Thursday, June 30, 2011

The union of communion

"do this in memory of Me"
1 Corinthians 11:24

For a Christian, communion is possibly the most beautiful part of a relationship with Jesus.  It's a reminder to us, and an acknowledgement of what He did for us, and it's accompanied (presumably) with a prayer of gratitude or appreciation.  

And I think, as we partake in communion, our minds generally go to two things:  Jesus' sacrifice on the cross ~ His body and blood being symbolized by the elements ~ and His communion with the Disciples during the Last Supper.  And I think there are some interesting things to note about that first instance of communion.  So let's look at some of John 13 ~ and try to really visualize the scene described here:

     "Jesus said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.'  Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.  

     Now there was, leaning on Jesus' breast, one of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved.  Simon Peter therefore mentioned to him to ask who it was of whom Jesus spoke.  

       And leaning back on Jesus' breast, the one whom He loved said to Him, 'Lord, who is it?'

       Jesus answered, 'It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.'  And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot."

For most of us, communion is quiet, solitary, and contemplative.  We are praying; repentant; and thankful.  But for the disciples, this meal was conversational, and intimate.  Notice what Scripture tells us about the position of John:  the one whom Jesus loved was leaning on Jesus' breast.

Now look at what this passage tells us about the position of Judas.  "Having dipped the bread, Jesus handed it to Judas."  Now remember, this was the night before Judas would betray Jesus, and yet Judas is seated in a place of honor ~ close enough for Jesus to hand him the bread He had dipped.  It's a wonder that he had been invited to participate in this celebration of Passover at all, but more than that, a short time before, Jesus had washed his feet.  

Communion is about our relationship with Jesus.  When we partake of the bread and wine, we should do it not only in memory of Him, but with Him, for we have been invited by Him.  But which position are you in?   John, called "the one whom Jesus loved," was intimately, comfortably leaning into Him.  That is communing with Jesus.  

Judas, on the other hand, had plans of his own.  When you are communing with Jesus, is your heart more focused on your plans, or His?   But know, that even if you are more focused on yourself, that He is reaching out to you.  You are the one that Jesus loves.

~ "Everyone ought to examine themselves 
before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup." ~
1 Corinthians 11:28

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Persistence in Prayer

"ask... seek... knock..."
Luke 11:9

The Apple of my Eye gave me some great news today.  But to fully appreciate the greatness of this news, you have know some background facts.  As I shared recently, Hubby has been looking for a job for quite some time.  He's been doing temp and freelance work in the 2 1/2 years (yes, you read that right) that he's been out of work, but actually he was so unhappy at his job, that he's actually been looking for a job for about 3 1/2 years.  It's not an unusual story in this economy, but it doesn't make it any easier, knowing that.  Being without a steady salary has been a long, faith-testing trial for us, and for our Amazing Boy and Awesome Girl.  And during this time, the most powerful weapon we have had, has been prayer.

Well, the great news is that The Apple of my Eye has a job interview later this week.  He has sent out thousands of resumes in the past three years, and has gone on who-knows-how-many interviews, without our desired result, but every positive response from a potential employer brings us a jolt of hope.  And when he told me today about the interview, my first thought was to get an email out to our prayer warriors.  But then I thought, "what am I going to say to them?"  I just felt like I've made this same request so many times, that I'm afraid they're going to feel like I've been crying "wolf" all the other times.  I felt like I had to phrase the prayer request just right so they'll have the same urgency or faith in their prayers for us, and not think something like, "here we go again..."

Of course, those thoughts passed quickly.  Those people in our lives who are prayer warriors are so, because of their fervency, and their endurance.  And I think I was projecting some of my feelings onto my praying friends, because I honestly didn't know what to pray.  What is there to say to God?  He knows our hearts' desires.  He knows what we want, and how badly we want it.  And there were times, especially early on in this trial, when my anxiety about our future hit a peak.  Nights I cried out to Him, begging Him for this chapter in our lives to end.  But He said, "not yet."

And then the next time Hubby had a job interview, I prayed again, "Your will be done; please let this one be Your will!"  And He said "not yet."

I am reminded tonight of the parable that Jesus told that spoke to this exact issue.  It's in Luke 18.  In a certain town there was a widow who kept coming to the judge, pleading with him to grant her justice.  When he finally gave in, he specifically said it was because "this widow keeps bothering me".  And the Lord finished by saying, "And will not God bring about justice for His holy ones, who cry out to Him day and night?  Will He keep putting them off?  I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly."

There are two very significant things about this parable.  They are the first verse, and the last.  Verse 1 says that the reason Jesus told His disciples this parable was "to show them that they should always pray and not give up."  Not a lot of Jesus' parables had such an obvious goal.  Often, the lesson of a parable requires some study; in this one, we are told what He wants us to learn ~ that we should always pray and not give up.  Always pray; do not give up!

The last verse of this parable is verse 7:  "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"  I realize anew that God's desire is for our faith to grow.  Prayers that don't have obvious responses from God call for more faith.  It's our only choice, other than turning our backs on Him entirely.  He expects us to have the same urgency, the same fervency in our hundredth prayer as in our first.  Our prayers may not always be accompanied by anxiety, or by tears, but He should know that we trust in His will, and in His plan.  He understands weariness, but He expects perseverance.

~ "Everyone who asks receives; 
the one who seeks finds; 
and to the one who knocks, 
the door will be opened." ~
Luke 11:10

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gentle strength

"He tends... He gathers... He gently leads"
Isaiah 40:11

As I've probably mentioned before, I'm fascinated by the duality of God.  The way His characteristics seem  to defy one another.  It's just so hard for us to fathom who He is, much less how He is who He is.

