Tag: Reflections

Journey 9-9-08

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want…he restores my soul.” Ps 23:1, 3a

“I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all you trees, For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.” Isaiah 44:21b-23 (think about your name in the place of Israel and Jacob – as one redeemed by God this truth is just as true about you!)

There have been several words repeating themselves in my journal and in my thoughts this last month.

Restore, Renew, Redeem and Return.

As I wait for my body to get over this sickness, to be restored to good health, I think about the Lord who restores my soul. He finds me in the middle of my weariness and weakness and prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies. He restores my soul.

As I look around at all the housework that has been set aside while I’ve been ill and cleaning patterns that need to be renewed, I think about how the Lord renews my mind and my relationship with Him. I am ever challenged with the truth of His word to confront lies and be renewed with truth. Even more, He sweeps away my sins and renews my relationship Him by the blood of Christ, shed for me.

As I think about days of doing little but coughing and sleeping I think of how the process of restoring good health to my body redeems time that seems like a waste. In the same way, Christ has redeemed all my life. All my past has been redeemed by his blood and I can learn from it. All my present days are times redeemed to let His glory shine through me. And my future, for all eternity I am His. He has redeemed me as His possession. Once I was a slave to sin. Now I am redeemed to be a bondservant, a friend and an heir of righteousness.

As I’ve been sick I’ve longed for a return to normal days and normal activities. I anticipate the moment when small actions won’t wear me out. When I am weak and I stumble, I am so thankful for the Lord’s open arms. I can always, even moment by moment, return to Him for He is always with me. I also anticipate His return, when He will renew all things, when He will redeem this world and restore a rule of holiness and righteousness.

Restore, Renew, Redeem and Return – Beautiful words of encouragement.

Give Me Your Eyes – A Powerful Reminder

On Sunday the sermon was about total surrender and the fact that God accepts nothing else. On Wednesday the message was about brokenness. Are we broken over the lost? Do we see the people through God’s eyes?  And my own reflection: how does that passion, that vision, that brokenness motivate me to action?

So often I am convicted and compelled onward in my walk with the Lord when I am again reminded that I do not love the way that He loves. His love is complete and compelling.  His love led to the cross.

This week I heard a song on the Internet radio which I immediately went and downloaded. It has been playing over and over again in my head.

Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give me your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the brokenhearted,
The ones who are far beyond my reach,
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten,
Give me your eyes so I can see…

Reflection on life in music

In June a teammate introduced me to the music of David Wilcox.  Being that I love folk music and acoustic guitar I have a hard time believing I went so long not knowing of his songs.  So I’ve been listening to some of his music and contemplating all of the truth that I find there.  I love thoughtful lyrics.  Poetry and the struggles common to man, reflected in song, always impact me more than just concepts on their own.  So I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you, in case you, like me, had no idea that these amazing songs existed.

Some of the songs I have been listening to:

Start with the Ending (Live: Stories and Songs) – A song about honesty and truth in relationships

Listen to Excerpt at Amazon (Right-click and select “Open in New Tab” or you will be directed away from this page.)

Perfect Storm (Airstream) – This song compares hiding and living.  Embracing the changes, the challenges and the storm’s of life is a reflection of part of what it means to really be alive. 

    Lightning cracks the darkness
    And for a moment I can see
    It’s just a spark to start with
    But I follow where it leads

    I can’t spend my whole life hiding
    Where no soul could ever thrive
    I can’t live with just surviving
    My heart wants to feel alive

    Life is change and change looks frightening
    Watch that wind, I’ve been warned
    But I live to feel this lighting
    in this perfect storm
     

    Listen to Excerpt of The Perfect Storm 

Show the Way (Live: Stories and Songs) - A song about how light shines more brightly when it comes through darkness, this song talks about life as a play where darkness is “cast around us” but Love wrote the script to show itself bigger, more powerful and stronger than darkness and hate.  As a Christian I can relate to this song in many ways.  I believe that our lives are lived by choice, not only by a heavenly script (though I think God has an unthwartable plan). I also believe from the Scripture that God’s plan includes this world being a testimony of His character in the heavenly realms, in the way we might watch a play unfold, as in the book of Job.  Darkness was cast into Job’s life to demonstrate the glory of God in the heavenly realms. Our lives also are a testimony to our hero, our Savior, who arrives just at the right time and in our darkest hour brings glory to Himself demostrating all that is good and right and true.

