Ever cry when an onerous task is finally through? I have. As recently as yesterday.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” wrote a family member to my graduate. These words rose like the noon-day sun above the more familiar “paths straight” and “plans to prosper” selections. This, I thought to myself, contains a pearl of wisdom, a pearl born from someone’s experience.
Looking at this picture makes me laugh! The contradictions fairly shout. It could be entered in a caption contest. Amish farmer gets away from it all… Weekend boater defeats the fast pace of life…
On a deeper level, I sometimes wonder if this juxtaposition is what people see when they view me. Are there anachronisms in my practice of Christianity? What if folks notice that I don’t wear much jewelry, does that really matter if I’ve been known to curse a blue streak? What if I eat healthfully to excess, but drive a car that outpaces my income? What would you think of a pastor that snarks at his wife? An elder who ogles young flesh? A Christian teacher who comes off as boastful?
“By their fruits you shall know them,” famous words from an iconic preacher, The Christ. Perhaps the mark of the a true Christian is to be ever aware of how far off the mark you are! Humility and forgiveness makes the wheels of family life and church life go round.
Lord, forgive me where I have not represented your character aright. Help my words, and more importantly my actions, express what is important in life. Help me be more like YOU, so that I do not bring reproach to Your Name. Amen.
I almost didn’t. I almost didn’t come to church today. The week had been full, including a 400 mile drive back from helping my mother move. Although she only moved across town, she was selling her home of 50 years. I was exhausted on many fronts: physically, emotionally, interpersonally. I wondered how well I had actually served my mother. I stepped back into my work life, where things hit me full force. I just needed a day NOT to drive, a day to recoup. So I almost didn’t undertake the 30 minute drive to get there.
But something gnawed at me inside. “Go,” this inner voice said, “Don’t sit home and veg. Don’t spend time ruminating. Being with friends can refresh you just as much as an extra hour in bed. The Word of God can refresh you as well.” So I pulled on some clothes and arrived while the service was already in full swing. But quickly I realized coming had been the right decision. I did not regret the drive.
I didn’t regret it because I received just what I needed. The message was tailor-made for me this day. I was reminded that God’s Word is a living, breathing thing that speaks life into the world-weary. I was reminded not to fear, to put my trust in Him. I stopped second-guessing the quality of my performance. I started trusting more that God is a work within me despite the limitations of this sin-tainted world, despite the limitations of my own personality. God is God, after all, and I can trust Him.
And to think I almost didn’t go.
Here are some easy steps you can take to make a difference in your local community. Check out http://bread.org/how-end-hunger for more ideas.
I was speeding down the Autobahn in Germany when I saw a sign announcing an “Autobahnkapelle”. A chapel for those putting the pedal-to-the-medal? Curious, I took the exit.
I don’t consider myself to be a spiritually sophisticated person. Actually, I’ve often thought that if I were given a pop quiz on my theological knowledge, I would be hastily removed from any sort of church leadership. That’s not to say that I don’t value a strong understanding of my faith; in fact, whenever I do spend time in deep study, I feel much more connected with God. It’s just that with time I’ve come to feel God’s presence the strongest through experiences and relationships.
The idea that God is “relational” fundamentally shifts my ideas about who God is. I heard a talk not too long ago by Diana Butler who used the metaphor of God moving from the mountains and into the city. A God in the mountains is far away, scary, and inaccessible. He is certainly not relational, and the only way to gain access to this God is through the “holy elevator” of religious doctrine. A God in the city is close, comforting, and gets his hands dirty. When God moves down from the mountain and into the city, it creates a good deal of angst for religious organizations, because now God is accessible to everyone without the need for holy elevator operators.
A God in the city is close, comforting, and gets his hands dirty.
A God in the city is experienced in new ways. He can be felt through the winds of affection stirring among our closest relationships. He is found in visions of transcendence that fill our minds as we contemplate the vastness of the horizon. He’s found when our sweaty, gritty hands turn over warm, dark soil in preparation for laying down seeds of new life. When God is in the city, we find Him easily by asking “in what ways is God working in this very moment?”.