This chapter of Isaiah is a good example.  I love this chapter for its ending, which might be my favorite verse in all of Scripture:

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

I love this verse because there is so much grandeur to it.  It speaks of waiting, hoping in the Lord, which I think is important because so much of life seems to be about waiting.  And I love the imagery of an eagle soaring, and the promise of strength in times of weakness ~ the gift of hoping in Him.

So when I sat down to read chapter 40 today, I knew what was coming.  It's a soaring chapter the whole way through, with verses like "The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them..."  and "See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power..."

Then the chapter goes into this amazing discourse:  "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?  Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?  Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as His counselor?...  

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth... He stretches out the heavens like a canopy... 

'To whom will you compare Me?  Or who is My equal?' says the Holy One.  Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:  Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.  Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing...

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom."

And yet, in the middle of all that power and strength and majesty and dominion is this:  verse 11 ~ "He tends His flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young."

Can you reconcile this in your mind?  In my mind I see a warrior, armor on, weapon drawn, and yet a lamb cradled in his arms.  Or, wait, I just thought of this picture I once saw:

Isn't that a great picture?  I just love how it speaks of strength, and tenderness.

Are you calling on His power, and resting in His gentleness?  If you pictured Jesus sitting down next to you on the sofa this evening, would you picture powerful and awesome, or would you picture caring and comforting?  Because He is both.  He's whatever you need, all the time, and He's whatever you don't need, all the time, too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Battle, Rest, Repeat

"fight the good fight of faith"
1 Timothy 6:12

Boy, some days feel like a fight, don't they?  Relentless and exhausting and frustrating.  Interacting with people that we've been commanded to love, when we're not feeling love.   Am I growing from that?  Or if I choose the wrong battle, do I not grow?  I suppose, as long as we're learning from our mistakes, they are part of the process.

Am I choosing the right battles?  Some of them, admittedly, give us no choice.  They appear in front of us, and our only option is to draw our sword.

Other battles are quicksand.  We should have seen them coming, and avoided them entirely.  Or if that's not possible, then we should know after the first step that we are not on solid ground, and backtrack in a hurry.

The verse before today's verse (which would be verse 11, if you're keeping score) says, "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness."  That is the fight.  No matter the people involved, no matter the issue.  As I deal with an unpleasant situation that is someone else's doing, am I pursuing godliness?  As I deal with difficult or challenging people, am I pursuing endurance?  As I explain to my kids the decisions I made, and why, am I exhibiting both righteousness and love?

Paul says the good fight, is the fight of faith.  It's not a battle with someone, or against a situation, it's a battle to keep my faith, to strengthen and increase my faith.

It is a fight.  But we have been given the necessary armor for defense, and the necessary weapon for offense.  And the victory is secure.  And I'm grateful that He promises rest.  Because tomorrow, we have to be ready to fight again.

Now that's some much needed rest!
~ "This is the victory that has overcome the world, 
even our faith." ~
1 John 5:4

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I dress better than I did in the 80s, too

"yesterday and today"
Hebrews 13:8

I had an interesting day today ~ I stepped into a time machine...

I spent lunch with some of my closest friends, at a wedding shower.  These are probably the people who know me best, outside of my family.  I see them on a regular basis, and a common topic of conversation is obviously our faith ~ what part of the Bible we're studying at church, either on Sundays, or in the weekly Bible study.  Or we talk about what God is working on in our lives or how we're growing (or are trying to grow!)

From there I drove to a celebration of another friend's wedding.  This was one of my closest friends from high school.  I've seen her quite a few times since then, but it's been awhile.  But there were also a few folks there I haven't seen at all since high school.  So after spending time with the people who know me best at this point in my life, I then spent an hour or so chatting with people who knew me best 25 years ago.

As I drove home, I got to thinking about how much I've changed.  Twenty-five years is a long time.  Of course there have been life changes ~ I got my college degree, I'm married now, I've got kids, I've had and lost jobs, bought and sold houses...  But other than becoming a mom, in many ways, a description of me would sound the same.  My hobbies and interests are the same ~ even The Apple of my Eye is the same!  {Boyfriend then, husband now.}  And now, as then, my faith is the most important thing in my life.

But for all that seems the same about me, I'm very different.  After all, I've spent the last twenty-five years trying to grow my faith, and become more like Jesus.  I'm less anxious, and more forgiving, and since I have a lot more Scripture memorized, I think it's safe to say I'm wiser, too.   But I'm sure my old friends couldn't tell that.  After all, we just talked about marriages, kids and jobs.   And there's just no way to share spiritual growth and deep feelings when you stick to small talk.

And as I drove, thinking all this, I passed a church with Hebrews 13:8 on their sign out front.  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Being reminded of that, when I was in the middle of thinking about time and change, left me speechless.  Of course, I wasn't really talking anyway, as I was alone in the car, but it sort of left me thoughtless.   Well, you know what I mean...

My first reaction was a little chagrined.  I'd been thinking about how I'd changed, without really thinking about how He has changed me.  Man, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves, don't we?  :)

I also felt something like relief at the Lord's consistency.  He is reliable, faithful and worthy of my trust.  And His unchanging quality is largely why we can trust Him.  The God who created the universe, is the Son who came down to earth to save us, is the Spirit who lives in us, is the Lord who will come again, fulfilling the prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

And I felt awe at the idea of never changing.  As humans, we can't help changing.  All we can do is work to change for the better.   God is perfection already.   I'm a better person, and a better Christian than I was all those years ago, but still a long way from where I want to be... a long way from who I want to be...

Improving is good.  Not needing to, is better.

~ "The Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow of turning" ~
James 1:17

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Light Expectations

"my expectation is from Him"
Psalm 62:5

I'm going to a bridal shower this weekend.  Is there anyone more optimistic than a young bride-to-be?    She's in love, and the future looks nothing but rosy.   She's on the edge of beginning her "happily ever after".  Even in an economy like this one, she's probably realistic about gas prices and their ability to get a loan when the time comes to buy a house, but it's a very hopeful realism.  A very optimistic realism, if you will.

