Quick thoughts: A note to self…

Instruction

Oh the myriad ways I toil as I seek to master the Word of God. How incredibly foolish to consider that I can even think I can “master” it.

It should be mastering me. Shaping me. Molding me. Changing me. So I say to myself…

Slow down.
Drink Deep.
Linger long.

Pay attention to the taste of it, the small, the texture.
Listen to its melody and note its cadence.
Sit and absorb like a sponge.
Attend to your thoughts, initial reactions,
confusion, delight, sorrow, joy, anger, fear.
Be present in them. Let yourself feel them.
You have permission to feel.
You have permission to emote.
You have permission to laugh. To cry. To yell.
You have permission to be silent.
You have permission to speak.

But you do not have permission to change what He has said.

Wrestle. Confess. Challenge.

But bow.

His Word is the final word.
Let it stand firm in Your heart.

Selah.

Subject Change…sort of…

Tenderly…by M. Lewis

Warning: Subject change…although, the more I think about it, maybe not such a drastic one. The more I think about this, the more I see this fit into this whole theme of discipleship I have been considering.

I am pondering the word “pursue” and what it means to pursue God. This was the charge from my church’s team meeting this week. Of course, the first place I went to begin this journey was my trusty dictionary app. Man, I love that app! 🙂 
Anyway, I know it’s not the best “blogging etiquette” to quote the dictionary, but I’m just going to throw etiquette out the window and do it anyway! It lays the foundation for what I want to say, and helps me form a mental picture of what it means to pursue God. So, what does the dictionary say about the word “pursue”:

to follow close upon; go with; attend; to strive to gain; seek to attain or accomplish (an end, object,purpose, etc.);  to carry on or continue (a course of action, a train of thought, studies, etc.); to follow; to chase after someone or something 

Synonyms of note: go after, seek, attend, hound, hunt, persevere, persist, shadow, tail, track, give chase, run after, search for, search out

I think it is worth noting at the outset that we pursue God only because He has pursued us first. That must be the starting point. 1 John 4 says “We love because He first loved us”. God is the initiator – He is the pursuer and we are the pursued. But just like in any good relationship, mutual pursuit begins to take shape as experience and affection deepen. We begin to long for Him, to seek Him, first in response to His initiation; but then because He starts to become the ultimate object of our deepest desires and hopes as we discover how truly wonderful He is.

That sounds so mushy, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to sound “romantic” – but I do mean for it to sound passionate. Because that is what pursuit is all about. Passion. If you are passionate about something (or someone), you will pursue that thing or that person. You will desire to know more, spend more time, more resources, more of yourself – all for the sake of that thing or that person. Should it not be so with God? He is, after all, the highest, purest, most majestic, most beautiful. He is above all; there is nothing higher than He.

This was the language of the psalmists, especially David. “Lord, I long for You…I desire You…I thirst for You…my soul pants for You” (Ps. 42, 63, 73, 84, 107, 119, 143). Nothing can satiate the appetite of our souls except God Himself. He is our supreme pursuit.

I used to think this could only be done in certain ways – darkened sanctuary, eyes closed, hands held high, singing glorious praise songs to our Lord. Or, in the quiet of the prayer closet, candle lit, head bowed (or better yet, on bended knee or prostrate) with tears streaming down my cheeks pouring down. I felt oddly inadequate – these moments do happen to me, when I am moved to tears, so awestruck I cannot utter a single word. Or my words come out in an unintelligible mess only God can understand (thank You, Holy Spirit) for all my sobbing. But this is not a daily occurrence – or even weekly occurrence.

Where does that pursuit happen for people like me? Where does God meet me, speak to my soul, lift my heart, put me to rest and make me feel secure in His arms?

When I am gazing at a beautiful sunset.

When I am walking through a complicated theological concept.

When I am reading, or writing about what I have read.

When I am talking to someone and I “happen” to say exactly what was needed in that moment.

In the assuring voice of a friend speaking life into a place in my life that only me and the Lord knew about.

When I am writing about Him, sharing what I have learned or experienced as I walk with Him.

In those moments, everyday, in a million different ways, God reaches down and touches my heart and soul in a way that only He knows is perfectly crafted for me. His deep knowing of me pulls me in and moves me follow. If I take the time to pay attention, I will sense His pursuit in every corner of my life. And His pursuit of me only causes me to want to pursue Him more. 

Full disclosure: there are times when I don’t feel the pursuit; where God seems distant or absent. Some have called this the “dark night of the soul”. I call it a desert. A dry, barren wasteland. The words above pour out of a heart that has been in this wasteland for at least eight years and is finally feeling the fresh water of God’s Spirit saturating me anew. So if it seems as though I am gushing (no pun intended…sorry!), it is because I am! He carried me through the desert and is now beginning to pull back the current to show me the reasons why. 
I am convinced the first reason was to demonstrate to me that this pursuit is going to look differently for everyone. There is no cookie cutter, 10-steps to pursuing God plan that fits everyone. And while there are spiritual disciplines that are beneficial for all believers, how we go about practicing those disciplines will look differently for each of us. 
I know this all circles back to discipleship…and at some point I will get to that. But I’ll leave it here for now and pick up my thoughts (wherever they happen to wander…wink) later.  
Until then,..grace and peace…

Why I’m observing Lent this year…

I have decided to observe Lent this year. We did not observe Lent when I was growing up; my first introduction to Lent occurred in seminary. I had heard of it before then, but had no real understanding why it would be something I’d want to consider. The more I learned about it, the more it intrigued me.