Two Roads Diverge and Hold It Up to the Light (Live: Stories and Songs) – This intro and song focuses on life decisions, how we choose and how we must trust the guidance that we are given all along the way.  There are some powerful thoughts about indecision, choice, fear and trust.

That’s What the Lonely is For (Live: Stories and Songs) - A thought provoking rendition that reminds me of the oft-used quote about how we have a God-shaped vacuum inside that can only be filled by God Himself.  This song speaks of loneliness as a sign, a symptom of something that we were made for that is missing in our lives and how we must “follow” – we must act to seek out what is missing.  (The intro to this song, called “Metaphorical Reasons” laid a lot of the foundation for the metaphors found in the song).

Get On (Vista) – Another song about indecision.  (Think it might be something that I struggle with in life?)  This song specifically speaks of trying to make a choice between the desire of the heart and the hesitation of the mind about said choice.

    It’s sure to take its toll on me
    My heart and mind will not agree
    There’s something in this mystery that calls me
    from beyond this blue
    Right now I only wish I knew
    Where all of this is leading to…

    And my heart says, come on let’s go
    And my mind’s saying I don’t know
    And the train is at the station
    But I’m lost in contemplation
    And this ticket’s only good for just so long
    I can think about it ’til that train is gone
    or just get on

    Listen to Excerpt of Get On

Hard Part (Vista) – This song is about being known – not just the easy parts but the hard things too.  I’m sure it was meant about a romantic relationship but I can’t help hearing the voice of God in it every time I listen to the words, “I’m strong enough to take it and I know what you’ve been through – You’ve got a whole heart, give me the hard part, I can love that too.”

Are you a David Wilcox fan?  Have a song you would recommend I listen to?  Leave a comment about it.

Thoughts of late

Michael Warden wrote a book called Gideon’s Dawn, a fantasy that revolved around the power of words. It was a fascinating book and I am looking forward to the sequel.

Shortly after reading his book I started reading his blog, which he calls The Sojourner Blog.

Often his posts make me think, but recently there have been two posts and an article that have stuck with me as they hit home even more than usual. If you are interested in checking them out the links are below.

The Power of Naming (or Renaming)

Watch Your Language

Exertion, Failure and the Transformational Life

Quote for the day

“The immaturity of my flesh, my worldly ambitions, my motives of self, my un-Christlike reactions, my anxieties, my impatience, my lack of trust…these all stand out like a sore thumb.  One of the frustrating peculiarities of the Christian life is that the longer one is at it, the less progress one sees.  The more one resists the flesh, the more devious that “old man” seems to become.  It is usually the spiritual toddler who testifies to great strides of faith and maturity almost daily or weekly.  The seasoned veteran in the wars of faith, however, has grown wise enough to recognize his own flesh for the subtle enemy it is and often despairs of seeing godliness reflected out of his heart.

The point is, I am so very, very aware these days of my failures, my weaknesses, my frailties and my defects of character.  I realize, of course, that no man or woman attains in this life to a level of spirituality that makes him or her worthy to speak about the high things of God.  We are all sinners and hypocrites together in that sense, looking toward a higher reality that we are capable of living out in practice.  That’s part of the growth process.   That’s why a pastor or teacher or author is nothing more than one thirsty sinner telling another where to find water.”

From Make Me Like Jesus by Michael Phillips

Journey 4/15/08

This week I’ve been thinking about a lot of things and have posted a couple of entires about those thoughts, so in my Journey I just wanted to share a quote that I found to be impacting.

“To evangelize a person is to say to him or her: you, too, are loved by God in the Lord Jesus. And not only to say it but to really think it and relate it to the man or woman so they can sense it. This is what it means to announce the Good News. But that becomes possible only by offering the person your friendship; a friendship that is real, unselfish, without condescension, full of confidence and profound esteem.”
Brennan Manning

Expectations and Eternal Perspective

Since the ladies retreat in March I’ve been mulling over the topic of expectations and how it relates to faith. I’ve thought a lot about the subject and could spend days discussing all the different perspectives that I can see in the Scriptures, but the theme that I have found repeating itself remains the centrality of an eternal perspective.