I think the longer we live, the more we are able to take difficulties in stride.  When you've seen very hard times, it makes the merely hard times seem less hard.   When we walk through a valley, we have more faith, when we've seen valleys deeper than this one!

But I also think that as our perspectives change, so do our expectations.   We can become more "realistic" and in so doing, lose our optimism.  Case in point:  this morning, out of the blue, my Amazing Boy said that every night, before he goes to sleep, he prays "that Daddy will get a million dollars".  I was wondering why he didn't just pray for a permanent job for Daddy, but I didn't say that.  I said, "Really?  Why do you pray that?"  And he said, "because if Daddy had a million dollars we wouldn't have to worry about money anymore."  It was so simple the way he said it.  His thought process was so... obvious.

Of course, I took the opportunity to remind him that rich people are not always happy, and that even without a million dollars, God is providing for us every day.  But I was getting a lesson, too.  My prayers are for the solutions that seem logical to me.  I don't know about you, but I sort of pray for just enough, you know?  I don't ask God for the moon ~ where would I put it?   And I don't want to be greedy.

But maybe I'm limiting God.  Ephesians 3:20 says He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  Why would I want to bring down the level of my imagination?

The whole theme of this humble blog is about expecting.  Expecting love and laughter from life; expecting understanding and knowledge from His Word; expecting lessons from Him during ordinary events and conversations.  I expect light from Him every day.  I expect light from His Word and from my prayers.  But perhaps, the light He offers is even brighter than I've been expecting.  Maybe I should crawl in with my Amazing Boy when I'm tucking him in at night, and share in his prayers.   I have a feeling that, even lying there in the dark, I'll be blinded by the light.

~ "My soul, wait silently for God alone,
for my expectation is from Him." ~
Psalm 62:5

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Desserts

"according to what their deeds deserve"
Jeremiah 17:10

A friend of mine got a traffic ticket today.  I was in the car with her, and neither of us thought she deserved it.  And that can happen.  The people giving out the tickets are human, and can make mistakes.  And it's entirely possible they did in our case.   Depends on who you ask, I guess.  Deserving is in the eye of the beholder...

Now here's another way to look at the concept:  As I mentioned a few days ago, the Apple of my Eye, and I were blessed with the chance to attend a recent U2 concert.  Now, to fully appreciate this story, you should know that Hubby and I have been hit hard by this economy, as many have.  He has been out of work for over two years.  We had our $avings (for awhile) and there has been temp work, but money is tight.  An expense like concert tickets is out of the question.  But a series of events that happened to other people, led to a gift for us.  The U2 tour was sidelined last year due to Bono's need for emergency surgery, and the concert in our area was one of the ones to be rescheduled.  We have friends who had tickets to the concert, but in the year since the original date, they had moved out of state, so they gave their tickets to us.  We had a wonderful evening, and when we thanked them for the fiftieth time, they graciously replied, "You deserve it!"  Hubby and I just looked at each other.  Why did we deserve it??  No idea.  Deserving is in the eye of the beholder, I guess...

Example #2:  A few weeks ago, when I went get the mail, I noticed an envelope from an acquaintance.  I assumed it was a thank-you note for something (small) I had done for her a few months ago.  Well, it was indeed a note, but it was accompanied by a very generous check.  Now, I've only known her a matter of months, and I'm not even sure she knows Hubby's job situation, but she said she felt led by the Holy Spirit to bless us.  We were overwhelmed, and my sweet Hubby was reluctant to cash the check, because he felt undeserving of such a gift.  But I guess deserving is in the eye of the beholder...

Truth be told, all any of us really deserve, is hell.  Sorry if that's blunt, but it's true.  Romans 6:23 ~ the wages of sin is death.  But God blesses all of us, every day.  Food, health, homes, clothes, friends, the list goes on.  And we deserve none of it.  And I'll tell you what else we don't deserve ~ eternal life.  We don't deserve the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, and we certainly don't deserve forgiveness, righteousness, or eternity in heaven.

But... fortunately for all of us, deserving is in the eye of the Beholder.

~ "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, 
to reward each person according to their conduct, 
according to what their deeds deserve." ~
Jeremiah 17:10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Multiple Choice

I've been progressing very slowly in my "You ~ Yes, You ~ Can Read The Whole Bible In A Year" schedule.   More accurately, I haven't moved for days.  I've tried.  I sit down, and open the Bible and check the schedule to see where I'm supposed to read next, and then I go right back to where I was the day before ~ Romans chapter 8.  I just keep reading that chapter over and over again.

Do you have any passages of the Bible that you just love?  Chapters that are full of verses that lift you up, instruct you, and remind you what you need to know?

So I've settled down for a good long rest in Chapter 8.  I shared earlier in the month of the power of the first verse:  "There is therefore now no condemnation..." but it does not go downhill after that.

So for today, I have pulled a few of these amazing verses, so you can choose the one that means the most to you!

I feel very instructed ~ warned, even ~ by verses 5-7.  Notice the theme in the following:

"those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh..."

"the mind governed by the flesh is death..."

"the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace..."

"the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God..."

Obviously, I've emphasized what stands out to me; it's the word "mind".  Never forget the battle that goes on in and for your mind.  Verse 6 says that being spiritually minded is life and peace, which means anything else is a mind governed by the flesh.  Depression, discouragement, anxiety, unhappiness, fear... none of these are from God.  If that's what we are feeling, then at that point we are losing the battle.  Pray for your mind.  Ask God to protect your mind, your thoughts and your memory.

Romans 8 is also the location of two of the sweetest words in Scripture:  "Abba, Father" (verse 15).  I love this reminder that although He is sovereign, majestic, Creator and Judge, He invites us to call on Him with a term of intimacy.  It is the equivalent of calling Him, "Daddy".  Could anything be more reassuring as we face the day in this world of uncertainty?