And so it doesn’t require spiritual sophistication to find God. In my experience, the search for spiritual sophistication can actually get in the way. Lately I’ve been searching for God in the city, where he is much more easily found.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." Job 12: 7-10
Shades. Tints. Stunners. Sunnies. They are an integral part of your wardrobe. You keep them in your car. You examine yourself in the mirror when wearing them to see if you can strike the right ‘tude. The one off the CD album, of course. Sunglasses help you see. But they also help others see you the way you want to be seen.
The thing about sunglasses is that they buffer reality. The sun’s harsh rays, we now know, can contribute to a host of eye-related problems. The science of optics has increased our chances of beating these odds, if we’d only wear the sunglasses this science designed.
I got to thinking about shades recently.
I got to thinking about how we all possess filters. Filters through which we process the good and bad of life, not just the sun’s rays.
I got to thinking about how we all possess filters. Filters through which we process the good and bad of life, not just the sun’s rays. We’ve all heard of the proverbial “rose colored glasses.” But isn’t it equally true that some of us put on glasses tinted gray? You know the pair, the ones that throw a cast over everything the color of dirty dishwater.
Here are two recent dishwater-filtered incidents:
A. I was discussing with a friend a turn of events that left me high and dry, figuring if there were ever a time to indulge in a little self-pity it was now. The reality is, my day-to-day normalcy has in no way been changed and, given a little time, I will get through this hurdle too.
B. I overheard a teenager state that s/he couldn’t wait to become an adult so life could really begin. Whaaaat? Most of look back at our high school years as care-free and long for those days.
Here are some incidents I know where a healthy pair of rose-colored glasses really helped out.
A. “I look forward to coming to your home,” the N.J. Commission for the Blind representative told my mother. “With a disability like yours, attitude is everything. You’ve not let being legally blind change your zest for life. As a result, there is still so much you’re able to do.”
B. “Cancer can have my body, but it can’t have me! I am more than just the sum of what’s happening in my cells.” This attitude helped the elderly individual in question extend her life far beyond what the doctor’s predicted.
How do we go about changing our filter on life? Choose who you hang out with is one time-proven way. Friends with positive attitudes help a lot. Consider also this tip from the Apostle Paul, someone who knew difficulty at point-blank range.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What is this new pattern of thinking? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” Philippians 4:6-8
But his advice doesn’t end there,
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.” (verse 9)
Before the shades can do their thing, you’ve got to slip them on. Put on your pair today. The only question is: Will they be tinted rose or gray?
If you desire to know the truth that He can speak to you,
Go find Him now; He’s not far off. I know that this is true. But certain things he said to me, they caught me quite off guard.
In fact a lot of what he said to me was rather hard.
Things are piling up. A deadline at work is fast approaching. I brought work home. Then there are the laundry and vacuuming that have been neglected for a week. Add to that the carry-on that I haven’t yet unpacked from last weekend’s get-away plus a couple of projects I’ve worked on sporadically, and you’ve got a messy house. Oh! Did I mention I’m supposed to post on this blog every two or three weeks?
Stress. Mess. I confess…this is me!
The reason I haven’t sat down to write in a while, is that things were pretty much at the same hectic pace last month, too. It’s an old problem. Moses sent up this prayer to heaven,
“Teach us to number our days; help us to spend them as we should.”
Yes, Moses the great leader and administrator felt the pinch, too, as he prayed, “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” *
Magazine articles will teach us to color code, create routines, handle each paper only once. But the problem of too much to do in too little time persists. Maybe that’s why these words that God directs to his people have meant so much to me recently:
"I made you, and I will not forget to help you."
“Pay attention, Israel, for you are my servant; I made you, and I will not forget to help you. I’ve blotted out your sins; they are gone like morning mist at noon! Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free!”**
I may never be free of items on my to-do list; but God has got my back and will help me. Now back to the laundry.
*Psalm 90:12 The Living Bible - Psalm 90 is attributed as “a prayer of Moses”
** Isaiah 44:21-22 The Living Bible (italics mine)
"Me in the same league as DaVinci?" you're thinking. "Who would miss me if I were suddenly gone, the way the Twin Towers were missed when they were obliterated? A few handfuls of people, perhaps, but not a nation." But that’s exactly why the author placed those two words side by side in the title.
Tonight, on the eve of Snowmageddon, I did a thing that every Mainer does on the day before a nor’easter, and something no one does. I went grocery shopping. Once home, I noticed the lake calling. I decided to walk across the lake, then and there. At almost 11pm.