Selah: Still in the Darkness

079C8525-3D56-4202-9CDB-702BD0A9D500

In darkness we often find fear. Not seeing…not knowing. Where should we go? What lurks beyond our sight? Panic!

What if God is leading us to a new place of trust…in him?

What if instead of panic and fear that pushes us to run—a foolish choice at best since we cannot see where we are going—God wants us to sit still?

This morning I had a conversation with another believer who was describing how God pushed aside her daily To Do list and offerered her his instead.

And there was only one thing on it.

What if God is inviting us to set aside our busyness and multi-tasking ways and do his one thing?

What if we got still in the darkness—the unknown—believe God’s word and promise, and just wait until he showed us the next step to take?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

954F3AE9-EB43-4E26-9199-43B03679DD11

 

Be still!

(On Mondays I plan to write posts that come from my reflections on my word/topic of focus for this year—which is stillness, rest, sabbath.)

Be still and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10a

2033DEDC-94E4-463D-8FF4-FF6574DC2082

 

I have often described myself as an ESFP with ADD. My friends may tell you I’m somewhat outgoing, seemingly scattered, and  often unfocused. Perception is pretty close to reality.

I don’t like the description of the Proverbs 31 woman or Peter’s instruction: You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God (1 Peter 3:4, NLT).

Gentle and quiet are two words few people associate with me.

In fact, if for some reason I am quiet, people ask me what’s wrong. When I’m in public, I don’t do quiet well.

As I have aged, however, I have found I enjoy being alone…and quiet. I can turn off the TV, sometimes even goe sans music—and just be still.

But my stillness, my quiet reveree, lacked something. Until recently when I began asking God to reveal my direction for 2018.

Several years abo, I started writing a Bible study and one of the chapters was on the command to keep sabbath. I found myself being drawn back again and again to  the books I had gathered on the topic and stuck on a corner of a bookshelf in my office.

Holding one of the books, I felt a strong resonning in my spirit. A loud “YES!” Resonated within me from head to toe.

Okay, God. I got it, but I don’t get it.

And the whisper came back, “You will.”

Then one of the devotions in the first week of the year reflected on how Elijah didn’t hear God in the storm or earthquake—but in the quiet whisper. And the whisper was a question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Sitting in my quiet family room, holding the small book, I sensed my eyes filling with tears…and I heard God whisper, “Tina, what are you doing here?”

I didn’t have an answer. Still don’t. But you better believe I’ve been thinking about it. Even created the meme at the top of this blog.

The question is one of those kinds that when you say it you can put emphasis on a different word and change the meaning: What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here?

After determining the direction, I felt compelled to be accountable. In the past I’ve lost interest and attention to my word/focus before I reached February. I might remember it later in the year—and have a few moments of guilt. I decided to not let that happen this year.

So every Monday I’m going to reflect on this with you, or at least with myself. I don’t know where it will go. Thankfully, I don’t have to…I’m just going to be obedient, and still, and listen for the whisper.

What are you doing here?

Do No Harm

First, do no harm.

Quick! Where’s that from?

hippocratic

Hippocratic Oath? That’s what I thought.

Nope. After doing a little online reading, I found it’s not in the original Greek version. There’s a phrase in the Latin that might come close. It is believed the phrase came into acceptance somewhere in the 17th century.

Why does this matter? What drove me to even look?

I’m glad you asked.

Yesterday, on my drive to visit some folks who are completing a drug rehab program, I had a heart to heart with God.

At first I was trying to anticipate conversations and how I would respond. Okay, I confess I think these kinds of thing through for all kinds of encounters. I’m an old Girl Scout: I tried to always be prepared.

But the rehearsals in my mind were going nowhere.

So I stopped—talking not driving.

And I confessed how foolish I felt and I asked God what I needed to do.

Yes, I’m a trained pastor (two different Masters degrees for that) and a trained counselor (Masters degree and all kinds of continuing education), but we’re facing a giant of an enemy in this heroin epidemic.

This must be how David felt when he faced Goliath. (Okay, go ahead think current Pepsi commercials. See video below if you’re unfamiliar.)