Verse 17 is both a warning and hope in difficult times:  "indeed we share in His sufferings... that we may also share in His glory."  And further:  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Yes, there will be a reward for your suffering. Please remember that.

Verse 24 is an encouragement to me in times when it seems like the end, the solution, the reward, will never come:  "Hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."  Wait patiently, but never stop hoping!

Verse 28 is one most Christians know by heart, but it's just one of the verses that makes Romans 8 so powerful!  "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

As overwhelming as that verse is, the chapter raises the bar even higher, concluding with promise after promise.

Verse 31 ~ "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Verse 35 ~ "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?"

Verse 37 ~ "No!  In all these things we are more than conquerors {more than conquerors!} through Him who loved us."

Verse 38 ~ "Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers; neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation {nothing!} will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Are you celebrating yet??  Amen!  Praise God!   Hallelujah!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who needs you?

"the Lord has need"
Matthew 21:3

I was feeling needed today.  And not in a good way.  Do you have anyone in your life that seems like they'd fall over if you weren't always catching them?   If you're a mom, especially of young ones, you probably know that feeling well.   I know women whose husbands seem helpless, although I hasten to add that I am not one of those women.  I think there are also plenty of people who wonder how their bosses would ever manage without them.   We all like to feel needed, but we all know the feeling of when we would like someone to just please take control of their own life!

On the other hand, I know for a fact I can sometimes be needy.  I'll be the first to admit I'm high-maintenance, although I do most of the maintaining myself!  :)  But certainly, especially for the Apple of my Eye, I sometimes need someone who understands me, and can be what I need, when I'm needy.   But mostly I feel more needed, than needy.  Probably a lot of us do...

This verse today has long fascinated me.  I think this line is in all of the gospels, and it comes from the circumstance of what is called Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.   He had sent two disciples into the village, to bring back a donkey and her colt, and if anyone was to say anything to the disciples, they were to reply, "The Lord has need of them."

And I think, How can the Lord be "in need" of anything?  He is all things!  The Alpha and the Omega; the Bread of Life and the Living Water.  All that He desires is His, in an instant.  After all, He created the universe with only a word!

But our Lord, while on earth, as a Man, gave up the comfort and joy of heaven, and experienced need, which is defined as "a lack of something desirable or useful; a condition requiring supply or relief".  Jesus had need of food and water, rest and companionship.  And wouldn't it have been glorious to have lived when He did, and have the opportunity to fill His needs?

But what does He need now?  A need is defined as something "required" and required is defined as "essential or demanded".  So the question becomes, what does He demand?

Micah 6:8 demands that we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.  And Jesus Himself reminded the Pharisees that we are commanded to love the Lord with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds.

Our Creator, who does not lack anything, has needs that only you can fill.  He requires your heart, to love as He loved.  He requires your mind, to think on that which is good.  He requires your hands, to serve others and give evidence of a faith that is not dead.  He requires your feet, to take you to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  And He requires your mouth, that you would be His witness, and speak of all the Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance.

He is everything you need, but you are what He needs, too.  And to whom much is given, much is required.

~ "You shall open your hand wide to him 
and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, 
whatever he needs." ~
Deuteronomy 15:8

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Things You Don't Know

Can you remember the first time you heard the expression "the tip of the iceberg"?  Can you remember what it felt like when you realized that the ice mountains we see breaking the surface of the water are only a fraction of their actual size?  Incredible.  You don't know by looking at an iceberg, how big it is.

Here are some other things you don't know...

You don't know how many gallons of water there are in the ocean
     or how many grains of sand there are on even one beach
          or what forms of life exist at the deepest parts of the ocean

And you don't know the day or the hour when Jesus will return to earth (Matthew 24:36)

You don't know if the Loch Ness Monster exists
     or the Abominable Snowman
          or Bigfoot

And you don't know the things God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9)

You don't know where disappearing socks go
     or how many different kinds of insects there are in the rainforest
          or what happened to Amelia Earhart

And you don't know the secret things of God (Deuteronomy 29:29)

You don't know where the Ark of the Covenant is
     or what the deal is with crop circles
          or if there is a Fountain of Youth

And you don't know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18)

Neither do I.  But someday I will.  And in the meantime, I sure love wondering!

~ "Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord!" ~
Hosea 6:3

Monday, June 20, 2011

U2 ~ How long must they sing this song?

"to the ends of the earth"
Acts 1:8

I was one of the lucky few to be able to see U2 in concert last weekend.  Well, one of the lucky 55,000 + in that particular stadium... And one of the lucky hundreds of thousands to see them on this tour... But still ~ not everyone got to go, so I was blessed to have the chance.

And I'm pleased to be able to give a shout-out to the two very nice gentlemen sitting next to me.  Guys, it was a pleasure meeting you, and congratulations, Guy On The Far Left, on your new baby boy!

I've seen U2 in concert before, but it has been many years.  Amazing Boy and Awesome Girl wanted to know what was so special about this band that makes them so popular after so many years, so I got to thinking about it.

One of the reasons they've been so successful for so long is ~ obviously ~ their music.  They are very talented musicians and songwriters.  They play music that people want to listen to.  That's the key to success in that business.

Another reason they are still drawing huge crowds, is Bono's business savvy.  He rides the fine line of staying in the public eye enough to pique people's interest, but not so much that the public gets sick of him. A lot of celebrities cross way over that line.

But I think the main reason for their success ~ maybe even more than their music ~ is their message.  Songs like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride" were written speaking to specific events in history, but their messages continue to speak to the condition of the world today.