Why would God not move and do the thing that we think would be good and right and glorifying to Him in the moment? He sees all of eternity and can evaluate with perfect knowledge whether that thing is the BEST thing or not. We don’t know whether a thing is really the best thing or not when held in light of eternity. We see only in the finite.

My own expectations and desires, as dear as they are to my heart, are still finite. I was re-reading The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis again the other night and once again I was left pondering the quotes below.

How many of my expectations and desires are simple little mud pies compared to what God really has planned for me? What will I miss if continue to focus on what I think I want in this life? If I fail to make the hard choices (over and over again) to lift my eyes up and look beyond the circumstances of the finite, then I lose sight of the hope, the true expectation, that will never disappoint and the eternal perspective that is so central to the Scripture.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like the ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot image what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

“If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”

On a side note: I think that eternity, including teaching on heaven and the Kingdom, may be one of the most under-taught aspects of the Scriptures in the modern church. I understand the catch phrase that someone can be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good,” however, what we often refer to as the apostolic hope, what we really believe about eternity, effects every aspect of our Christian life. We were made for more than this world and if you want to challenge yourself to awaken hope in your life I’d recommend doing a Bible study on the theme of the Kingdom and Eternal Hope, in both the prophets and the New Testament. For further reading I would also recommend Ted Dekker’s The Slumber of Christianity and, of course, C.S. Lewis’ essay The Weight of Glory. Below is another quote from the essay, not on the subject of expectations and desires, rather on the subject of how our views of eternity and the eternal nature of mankind impacts our life here and now, just for thought.

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often of too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility will carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspections proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

The Love of God

I was reflecting on the words of the song “The Love of God” and I thought that I would share them with you.   See my comments at the end.

 By Rich Mullins
Romans 8:18-39
Ephesians 3:14-21

  There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

Now I’ve seen no band of angels
But I’ve heard the soldiers’ songs
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it’s never gonna stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of His love

Oh the love of God
And oh, the love of God
The love of God

Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I’m tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

The song really speaks for itself but here are some of my thoughts…

I’ve been thinking about the Christian life lately and about the character of God. So often I am tempted to put God in a box that I feel safe and comfortable with. Yet, God is so much bigger than me, (That is the understatement of the century!) and if I am feeling too comfortable, if I have lost that sense of awe that comes with realizing how beyond me He is, then I need to go back to my knees and repent of, once again, making Him too small in my eyes.

I often need to be reminded of the character of God in the line “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy I can not find in my own.” It is like God to redeem His enemies, to love the most vile of sinners and to forgive those that we desire to see pay for their crimes. His mercy is what saved me, but His mercy far exceeds what I can imagine or give. In fact, to be honest, sometimes His mercy is more than I am comfortable with.

Also, I love the lines, “Keeps me glad to have been caught in the reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.”

To truly follow God is not something controlled or comfortable. It is often an overwhelming path that may appear reckless (as it may very well lead to a cross or some other path of abandon). We don’t know how we will be tossed about in this world. We must trust his character, trust his goodness and hang on for the ride. If I wasn’t sure that God was really good, if I wasn’t certain that this life is fleeting and that I was made for eternity and if I wasn’t convinced that God really does have a plan that will work out all things for good, then this would be terrifying. But God is good. I was made for eternity and He will work out all things for the ultimate and eternal good of those who love Him. God’s perfect will is so much bigger and more unpredictable than can compare to my small plans and controlled ideas. And yes, for those of you who know me well, I do see the dichotomy that for all my personal desire for structure, clear plans and carefully laid out pathways, I find something irresistibly captivating about the wildness of God

Like a river rapid, God’s love doesn’t so much offer a calm wading in a small creek as it sweeps over and consumes you, with the intent of leading you to surrender your life to this love even as Christ did. If we let Him, if we abandon ourselves to Him, then we will be enfolded and swallowed up in His love and I want to be consumed with nothing else.

Contemplations

I’m sitting here contemplating the many facets of fear. I talked about fear in one of my updates last month and here I am again, thinking on it again.

