Posts Tagged ‘God’

With

December 11, 2014

I spent some time this morning reading from a book I’ve been enjoying: The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. I actually reread the chapter from yesterday. It expanded my mind and brought insight that was breath-taking. The author described the giving of the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai in terms of a Jewish wedding; the components of the (cloud) covering, the time of purification, and the contract. Seen in this light, the 10 Commandments are a reflection of a loving relationship and not an angry set of rules. This longing for relationship and loving commitment from God for those He created is absolutely astounding. It is at the same time beautiful and powerful and desperately sad. So much love and blessing and relationship God offers his people; so many lies and betrayals his people give in return. Not just the Israelites of ages past, but anyone who is a Christ-follower today, me included.

Oh how I want my heart to long for Him the way I long for a vacation or a warm breeze on a spring day. I want my heart to be fully given to Him, my thoughts to be about Him throughout each day, longing for a chat, sitting near one another and sharing thoughts unspoken. Just being together.

The kindness of God I take for granted too regularly, as He waits. It’s not like He isn’t doing anything else, but in His expansiveness, He can be caring for the entire world and still long for me to long for Him. Long for me to make space for Him. And time.

God is with us in our difficult times and it’s easy to forget Him during the good times. The relationship God wants isn’t that of a paramedic, but a bridegroom, the closest most intimate friend. God is the Alpha and the Omega, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace; He’s our Physician, Wonderful Counselor and our Shepherd. He’s the Bridegroom. And all year long, not just at Christmas, He is Emmanuel.

Emmanuel…God with us. With. With us! With me, with you!

What a marvel!

This time of year maybe a bit more than at other times, I scurry around, busy and distracted and I don’t allow God With Us to be with me. Unintentionally I shun His mind boggling gift and end up hurting myself and hurting His heart. How can God be with me if I don’t slow down and make the time and the place; if I don’t make our relationship my priority?

I’ve gotten pretty good over the years with starting every day reading God’s Word and journaling and praying, but I’ve found of late that I’m not very good at listening, just being with Him.

I’m like a puppy put on a leash – pulling, twisting, tugging, and I just need to wear myself out, reach the end of my tether and finally lay down. My mind is busy, my body is antsy and I need to ask Emmanuel to help me stop. I need to ask the One who longs to be with me to help me be with Him.

The amazing thing is, He will! He stops and stoops and joins me in my little world, my little life because He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. God with me. God with you.

What a mystery He is – His attention is completely undeserved – His kindness a glorious gift of love.

Maybe I’ll bake no cookies this year. Maybe the house won’t get decorated as extensively. But I plan on becoming better friends with Emmanuel. My King, my God, my With Me Friend.

home

October 27, 2011

I absolutely love the Switchfoot song This Is Home and could listen to it over and over. (Sometimes I do!) It touches something deep inside my heart. I mean, just the word ‘home’ unearths memories and feelings. It’s fraught with an immense gamut of emotions. It’s my guess that we all long to experience ‘home’ in the best sense of the word.

I think that’s why, especially over the holidays, we can get so emotionally conflicted. We find ourselves grieving at a time when everyone (it seems) is celebrating. We long for home while at the same time knowing ours wasn’t really a place of love or safety, or perhaps it was but we’ve moved across country or our parents are divorced or no longer living. We long for home to be static, to be permanent, yet it is neither of those.

Our hearts long for home regardless of our age or gender. Not necessarily our home, but a home to go home to, to be welcomed in with open arms and hugs and aromas of favorite foods made especially for us. We ache for a home that isn’t filled with anger and resentment, that isn’t pocked by emotional scars left by prior fights and arguments. If we do manage to go home, we tiptoe around to avoid setting off any land mines that might ruin another visit.

If that isn’t our experience, perhaps we wish our family was home long enough all at the same time to actually be together. We long for parents who aren’t so busy in their own worlds that they notice us, make time for us and value us. Maybe we yearn for what used to be but is no longer.

Inevitably, eventually our earthly home will be invaded by loss of some kind. Whether by growing up and moving out, job changes, aging parents, health issues, death or divorce, families change. Home changes. Nothing stays the same. If we could freeze a frame from our life to go home to it’d probably be a favorite Christmas or birthday or family meal of some kind that made us feel special.

my childhood home

Home is supposed to be a place where we are safe, accepted as we are, loved, cherished, nurtured, enveloped and valued. It’s supposed to be a place where our needs are met, our presence is enjoyed and our dreams are fueled and fulfilled. It’s supposed to be a haven, a refuge, a place of rest and refreshment and recuperation. In Isaiah 32:18 God says, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Doesn’t that sound incredible?! I think this is God’s ideal for our homes: to be places that are safe, secure, peaceful and restful. Ahhhhhhh. Home.