If you're a faithful ~ or even occasional ~ reader of this humble blogger, you'll know that my goal every day is to find some lesson, point, or reminder that God has for me, in everyday experiences.   My lesson during that wonderful concert probably will not surprise you ~ global awareness.

I'm a pretty currents-savvy kind of gal.  I'm not very much interested in local news, but I'm very interested in national and international happenings, and you can't spend very much time listening to Bono, whether in concert or in an interview, without being reminded of things going on in the world that one would rather deny.  Over the course of two hours, we were made aware of political prisoners in Burma, AIDS victims, U.S. Congresswoman and gunshot-victim Gabrielle Giffords, as well as her husband Mark Kelly, Astronaut and Shuttle Commander.  Bono spoke and sang, and there were video reminders, of the treatment of the women in the middle-east, the earth's rapidly-disappearing natural resources, and the growing problem of obesity (probably mostly in the U.S., if I had to guess...)

But my lesson went deeper than that.  I'm aware of civil wars, natural disasters, terrorists and genocidal dictators.  But those truths rarely make the transition from head knowledge to heart knowledge for me.  I think that's because a lot of what's happening in the world is simply too painful to know.  Does that happen to you?  Sometimes if we know details of the pain that someone is going through, it hurts us, too.  So we choose to simply deny, or refuse to think about it.  I pray for people in faraway countries when I hear stories about them, but then I think I've done my duty.  This weekend, I felt that God wants me to hurt more for them.

After all, He does.

Until the other night, I had never heard of Aung San Suu Kyi.  She was elected President of Burma, in the Nation League for Democracy Party, in 1990, but has been under house arrest since 1989.  She was just released in November of 2010.  In that time, I got married to the love of my life, had two amazing and awesome children, bought two houses (one at a time), and a couple of cars.  I went on wonderful and memorable vacations, attended weddings and parties and graduations.

All that time, I didn't know about Mrs Suu Kyi, and I didn't know about the other 2300 + political prisoners in Burma. And that means that I didn't pray for them, and I didn't hurt for them.

But this weekend, I cried for them.  I cry right now for them, and I cry for people I don't even know that I don't know.

Every day, when I learn a lesson from God, I hope to hang on to it.  I hope it sticks with me for longer than it takes me to blog about it.  But this time, I am not just hoping I'll remember, I'm praying I'll hurt.

Because if I'm crying, then I'll know that I'm caring.  So I hope you cry, too.

~ "You will be My witnesses...
to the ends of the earth " ~
Acts 1:8

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Is there a difference between rage, fury and anger?

"Cain was very angry" ~ Genesis 4:5
"Jacob became angry" ~ Genesis 30:2
"Moses was angry" ~ Exodus 16:20
"Moses became very angry" ~ Numbers 16:15
"Samuel was angry" ~ 1 Samuel 15:11
"Saul was angry" ~ 1 Samuel 18:8
"David was angry" ~ 1 Chronicles 13:11

I was a trifle irked today.  Can you tell?  A friend of mine ~ someone very dear to me ~ said something to me that I wish she hadn't.  And worse than just saying something not so nifty -- what could be worse, you ask?

She said something about one of my kids.  You wanna make a mom angry?  Aim at her child.

Now, she certainly didn't mean to be unkind.  I know she didn't.  She's crazy about my kid - she's practically been a second mom.  But there it was.  The statement was made and I was livid.  For about ten minutes, I alternated between pacing the floor, crying, and venting to the Apple of my Eye.  I didn't respond to her at all (her comment had been in print) but I thought of several things I could say.

Nothing unkind, you understand, just letting her know how she'd made me feel.  You know, just honesty.  That's good between friends, right?

But after about ten minutes, I  had given it to God.  Just let it go.  Which is good, although I'm not sure what I'm going to say to her the next time I see her.  She's probably going to bring it up, and I don't know if I'm supposed to pretend I'm okay with it.  That seems like lying.  Is that the kind of lying God wants us to do?  I don't know...

So after I settled down, I started to give thought to the emotion of anger.  I know a few verses off the top of my head, like Ephesians 4:26, "In your anger, do not sin," and James 1:19: "everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

But when I looked to see what else Scripture had to say on the subject, I noticed two things.  First of all, I noticed all those verses on the top of this post.  Look at all of those amazing heroes of the Bible who knew well the feeling of anger!

I know, Saul doesn't really count as a hero, but he was a good guy for awhile.  And Cain wasn't a hero, but he's there because he's the example of what happens if we disobey: "In your anger, do not sin."

Anyhow, it reassured me to see righteous men feeling anger ~ some of it even directed at God!

The other thing I noticed was that most of the time, when I came across the words "anger" or "angry" in Scripture, it was talking about God.  Maybe an indication that it's an emotion that should be reserved for Him?  Hmm.....

I was proud of myself today, because after only a few minutes, I had released my anger, and because I had obeyed the dictum in Ephesians ~ do not sin in your anger.  But then I saw Matthew 5:22, when Jesus said, "I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement," so maybe I don't have that much reason to be proud after all...

Anger is inescapable.  Those of us with a long fuse have to deal with it less than those of us with a short fuse, but it's there nonetheless.  But the good news is, it's there along with other things, like love, joy, and peace... like kindness, gentleness and goodness.  All we have to do is let those win.

~ "An angry person stirs up conflict, 
and a hot-tempered person commits many sins... 
because human anger does not produce 
the righteousness that God desires... 
Rid yourselves of things such as anger and rage." ~
Proverbs 29:22... James 1:20... Colossians 3:8

~ "The Lord is slow to anger, 
abounding in love, forgiving sin and rebellion."
Numbers 14:18

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Repeat as Needed

"Break up your unplowed ground"
Hosea 10:12

Okay, I may be pushing my luck with this lesson, but I learned something interesting today, from my shampoo.  Well, really my shampoo wasn't teaching me anything, but it was part of my realization.  Ever have an epiphany in the shower?  It's a great place to do some thinking.  It's quiet in there, except for the water, which creates a nice "white noise" to cover the neighbor's lawn-mowing or whatever.  No phone, no kids, no TV.  {I hope you don't have a TV or a phone in there!}  So it's not unusual for my brain to have a chance to turn to things spiritual.

