At Times Like This

14 Apr
Keep our eyes on our awesome God.

Focusing on God’s awesomeness.

As a tent-making missionary, I’m a curriculum coordinator at an American school in Costa Rica.  As Mike and I are preparing to return to the States after 17 years on the mission field, the first question my co-workers ask is, “Why are you going back NOW?” followed by a list somewhat like this:  “There’s no good candidate to vote for, healthcare’s a mess, and the country is polarized.”  And yes, we also run into conspiracy theorists here and from the states.

I can’t pretend that there are not times when a bit of worry creeps in.  But God.  It’s always “but God,” isn’t it?  But God showed me this passage from Isaiah.

11 For in this way the Lord spoke to me with His strong hand [upon me] and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people [behaving as they do], saying,

12 “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ 
      In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
      And you are not to fear what they fear nor be in dread of it.
13 “It is the Lord of hosts whom you are to regard as holy and awesome.
     He shall be your fear,
     He shall be your dread [not man].
14b “Then He shall be a sanctuary [a sacred, indestructible shelter for those who fear and trust Him];  (Isaiah 8:11-14b)

At the time the situation in Israel was terrible–they had an evil King (Ahaz), several countries were ready to pounce on Israel, and there was a spiritual famine and drought in the land.  Fear against these things can put us on crooked courses to preserve our own security, where a believing fear (reverence) preserves us against a disquieting fear of man (M. Henry).

S.T.O.P.

26 Feb
CAM00034

As you can plainly see, I’m having difficulty with the “O” in S.T.O.P..

I recently attended a workshop on executive functions–which just means what you need to do to execute anything.  The acronym we were taught was S.T.O.P..

S = Space

T = Time

O = Objects

P = People

For example, if I’m leaving work and want to stop at the grocery store before a 6:00 appointment, I need to think of the route I want to take (Space), I need to work backwards from 6:00 and think of the drive time to and from the grocery store and determine how much time I can spend at the grocery store (Time).  I also need to think of what I need to bring, like my wallet and passport and what I need to buy (Objects).  And of course, I need to think of Mike’s likes and dislikes when I grocery shop and the person that I’m meeting at 6:00 (People).

I was thinking about executive functions in the spiritual realm.

S = Space – We are pilgrims in this world, just passing through. Our citizenship is in heaven. Psalm 84:5; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11

T = Time – We need to use our time well now, but will soon live in eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11; Isaiah 57:15; Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5

O = Objects – We hold them lightly and know how to be content with much or little. Acts 2:45; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8

P = People – We treat them as we would like to be treated, loving them unconditionally and giving grace and mercy.  Matthew 7:12; John 13:34

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Obsessed with Isaiah: Chapter 1 ~ Choose Wisely

24 Dec

 

2013-12-30 10.34.20In chapter 1, God speaks to Judah through His prophet, Isaiah, about the choices they’ve made–choices we can make as well.

…The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.  v. 3

To know means to know experientially, not just intellectually.  And to understand means to show oneself discerning and consider diligently.  Further, in v. 4 God says that His people have despised the Holy One of Israel.  It sounds–and is–terrible when we read about it and I know I immediately begin to judge the people of Judah, but the better choice is to ask God to investigate my heart and give me a spiritual check up. Am I taking the time to know Him experientially?  To seek Him diligently?

Our choices lead to consequences.  Always.  Since our God is a God of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances, He offers us the opportunity to be changed:

Come now, let us reason together says the Lord:  though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.  v. 18

Do you hear the love?  The hope of change? To reason together literally means to stand in the sunshine together.  It means to bring our sin to the light.  To be convicted of our sin so we can turn from it.  If we do not choose to reason with God, He will mercifully do what it takes to humble us and bring us back to the path of righteousness.  He says,

I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.  And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning.  Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. v. 26

Selah.

 

Obsessed with Isaiah

23 Dec
DSC_0260_1024

Look at the detail God has put in our world.

Almost 9 months ago, I taught a ladies’ Bible study where I mis-taught Isaiah 28:13:

Therefore the word of the Lord to them will be [merely monotonous repetitions]:
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Rule upon rule, rule upon rule,
Here a little, there a little.”
That they may go and stumble backward, and be broken, ensnared, and taken captive.

The mis-teaching isn’t so important in this context, but my nine-month obsession with Isaiah began at that moment.  And I began to study the book of Isaiah according to Isaiah 28:10:

“For He says,
‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Rule upon rule, rule upon rule,
Here a little, there a little.’”

The Amplified neatly catches the difference between the two verses.  In verse 10, the drunkards were mocking Isaiah’s instructions with the Hebrew version of “Blah, blah, blah.”

In verse 13, Isaiah responds that the drunkards will never enter into true rest because the scoffers mocked with frivolous contempt what is good and upright–the precepts of God.

do want to enter into rest and repose and so began my word-by-word study of Isaiah.  I will begin sharing some of the riches with you soon, but let me say that God’s Word never disappoints.  It is a marvel that fills and fulfills; gives rest and repose, when one is willing to listen.

one thousand gifts–on worry

24 Oct

FireweedOf course I worry.  I worry less and less as life goes on and I see what an incredibly faithful God I serve, but lately worries about finances have popped up.  Worries about church finances.  Worries about our future finances.  What’s odd is that I don’t normally deal with these types of worries.  Family matters are familiar worrying territory for me.  Relationship issues.  These are areas where I battle. But lately I’ve been struggling with these future money issues.

