"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is God ever late?

So am I really "late" to meet you if my watch says it is 9:00 and yours says it's 9:05?


It is so amazing how stuck in time I can be. It is strange how affected my heart can be by the worries of "time".


We rode in a taxi today, through the traffic jammed streets of Bangkok. Bumper to bumper we sat, and sat, inching our way forward. We barely moved. The clock moved, though. And, we knew every minute that passed. We were late.


Or, were we? The truth is... we were "going" to be late. We were quite certain that we were doomed to be late and our lateness was going to be bad! The jammed traffic and our slow moving taxi was every indication and proof that the 20 minute drive was definitely going to take an hour. And, our appointment couldn't be missed! What were we to do!?


...so much worry, and frustration stole my joy during that 40 minute drive. And, it was all "borrowing worry". All of it in vain.


We got there late. Yep. And, it didn't really matter. The clock on their wall was "off" and according to their calculations we weren't too late anyway... All worry was wasted energy. All frustration was expended for no good purpose!


It is amazing how affected by time I can be.


"Now". "10 minutes". "Bed time" and "late" or "wait" ... can all bring instant frustration when they are spoken, or pushed, or pulled, or messed-with in any way.


Yesterday I read a sweet reminder... "a day is like thousand years and a thousand years like a day" (2 Peter 3:18). In this truth, I was reminded that my Father is before time. He is above time... outside of ... around and within time. My "now" and "late" and "wait" ... look very different to Him.

The rush of being late... a thousand years late, in fact ... isn't late at all. It is just a day late. A thousand years late? No. Only a day late, really. Or even, if our clocks are different, right on time!


It is good to remember that God is not slow... and He is not rushed ... and He is never frustrated ... or looking at His watch.


I say, "Lord, I want this now". He says, "yes!" and ... His "now- yes" could be answered in a thousand years. Or, He could give it today.

His perfect timing is, well... perfect. And, I can trust that.


So, it doesn't really matter what my watch says... 9:00 or 9:05 ... He is never late.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Downcast

I found out today that I am again at a dead-end with getting any treatment or help for my ongoing, long-standing disease.

Why so downcast O my soul?

These words spoken by David years ago, echo the cry of my heart today as I wrestle with sadness and disappointment.

Tears linger on the rims of my already red eyes. And, there aren't many more words... I am just sad.

Why so disturbed within me?

Sometimes it is just good to speak to your soul. Sometimes asking questions, hard questions of my soul is important. And, helpful. So, I ask myself... Why so disturbed within me? And, then I speak, like my brother David did, I speak to my soul ...

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise you.

These words aren't trite to me today. They are spoken in pain from my confused head to my sad soul... they aren't "praise the Lord!" with an indifferent smile or a wave of ignorance. My head speaks these deep words and calls out to the depth of my soul... put your hope in God!

Deep calls to deep.

My head speaks these true words. I will yet praise him. ...it will come. The praise. It will come again. I will be able to say, "I praise the Lord" from the depth of my soul again and with a smile.

I will yet praise Him. This is my hope. He is my hope.

But, right now, today... it is okay to say to God, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by my enemy?" I ask my soul hard questions. David reminds me it is okay to ask God hard questions, too.

Why so downcast O my soul? Put your hope in God. for I will yet praise Him. My Savior and my God. Psalm 42

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pathway to Pain

Walk the plank or be killed by pirates. 


There is no way around it, really. Either way, it's going to hurt! The only way forward is "into" pain. And, I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like pain...

In fact, I have perfected a few successful techniques in avoiding pain. I use those avoidance-strategies (i.e. Tylenol, a good book, sleep, a television show, a game, food,...etc.), for better or for worse, on a regular basis.

I find myself stuck at a crossroads or on a plank... and there is no way forward except through pain. And, this, in-and-of-itself ... is painful.

Choosing suffering is never easy, even if it can't be avoided.

...to walk off that plank, or into that lion's den...