And recently I found out something that has been very helpful to me.  This is purely worldly, this piece of advice I'm about to give you.  I'll get to the deep, spiritual stuff in a minute.  And you might already know this, and if you do, you'll probably think, "duh..."  Or maybe you don't know this, but doesn't apply to you anyway, so you won't care.  Or maybe you have the same problem I do, and this will be a help to you, too!  :)

I have long, fairly thick, somewhat curly hair.  So shampooing takes a little more time ~ and a little more shampoo ~ than it does for The Apple of my Eye, who has hair slightly longer than a crew cut.   Well, a few weeks ago, for some reason, I brushed my hair before I got in the shower.  I don't know why I did.  I never have before.  But I discovered that day that it is so much easier to shampoo!  My hair is thoroughly wet in about ten seconds, whereas it took closer to a minute or two before.  And it takes me less shampoo to get a good lather, and get my hair thoroughly clean.

It's all about preparation.  A little preparation made what followed easier, and more successful.  And that's where I started to make a spiritual connection.

The most important part of being prepared, which it comes to spirituality, is prayer.  And the most important time to prepare ourselves, is before reading the Bible.  Does that seem strange?  Well, do you brush your teeth before you go to the dentist?  Do you wash your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher?  I have friends who have cleaning ladies who come regularly, but my friends clean their house before their cleaning lady comes to clean their house!

Why would people do things like this?  So that the dentist, the dishwasher, the maid, can do the best job possible.   Well, Scripture can do a work in us, but it will accomplish more if we are as ready as we can be.  Isaiah 6 has a great passage that speaks to this.  It's only six verses long, but it's powerful.

Isaiah is speaking of a vision, wherein he saw the Lord, high and exalted, in His temple, attended by seraphim, who were praising Him continually.  The temple was filled with smoke, and shook with the sound of their voices, and it brought Isaiah to a realization of his unworthiness.  "Woe to me!" he cried out.   "I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the Lord Almighty!"

Isaiah recognized his sinfulness but was helpless to do anything about it.   Do you recognize your sinfulness as you sit down to the undeserved banquet of His Word?

At Isaiah's cry, one of the seraphim flew to him with a live coal in his hand, with which he touched Isaiah's mouth.  "Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for."  Isaiah confessed his sin, and was cleansed.  Now he was prepared for what the Lord had to say to him.  Are you ready for what the Lord has to say to you?

What the Lord had to say to Isaiah, is the same thing He says to us:  "Whom shall I send?  Who will go?"  

And because he was cleansed, because he was ready, Isaiah responded:  "Here am I.  Send me!"

We can sit down and read the Word any time of day, and always get something out it.  Isaiah 55 promises that His Word will never return void.  But seed that falls on prepared ground will fare better than seed sown on rocky ground.   A little preparation can yield great growth.

~ "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." ~
Matthew 4:9

Friday, June 17, 2011

No, I don't really know how to pronounce it...

"do what is good in your eyes"
2 Samuel 19:27

I was reminded today of a wonderful account in Scripture.  It's in 2nd Samuel, and it's about a man named Mephibosheth.  He's the one that spoke the words in today's verse.

Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, King David's dear friend, and he had been lame in both feet since he was five.   David had become king after his nemesis, King Saul, had died.  Jonathan had died in battle as well, and David could have had all the relatives of the previous king killed.  I guess that was some kind of weird custom in those days.  Let's hear it for democracy, shall we?  And as you read the amazing, protracted, painful story of Saul and David, you might not be surprised that David would want to eliminate everyone that reminded him of the man who had tried repeatedly to kill him.

But so precious to David was his friendship with Jonathan, that he sought out Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, and showed him kindness, honoring the deep friendship that David and Jonathan had shared.  David returned to Mephibosheth the land that had belong to Saul, and granted him a place at the king's table, for the rest of his life.  Mephibosheth was humbled and honored by David's gracious kindness.  He knew he had no reason to expect it, and no way to repay it.

We don't read about Mephibosheth again until after David's struggles with his own son, Absalom.  Absalom had schemed to take over the kingdom from his father, and many men in the kingdom took sides, either with David or with Absalom.  During this chaotic time, Mephibosheth's servant betrayed him.  Hoping to impress the king with his own false loyalty, he told David that Mephibosheth was siding with Absalom.  He told David that Mephibosheth was hoping David would lose his position as king.  David believed him, and transferred ownership of all of Mephibosheth's land to this servant, instead.

This is not the first time in Scripture that a Bible hero does something stupid.  And it's not the first ~ or last ~ time we see David doing something stupid, but this breaks my heart.  Why oh why, didn't he find out Mephibosheth's side of the story?  I mean, I suppose it's because half his kingdom had turned against him, and he had no reason to believe Mephibosheth was loyal.  But still...

But after Absalom was dead, and David's kingdom was secure once more, Mephibosheth went to meet his king.  Mephibosheth knew what his servant had done, and he knew that David might be angry enough at him to have him executed.  But he bravely went anyway.  And you might think his purpose was to try to get his land back.  But he came to David in mourning, explaining that he was betrayed by his servant.  And that's all he wanted ~ for David to know his loyalty.  He asked for nothing from David, but told his king, "do whatever is good in your eyes."