I don’t need to point out the discrepancies between the ideal and reality. And, despite all our best efforts to hold those longings at bay, to tell ourselves to be logical and analytical, we still find our hearts wistful.

We’re on the brink of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years. We’ll be making or feeling the pressure to make trips back to the homes in which we were raised or to attend meals with family. These activities have the potential to be catalysts for reopening old wounds or creating new ones. This time of year inevitably focuses our attention on what we feel should have been yet isn’t and perhaps will never be. It yanks our hearts back to aching for Real Home.

The other day I came across these verses in the Bible. Psalm 90 verses 1-2. Moses was talking to God. “Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.”

The very next psalm begins this way: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” (Ps. 90:1-2.) Here’s a verse to hang onto as well, Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.”

I have said before that the only thing in my life that never changes is the fact that nothing ever stays the same! But there is one other reality. God never changes. He is the same yesterday as He is today and as He will be tomorrow and forever. There is a home that is perfect and will never change!  That encourages me! God is my safe place. As I put my trust in Him, as I believe that He is my Ultimate Home, I will experience home even though my home of origin is no longer in existence. My parents and oldest brother have died. The home pictured above is inhabited by another family. I have memories but that’s all that remains of my childhood home. I know you can relate in some way yourself.

I have a little framed print that says, “Home is where your story begins.” I love that saying and I look at it pretty much every day. I love it because I think of my precious children, now adults.

Our home is where they found their beginning. It wasn’t a perfect one, although we tried and gave it our absolute best. But the beautiful reality is that word ‘begins’. Their stories began in our home, but they aren’t set in stone. The same is true for me. I had a good home, yet I suffer the effects of life begun in an imperfect one. But my story isn’t over either! It is still being written! And the best part of the story is that my home of origin is not my final home. God is my safe place, my Home. I am safe in Him. In Him I am secure, loved, cherished and nurtured.

Ultimately, heaven will be my final destination and it will be Home like God intended from the very beginning.

In the words of Switchfoot:

“Created for a place I’ve never known, this is home . . . I’ve got my heart set on what happens next . . . it’s not over yet  . . . Oh, this is home, now I’m finally where I belong, where I belong, yah this is home, I’ve been searching for a place of my own, now I know this is home. . .”

provision

September 1, 2010

I haven’t sat here on my couch looking out the picture window in quite some time. Since it’s a gray, off-and-on rainy kind of day, I’m not taking every spare minute to go outside and sit in the shade by our water feature. Instead, I’m grabbing the time, while the carpet cleaner is upstairs taking care of some dog-defiled spots, to work on computer-related details so I can observe bird life once more.

Oh-my-goodness! I’d forgotten what a busy place our little feeders and tree are! In the last 10 minutes there have been 3 female cardinals and a male, several black-capped chickadees, 3 gorgeous blue jays, a hairy woodpecker, miscellaneous finches and sparrows.

How’s a person supposed to get anything done? They are breathtaking! Here comes another woodpecker – different from the one a minute ago. Not as big and her head isn’t as squared. You learn to notice these things when you observe them over time.

Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s that I’m a female, and a nurturer kind of person, but seeing these little feathered creatures visit and feed just does something in my heart. They flutter from perch to perch, vying for a spot and peck away to loosen and grab the seeds. They eat a while and fly off in an instant. You’d better not blink or you’ll think they just disappeared into thin air. Oh, wait, that’s pretty much what they do!

Their presence at the feeders is always a reminder to me of God and his provision. If he takes care of the birds, how much more will he take care of me?  I’m serious. I’m not just quoting a trite, oft-repeated Bible verse. God is mindful of the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. He provides rain and sun and food for the creation he spoke into being, whether they know and love him or not. How much more is he aware of me and my needs; you and your needs?

I believe that God enjoys providing for us. That thought had never occurred to me until we started feeding the birds in our yard. We love putting seeds out and making sure there is an ample supply, especially when things get covered over with snow come winter. We take pleasure in being able to provide for these our little feathered friends.

There is something profound and mysterious about nurturing. I don’t want to get all weird or anything, but I remember feeding my children when they were babies, watching their eyes gaze into mine, their little fingers gripping one of my fingers tightly as they ravenously sucked as if they’d never been fed! I’d watch them drink and gulp and sometimes choke, until their furious pace slowed to one of contentment and peace. I will never forget the inexpressible joy I felt as I’d watch their faces as they ate. Oh, the hours I spent gazing at their beautiful, tender, innocent faces as I’d feed them. What a precious experience it is to be a mother.

