Wednesday’s Word: FORWARD!

7355F794-C23B-4B7C-A17B-E79CBFE4576D

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)

Life seems full of road blocks the inhibit our forward progress. And while we try to figure out how we can get around (or if we even want to try), we look up and see so many things undone or done wrong in the rearview mirror. How can we ever move ahead when what’s behind pulls on our attention?

What keeps the believer moving forward? Knowing that what is expected is not perfection in the sense that we never make the wrong move, flub up, or experience what Paul describes in Romans 7: the thing I want to do, I don’t; and the thing I don’t want to do I keep doing. It’s a horrible tug of war.

Paul gets it—gets us. Inevitably, striving for perfection ends in frustration, shame, and defeat. Focusing on moving forward, taking the steps, making one right choice and then another, is progress. Pressing on to become the person God wants me to be is moving in the right direction.

Pressing on is intentional. Pressing on is work. Pressing on gets me to where God wants me to be, to be who he wants me to be.

Jesus is quite clear on which direction we need to be moving. When he invited people to follow him several gave flimsy excuses about taking care of other things first. To them, and to us he states: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62, NIV).”

What direction are you moving in today?

 

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

 

Selah: Mercy for Sorrow

After recounting a gruesomely long list of horrible things that has happened to him, the writer of Lamentations pens these words:  “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: (Lamentations 3:19-21, NLT).”

Remembering the negative things which occurred in our lives is one thing, ruminating on them is completely different. Each has it’s own power. Ruminating, going over and over and over, leaves us feeling powerless and throws us into a state of hopelessness. We give up because we begin to believe things will never get better.

But we can use remembering in a different way resulting in a much better outcome. Notice in the verse above: the quote doesn’t end with a period—there’s more to this!

Here’s what the author adds after the colon: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’ The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord (Lamentations 3:22-26, NLT).”

God’s love goes deep and has no end. His mercies are new every morning.

What is my part in this? What do I need to do to receive this daily portion of mercy? Hope in him. Search for him. Wait on him.

Selah.

Selah: Reminder

For most of my 20’s and 30’s I couldn’t sit still. I was a doing machine. Those were the days of attempting to balance mothering, working, and being a wife and keeping a house.  Somehow through that period we also spent time with friends—doing things.

Then a shift began to take place. I became able to sit for long periods of time: reading, watching TV, or more recently trolling and scrolling on the internet. One must create a social presence.

Almost two years ago, I got a FitBit. And I started to move. My wrist companion even reminds me to move every hour. Many complain about that feature, but I love it! If I sit for too long I get stiff and have difficulty moving when I need to. The result has been a renewed dedication to moving, and setting goals for quantity and quality of movement. I have become disciplined—and it feels good.

I wonder if I could set a reminder to think about God.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him (Psalm 62:5, NLT).

 

 

Selah: Listen

8FD0C456-A093-4A99-87E7-3F4777F2D35A

It was one of my favorite stories as a child. Young Samuel has just gone to bed when he hears a voice call his name. He runs to Eli, who has also turned in for the night. Eli assures Samuel he didn’t call for him and sends the lad back to bed. (See 1 Samuel 3)

The second time Eli might have been a bit peeved, but responds kindly—this was a new situation for the boy. Mumbling under his breath something about not being a nurse maid, he instructs Samuel to get back in bed.

When Samuel appears the third time, I imagine Eli’s immediate response was about to be less than kind—when it suddenly dawns on him Who is calling the young child’s name…God!

Words get sucked back, and Eli wakes up enough to tell Samuel exactly what he should do if the voice calls his name again, say this, “Speak, Lord. I’m ready to listen.”

Are you ready? Being ready isn’t always convenient, or easy, or even welcome. But I believe it’s important to listen…and obey.

I believe the voice of God can come as silently as a nudge, a gut check, or a hug around your heart.

I also believe the voice of God can sound like the voice of a friend, a spouse, or maybe even a pastoral leader.

Sometimes I’m listening hard, sometimes I’m asleep, sometimes I’m not even paying attention.