Now, imagine this is you.  See yourself in this position, not with King David, but with the King of Kings.  You, just like Mephibosheth, are lame.  You are crippled by your sin, and your weak flesh.  You are at the mercy of your gentle, gracious King.  You know you have already received more than you deserve, more than you could ever ask, for you have been given a place at the banquet table of the King, and a share in His inheritance.  Do you say, humbly, and confident in His mercy, "Do to me what is good in your eyes."?  Do you rely on the wisdom of your King?  Do you know in your heart that whatever He has planned for you is what is best?  Remember, you are not talking to an earthly king, with fleshly whims and occasional bad judgement.  You are talking to your Creator; your Savior.

I do not know what my King plans for my life.  But I do know that I have already received more than I ever deserved, and I can trustingly say to Him, "whatever is good in Your eyes."

This account of Mephibosheth ends with David compromising by giving half the land to Mephibosheth, and half to the servant.  But Mephibosheth replies that the servant can have it all.  "It is enough that my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house."  What an admirable attitude.  It is enough for Mephibosheth to be in the presence of his king.  Is it enough for you?

~ "You are my King, O God." ~
Psalm 44:4

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Good" is as "good" does

"God saw that it was good"
Genesis 1

I'm celebrating the word "good" today.  I'm thinking of the many definitions of the word "good", and how all those definitions apply to God, and I began to think of all He has created for us...

My Awesome Girl has become quite the photographer lately.  For the past few years, it's been her favorite part of our vacations.  While Amazing Boy drinks up all the American history he can at our many historic stops, she takes pictures.

Sunset at Gettysburg National Battlefield, Pennsylvania

She has an eye for the things of nature.  She can take a photo of a weed, and all of a sudden, I see it as something beautiful.

Thomas Jefferson's garden at Monticello, Virginia

It's made me more appreciative of God's work in creating this earth, and the things on it.  I mean, I think I've always been appreciative, but I'm entranced by details I never saw until she saw them through the lens for me.

And it certainly makes it a joy to look back at vacation photos!

George Washington's garden at Mount Vernon, Virginia
And now she has decided to enter a few of her photos in our County Fair.  The limit is three, and it was not an easy task for the two of us to go through all the pictures she has taken, and choose three of the best.  There is just something wonderful about so many of them.

I wonder if God feels that way when He looks at His creation.   If He had to pick the three most beautiful, or most stunning, or most majestic things He created, what would He choose?   The Grand Canyon?  The Great Barrier Reef in Australia?  The Black Forest in Germany?  Arthur's Seat in Scotland or field of tulips in the Netherlands?

Geese in the Shenandoah River, West Virginia
What about animals, birds, fish?  The elegance of a giraffe, the majesty of a lion, the beauty of an eagle in flight...  Not to mention the amazing variety of birds and fish and butterflies...

Deer in Shiloh Battlefield, Tennessee
Every continent, every nation, every region, every meadow and desert has its treasures.  And He loves them all.  He looked at everything He created, and He called it good.

And He oughta know.

Andrew Jackson's garden at The Hermitage, Tennessee

~ "Praise the Lord your God
 for the good land He has given you."
Deuteronomy 8:10

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

He is worthy to be praised

"Rejoice and praise God"
Luke 19:37

It's one of the easiest things to forget, I think, when we're praying.  Our priority is our needs, wants and desires.  And hopefully it occurs to us to thank Him for how He has blessed us, and answered yesterday's or last month's prayers.   But how often do we just praise Him, simply because He is God?

He is Ancient of Days
"I watched till thrones were put in place, 
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow, 
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.  
His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire"
Daniel 7:9

He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
"Then one of the elders said to me,  'Do not weep!  
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, 
the Root of David, 
has triumphed!"
Revelation 5:5

He is Majestic
"Who is like You - majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?"
Exodus 15:11

He is the Healer
"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits - 
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases"
Psalm 103:2-3

He is Righteousness
"There is no God apart from Me,
a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me"
Isaiah 45:21

He is our Shield
"Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him"
Proverbs 30:5

and best of all....

He is Unchanging
"I am the Lord,
I do not change"
Malachi 3:6

~ "If these should keep silent, 
the stones themselves would cry out" ~
Luke 19:40

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You say "tomato", I say "tomahto" but they're both good on a salad!

"harp and frame drum, reed-pipe and lyre" 
~ 1 Samuel 10:5
"trumpets of silver" ~ Numbers 10:1
"bells of pure gold" ~ Exodus 39:25
"cymbals for lifting up with the voice for joy" 
~ 1 Chronicles 15:16

I had an interesting experience at church this weekend.  Well, the past several weekends, really... Our church has been hosting a series of concerts designed to appeal to the early 20's crowd.  We want to give them a place to hang out, and connect with one another, so the bands are of varying styles, but all of them are... well, loud.   Several of them have been new to me, and more than one has been rap, or hip-hop, and I'm really not familiar with that style of music at all.  Sometimes they have the lyrics up on the screen, so I know what they're singing, but other times they don't.

But what's been such a joy to discover is that I don't have to be familiar with the songs to find myself worshipping.  And I don't have to know all the lyrics to leave feeling uplifted, and with my head and heart focused on the Lord.  Because regardless of how everyone in the room might choose to worship, we all choose to.   The lead singer will share Scripture verses and the ways God has been speaking to him, and it all rings true to me.   There's just something about genuine, heartfelt praise that unites us.

As I got to thinking about this, I thought of the concert I went to a few months ago, that was all Gregorian chant.  And I thought of all the different instruments mentioned in Scripture.  God loves variety.  Remember, this is the Creator responsible for the 900,000+ variety of insects on the earth ~ that we know about!  This tells me that He loves our praise and worship, no matter the form ~ or volume ~ we prefer.

The time will come when we will give Him glory with one voice, but until then, I'm convinced He appreciates the variety and harmony we offer Him!

~ "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord...
make a loud noise, and rejoice
and sing praise" ~
Psalm 98:4

Monday, June 13, 2011

And we're out of band-aids...

