought for so many years that I would “hear” instructions in well-formed sentences was truly a blind alley. Now, I’m specifically speaking of God’s voice in prayer not while reading sacred text. This discovery has come recently while practicing Lectio Divina with Psalm 29, which outlines a series of descriptions for the “voice of the Lord.” In some ways, it seems to contradict I Kings 19:11-13, in which Elijah learns of the “still small voice” of God. But I don’t think they are at odds at all. Simply put, the voice is in living things, both loud and whispers, whatever is needed by the listener.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters,” (Ps 29:3) just as the Christ walked over the waters and called to Peter in the boat (Matthew 14:25-29) to come. For me, the waters have been the fray of my daily life, both good and bad, but always just a little chaotic and frenzied. I am discovering that the best way to rise above cacophony of life is in the silence within.

The voice of the Lord is always there.

I have been visiting churches lately, possibly looking for a new church home. That’s almost as difficult as finding a new hair stylist. But I will say, it’s been a joy to hear new people speak and to experience a variety of worship styles again. It’s been a while. 

My most recent visit was to our local Episcopal church and the priest delighted me with his reflections on Revelation 1:8, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” He reminded me of the timelessness of God, that great I AM, who exists both inside and outside of time. 

We have some understanding of the God “who was” by the stories and sacred texts that describe God’s actions throughout history. But, we can have a more intimate relationship with God in the current moment. If we are open to God’s Presence, we can know the God “who is.” 

But there is a third aspect that is critical to this passage: the God who is to come (hence the Advent message). And, as Father James puts it, the best way to know who comes, is to know who God is in the now. It is out of this knowing that we can anticipate the future with joy and confidence, with trust in the Truth of God and to submit to that ultimate authority who touches our individual lives with intent. 

From Here, Where?

Since I retired in December, I’ve been traveling quite a bit. I felt a rare freedom to go and do as I wanted. I have been to Zambia, to California and the Pacific Coast Highway, Denver, Estonia, and even back home to Indianapolis for a 50th high school reunion. Gods timeEach place has a story and now a memory. But it’s time to take a breath. A real breath. It’s time to examine “here.”

In some ways, I sound a bit like my 91 year old mother, just months before she died, she wondered aloud, “What should I do for the rest of my life?” She still felt she had something to give and something to do. But for her, it was a dis-ease with her present.

I want to change that pattern. Before I venture into too many tomorrows, I want a better assessment of today.

I don’t want my next day to come out of a place of dissatisfaction, as though this moment is wanting. I desire this day to be full of the awareness of God and a confidence in the Holy Spirit within to enrich my inner being.

This week, I have been chewing on Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Formation : Following the Movements of the Spirit. As he says, it is time to convert chronological time into “kairos” or God’s time, where “past, present, and future merge in the present moment. . . The spiritual life, therefore, is not a life that offers a few good moments between the many bad ones, but an abundant life that transforms all moments of time into windows through which the invisible becomes visible.”

Jesus was able to “be” in any setting with every person because He could “see” beyond the surface of what he/she presented to the world. Just as the doctor can hear the beating heart through a stethoscope, Jesus could hear and see the fluttering soul.

Where is just another Here.

Well, that sounds a little bit like my old favorite show, Kung Fu, and me speaking like an Eastern mystic. That makes me laugh, Grasshopper.

But seriously, some pieces are falling into place and I am experiencing a type of contentment that I have not known before. From here, I will find my way.

Oh God!

Lent, Day 7

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand. [Psalm 37:23-24] 

Geisen, author of Brave Faith, the devotional I’m loosely following during Lent, references three scriptures for today’s reflections about moving toward God when we walk toward those brave moments, that choosing/doing moment something outside of our comfort zone.

Baby steps, I call them. Sometimes it’s as small as speaking to someone you would normally not speak to, for whatever reason. But on this day, you do. You make eye contact. You connect.

It takes a certain amount of awareness, first of our surroundings (with new eyes and ears) and then with a felt perception of God within. Present. This is the way, God whispers, look there. Listen. Go there.

In Zambia, I confess, it’s easier than at home. Everything is different, culturally. Everyone here at the village and at the School of Hope, they all say hello and how are you? In fact, it’s impolite to start any conversation without first asking about the other. But my first baby step here was learning this greeting in Nyanga, one of the primary languages spoken in Zambia (along with Bemba). People smile a little broader and I’m sure they’re giggling at my accent, but it’s OK. I don’t mind it at all.

But the most embarrassing for me is not understanding what people are saying to me. They are speaking in English, but it’s British English with a strong local accent on top. I have to keep asking for them to repeat what they have said or even spell it. One young girl said her name was “Gris.” I couldn’t imagine it. I tried it a few times and she looked at me all silly. Then I had her spell it: GRACE. Oh God! I thought, help me to hear.

Is this how I hear God? Some sort of mangled understanding? Am I interpreting? Or do I just hear what I want to hear? It may be one of the reasons why I can stay in my comfort zone so easily.

Oh God! Please repeat. I’ll get better at this. I will.

Focus and Walk

Lent, Day 5.

Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Yesterday, Sunday, I had the blessing of giving the message at the Village of Hope Church. I used this Lenten study on Brave Faith (based on Mary Geisen’s devotional) as its root. Today’s excerpt from Geisen’s book uses one of the same illustrations I used of Peter having to step out of the boat before being able to walk on water. But even more important, that his eyes needed to remain on Jesus.

tightrope walkerI shared this story along with one of my own. Back in the day, when I was in acting school, we had two semesters of Circus classes. These were some of my favorites. Among the skills we learned was juggling and unicycle and of course, tightrope walking, which I loved. This too requires focus–that is focus on the end point. All balance comes from this focus.

Brave faith requires the same. We must look ahead and step toward that unknown. We must trust the Christ to bear with us the burdens, to guide our way, to keep us from falling.

 

Becoming Brave

Lent, Day 4.

becomingBecoming brave is becoming more of me. Becoming is an evolution, a journey into the wholeness God wants for all of us.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139:16 [NIV]

Tomorrow, Sunday, I’ll be delivering the message in church to the children/teens and “mama’s” of the Village. I am using “Brave Faith” as my topic as it seems quite appropriate here. Will my stories resonate? Will I be able to share some of my own “becoming” as a Christ follower?

When I was a young believer, I had the erroneous idea that I would somehow arrive into the fullness of faith and spiritual maturity. I would be wise and knowledgeable. I would hear the voice of God regularly. I would know peace and joy and all the other fruits of the spirit. And of course, there have been moments, breaths, and cycles of depth in spirit, but the journey could just be starting. After 39 years, I’m still becoming.

 

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