At times I try to pretend I’m too busy to be bothered. While other times I’m afraid so I fill my ears with other noise—like a child covering her ears and singing loudly: Lalalalalalala.

But I need to listen, especially if I identify myself as a servant.

And I need listen, to hear and obey.

”Go ahead Master. I’m listening. What do you have for me today?”

I’m ready.

Year In Focus: Selah…

smell6

I’m a shallow breather. Every now and then I end up taking a huge, full breath. It’s like I’m having to catch up. At 60, I’m used to the pattern. In fact it’s so natural for me that I often don’t realize that I’m doing it.

But those around me do, and they regularly ask me if something’s wrong because I sound like I’m sighing—at least that’s what I’ve been told. It’s gotten to the point that my husband asks, “Breathing or sighing?” He doesn’t want to assume and he wants to be sure I’m okay.

I don’t know how long I’ve done this. I asked a doctor once about it, but they sort of blew the whole thing off as a non-issue. So I don’t worry about it.

But I wonder. This forgetting to breathe sometimes feels like a metaphor for my life. I move at a pretty fast pace. I take on a lot. A little improvement has come with age and awareness (aka acceptance) of my limitations.

How does this apply to my theme this year of stillness and rest?

I’m glad you asked.

16AE0876-B506-4AD8-86CC-AD9C36375BD4

I need to learn to pause. I can’t keep going at a speed that leaves no room for breathing.

Last week I was reading in Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, and I noticed a word I tend to skip over. My New Living Translation uses the word “interlude.” Older translations have the word, Selah, set off to the side. Essentially, the word is an invitation to pause. To take some time consider the previous verses—to let the Truth sink in deeply.

I don’t know about you, but I like that…I need that. And not just when I’m reading scripture. I need to schedule in time to reflect the same way I am intentional about getting up and moving each hour (Thank you FitBit).

My recent reading about sabbath reinforced the truth that it is not simply empty inactivity, just as spiritual fasting isn’t merely not eating. Pausing to catch my breath isn’t Selah. Inherent within Selah is the spiritual practice of reflection, listening, and focus. It won’t happen unconsciously or outside of my intention.

So today, I will be looking for moments to stop, breathe, and reflect. I hope you find some, too.

303F3EE3-AF33-4F15-97EB-504F6C4E3852

Advent 19: Silent Night

I was surfing Christmas music on youtube when I came across this song by Amy Grant:

I’d never heard it before, so I sat and listened. And right at the end of the video a scene popped up that moved me and made me cry.

That last scene was in an app I downloaded for my phone and NookHD+. I selected it for my wallpaper on both. There was something very homey and comforting about it. It was like an invitation to step back and keep Christmas without all the hustle and bustle.

Seeing it there in this song was like a hug from God. And in my spirit I could hear him saying, “Whoa, little one. Slow down. You are racing so. Look at you all in a frenzy.”

I sat quietly and pondered this whole “resting” thing. Why is it so hard for people? So I decided to ask google. I found one article by a trainer described how he taught “chargers” to rest effectively. (Here’s the addy: http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/learning-to-rest-teaching-hard-chargers-to-slow-down-and-relax .)

What he was saying reminded me of when I worked at Curves (The Workout Place for Women). When we coached people through the program we put strong emphasis on the cool down and stretching portion of the workout. Invariably at least half the women would skip this portion, citing a need to be somewhere else and promising to do it next time.

We just don’t slow down well.

Throughout the Psalms there’s a little word that we often gloss right over. It occurs 71 times there and three times in Habakkuk 3. The word is Selah. While there is some confusion over its exact meaning, it is most often described as a musical term which we would closely associate with a rest, bringing an oppotunity to pause, to mediate on what was just read or sung.

If our bodies need to physically pause to restore, should it come as any surprise that our spirits need that also?

So God’s gift came in the dark of night. In the quiet of night. Third shift. Quiet. Still. Selah.

Yeah, I think we could all use a Slient Night.