"the full armor"
Ephesians 6:11

I've got a cut on my hand, and I have no idea how it got there.  Does that ever happen to you?  I kind of slowly came to the awareness that something was hurting, but I didn't recall banging or cutting myself on anything.  And what's worse, there wasn't even anything there!  I couldn't see a cut of any kind, no blood, no redness, nothing.  It wasn't until the next day that I could see what I had done to myself, and of course, I still don't know how or when I did it.

And I've got another place on that same hand where I cut myself a few weeks ago.  That one was a pretty good gouge, and it's healing slowly, I think because it was deeper than just a cut.  Now, I have a hunch of how I did that one.  It involved a claw hammer and an old dresser.  Let's just say I needed the dresser to fit in the trash can....   Then later that afternoon, when I noticed I was bleeding a little, I figured I had injured myself when I was destroying the dresser.

But the thing is, in both cases, I had been hurt, and I didn't even know it.  It only became painful later.  And I think there's a warning in this.  Ephesians 6:11-18 is a passage of warning that many of us know very well.   It's about "the armor of God".   The parts of the armor include the belt, the breastplate, the footwear, the shield, the helmet and the sword.  Now, if you'll notice (or even if you won't), with the exception of the sword, they are all defensive.   What does that tell you?  How about:  beware!  Obviously, I don't know when I wasn't being careful, because I don't know when I cut myself.  But I am pretty sure of when I gouged myself, and I was being careful when I did that dresser-destroying!  I knew very well I had a hammer in my hand, and I made sure of where I was aiming, and that I didn't swing down toward myself, etc.  And I still got hurt!!

Verse 12 says our struggle is against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.   We're talking sneaky, tricky, and when-you-least-expect-it attacks here, people!   God's "full armor" is designed to protect us:  head, heart, and all the rest. But it can't do a thing for us, if we don't have it on.   And we are never not vulnerable.  Middle of the night, spending time with loved ones, doing whatever you love the most...  You never know when someone is going to say something unkind, or when satan is going to bring a worry to your mind you thought you had beaten, or open up a wound you thought had healed.   And the irony is, the more protected we think we are, the more vulnerable we are.   "When you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"  (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Our armor is truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, certainty of our salvation, and the Word of God.

The dangers are many.  But the victory is certain.

~ "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, 
with all kinds of prayers and requests.  
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying" ~
Ephesians 6:18

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fill in the Blank

Want to play a game?   It's a fill-in-the-blank, and there are no wrong answers.

Actually, there might be some answers that are considered "wrong".  But that's between you and God...

The game is based on the following passage:

"Let your light shine before others, 
that they may see your good deeds 
and glorify your Father in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16

and the challenge is simple.  What did Jesus mean when He said, "Let your light shine" ?  What did He mean by "good deeds" ?  I think the reason He wasn't more specific, is that we are to ask ourselves:  "What did He mean for me?"

So what is it Jesus wants you to do, that others would see, and glorify your Father in heaven?   It might be something that's your "gift", or it might be something you're not that good at.

It might be something that's a passion of yours, something you love to do.  Or it might be something you hate to do.

It might be something God's been whispering to you about.  Or it might be something that He's getting ready to lead you to.

It might be a need across the globe.  Or it might be in your church.

Ask Him what He would have you do, and then obey.  Your light will shine, and others will see.  And then they will glorify Him.

~ "You are the light of the world.  
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, 
but on a lampstand, and it gives light 
to all who are in the house.  
Let your light so shine before men, 
that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father in heaven." ~
Matthew 5:14-16

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Joy in the Weaving

"that you may be mature and complete"
James 1:4

Can you see that alright?  It's a spider's web.  I saw it a back issue of National Geographic, and I was just fascinated.  It's the web of the Golden Orb Weaver, a spider that lives in Australia, Asia, Africa and parts of the United States.  Their webs can be as much as three feet across!

Take a good look at the web, and the pictures below it.  The web has been highlighted in color, to correspond with the pictures below.  Too bad the spider doesn't really weave it in colors.  That would be amazing, wouldn't it?  But anyhow, the way National Geographic has illustrated this web, shows the work that the spider ~ let's call her "Charlotte" ~ has gone to.  It took an extraordinary amount of work on her part.  The part of the web highlighted in red is the outline, providing structure and support.  The yellow are the radii, to hold the auxiliary spiral (the green), and then the sticky spiral is laid over, followed by a non-sticky hub where Charlotte waits for her dinner.

What impressed me about all this work is how long it must take.  And it seems like the same thing over and over.  Like, if you were Charlotte, being shown how to create a web, you might respond, "Again?  I just went over the whole thing!  Can't I do all the steps at once?  It would be done so much faster!"  But no, it doesn't work like that.  Each step has its own goal, and must be done in its own order, no matter how tedious.  But the result will be worth the effort.   And I think the illustration God has for us in this creation of His, is about the work He is doing in our lives.  

James writes, in chapter 1, about trials, and you can tell he's talking about long-term trials, or repeating trials.  Trials test our faith, but that will produce perseverance, which will lead to our being mature and complete.  With any of the steps omitted, the web would be incomplete, and lacking.  And it would not do its job.  When we're living through a long-lasting trial, or undergoing a trial when it seems like we've just finished one, we can know God is hard at work in us.   "How much longer?" we think.  Especially when we are eager to learn.  I can give myself to Him, wanting to be changed, grown and matured, and yet the trial continues.  What does He want from me?  

What He wants, is patience.  Verse 4 says "Let perseverance have its perfect work..."  Let it happen.  This trial was accomplishing something different a few weeks, or a few months ago, than it is now.  Each day, or week, or sometimes every hour or moment of a painful trial, has a purpose.  Consider it pure joy, indeed.

~ "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
because you know that the testing of your faith 
produces perseverance.  
Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything." ~
James 1:2-4