Now that my kids are adults, meals together are less frequent.  I still experience joy when I can prepare a meal that we can savor together in an evening, discussing the day and life together, looking across the table into each others’ faces, exchanging glances and expressions and laughter.

Feeding birds is such a simple task. Eating a meal together is also a common and simple experience. Yet it is the act of feeding, of nurturing another, that can be a spiritual experience. I think it’s supposed to be.

If I enjoy feeding my family, and delight in caring for the birds, how much more does God find pleasure in feeding and providing for me as I look to him?

Sometimes our lives can be a flurry of activity, just like these birds. Seeing them stop and eat at the feeders we’ve hung brings us delight. They can’t express gratitude, they have no concept that their food is provided, yet my heart is still glad.

Probably most of humanity has no concept that God is their provider. Perhaps you haven’t given it much thought. Daily he keeps my heart beating, my lungs breathing and my mind working. I can’t do that on my own. He provides my life. He provides life and love and friends and beauty and food and so much more for me! Think about that – he provides for you too!

I know God is delighted to care for his creation. It’s his nature to nurture. I wonder how often God watches as he’s providing for me and I fail to express gratitude, yet he still provides. He doesn’t forget, he doesn’t withhold. He enjoys taking care of me. How much more he must be delighted when I remember to thank him for his provision.

as it happened

August 27, 2010

I was reading the story of Esther last week and about wicked Haman and his hatred for Mordecai and all Jews in general. He had no idea that the King’s beloved Esther was a Jew. I’ve read this story dozens of times, yet something new stood out to me this time.

Haman wasn’t motivated by a love for the king, or loyalty to the throne or even by service of any kind. He wasn’t even concerned for the king’s well-being. He was motivated by his love of himself. “It” was all about Haman. He was working himself up in the ranks to get as high as possible on the status ladder and annihilate anyone that might get in his way. He wanted power, prestige, respect. He wanted to be feared. He was selfish, hateful, jealous and ambitious. UGLY.

I’ve always loved the part of the story where Mordecai tells his niece, Esther, that she needs to be courageous and risk her life for the lives of the Jews all over the kingdom because of Haman’s plan to murder the Jews. He tells her, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:4)

Esther goes before the king and he extends his scepter, meaning he’ll see her (and not kill her) and asks her what it is that she wants. She has a plan and invites her king and Haman to dinner that night. Haman thinks he’s really something. He brags to everyone about how he has been invited to dine with the king and queen! (He should have been asking himself why!)

As I was reading the story this time, I specifically noticed how God orchestrated things. His timing is breath-taking!

That night. . . That night after dinner with Esther, the night Haman was unable to fully appreciate his amazingly blessed life because of his raging hatred of Mordecai, that night the king had trouble sleeping.

God made the king sleepless. Either it was the king’s habit to have his attendant read to him from the book of history on nights like that, or maybe God gave him that idea right then, but either way, that’s what happened. Even the specific passage that was read to the king was significant, hand picked by God for King Xerxes! It was no coincidence.

The king learns, during his sleepless night, that Mordecai had saved the king’s life by exposing an assassination attempt. Xerxes asks his servant if anything has been done to honor Mordecai.  Nothing had been done. So Xerxes and the attendant begin talking about what should be done to thank Mordecai.

Of course you know the story, but what stood out to me this time is these three words:   “as it happened.”

There are no coincidences with God.  ‘As it happened,’ is really a way of saying, the joke was on Haman. It was no coincidence. You could move the ‘as’ to the end and say, “it happened as.” You see, it happened as God orchestrated! Wickedness was not going to prevail. It wasn’t going to have the final say.

God had had enough of Haman’s wicked schemes and arrogance. He orchestrated that Haman would humiliate himself – that he would walk in just in time for the king to ask him, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?”

Prideful, self-centered, conceited Haman wonders who the king would honor more than him, so he goes the whole nine yards.  He should wear the royal robe and ride a horse the king himself has ridden which had a royal emblem on its head, and be led by a noble official announcing, “This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!”