Lent is the season between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The purpose for this 40-day period is to prepare for the heart for Easter. Traditionally, Christians have observed this period through fasting and repentance. Usually we hear of the season of Lent in terms of “what are you giving up?” Some people give up a certain food, or TV, or Internet.
This year I have decided to fast from cable news and political commentary for 40 days. Those who know me well understand. I can spend endless hours flipping from one cable news channel to another, surfing through blogs from every side of the political argument, soaking in all my poor brain (and sometimes my blood pressure) can handle. I knew this was the right direction for me when I breathed a sigh of great relief after realizing the State of the Union address is happening before Lent so I won’t miss any of the action. To say I m a political junkie is indeed an understatement. I even started a separate blog as a platform to flesh out my political thoughts, such as they are. The thought of 40 days without hearing or reading the analysis on the latest drama in Congress makes me a little sad – although I may find my sanity in the midst of all of this…(wink).

So, why Lent? What is the focus for me this season?

Refocus my attention on the Lord
We are entering a time on the Christian calendar that, to me, is the most important. My anticipation for the Easter season grows year I walk with the Lord. During this time, we are remembering the purpose for which the Son of God came to the earth. To bear our sins on the cross. To die the death we deserve for our rebellion. To reconcile us to God. To rise again to give us new life. How glorious this gift of love; how deep the sacrifice. For me to sacrifice the hours I spend watching or reading politicians and pundits spar over the latest drama happening on Capitol Hill is minuscule compared to such a grand display of love and grace. The desire of the heart during Lent should be to focus our attention on our Lord, our Savior, our God. 
It’s easy for me to become so entangled in the shenanigans in Washington that I lose sight of the Lord. There’s nothing wrong with being informed – in fact I firmly believe we need to be educated about the major issues of our day. But I have allowed this activity to take precious time away from other pursuits, in particular, my pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord. My desire is to spend this time turning my attention back to that pursuit…to turn my attention back to God. 
To remind me Who’s really in charge
It’s easy for me to get caught up in the soap opera that is our government these days. Every time you turn around another crisis (usually centered on budget cuts and taxes) is on the horizon. Watching the violence that runs rampant in the streets of our cities from coast to coast makes my heart weep. Hearing the stories of those who are struggling to survive in an economy that is fighting to stay alive and actually grow can cause anxiety and worry to take my heart captive. Weather that has gone wild; countries terrorizing their citizens and conducting nuclear tests. It’s enough to raise your blood pressure. So much going on – so much that seems out of control.
Focusing on the cross reminds me of a few things. First, those things that ail us are beyond our ability to fix. No politician or cable news anchor and solve the problem. Grass roots efforts, as vital as they are, cannot erase the effects of such deep brokenness. They bring relief, but not ultimate relief. But – and there is always a glorious “but” with God – there is a hope that can sustain us no matter what we are facing personally, nationally or globally. The cross, the empty tomb – they shout hope to us. Our Lord has provided salvation for all who call on His name. And He is coming again to set all things right, to make all things new. 
This hope is the anchor for our souls (Heb. 6:18); it keeps us steady in the midst of any storm we face. As I walk through this season of Lent, I want to redirect my focus back to this hope. It is the only firm and secure foundation upon which to stand. 
Whether you choose to observe Lent or not, my prayer is that you would take time in the coming weeks to reflect upon the goodness of God, the salvation of God, and the hope that comes from resting in His promises. 
Grace and peace…

Standing in awe…

I love to sit on my balcony on a clear night – even a cold, clear night like tonight – and stare into the rich darkness, capturing the sparkle of stars that dot the great expanse. I find myself mesmerized by the simple, yet majestic beauty that lays before me. It inspires a sense of wonder and worship in my heart.

I often contemplate in my mind the vastness of what I am looking at – beyond the reach of our little planet’s atmosphere is a universe of incomprehensible size. When I allow myself to consider the size, my mind seems to shut down from overload; it is too great for me to imagine. When I was younger I used to try to figure out if there is an “end” to the universe, what is after that? How big is space? And what does nothing look like? Yes, I know – strange questions. But even before I knew the Lord personally, I was intrigued by Him and by creation itself. How was it all made; how was it all possible?

As a believer, the sky holds even deeper significance to me. For me, it is the best picture of the greatness of God, the power of God, the infinite wisdom and creativity of God. Whether I am shivering on my balcony on a cold winter night, or standing in awe of a gorgeous sunset, I am taken by the beauty of the sky. It is for me, a catalyst for worship, for standing in the presence of this God who is greater than anything I can ever fully take in.

Last night, I was reading in Ephesians 1 and was arrested by verse 4, and specifically these three words: “He chose us”. Before He founded the world, before He flung even one star into the sky, He chose us. And at that moment, it struck me – He chose me. It’s not as if I didn’t know this; I can’t count the number of times I have read this particular passage. Intellectually, I can say, “Okay, I get it”. But do I really get it? As those words began ringing in my heart, I felt that same breathtaking awe I feel when I see a beautiful sunset or gaze into that star-studded canopy that covers us. This great, powerful, infinitely wise God, creator of all, chose me and purposed to save me and restore me. What love is this…

What is it for you? What takes your breath away and causes you to stand in awe of the greatness – and nearness – of our God? I pray you take time to take a deep breath tonight and see His wonder…

More later…grace and peace…