Wednesday, August 29, 2018

ever-present

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

It is such a beautiful thing that God is ever-present to us.  Thus, we never have to live in fear, even if the earth gives way or the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Regardless of what happens to us, around us, or even within us, God is always right there.  He is with us in ways we cannot even imagine.  How incredibly comforting that is!  I can't imagine any other way that we could possibly be still and know he is God apart from that wonderful truth.

Our problem, however, does not come with God being ever-present to us, but with us being ever-present to him.  That is our challenge.  For if he is present to us, but we are not present to him, what good does that really do?  How can that give us any sense of peace, or comfort, or even help?  Don't get me wrong, God is not dependent on us in any way, shape, or form, in order to move and to act, but he wants more for us than that.  For if we are not aware of him moving and acting, then we have missed a great gift.  In fact, we are still at the mercy of our surroundings, or emotions, our moods, and our circumstances.  If, however, we are ever-present to him, as he is ever-present to us, that changes everything.

In order for us to live life the way He intended it to be lived, we must learn how to be ever-present to God.  And maybe the words of this ancient prayer offer us just the help we need.  "God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble." If we plant these twelve words in our hearts, and repeat them over and over again with our mouths and in our minds (the scriptures call this meditation), they can function as a sweet companion throughout the day, helping us to be constantly connected and aware of the God we so often forget.  Give it a try today and tell me how it goes.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

gold

This is so good.  If you are looking for a great read, here it is: Clinging
One of the worst looking covers I have ever seen, but an incredible book.  Here's a taste:

     For each of us the way lies straight ahead.  There is, immediately in front of us, an assigned task, a call: some difficult, clear, utterly simple thing the Lord is asking us to do.  It is not a general admonition to whoever might happen to be standing about.  It is instead an utterly private request whispered, as it were, into each one’s ear.  What the Lord is asking me, He is asking no one else.  More than likely, it is a request with no particular glamour or notoriety attached to it.  And if I pay attention, the Lord leaves me in no doubt about it.  Especially if I ask in prayer, He tells me very clearly. (Which is why, sometimes, I don’t hurry to find out.)

     And I cannot accomplish this thing God asks without grace.  The call, this request is completely beyond my grasp, quite impossible—without His help.  Yet even as He asks it, He makes it clear that His grace will be poured out.  He will not leave me abandoned or alone.  He does not ask the impossible.  Our God does not play tricks.  Or, to put it another way, when He asks the impossible, we remember that nothing is impossible with God.

     But why are we surprised by this?  We knew from the beginning that prayer would bring us closer to the mind of God, more able to know His thoughts and do His will.  We knew that, yet when by a kind of radar we sense it, when we feel ourselves being moved and led in a given direction, we feel awe, we are afraid.  Afraid perhaps that we are acting, actors in a drama we did not design.  Somehow the story has been set in motion and the characters are mainly two: God and I.  It is a dance!  It is a suspense story.  It is leading to an unknown destination.  It is once-upon-a-time, and now, and what-is-yet-to-be, all at once.  It is now and forever, and yet it is not a dream.  It is happening and it is real.

     And now there is no turning back.  The commitment has already been made: The escalator is ascending, the elevator door is closing, the plane is moving down the runway.  Something very definite has been set in motion, is gathering momentum, is picking up speed.  It seems we can hardly stop now, especially when the journey is starting to get interesting!  Even so, we are fearful.  Now that the cabin door is closed and the motors are revving, the shudder and the trembling are perhaps not so exhilarating as we had thought.

     Yet, we have signed on for this.  We are here by our own consent.  Even if there should be pain interwoven with this commitment, some intimation of suffering to come, there is, at the very same time, a knowing—we know Who it is that’s asking and this intimate sense of a God who loves us is present even when He is leading us into the furnace or the deep.  Our God will not betray us.  He is just and fair and tender.  He does not forget us in the time of trouble, He that keeps Israel does not slumber or sleep.