God, I don’t know what to say. I want to offer your kind of lasting, life-changing, life-giving help. How do I do that?

 I know, not a very eloquent prayer—didn’t even say Amen at the end.

But God heard. And God spoke: Do No Harm.

donoharm.jpg

This is a huge request for an ESFP with ADD. I am not like my introverted friends who think and then overthink and maybe think some more before they open their mouths to speak. I think out loud. Words tumble out of my mouth faster than I can check them.

How do I do that?

Here’s what I did:

I listened. A challenging thing for an ESFP with ADD.

Listening requires intentional focus. Trust me: this requires more energy than a 30 minute workout at CURVES.

But I did it.

And I shared what I knew to be true.

This included some of my own struggle, but also a couple of my foundation scripture promises and fundamental counseling truths.

I’m not sure if we slayed the giant…but we did some serious damage. I left those appointments whoopin’ and hollerin’ for Jesus.

These were divine appointments and I was just along for the ride.

Check back for the next post where I’ll share one of those fundamental counseling truths.  (How’s that for a teaser?!)

 

**ESFP is a Myers-Brigs Trait Inventory designation (MBTI). When I take the inventory I identify as an Extrovert who takes in my surroundings through my Senses, makes judgments through my Feelings, and organizes Perceptively (which is kind of like no organization at all—think scattered).

If you want to check out the test just google it. You can take it online and receive your information.

**ADD is a psychiatric identification, Attention Deficit Disorder. My brain typically runs in scatter mode. I act before thinking. I get overwhelmed by too many instructions. I am highly distracted…squirrel!

 

 

Tracing and Anticipating

I wrote this in 2009 and posted it as a note on Facebook–it came up as “memories” reminder. I’m reposting it and will edit it later. I needed the message.

wp-tracing-abc

Our three year old grandson, Asher, started pre-school this fall. From the get go, we knew he was a bright child. He even came on his due date. We watched Baby Einstein videos with him until we all knew them by heart. Very early, he knew his shapes, colors, letters, and numbers.

At Pre-school they are teaching the kids their letters and numbers and having them trace them. Asher walks around with his left hand in the air, at the ready for the next thing to trace. If he isn’t tracing the letters, he’s counting how many characters or letters are in the word or string of words. He traces letters on the TV, on boxes, on books, from the newspaper, or on the shirt someone has on. One day, I found him sitting on the floor in the dining room. We have a shelf there with accident/spare clothes for him. He had all his spare shirts lying out and his own shirt off. When I asked what he was doing he looked at me with that “isn’t it obvious, Mema” look. Then, as matter of factly as he could, he informed me that he was tracing. Every letter around him screams to be traced!

Reflecting on Asher’s tracing, I began to see three components that made Asher such a good tracer. First, he walked through his day, minute by minute and room by room, anticipating, no expecting, that there would be letters to trace or count. What do you eagerly anticipate? A quick read of Romans 8 paints a clear picture of what we need to be anticipating.

Anticipating that God is at work, that he has a plan and it includes us, drives us, spurs us, motivates us to be ready. Asher walks around expecting to find something to trace. His little hand is often in the air, making circles, like an airplane getting ready to land. The word tells us we are to be ready, to always have an answer when someone asks us what are hope is about.

Could you do that? I’m not asking if you know some specific plan or canned presentation. I don’t care if you have scripture memorized, but can you (from a sincere heart) tell someone, “This is where I was. This is what God in Christ did for me. And this is where I’m headed.” It’s your story, are you ready to tell it?

And finally, I have been so impressed by Asher’s focus. His questions reveal his passion to learn more. He listens to all our conversations. I know this because often my words come back to me through him. It has caused me to be more conscious of what I say and how I say it. We’ve even had to resort to spelling things we want to keep above his head. Everything he sees is an item to trace. If he’s not tracing letters, then his finger runs around the circumference or perimeter of an item. Some days he carries his step stool from room to room so that he can be sure to catch whatever you’re doing.