I have a disease that has plagued my body since I can remember. Most of my early pre-teen memories include the distress of this disease... both in body and in mind. The disease I have is not life-threatening, in any way. For that, I am deeply thankful. But, the pain of this particular disease can be significantly debilitating and it doesn't have a cure. And, well, to put it plainly... that stinks!!

There is no way around it... it just stinks!!

In our house, we "fondly" (or not so fondly) refer to this disease as "Mamma's Mommy Pain". And, no one in the house wants to hear that Mamma is feelin' her Mommy Pain!

The nature of the disease is one in which... basically, I have an operation and the pain goes away (or at least in part) for a few years. And, then gradually it comes back... slowly at first and then like a tsunami it hits. This past year the waves, in size and frequency, have increased. Last month, I got knocked down more than once. So, "it's back".

In short, I find myself looking ahead at two roads, there is no way around it... pain road #1 (live with it as the waters of pain arise) and pain road #2 (surgery, AGAIN... which will definitely help, but not cure. And, is never fun and never easy).

My Father and I have had numerous conversations about this lately. This time around, I feel I have done a better job of lamenting, in worship, through the "why, Lord" emotional experience of it all. I thank God for preparing my heart through my current reading of Michael Card's, Sacred Sorrow.

I have just felt sad. Sad that I have this. And, fed-up... Done. Enough, already!? There has been some good lament going on in my soul. I am deeply thankful that my Heavenly Father is perfectly okay with lamentation!

Sunday, in the midst of silence and solitude, ...in the middle of an empty-heart-moment ... God, my Father, showed up like Light through His word to this tired heart.
I read these words: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2

And, tonight, as I sit here unable to sleep and writing a blog post at 4 AM... I am reminded of the words that precede those sweet words. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1

My kind, loving Father seems to be speaking Presence into my heart. And, Ownership. Something a bit like, "You belong to Me!" and "I will be with you".

Is this a taste of what Jesus might have been experiencing when it says, "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross". I don't know. It doesn't answer the pain or solve the disease... but it does make the journey toward pain, the pathway to pain, a bit less daunting. More than that, it makes it bearable.

This pathway to pain, or through pain, is with him by me. In me. Over me.
So, onto the plank or turning back to the pirates... at least, I know that I don't walk alone.

Friday, January 7, 2011

God rolls Yahtzees

I believe God played Yahtzee with us the other night.

The faithful pursuit of the Father's love in my life has been steadfast and amazing. Time and time again, when my eyes are opened and I am aware, I have seen ...continue to see... His poured-out love and blessings in my life.

I saw Him the other night in the play, the laughter and the game.

The other night He poured out His love in Yahtzees. Seven Yahtzees in one game, to be exact. Whoever rolls seven Yahtzees in one game!?

Poet Elizabeth Browning says, "Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries."

As I have grown and continue to grow in awareness, I feel I am seeing Him more often and in the most unexpected ways. I believe He opened my eyes this special night.

The kids and I played Yahtzee. I was fully present in this moment, which can be a struggle. I was thoroughly enjoying myself with my children. It was a sweet moment of joy.

Somewhere in the middle of the game, I rolled a "Yahtzee" (not a common occurrence, I might add for those who may not frequent this particular game). Indeed, I rolled six "sixes" and we all cried in one loud voice (as we do), "Yahtzee!!". It always bring such rejoicing when a Yahtzee is rolled!

I wrote "50 points" on my score sheet and passed the dice onward. My son rolled as normal and when it came to my daughter's turn, she rolled her dice and ... rolled a Yahtzee! (was it six "fives" this time? I don't remember.). We all laughed and cheered and yelled, "Yahtzee!!". She wrote down her 50 points. A second Yahtzee!! Wow. This was indeed rare... and very fun.

And, then it was my turn again. And, would you believe that I rolled... ANOTHER "Yahtzee!". By this time we were all in hysterics... laughing to tears in unbelief and in cheerful glee. I immediately put my hands up in worship and said out-loud, "I think God is just blessing us right now, guys! I just feel He is saying, "I love you with Yahtzees!"

