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Posts Tagged ‘Father’

And God pricked my spirit saying, you can’t just write about prayer. You must actually “do it.” This is where wisdom is born of knowledge and understanding.

So I turned to the most well known prayer of all. My first stumble was on the first word: Our. And then, it came to me that every prayer, really, is an “our” prayer because I am asked to pray on behalf of all humans. This is a prayer for humanity:

And so I prayed this way:

prayer2Our Creator, God who made us: You are heaven (we are still earth).
A mere name cannot hold all that You are. Holy. Father. Mother. Creator. God.
We need heaven here and we need Your authority.
We accept and surrender to You here.
To transform ourselves and our world into You, into heaven.
Allow us the nourishment we need to sustain our bodies, our minds, and our souls for one more day.
Forgive our abuses of your grace.
We will forgive others too. We must. Because we are no better than they are.
Keep drawing us away from the selfish choices, the rebellious preferences, the well-traveled roads;
And instead, shepherd us into Your Presence.
When we willfully continue the wrong way and entangle ourselves in the web of evil: save us.
We acknowledge You, Heaven, Holy Other and Hope.
You have the power and love to do and will what is best for humanity, for us, and really, for me.

This is my prayer.

Psalm 8:1

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kissandmakeupTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. . . . Be reconciled to God. [II Corinthians 17-19, 20b]
Big word: reconciliation. How often do you use that during the day? And yet, we are doing it every day.
As a parent, we are reconciling our children all the time: settling disputes, making compromises, restoring harmony. At work, we do the same, particularly if we work, as I do, in public service. Sometimes my front desk feels like nothing more than a complaint department.
The key to reconciliation is a willingness to participate in a two-way conversation. Both sides have to agree, both sides have to be in the game.
In the case of God, through the sacrifice of the Christ, the door is open for a permanent relationship with God. Many old rules have been cast aside and a new covenant was forged. But, we still have to go through the door and, as it were, sign our copy of the deal. It’s not that the deal is not a good one or that we need to dicker, we just need to recognize it for what it is, an offer to start over.
Here’s what is amazing to me. It’s never too late to “kiss and make up” with God. This offer is eternal.

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passover-lambIt’s easier to read the story about God “testing” Abraham when you know how it turns out. As I contemplated this tale, I wondered if Jesus remembered this story as He was being dragged to the cross, knowing full well that He the was Lamb. But that’s another story. In this one, who knew?

Genesis 21:7
Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

As a mother, I cannot do anything but head right for the emotions of the moment. How did it feel to be Abraham preparing the sacrifice of his son at the command of God, who had been all about the promises of descendants as numerous as the stars? Despite departing right away the next day, it was still a three day journey to the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place. Three days of contemplating the loss of his beloved son. Three days of wondering how God would work things out. Three days of surrendering. It could not have been an easy journey.

And how did Isaac feel, once they arrived, tied up and placed on the prepared altar, wood loaded and knife in his own Father’s hand? Did he go calmly? Did he really think, “Wow, my Dad is truly faithful. He’s amazing!” I don’t think so.

In fact, we don’t really hear about the relationship between Isaac and Abraham after this experience at all until Abraham is “very old” and acquires a wife for Isaac who is now forty years old. What was Isaac up to all those years? No telling. We will never know.

But it doesn’t change the story, does it? Whether they feared or not feared, whether they cried or screamed or complained, it didn’t matter. Abraham acted. Abraham took his “here I am” seriously, because “here I am” also means I am willing to do whatever you ask me. No one says, “Here I am” to God and then follow up with, “I’ll think about it.” And because Abraham had already agreed to do whatever God asked him to do, he followed through.

And really, here’s the truth of it for me. When I became a follower of Christ more than thirty years ago, I also said, “Here I Am.” I think I’ve been forgetting what it meant. And, quite honestly, I’ve put my head in the sand about the lamb, figuring Jesus did all that hard work. And that’s basically true, but there are the daily sacrifices and the long-term ones. There are still challenges and obedience.

The lamb is here.