Right now Asher seems to be practicing the fine art of learning. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence’s continual practice of the awareness of God. And I started to wonder: what keeps me from anticipating God at every turn? Do I have preconceived and limiting notions about who God is and what he can do? What keeps me from being ready? Is it fear, or busyness, or ignorance of the urgency, or God help us: lack of love? What keeps me from being focused? The enemy is the expert at divide and conquer. If he can get us to thinking in terms of sacred and secular, he knows it’s just a short distance disconnecting our head and heart.

When I was in seminary the second time around, a Sunday School teacher asked our younger daughter, Beth (Asher’s mom), what she wanted to be when she grew up. Beth’s answer struck the teacher enough that she made sure to tell me. Beth’s answer was, “a student like my mom.” There is always a need for us to put into practice what we know, but oh, that God would rekindle in each of us the insatiable desire to learn.

Then we would, like Asher, be anticipating, ready, and focused.

wp-asher-scrabble-3

Pure In Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

WPblessed

So not only do we have to seek him with all our heart…but our heart must be pure.

Have noticed we spend a lot of time trying to distinguish between heart issues and mind matters? We verbalize the struggle by saying things like, “My heart’s telling me to do one thing and my head’s saying something completely different. It’s like we’re a raging battle field.

The crowd that originally received Jesus’ message wouldn’t have had as great a struggle. They understood the “heart” to be the central to who they were–it encompassed everything.

Fortunately, the purity Jesus speaks of is not one of complete perfection, but of focus. Soren Kerkegaard sums it up pretty well for me:

WPpuritywillonething

It is the heart, the person who has chosen to focus in, who will SEE God and as a result, they will be blessed.

And this “blessed,” this is more than happy. It’s not a reward. It’s about grace.

There is no other thing that will satisfy. I am willing to set everything else aside. I want God more than anything. And he honors that desire by revealing himself to me. To you. To us.

Yeah, I’d say that’s a blessing for sure.

PRAYER: God, I see a lot of things in my day. But I want to see you. Purify my heart. Help me to find that singleness of purpose, will, and life. I admit sometimes I seek the blessing without the focus. Forgive me and purify my motives as you purify my heart. Amen

Lenten Preview

WP Lent

It’s been a couple years since I wrote an entire devotional series for Lent. Lately, I have felt a gentle nudge to do so again.

As the nudge became a clearly undeniable push, I asked the Holy Mover what direction to take. I keep coming back to Resurrection morning and Mary’s encounter the unrecognizable Jesus. Jesus asks her, “Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15a)

In Advent I focus on being prepared, being ready for the coming of Jesus. Lent is a time for focus, but for me it is also about surrender, giving, and working to deepen my faith relationship. That fits so well with the question Jesus asked of Mary.

WP Looking for

Who am I looking for?

How am I looking? Am I satisfied with a glance? A nod in God’s direction?

In Proverbs we read: without vision the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. (Ephesians 1:18)

WP Refuse to look

We cannot see what we don’t look for.

This Lenten season I want a vision. I don’t want to mistake Jesus for a gardener. I want to see Jesus all the way.

Will you journey with me? We’ll start on Wednesday morning.

WP Journey path

(Having difficulty adding pictures. I apologize for the initial absence of visual prompts…somehow seems ironically appropriate. Helps to read the instructions. Also a multi-level lesson learned. T)

Wait!!!!

How do you do at waiting?

Me, not so good. I like my instant cocoa and pudding. I count on my microwave. The other night my husband was in a foul mood because he waited over twenty minutes in the drive-thru at Taco Bell.

Over the years, Advent has become a good exercise in self-control; a reminder that I really don’t live in an instant world.

Have you noticed the two separate lines of thinking and behavior as it deals with this season? On the one hand, people complain mightily about how Christmas is creeping further into the year as retailers begin setting up displays as early as September—but then they whine about having to wait for the day to arrive…and be over.

I remember one Christmas our church was going to observe a “strict” Advent. That didn’t go over well. The big beef was having to wait to sing Christmas hymns and songs.

So this Advent, I’m going to purposely focus on waiting. Each day will highlight an applicable scripture passage and a prayer for a specific group who are “waiting.”