How Haman’s skin must have tingled with delight at the thought of being that man! Oh how it must have crawled with horror, shame, and disgust when he learned that it was Mordecai the king wanted to honor and that he himself was the noble official who had to lead Mordecai and proclaim the king’s favor! Insult on top of injury! (Oh, if only this kind of justice happened every time people were contriving nasty schemes!) At least that night Haman could look forward to dinner with King Xerxes and the beautiful Queen Esther again. No one else got invited to dine with them two nights in a row! He was still truly something (in his own mind).

After dinner the second night, Esther reveals the evil plan Haman had devised to slaughter and annihilate the Jewish people all over the land. The king is infuriated, and rushes out in a rage to the palace garden.  When he returns he finds Haman begging Esther for mercy, (oh the irony), falling on the couch with the queen. “Will he even assault the queen right here in the palace, before my very eyes?”

“And as soon as the king spoke, his attendants covered Haman’s face, signaling his doom.” (Esther 7:8)

Wow, that’s powerful!

Psalm 36:1-4 describes people like Haman. “Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil.”

But the rest of Psalm 36 describes God! “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts. Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around. Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if justice, like that which was served to Haman, was meted out as quickly in our own lives? Wouldn’t it be great to see those people who behave like Haman ‘get what’s coming to them?’

So often it feels like God doesn’t see the evil schemes of others. It feels as if God is looking the other way. But we shouldn’t be fooled by the length of time it takes for God to bring about an ‘as it happened’ for us. God sees all things. He knows the contents of every person’s heart.

The Bible tells us that God is slow to anger and that fact often frustrates me when I’ve wanted him to shoot down a bolt of lightning and fry someone who hurt me really badly! But then when I think of myself and my imperfections and sin, I don’t want justice for myself! I want mercy! (Ouch, just like Haman! He cooked up a wicked scheme and when he was about to fall in his own pot, started pleading for mercy. Of course I was thinking as I read that, “No way! Haman, you deserve to die!”)

Am I ever glad God is patient and long-suffering with me. As I focus on loving God and others better, I can be assured that God will take care of the Hamans in my life in his own time, in his own way. Someday, the rest of my story will begin with, “As it happened,” which you and I will both know really means, “it happened as . . .”

kindness of God

March 25, 2010

I was reading in Luke the other day and this passage I’ve read numerous times, just stopped me in my tracks. I think reading the Bible in different translations/versions is very helpful for this very reason. Reading something I’m familiar with in different words brings to light nuances or meanings I’ve totally overlooked before. Here it is:

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are un-thankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. . . .”  Luke 6:35-37  New Living Translation

Jesus’s words are powerful. I have known since I was a small child that we are supposed to love our enemies, yet I never really saw that modeled very well in Christendom. I saw plenty of judgment. I saw Christians huddle together as if protecting themselves from sin getting on them by proximity. Sadly, I was often in that huddle in high school through my early adulthood, until I spent time around ‘radical’ Christians. Over the years, I have seen the smugness and religious superiority of many who say they are Christians, and it’s these self-righteous people who haven’t learned compassion, who are skilled judge-ers.

This hit home recently to me when my husband and I were watching a show on addictions. I, who don’t have an addictive personality and haven’t had to struggle with an addiction, can look at someone doing drugs or fighting an eating disorder or hoarding until they can’t get into their house, and I, in all my obvious lack of understanding can say, why don’t they just stop? Just stop doing the drugs. Stop starving yourself. Stop hoarding.  I mean, just stop already. Then it’s over. Done. Then they can get on with their life. (Gee, I’m so profoundly wise.)

If I had an understanding, it would lead me to compassion. Since I don’t understand, I must choose compassion. Once I make the choice, the feelings always follow.

I’m learning it really isn’t about the drugs, the food or the stuff. It’s about heart issues. It’s about longing for acceptance and love. It’s about wounds from the past clinging to a tender, confused or angry broken heart with talons that fiercely refuse to unclasp their grip without a terrible battle.

Compassion says, whether I understand or not, I’m so sorry you have to struggle with that. I’m just so sorry. Someone working with the addicted or the hoarder will need to use different methods and consequences, but for those of us not in the process, love is the only response they need from us. Compassion is a balm that promotes healing.

Most Christians don’t understand and unfortunately underestimate the powerful draw of addictions, and even homosexuality. In our ignorance we say, that’s wrong. Stop it. (Or worse, “You’re bad; you’re wicked; God hates you . . .” None of those statements are true, by the way. We’re all bad, sinful and wicked before we go to him in repentance and he forgives and cleans us. God doesn’t hate us. He is kind and merciful to us.) The problem can arise between Christians and those who don’t know Christ yet because too often we Christians don’t see the person, we just see a behavior. We judge. We neglect compassion. We don’t behave like children of the Most High.