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This text caught me off guard today. I’ve always thought of “the world” as those “things” that suck me away from the heart of God. But it’s not the things at all. It’s the verbs in me. Just like we mistake money as evil when it’s the “love of money” that is the problem: so it is with everything else.

I John 2:16
For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man [or woman], the lust of his [her] eyes and the boasting of what he [she] has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
[NIV, 1984]

It’s my intentions, my desires, my personal cravings that drive me into the world. I see and then I want. I listen and then I desire. I remember and then I pine for the source of that memory. I am Edmund (The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe).

Craving is an intense desire. Do I crave God or what God can do for me?

Among the definitions for lusting (beyond the obvious sexual context) is a “passionate or overmastering desire or craving, usually followed by a lust for power.” At my age, sex is not much of a driver, but power, well, who am I kidding if I say that has no enticement? In my head, I know it’s the antithesis of all things Christ, and yet I know it’s there, waiting for the cage door to open and spring out. I think it’s married to another secret desire I have had throughout the years: Fame. It has tainted every venture. It has muddied every project. And lust laughs every time.

Boasting has two elements: one is exaggeration and the other is pride. Hence, in subsequent translations of this verse, it is wrapped up in a single phrase, “the pride of life.” It’s simple really, like a two-year old who insists on “doing it alone.” In some ways, I can see the root of it in the disappointments of my early years where there didn’t seem to be anyone to truly guide. My mother was caught in her own web of pride and self-control. From her perspective, if she didn’t do the work, no one would. If she didn’t make it happen, it wouldn’t happen. And this “gift” she passed along with a vengeance.

Again, the head knows all of this intellectually. But the soul cries out to surrender, to trust, to let go, to accept, to embrace contentment, to engage the interior life and not the ephemeral cravings, lustings, and boastings of the ads in the New York Times, the promotions, the landscaped yards, the exquisite furniture, the honor roll students, the wine cellars, the brilliant geeks, the skinny models, the tech toys, the romances, the published authors, the movies, the stars, the travel guides, the vistas, the sailboats, the beach houses, the Old Spice man, and even the full breed dogs and cats. Stupid, right?

I want, I wish, I desire. I crave, I lust, I boast.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” [Luke 14:7-11]

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Oh sure, be holy. That directive is right up there with “be skinny” or “be successful.” These states of being take a lot of work and commitment. I’m pretty sure holiness is no cakewalk either.

I Peter 1:15-16
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy. [Leviticus 11:44]”

I understand there’s a lot of grace involved in holiness (certainly a lot more than I have ever found in exercise or dieting). And yet, there are disciplines that must be part of the equation. If we just model holiness after Christ, there are keys to follow: sacrificial living, prayer, purity, authenticity, transparency, study, relationships with God and others, and paradoxical behaviors (as I’ve mentioned many times before).

We don’t come to these things naturally. Practice.

If I could just pick any one of these processes and focus on it, I’m pretty sure I would make more progress. But, unfortunately, I bounce around from one big idea to another, one practice to another. It’s an A.D.D. kind of thing. It’s a “Jill of all trades” kind of thing. For those of you familiar with the enneagram, it’s a “seven” kind of thing.

On the refrigerator, a well meaning friend posted a magnetic plaque that reads: “From your lips right to your hips.” Would it help me to put a little reminder on my computer: “Holiness begins with mindfulness and is watered with grace.”

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Artwork by Gretchen Smith

Most of us know the short verse, “Jesus wept” [John 11:35]. We might even get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the picture of a sympathetic Christ, weeping for his friend. But how often does anyone quote this verse in Hebrews, where Jesus cries out loud and sheds tears before God?

Hebrews 5:7
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

After a quick look at some of the commentaries, it’s interesting to me that most writers place all this “weeping and wailing” right before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, as though this is the one time Jesus encountered his destiny and travailed before the Father. But I propose that the prayers and supplications of Jesus were ongoing. Think about it: how many times did Jesus miraculously escape the authorities? How many times did he suspect danger in his life, anticipate a shortened ministry, protect himself and his work by discouraging loose talk or gossip among his followers?