Turtles, Bruises, and Jelly Beans

Do Turtles Get Bruises?
I bruise easily. I have often said that if you look at me wrong I’ll end up with a bruise. Typically my bruises happen when I’m hurrying from here to there. I have a nasty bruise on my shin that I got when I ran full steam into a footstool. It was the “full steam” principle that got me to thinking this morning. I began to wonder: If I wasn’t in such a rush would my bruising be so bad? If I chose to go through life at a slower pace would I have less need for shin guards to protect me from life’s bumps and bruises? And that led me to ponder whether turtles get bruises.

Now the jump from bruises to turtles isn’t too far-fetched, in my brain, when you know that many years ago I served as a chaplain at a facility that worked with kids in out of home placement. During our summer program the activity therapist led a study that focused on Native American things. One of the components of the unit taught the kids about the ways animals influenced the identity of the Native Americans. I joined in the study and found the impact of spirit guides or totems to be very interesting. It was then that turtles entered my life.

During this time, I was pastoring, counseling, being a mom and a foster mom, being a wife, and trying to take care of my home. I knew I needed to slow down, but didn’t know how. And even though I was totally exhausted, I wasn’t sure I would know me if I slowed down. I was the proverbial human doing.

Then, ten years ago when my life took a horrendous downward spiral because of some stupid choices I made, I went back and did some more reading and got reacquainted with my friend the turtle. I realized how terribly out of balance I was. I’m not sure where I was going, but I seemed convinced that the only way to get there was to be racing and overwhelmed. I was so dedicated to this twisted way that I was attempting to function on less than two hours of sleep a night.

To say that I experienced a messy crash and burn, would be a major understatement. I lost a lot in those days, but the hardest thing for me to deal with was the loss of my work because it left me feeling like I had no identity. It was like learning to walk all over again. I worked several part time jobs and then ended up in a factory. I worked hard and found my worth in the approval of my supervisors. When that job came to an end four and a half years ago, I was fortunate to connect with a family that needed help caring for their mother when their father died. So I began providing daily care for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

At first I went nearly crazy with the lack of things to do, but over the years I have come to treasure the slower pace and opportunity to be involved with making someone else’s life as pleasant as possible. My job is about being there, not about the things that I necessarily do. When I finally surrendered to that I began to truly enjoy my job.

This morning when I bumped that bruise on my shin again, the surge of pain resulted in my grousing about all the bruises I get and my question about turtles and bruises. So I went on line and asked google to enlighten me on the subject. There were only 8,610,000 hits. Most of the articles had to do with the health and well-being of turtles. “Ask Dr. Science” had some interesting things to say about the metabolism of turtles, but he also mentioned that turtles don’t have to move fast because they don’t have to chase their food and their shell protects them so they don’t have to run away from their enemies.

Now even with all my google reading, I’m still not sure whether a turtle’s longevity is due to his slower pace, but we know that his deliberate plodding along enabled him to win the race. Could it be that what we learned so simply as children might have value for our spiritual lives as adults?

Selah….pause…take a breath…slow down

I have sat with this piece and been frustrated that I couldn’t turn the corner to some amazing “Aha!”

While I was vacuuming the other afternoon, it dawned on me: not every piece has a resolution. This was reinforced during choir practice, of all places. We were working on a new piece for the Easter season. I’m a soprano, and I often tease that I’m a soprano because I like always having the melody. It’s a cruel thing when the composer gives the sopranos the harmony. It’s also not right the way the composer ended the piece we were sight reading. The ending was quite big and high, and then it does the unusual: instead of resolving pleasantly up to wonderful, powerful chord, the sopranos modulate down an awkward half step. Some things just don’t resolve the way think they should, or even want to.

I’ve know this at some level for a very long time. One Easter morning while sitting in church a phrase began rumbling around my mind. I was thinking about jelly beans and Jelly Bean Christians was born. I just haven’t known what to do with. Another one of those intriguing but unused phrases is Hushpuppy Christians. I keep thinking I’m going to come up with some witty writing about those things, but maybe their value is not in the writing but in what they cause me to think, to feel.

I don’t know if turtles get bruises, but since I started thinking about it, I’ve found myself slowing down, being more purposeful in my movements. And surprise: no more bruises from running into things.

And maybe, this wasn’t for you, but for me. But maybe you can relate, so I’ll just leave it here in case you can….