I’ve heard a scripture verse misused far too often. “Judgment begins in the house of God.” People have misquoted and misinterpreted this and used it as permission to be harshly judgmental towards others. If they read in context, they’d see a completely different message.

The context is the suffering that Christians faced and will increasingly face for their faith in Christ. 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The judgment here isn’t punitive, rather it’s purifying. Suffering purifies and refines us. No one is exempt from suffering. The point is that if suffering is so difficult for those of us who know and love God, how much more difficult it will be for those who don’t have his purposes and love to cling to in the midst of suffering! These people need compassion from us! Things are hard enough! Why pound on the judgment?! Judgment is God’s job. Even then, the Bible says that God’s kindness leads us to repentance. (Rom. 2:4)

If God is kind to the un-thankful and wicked, Christians, because we are his children, should act like him, being kind and compassionate! James 4:12 tells us, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”

So, taking this to heart, as I look at people around me every day, in cars, in the grocery store, at the gas station, in a book store . . . I have no idea the struggles they face, the sorrows they carry, the anxiety or depression they live with. It seems we all are broken in some way. We all suffer in some way at some time. Rather than making things worse by judgment, I need to see people with eyes of compassion. I need to behave as the child of the Most High that I am. I need to leave the judgment to him and be a healing balm with compassion and kindness.

He sees

January 14, 2010

Today as I was reading in Genesis about Jacob and Leah and Rachel, a pattern, or more accurately a quality stood out to me.  A pattern that shows a quality? I’m not sure how to explain it, but you know the story. If not, read Genesis 28 – 31. I’ll write the verses that were particularly interesting to me today.

Gen.28:31 “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive.”

Gen.30:22 “Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children.”

Gen.31:12b “For I have seen how Laban has treated you.”

What stood out to me was that God sees. He saw that Jacob was furious that Laban tricked him by giving him Leah instead of Rachel as his wife that first night. How that must have hurt Leah to wake up on her first morning as Jacob’s wife and find him furious he was tricked into marrying her!  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be unloved.

You may think I’m reading into the story with my interpretation of it, but think about it. Think about human nature. Think about a man marrying your sister when he really wanted you. Think about being the consolation prize. (You wanted Rachel, but I want more work out of you, so you get Leah. Gee, that’s really valuing to poor Leah!) I’m guessing she was already feeling like a loser because she wasn’t married yet after all those years and she was the older daughter. Marriage was everything in that culture, that and having many sons.) Think about living with your sister in that situation for the rest of your life! Sharing the same husband with your sister? Yuck!

Much later, God saw the smug attitude of Leah, so proud she was the wife that was producing children and I’m sure making Rachel’s life miserable. He saw Rachel’s agony enduring the looks from Leah and perhaps unkind words. Perhaps whispers of people in town. He knew the shame she felt because of her barrenness and was moved by compassion to help her.

God saw that  Laban was using Jacob for his own gain, working him hard for 21 years, continually taking advantage of him. God was not unaware of his difficulties; he saw it all. Consequently, no matter what scheme Laban would come up with, he blessed Jacob abundantly anyway.

What amazes me more than just knowing God sees is that God is moved to compassion and kindness in spite of our shortcomings, failures, sinfulness and basic rottenness (which he also sees).  Jacob was a master deceiver who, according to the law of reaping and sowing, got what was coming to him. He tricked his brother out of his birthright. He got all the goods, and the blessing of his father as well. I’m sure Leah was no delight to be around when the baby score was 4-0, Leah’s favor. And I’m sure Rachel was no princess holding the “favorite wife” title.  I can only imagine the undercurrents going on in that household! They were all imperfect people, yet God saw and met them in their sorrow and need and lavished his love on them anyway!

What an amazing God he is. So often people have this idea of God as angry and vindictive when that really isn’t the case. He is righteous and just, yes, and angry when the situation warrants it, yet he is gracious and loving and compassionate more often than not. He sees us in our brokenness and sorrow and longs to help us.

I love Psalm 18, I just love it. It expresses what I feel about my situation when I was facing cancer. But it can apply to any situation we have. Ps.18:6 says, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears…” I absolutely love what follows. God gets angry that people are messing with his beloved David and verses 7-15 paint a vivid picture of God coming to the rescue! Verses 16-17 say, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.” Can’t you just see it?!

God sees, because he is God, and because he’s attentive and watchful. But he does so much more than see. He sees, he hears, and he answers our prayers. He rescues us when we cry out to him. What a magnificent God!