Jesus knew his life was forfeit but I can imagine him praying regularly, “Not yet . . . not yet. Give me a little more time.”

Jesus needed help and protection from God continually, not just in the garden, but throughout his ministry life. And in the same way that he emptied his heart and soul before God at Gethsemane, I believe he did this regularly and undoubtedly during many of those solitary prayers he sought out on the mountainsides, away from the disciples.

Lastly, I am intrigued by the idea of a noisy Christ. I mean, I don’t know about you, but a mental picture of Jesus roaring or wailing before God is difficult to wrap my mind around. And yet, why not? Isn’t it culturally appropriate? Would Jesus be “above” such behavior, such expression of need, desire, or supplication? Not at all.

I have experienced deep crying out to God and weeping but only at those times of deepest despair, betrayal, or fear. When I cried out to God at such times, I confess, it wasn’t that I put all my trust in God, I was merely bereft of hope, overwhelmed, and felt as if there was nowhere else to turn, I was “poor in spirit.” It was my last chance.

I wonder, were there circumstances and situations that Jesus did not expect to happen? Was he ever surprised (or surprised all the time)? Did he expect/hope his follower-disciples would “get it” sooner than they did (or did they get it while he was still alive at all?); was he troubled by the masses of people who easily followed him day after day for “bread and fish” but could not grasp the food of the Spirit; was he frustrated by his own inability to break through thousand-year-old traditions and beliefs? Did he cry out to God the day he called himself the “bread of life” and taught them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood–so many deserted him that day. I can imagine him saying, “Father, how do I reach them?”

And yet, each day, he submitted again and again and again to the role he was given to endure (in the order of Melchizedek); he pressed on. He woke up, he prayed, he taught, he ate, he miracled. And finally, he reached that God-ordained last day, that last supper, and that last prayer. My spirit tells me now: his garden prayers were not the first time he bled in sweat nor flooded the ground with his tears. His life in the Father was full of prayers and supplications every day.

Holy tears for me. Thanks be to God.

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Painting by N.S.G.

It takes a lot of courage, actually, to continue to hope in something or someone, both unseen and yet promised for a time in a future we cannot know. There must be persistence too, but often, it takes plain courage and a type of audacity to believe despite it all.

Hebrews 3:6
But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
[NIV 1984]

For some people, this tenacity has to have something more substantial to sustain it and so they latch on to a concrete idea still in the future to uphold their courage. Like a date. Apparently, there is a groundswell of believers who are putting their hope and their courage into May 21, 2011 as “judgment day” and the end of the world. These folks are the antithesis of Rob Bell’s stance in Love Wins. Where Bell’s hell is already manifesting here on earth and our battle is in the now for the power of the Kingdom to take hold; these folks are predicting the great rapture for the enlightened and a fiery hell for everyone else; the only winners in their minds are “people like them.”

Of course, this isn’t just in the Christian world; there’s still 2012 to face as well. With the “end” of the Mayan calendar, some people believe and predict, the end of the world as we know it is next year.

To what or in what do these eschatological folks hope? Mostly, it’s “hope nothin’ bad happens to me” and “just in case,” let’s look into some “fire” insurance . . . or assurance, and join this or that bandwagon.

Here’s the rub: hope implies a good end. And it takes courage to hold onto this kind of hope because our world is full of dark things, dark people, dark rulers and “principalities.” [For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12]

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. . . . ” Matthew 10:28a

Courage cannot be built on a 3D world; there are no guarantees here. Courage and hope can only be built on our faith in the truth of a Christ whose Holy Spirit defies logic and protects the Human Spirit from eternal death and separation from the Creator. Nothing more.

To become a believer in the Christ is a statement of hope. For the words of Christ promise that all will turn out for the best. Courage is the ability to face a different world that mocks hope, questions the supernatural, and defies paradox with proofs and logic. To stand. That’s the key. Whether it’s May 21st or 2012, whether it’s sickness or sorrow or disappointment that have been meted out in large doses, we are called to stand on the solid rock of faith.

And if I fall off that rock because my faith was too small or my fears too great? There is still grace.

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” [Acts 27:22]

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