Fear is a natural reaction, accompanied by adrenaline, a God implanted physical response to danger. Every time an angel appears it seems they start their message with “Fear Not.” People reacted with fear as a natural response to these awesome messengers from God.

Next, there is fear that becomes panic. This is the kind of fear where you let your initial chemical response to fear take over. Fueled by your worries this fear leads to irrational action and the inability to make wise decisions.

Then there is another type of fear: A conscious choice to give a situation the respect and consideration that it deserves. Yesterday, in the morning sermon, we studied the verse: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) This is a description of a “thinking” fear. It is a choice not to panic but to evaluate your fear and to determine a response.

So, you may be wondering why I am rambling on about fear. Just last week I talked with a teammate about how exhausting this life is for me and how I get frustrated at always feeling tired. She reminded me that this life that we live is one in which almost all of our control has been removed (which can be mentally and physically draining). I have no real control over my finances, God either provides or he doesn’t but I can’t go pick up an odd job to “help Him” make ends meet. And I can’t communicate clearly so that often leads to misunderstandings and removes the aspect of control from relationships. And things are always changing. I have to be willing to let God lead and change my plans, relinquishing schedules and my ideas of what I intend to do with my time. This morning I faced another situation that was out of my control and I faced moments of all three of these types of fear.

Gus woke me up early begging to be fed, as always. I walked into the hallway and saw that my windows were standing wide open. It wasn’t that someone broke in during the night because my things were all still here. We had a windstorm just after midnight. I can’t imagine how the wind opened two, double paned windows but it must have. The panic started when I couldn’t find Finn and realized he could have been gone all night. He’s an inside cat who simply doesn’t have any street smarts because he hasn’t had the outside life experience. I could only think of my cat Timothy who got out and was hit by a car. I started to let my initial, chemical response of fear take control.

I quickly bundled up and set out in the snow and ice calling my cat. I called a friend and sent a message to another who I didn’t think would be up. I asked for prayer and started praying as I walked. If my neighbors didn’t think I was a crazy American before they certainly do now that they saw me at the crack of dawn, walking around the streets in the snow and ice calling “Finnigan.” The amazing thing was that as I walked and prayed, God gave me a calmer, more realistic response to the danger of the situation while removing the panic. AND he helped me find Finn. Two hours later he was safe at home. I found him hiding under a car not far from here.

Still, that after-adrenaline knot in the pit of my stomach hasn’t completely gone away and here I sit contemplating fear. It really did amaze me how God could take away my panic and calm my heart even though the reason for fearing hadn’t been removed. I am so thankful for the presence of the living God in my life. When He says, “Do not fear, for I am with you,” (Isaiah 41:10) I believe it must mean the type of fear that leads to panic because His presence is able to calm our hearts, even in situations completely out of our control, if we will trust Him with our fears.

So I’m thanking Him for his answer to my prayer, for finding Finn safe and sound. And I am reminded that He is able to be my strength and calm my fears when I face situations in which I have no control, which is fairly often these days.

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me.

I thought of these lyrics by Civilla Martin (1905) this week and the verses that they are derived from. I am so thankful for the way that my heavenly Father watches over me. Though I am sure there are millions of ways in which He protects that my physical eyes never see, every now and then I get a visual demonstration of His hand on me. On Monday a semi truck ran a red light and by the grace of God I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I was able to hit the gas and jump ahead while the person behind me slammed on the breaks and skidded to the side so the truck went between us. It was just another thing to be thankful for in a very long list of blessings poured out on my life.

It also started me thinking and reminded me that God really does take note of the details of my life and that when the hard things comes, that He is not unaware. The things that He chooses to allow to pass through His hand into my life are not without reason or purpose. This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians 4. Verses sixteen through eighteen say:

 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an external glory that far outweighs them all. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I might not ever see the reason for the struggles I face with physical eyes, yet God is watching and more than that, He is filtering the details of life. He protects, guides, blesses and sometimes also allows situations to touch my life for purposes beyond my understanding. So I am thankful for the protection. I look for His guidance and I welcome His blessings. But I also accept the struggles that I find myself in because they too have a purpose. In the end, I pray that through the trials of life I will be molded into His image for His glory.