Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cleaning out the pantry

This morning I'm cleaning out the pantry; clearing the shelves of things that have been there for a while (some "a while" longer than others!)

I'm making all kinds of discoveries of forgotten or misplaced (as in put back in the wrong place) items. There are all those durable goods like cans of soup and jars of spices, and then there's the crackers they almost bend they're so full of moisture. I am seeing what has been packed away in there and finding there are things that are good and things that can most definitely be disposed of!

When the shelves are cleared and cleaned I'll start putting back the important necessary stuff and arranging it so I can find what I need.This is a good thing. At the moment it feels more like a tedious, irritating thing but I know in the end that I'll be grateful I've gone through this process.

There are times that God stops our frantic whirling and we're faced with cleaning out the stuff of our living. Times we are forced to stop and take stock of what is important and what is just clutter. We sort through all the stuff in our hearts and decide what is durable truth and what are we hanging onto that has gone stale. It is an emptying out of ideas, conceptions, and expectations and then choosing what to reincorporate into the center of ourselves.

I'm writing obliquely, I know, for I long to let you find yourself in this parallel by whatever means you recognize this reorganization in your own life. Change is a big motivator - be it by job loss or gain, a move, a death, or anything that makes us stop living life as usual and take stock.

It's not easy to look at everything and decide what to keep and what to discard. At times it is exhausting to weigh what is important and what is peripheral, but I know in the end that what is truly valuable will be put back in its place and that is a very good thing!

Friday, May 28, 2010

According to You....Who?

Have you heard this song? ( here's the link if it doesn't come up as a video so you'll know what I'm talking about! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VrsCxXkNgY)

Can you identify with the feeling?
Who speaks what into your life?
According to who are you a loser?
Who tells you you're"funny, irresistible, and everything they've ever wanted"?

Who are you with when you like who you are?
On The Good Wife TV show there was a scene when Will's character says "I like who I am when I am around you."

Our words are powerful - how do we make those around us feel? Stupid? Useless? Can't do anything right? A mess?

Or, according to us, do we make others feel beautiful, incredible, irresistible? Do they like how they see themselves through our eyes?

There's not a person we met who is not engaged in some type of struggle.Everyone you'll meet today is battling with something, carrying some problem, perplexed about a decision that has to be made, or trying to decide what next step is to be taken. What attitudes do we convey to them?

Ephesians 4: 29 says "Don't use foul or abusive language" good advice - don't say bad things about people, don't tear them down, or speak profanely - but that's not enough as the verse goes on, "Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." This command is not only about what you don't say but also encompasses what you should say.

Why? Well, because of the first verse of the same chapter. "I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called of God" Please, don't skip past this - you have been called by God.

YOU
wanted
by GOD

According to Him you're chosen and cherished and everything He died to save...

Need to hear more? Want to hear who you are according to God as His own? Then check out this love letter (Psalms 139, Isaiah 41: 8-11, 43:1-13, John 10, John 15, Ephesians 1, 3:14-20, John 3:16) because according to God you are....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Metanarrative


Metanarrative - isn't that a great word?

I've just heard it and it's HUGE and rich and it means...the story above all the stories or the BIG story.

We're familiar with this concept in regards to the Bible - all the stories, the seemingly random disjointed stories, are all part of God's plan of redemption of man. From the fellowship in the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the worship of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in Revelations, it is all about God being having a relationship with His children. It over arcs the whole book and thousands of years of history.

Is the same true for us?
Is there a metanarrative for our lives?

When we look back over all the stories of our history - all the incidents and relationships, the jobs and opportunities, the high and low points, what is the metanarrative? What ties it altogether?

I think Paul had the word metanarrative in mind when he wrote Philippians 3 - particularly vs. 10 and 12 - what do you think? (no, really, what do you think? Please, leave a comment)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A long obedience...

"The essential thing is that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living." - Friedrich Nietzsche

There's an advantage to getting older and it is the ability to look back. ("they" also say that you can tell when you're old because you look back now instead of looking forward like you do when you're "young"!)

I'd found some fifteen year old journals yesterday and it was like discovering old photographs - a glimpse into a time far removed from the present.

We are pilgrims on this journey of life; disciples of Christ for the long haul - a long obedience is necessary for it is a long journey and as I read through those pages I realized the stages of my own journey of faith- amazed both at where I was and where I am. These books though told me another truth - a truth more valuable than the impetus of my having a long obedience; they spoke to me of God's enduring faithfulness.

We can be obedient because we can count on God to be faithful.
In 2 Timothy 2 there's this fascinating passage - look at the parallels:

If we die with Him,
we shall also live with Him.

If we endure hardship,
we will reign with Him.

If we deny Him,
He will deny us.