And then I read this passage from the book one thousand gifts by Ann Voskamp:

Anxiety has been my natural posture, my default stiffness. The way I curl my toes up, tight retreat. How I angle my jaw, braced, chisel the brow with the lines of distrust. How I don’t fold my hands in prayer . . . weld them into tight fists of control. Always control–pseudopower from the pit.  How I refuse to relinquish worry, babe a mother won’t forsake, an identity. Do I hold worry close as this ruse of control, this pretense that I’m the one who will determine the course of events as I stir and churn and ruminate? Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is. And stressed, this pitched word that punctuates every conversation, is it really my attempt to prove how indispensable I am?  Or is it more? Maybe disguising my deep fears as stress seems braver somehow.

Two points really struck me. 1) That control is a pseudopower from the pit of hell. 2) That worry is the facade of taking action. Both of these things put the focus on me and what I can do instead of where it should be–resting in Jesus–who is ever faithful and ever loving.

Lilies of the Field & Birds of the Air

23 May

red flowerI’ve just started a book by Soren Kierkegaard.  Don’t know much about his theology, but the first chapter of his Christian Discourses touched my core.  He speaks of the anxiety of poverty:

The deeper he then sinks in anxiety, the farther he removes himself from God and from the Christian position; he is most deeply sunken when he will not know anything higher, but on the contrary wills that this anxiety shall be, not merely the heaviest (which in truth it is not, for the heaviest is the pain of repentance), no, but that it shall be the highest.

I’ve written before that growing up in my family it was considered an unspoken virtue to worry–after all, how else can you show that you truly care??  Until now, I’ve not heard of anyone else speak of lifting up anxiety to a high place.

Kierkegaard uses the parable of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air to speak his truths, and even more than that he refers to the birds and lilies as our teachers in learning to trust God and His provision.

The book begins with this prayer:

Father in heaven, when spring is come, everything in nature returns in new freshness and beauty, the lilies and the birds have lost nothing of their charm–oh, that we might also return to the instruction of these teachers!  Ah, but if in the time that has elapsed we have lost our health, would that we might regain it by learning again from the lilies of the field and the birds of the air!

Iridescent Air

19 Apr

rainbowIt’s almost the end of rainbow season in Costa Rica.  Each day when I walk home from work during these few months there’s either a wide rainbow in the Central Valley, and if it’s not, the very air is opalescent. 1 Peter 4:10 speaks of the manifold grace of God.  The Greek word for manifold, poikilos, means “of various colors.”

Rainbow season also brings to mind the vision of God’s heart-stopping throne as is spoken of in Revelation 4:3.

28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day.This was the appearance of the form of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.  And He Who sat there appeared like [the crystalline brightness of] jasper and [the fiery] sardius, and encircling the throne there was a halo that looked like [a rainbow of] emerald. Rev. 4:3

It is refreshing to be reminded of the glory of God and the multi-colored grace of God–especially at the end of a long day.  The rest of the year I enjoy his multi-faceted grace in the flowers and birds and clouds around me–and during the upcoming season, enjoying the power of the torrential rains.

Portage

25 Mar

portageThis morning I was studying Matthew 11: 28-30 for an upcoming Bible study and then I sat down to read Orphan Train for a few moments before school. I couldn’t believe how this quote from the front of Orphan Train matched with what I’d been studying:

In portages from one river to another, Wabanakis had to carry their canoes and all other possessions.  Everyone knew the value of traveling light and understood that it required leaving some things behind.  Nothing encumbered movement more than fear, which was often the most difficult burden to surrender.  -Bunny McBride, Women of the Dream

We carry so many burdens that are unnecessary.  And because of that we’re tired so much of the time. Down deep tired. Just reading Matthew 11:28-30 makes me sigh with relief.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and[e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.

Vine’s dictionary defines burden as “the obligations Christ lays upon his followers, and styles a “burden” by way of the contrast to the precepts of the Pharisees, the observance of which was most oppressive.”

Sometimes others have such huge expectations of us and we carry burdens placed on us by others. Sometimes we are our own worst Pharisees and carry burdens not meant for us to carry, but which are meant for Jesus to carry. I need to stop and ask myself every once in a while, “Why am I carrying this/doing this/feeling this?  Is it because Jesus wants me to?”  If the answer is no, that burden needs to be tossed out of the canoe.

May I Substitute “a single flower”?

21 Feb

moonflowers

The stars in their courses/ illuminate and guide,/ for voyagers and wayfarers/ to see far and wide./ But before Pleiades and Orion,/ Before minors and majors,/ They were just stars in their courses,/ Singing their praises,/ In one star alone is beauty enough/ For awe and splendor and wonder/ To lift up one’s eyes, with arms outstretched,/ And gracefully, humbly stand under. – The Beauty of a Single Star by Elaine Gallagher

Gods

9 Feb

Ken Davis 130I read somewhere, probably in a National Geographic magazine, that you can tell a lot about people by what they enshrine. I suppose every place has its temples.  In my hometown, the church is at the center of everything: potlucks, baptisms, weddings, auctions, bingo. At my old school the baseball diamond was our shrine.  The folks from town would fill the bleachers and pray for victory. As players, we were well versed in the scripture of baseball lore and knew all the patron saints: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, and Joe DiMaggio.

The moment I set foot in the stone boathouse, I knew this was Morton Hill Academy’s shrine.  According to Headmaster Conrady, the Nook, as it was called, was the oldest building on campus.  Inside were sturdy wooden beams, lobster traps, coiled ropes, and a colorful array of oars. The scents of lemon wax, polish, and apple cider vinegar were as powerful as any incense I’d smelled. But it was the boats themselves, gleaming and elevated like altars, that were the focal point. – Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.