I hope you join me and find a blessing as mark the days of this holy season.

Dec 1
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Pro. 3:5-6, ESV)

The biggest deterrent to waiting is the ability to trust. At the beginning of this Advent let’s determine to grow in our trust of God. He has the big picture in view and our best interests in mind. Test him, he truly is worthy of your trust.

Prayer: God of time who is beyond time and over time, walk with us in this Advent season and teach how to trust…and to wait. Be especially near to those who are waiting for someone they love to come home. Amen.

20/20 Vision

In the first four chapters of Deuteronomy we find the account of the people of Israel poised at the edge of the Promised Land and their resulting fear. Several times Moses reminds them that God had promised them the land so they should act on the promise. The people lacked the faith to do so. Instead they asked Moses to send some scouts in to the land and come back to report what they saw. The plan seemed to make sense to Moses because he figured that the report would remind them of what they stood to gain and reinforce the need to act on the promise and take the land.

Reading about the tension that was rising between Moses and the people reminded what a difference perspective can make. Moses seemed incredulous that the people were so reluctant to move forward when God, the God of the universe, the God who had parted the Red Sea and cared for their every need in the wilderness, would fail to come through for them now. The people were equally mystified in Moses’ obvious lack of understanding regarding the impossibility of the situation. Sure, the land looked good, but the giants loomed that much larger. The two perspectives couldn’t be more diametrically opposed.

The whole thing sounded like the old proverb that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. God can lead you to his promise, but he can’t make you believe it. The people were looking at the situation through the lenses of “what is” and it resulted in great fear. Moses was looking at the situation and seeing the great potential that awaited them.

What happens when you look at what is going on around you? When you consider the circumstances where you find yourself are you overwhelmed by what you see, or hope for what can be? In terms of MBTI, are you more of an intuitive or sensate? Are fixated on what you can draw from you situation with your senses, or do you find yourself stuck on the potentialities? Certainly we need balance in the two dimensions, but we will always more naturally lean to one response or the other.

So what about God? My first thought was that He must be a strong iNtuitive. After all, the grand quote about God is that with Him “all things are possible.” That, in fact, we can do all things through Christ (God incarnate) who strengthens us. Talk about potential!
But what about those of us who were born in Missouri? You know us, we are the descendants of Thomas: we need to see it to believe it. God created us with our wiring as it is, so there must value to be a sensory oriented person, one who makes decisions based on what ‘is’ not the illusive “what might be.” Here’s what I think. I believe that God created both ends of the spectrum not only so that we would balance each other, but so that we could be more balanced individually. One is no more valuable or “right” than the other. While understanding our personality is helpful to getting a handle on our behavior, it seems to me it would best to understand God better. We need to learn to take Him at His word, that we can trust Him to come through on His promises.

Here’s what I suggest you do if you find you’re coming up a little short in the trust department, if the task God is asking you to face seems full of giants. Flip to the end of the book. It’s okay. God won’t mind. When you read the end you find that we win. Now turn back to Romans, and catch how Paul describes your position: In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37, NRSV) Oh, and here’s the one I really love. Find 2 Chronicles 20:20. Ezra leads up to this great verse by telling the people in verse 15: Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. Then he reinforces this with verse 17: The battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf. Then the 20;20 moment comes the next day when they get up and go out to battle, he tells them: Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.

Our dependence on God results in 20:20 vision. So whether you more naturally get focused on what is right in front of you or you jump into all the potentiality of the moment, your vision will be perfect when you trust God and take him at His word. That’s the response that makes the most sense, because if you read on in Deuteronomy you’ll find that it really didn’t go very well for those who gave into their fears. For them it was back out into the wilderness and they never were able to experience the blessings of the Promised Land. And all the possibilities of that kind of experience make me want to be sure I’m holding onto God’s perspective. How about you?

Reflecting:
-Are you struggling with a difficult situation? Are the Giants closing in?
-What promises are you clinging to? What promises do you need to find to hold on?
-You may not feel like a winner right now, but keep reminding yourself that the battle is God’s and he sees you as more than a conqueror!