If we are unfaithful...
(go ahead, what does the pattern indicate that it should say here?)
Of course is would be something like; If we are unfaithful, He is unfaithful to us - He has no obligation to us - We are on our own, You are no longer my concern - So long !!

2 Timothy 2:10 "If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny himself.

We are called to a long obedience, to keep walking the narrow path until it leads us right through the pearly gates. We can be obedient over the long haul because He remains faithful, no matter what. For as it is written, "He died for sinners that he might bring us safely home to God". I Peter 3:18

Be the one who, years from now, will be farther down the same path of obedience; however it twists and turns, however how difficult the terrain, because He remains faithful, so can we.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In the Hands of God

It is a common motif in Scripture and in our music; this idea of God holding the world and our life in His hands because, of course, He is God and He is sovereign; this is basic Christianity 101.

But then there is this more personal application of the idea when we choose to put our lives in His hands - in other words to surrender ourselves to whatever He wants for us.

Typically this is a long range type of thing. "Lord, my future is in your hands. Wherever you lead I'll follow." or "I trust you to bring me to the place you have for me and fulfill the purpose for which you created me."

But have you ever noticed how "tomorrow" is always a day away?
My "future" is some other time out there, that e v e n t u a l l y I will arrive at...

So while God is in charge of the end destination of my trip, He's not necessarily concerned with the fact that this is a long road, my tank is on empty, and I really need an exit to pull off to refuel - right?

I've been thinking about this a lot the past week, life and the future and God’s hands…

So here I am at the end of the academic week – in five hours – and I still have a paper to write. I’d been a diligent student but “life” was currently making “school” a low priority but still there was this deadline…and the franticness was setting in and with it the frustration and crabbiness with my family as they wouldn’t leave me alone to let me work!!

And I stopped and realized that if my life is in God’s hands – if this whole go to seminary was His idea then so also was this set of classes at this time and this particular assignment in this one course that was due. This was my present reality. Was God in control of that? Was He able to help with it? Affect it? I gave it to Him.

In the next 15 minutes my entire family left the house for one place or another, and when Rob came back he’d brought a chicken family meal from Jewel because it was too hot in the house to cook.

Now I realize that last sentence did not stand out as particularly profound but here’s what you need to know to understand it – Rob avoids fast food, eating out and grocery stores as much as I avoid changing the oil in the car. He never stops and picks up dinner – ever! And here he was walking in with a bag of food and a refilled propane tank for the grill so there would be provision for cooking tomorrow night (fyi, that propane tank has been empty since September!)

Here was God taking care of what had been entrusted to Him. Here God demonstrated to me that He truly is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. I’d hoped for dinner to come home (but had planned to just make sandwiches) and I got dinner and a filled tank, something I’d never even imagined!

Now I realize that my story here is most likely trivial compared to your needs right now. But all I can share is my own story but it is an illustration of the principle that holds true for all of us who have put our lives in the hands of our God.

God has the end destination in mind but He also holds the “today” part of life securely in His capable hands! Is your life in God's hands? If so then be encouraged for your "future" is also your today and God cares for us on our journey. It's not just all about a race to the finish line but a God who travels with us every mile of the way.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Death of a...

It's spring now; time for new life and growth. Winter is over, the snow is gone and it is the season of possibilities.

In preparing my flower bed for new flowers I found these dead, dried up stalks from last year's Black Eyed Susans. Their brittleness stood out starkly against the lushness of the new green grass and already sprouting perennials. Their season had passed. There was no beauty now in them.It's all over. Done. Nothing left to offer...

Death is not limited to flowers. It happens in jobs and opportunities, relationships and endeavors. What once was vibrant and flowering has now shriveled and dried up. Things that seemed like they would flourish forever, gone.

There's a saying that "When God closes a door, He opens a window" and this is akin to that. In every opportunity, endeavor, or relationship that is no longer blossoming in the landscape of your life, there are things to be learned from it, positively or negatively, that can impact what is planted in your life next because in these stalks are seeds and through these seeds a component of what was will continue to live on.

Max Lucado has said that God never wastes anything. God is the ultimate recycler in using all that comes into our lives for His purposes. Isn't it nice to know that there is still life in and after death - that what you seem to have lost will still be carried over into new things?

I've crushed the heads of my black-eyed susan stalks, scattering hundreds of seeds into the ground. There are many more seeds than there were ever flowers. There are many things we learn during the course of an opportunity or a relationship and in the death of one as well that we take away with us.

Will these seeds sprout? Will the lessons learned become good things even though they were connected once to what no longer is? Although this time is over will there be more? Will there be new flowers this season?

Perhaps the question is do we believe in the truth of Romans 8:28,29? Not in a "pat on the back -everything is going to be okay now, you hear?" type of naivete but in a deep down trust that God takes complete responsibility for the life devoted to Him.