Right after my shout of praise and pronouncement, my sweet 8 year old son said, with a tinge of sadness, "But He isn't blessing me....". Oh, sweet boy!

"He is blessing our game, our family, and you are a part of that, my sweet boy", I said. He agreed, a bit begrudgingly, and then rolled his dice. And, yep... (I am not exaggerating here in any way!)... yep, you guessed it, my son rolled the next Yahtzee!!

At that point, the laughter was hilarious. Any outsider would have thought us all mad! All three of us were wriggling, bouncing and laughing with tears. We were all thanking God for His love and His blessing.

We proceeded to roll a total of seven separate Yahtzees that game! Seven. And, the new mantra now in our family is "Yahtzees aren't hard for God!" He can just roll them whenever He wants!

So with Elizabeth Browning, I say, "Play is crammed with heaven. Every Yahtzee-game aflame with God"

Teach me to see you more and more, Father. Help me to know You are always present and to be ever aware of Your Presence. Open my eyes, my heart and my mind to You in every game I play... every email I write... every phone conversation... Make me more and more aware of You!

"To See a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a wild flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

and Eternity in an hour" ~William Blake

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I forget sometimes

Sometimes in my comfy chair and with my automatic coffee maker, I forget.

Today He reminded me. And, I am so glad.

I forget that my brothers and sisters around the world are suffering. Deep and dark suffering every day.

As I prayed today, I wondered what Asia Bibi might be like... What might we talk about, without a language barrier, if she sat in my living room, curled up on my comfy couch, drinking my hot coffee? Would she tell me charming stories about her friends and family? Would her eyes sparkle as she spoke of her conversion and faith? When she laughed, like me, might she unconsciously raise her hand to cover her mouth? Would she cry or would she show anger?

If she, like Job before her, entered into lament and worship through pain, what might I do? How would I respond? Would I let her rant, rave, and question Our Father? Or would I accuse her of sin like Job's friends? Would I question her faith and tell her about God? Could I be silent long enough. Could I sit one more day in quiet and lament with her?

What might she be feeling as she flees and hides for her life? I can't imagine. No, I suppose that isn't true. I can imagine. I can guess, at least. Is she full of fear, or anxiety? Is she worrying about the future and her family? Is she hearing every noise at night and not able to sleep soundly? Is she regretful? Does she doubt or question?

My Father reminded me today that Asia Bibi, and the thousands of others suffering persecution for their faith, are real people. Very real people. And, more than just human, they are my sisters. These are my brothers. These names, faces and stories are my family.

When I enter in and allow myself to care for these sweet ones, these faces, I can begin to feel overwhelmed. But, today I was reminded that entering and feeling with them is a part of my intercession. My opening up and allowing their stories to touch my heart IS a part I play in joining them in suffering. This "joining with" or "entering in" alone is of value. I can actually be "present" with them in their sufferings... through prayer.

Paul tells us in Hebrews to "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." As if I were with them... as if I was fleeing for my life... ...as if I were hungry and afraid... remember.

So, I remember them today and I imagine what they might be feeling and then I pray.
When I enter in, I can feel guilty or wrong sitting in my comfy chair, drinking my hot coffee. But, I know that I can't begrudge God's sovereign choice to fill my cupboards with food and give me safety and prosperity. It is His prerogative and His right to choose this for me. I need to be content with blessing AND in need.

I need to be ready for both. I need to honor Him in both. I need to receive both blessing and hardship from His knowing, loving hand.

In fact, I can take this blessing, this space and margin I have in life, to bless others. I can pray.

I can only guess that Asia Bibi is wondering where they will sleep tonight and how she is to feed her family. I can guess that her ability and capacity to pray much for others is less than mine. I have space. I have margin. I have capacity. And, so, I take this blessing and use it to bless her. I want to join her, really join her, as I pray.

Thank you for reminding me Holy Spirit. Keep reminding me, I ask.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." Col. 4:3
"I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God's ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should." Eph 6:20
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