     So we go on, straight ahead, with no more sense of direction than just to make the next step and the next.  We are not out to make high jumps, to take the next three steps at a time.  There is no longer much question of spiritual ambition or advancing in prayer.  We have no sense of height.  We can’t tell whether or not we are ascending.  If we are climbing (and we are), we sense that only in our muscles and bones.  The climb is costly.  But it does not feel upward.  It is not high.  It is neither consolation nor desolation.

     It is ascent, but not ecstasy.  In a sense, it is deeper than ecstasy, or perhaps one could call it the ecstasy of every day, a union that continues while everything else is also happening, existing within whatever activities are necessary, an abandonment known only to us and God, ecstatic only in that it is so very complete.

     This abandonment is the very heart and essence of Christian prayer, and it has nothing in common with strategy and second-guessing.  It is the pray-to-win mentality turned inside out, and yet it is not s pray-to-lose mentality.  It is the prayer that has moved beyond intending, directing, steering, second-guessing God.  It is the dancer moving completely in the rhythm of the partner, prayer that is utterly freeing because it is completely at one.  Utterly beyond asking, beyond the anger that rattles heaven’s gate.  Prayer that does not plead, wants nothing for itself but what God wants, it is the will-not-to-will, rooted in grace, that makes it possible to be abandoned, free, and then (by some further miracle) able to act with a semblance of coherence and freedom even when completely surrendered to and possessed by the loving will of God. (Clinging by Emilie Griffin)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

arise

song of songs 2:10-13

neither mood
nor circumstance
get the privilege
of determining
your season

that right
is reserved
for me
i am
he who calls
and determines
and declares
i am
the one who
sets the seasons

and i say
arise my beloved
my beautiful one
and come with me

winter is past
the rains are over
flowers appear
in the land
the season of singing
has arrived

so arise
get up
it’s time to leave
wherever you have been
and come with me
to the beautiful place
and the beautiful season
i have set for you

for i am
your Lover
your God
and there is
no other

Sunday, August 12, 2018

one

How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1, 3)

When we live in loving community with those around us, we truly reflect the glory and the beauty of the Three-in-One God.  That is why unity leads to the bestowing of God’s blessing and life, for it is life the way it was intended to be.  Thus, community (as is worship) is merely the invitation to enter into the joy and gladness and delight of the life of God himself.  What an invitation!

R. Thomas Ashbrook asks: “What might it mean to live fully and freely in the life of the Trinity, knowing and loving God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they know and love each other?”  I think part of what it might mean is that we begin to live like that with each other as well.  That joining in the Dance of the Trinity means that we dance with each other that way as well.  It is merely a reflection of who he is, and who we are in him.  God cannot help but bestow his blessing because his very life is flowing in and through and among us.  Which is good and pleasant indeed.


Friday, August 10, 2018

alive

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

The bottom line to this life of faith is that Jesus is always about making us alive.  It’s just who he is.  He breathed us into being at the beginning, he raised us from the dead at the cross, and he breathes new life into us each day by his Spirit.  Everywhere Jesus goes he brings life.  Everything he touches comes alive in his hands.  Everyone he calls forth from the tomb—even the tomb of doubt, or despair, or depression—is raised up from the dead.  If you don’t believe it, just look at the gospels.

Therefore, if we are in relationship with Jesus—if he is living in us and working through us—the question is not if but where.  Where and how.  Where and how is he making us alive?  Today.  What is being raised up, or renewed, or resurrected within us these days?  Where is there new life blooming?  Because where we are most alive, Jesus is at work within us.

Lord Jesus, help us to pay attention to the places we are most alive.  For where we are most alive, you are at work within us.

Friday, August 3, 2018

parenting

no matter how much
i might like to try
i do not get
to write this story

all i can do
is try not to hinder
the becoming
but make good space
and wait expectantly
for its beautiful unfolding