Is the God of Sunday worship powerful enough to deal with Monday's disappointments? And the loss that comes with Wednesday? And the jumble of strong emotions that follow that? Can God take death and out of it bring life?

Seems to me He's already proven that He can...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The value of a tool

I've acquired a new tool and it is so great I keep coming up with reasons to use it. And, the more I use it, the more applications I'm finding it has!
My new tool is a weighted, balanced chef's knife and so far I have chopped cilantro, expertly eviscerated chicken, smoothly sectioned a cream pie, and deftly divided peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's a joy to hold and use - someone, quick, get me something to dice!

The Bible is full of tools for our use. Truths we can leverage our life against.
Truths about:
raising children- Ephesians 6:4
honoring parents - Ephesians 6:2
dealing with arguments- Proverbs 15:1
fear- Psalm 56:3
protection - Psalm 28:7
prayer-Psalm 116:1
necessity- Philippians 4:19
peace - Isaiah 26:3,4
God's presence - Hebrews 13:5
and on and on the list goes- this tool box is overflowing!

A while ago when it seemed everything was out of my control I reached in and grabbed the tool of "God is in control", a truth that actually came with a bonus soundtrack! For months that was the tool I recalled, over and over again in a wide variety of situations. It was the tool that let me deal deftly with every situation.

While this may seem similar to repeating a "happy thought" in your mind or always remembering that "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" or " (choose your phrase here)", it's not. The difference is that the truth is God's truth, from His word which is "sharper than any two-edged sword." (Hebrews 4:12). It's not something you hope is true but something you can count on as accurate.

What tool of God's truth will most help you today?

Go ahead, take some time and go shopping in the Word.
Find the truth that God has provided for your circumstances.
The truth you can use in all the situations that are problematic in your life and see what difference the right tool will make...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Needed: A Big God

I was awakened by a pre-dawn phone call (which are never good) to find out that a friend's mother had died.
I lay there praying for them and then for other friends who are...
-selling a home and moving
- trying to sell a home having already moved elsewhere
- are unemployed with few prospects
- have broken relationships
- struggles in the workplace
- one with a mother in intensive cancer treatments and custody battles for her grandson
- are waiting for biopsy results on a newly discovered brain tumor
And each one of these are "big" things that encompass much more emotion and angst than a single sentence description.

This is not the world; this does not take into account the starving children in 3rd world countries or war in the middle east. These are just the trials of friends closest to me and collectively they're overwhelming. They are tsunamis that come in unannounced. They sweep you off your feet and wash you far into the depths and then come in and destroy the structure of your life.

Being "positive" will not impact these issues. Saying repeatedly that "everything will be okay" will not be sufficient. A big God is needed who can both rescue one from the powerful, repeatedly crashing surf, and rebuild what has been lost.

"Who else has held the oceans in his hand?" Isaiah 40:21

"The mighty oceans roar like thunder; the mighty oceans roar as they pound the shore. But mightier than the violent raging of of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore - the Lord above is mightier than these!" Psalms 93:3,4

"You are the One who rules the oceans. When their waves rise in fearful storms, you subdue them...Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength...O Lord God Almighty! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, Lord? Faithfulness is your very character." Psalms 89: 9,13, 8

"How can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? Don't you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak...Those that wait upon the Lord will find new strength." Isaiah 40: 27-31

"I am holding you by your right hand - I, the Lord your God. And I say to you,'Do not be afraid for I am here to help you'." Isaiah 41:13

"But now the Lord who created you says;"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble. I will be with you. When you go through river of difficult, you will not drown...you are precious to me. you are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you." Isaiah 43:1-5
We have a big God; may He give us the eyes to see that and the faith to hold onto it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Will there be Enough?

You have a list of errands and a block of time...
A checkbook balance and a stack of bills...

A quart of milk and numerous bowls of breakfast cereal...

The question is always will there be enough?

Will I have enough time to do all that needs to be done, enough money to take care of all the expenses, and enough milk so no one is eating dry cereal?

While the money is worrisome, the errands stressful, and the lack of milk just a bother there are other things in our lives that it's critical we have enough of - love, patience, endurance, joy, faith.

Will I have enough to get through what I'm facing?

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

This is not some power of positive thinking platitude; this is assurance. This is gallons of milk, millions of dollars, and weeks of time compared to what we need. Grace in abundance, abounding to us so that in all things at all times having all that we need...wow!

So with this in mind I follow the words of Psalm 5:3 and invite you to do the same.

In the morning O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

I'm waiting in expectation to see You provide all grace at all times for all things so that I can abound in every good work. Here is my list of things to do, here are my concerns for the present and my worries about what is to come - I lay them all before You and now wait in eager anticipation to see how you will provide all that I need.