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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Missin' the Miraclulous

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At least three times a day I might just miss a miracle.

From fork to mouth, often without really thinking deeply about the realities of provision, I eat.  I know (somewhere solid and certain), in my head, that God has provided this food for me.  His provision is a gift.  But, how often is that provision a miracle?  How often do I miss the miracle of His gifts?

Reading together as a church Sunday morning in Mark 6:30-44, we were reminded of this truth of miraculous every-day-provision.  Jesus sees a hungry crowd and His very hungry disciples.  He knows they are in need.  Jesus sees this, not with disdain or as a bother, but with compassion.  He gets it.  He gets it and then He does something about it.

"He knows you need these things!"  (Luke 12:22-34)

Jesus takes a few loaves and some fish and feeds at least 5,000 mouths.  All the while, the crowd is told to sit down and eat.  Eat and enjoy!  Be satisfied.  So, they do.  They sit and have a nice little picnic, food slowly-but-surely distributed among them. In reality, they don't have a clue what is going on behind the scenes.  We get no indication that they are told that Jesus just miraculously expanded a few loaves of bread by, at least, 1,000 times.  They just miss it.  Hand to mouth provision and they don't see a thing.  They just eat.

Sitting comfortably, eating until they are satisfied... they simply enjoy a meal.  They enjoy a miracle and haven't any notion that heaven just moved and laws of nature shifted to provide the food that warms their stomachs.   They miss the miraculous.

How often are the heavens shifting for my belly, I wonder?  ...for my hunger and my thirst?

I don't want to miss it.  Open my eyes, Lord.  I want to see more!  Help me to see Your miracles every day.  Help me to walk aware and in awe of your daily provision of bread.  You are my good, good Shepherd.  

"Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."  ~Jewish Prayer

Thursday, June 23, 2016

He Tells a Different Story

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The nature of our lives--- our work and our connection to so many people around the world---allows for a pretty consistent slew of bad news coming across our desks.  We jokingly look at each other sometimes and talk about the all too common feeling of dread when hitting the "send and receive" button in our email program.  What will we hear next...

Bad news.  

No one likes to hear it.  Feelings that accompany bad news are numerous, depending on the situation and how close it comes to us, the feelings come in degrees---sadness, grief, anger, disgust, worry, fear, hopelessness...  just to name a few.  Bad news can feel like a punch in the gut.  We don't like how bad news feels.  But, we keep hearing it.  ...and yes, we all keep reading the headlines and the news.  Like going back into a painful situation time and time again, we keep turning on the television to hear more or to listen to it again.  And, again.  Why?   Why do we do this to ourselves, I wonder.  

This morning I was struck when reading Mark 5:35-43.  In this passage, a desperate father is standing before Jesus asking for Him to come and heal his dying daughter.   While he is still standing with Jesus, some men come and tell Jarius, the father, terrible news---horrific news.  "Your daughter is dead", they say.   What might Jarius have been feeling at that moment; that gut-wrenching moment?  I can only imagine.  Truly, this must be the one of the worst possible pieces of news a person can receive--- death; the death of someone you love.  

Jesus' reply to this situation is shocking.  All eyes are on Jarius in this moment; but, heads must turn quickly to look at Jesus when He speaks confidently and directly after the men bring the bad news. He tells Jairus a very different story.  In the passage, in fact, Jesus "ignored what they said" and encourages Jairus with these words:  

"Don't be afraid:  just believe" (Mark 5:36)

Jesus tells Jarius a totally different story--- He gives him different news.  

Going against the tide, against the "truth" and "reality" that everyone is seeing and testifying to, Jesus walks forward and says, "The child is not dead but asleep".    

This morning, as I saw this story unfold in my mind's-eye, I kept thinking:  What if when I hear bad news---horrific and terrible news--- what if, I looked to You, Jesus.  In those moments---those sad, fearful, sickening moments.  What if I turned my eyes immediately from the messenger (let it be men, email or television) and asked You, "What say You?"  

Jesus, what do You say about this?  What is the true story here?  

Might I hear something different from my Jesus, my Savior?  When I hear the hopelessness that is being broadcast over our world today...  what if Jesus is "ignoring" this bad news of despair and saying something different?  

Might I hear the whispering of His words...  "Don't be afraid... just believe"
"I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5)

Jesus, tell me Your story---Your good news.  Tell me the True story today.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Beautiful Gift

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I am a super practical girl.  My family and friends know this.  I guess that is why they offer me presents "with a purpose" which they know I will like---some of my most prized gifts being a kitchen mixer, mugs, a cast iron pot, a journal, and ipod speakers.  (Books and good music, by the way, do fit in this category... very, very practical, to my way of thinking!)  

Gifts that fit and fulfill a need...  these 'hit the spot' well with me.  

But, when it comes down to it, in reality, I am quite needy.  My awareness of my neediness has been coming awake for some time now.   I am needy.  As I inch my way forward through life, slowly gaining experience and insight into life;  I become more and more aware of this truth... my every-day-human-reality-needs.

I am hungry for so many things.  I long for love, grace, attention, quiet, peace, kindness, truth, and beauty---to name just a few.  Like the oxygen I need to breathe and the water that sustains me, so I also require so many other gifts to flourish in life---relationships, connection, belonging...  

God knows this about me.  He knows this about His people.  We are, indeed, a needy lot.  

Among the myriad of promises God utters to Moses in Exodus, He tells Moses that His very Presence will go with them.  "My Presence will go with you..." (Exodus 33:14)  

What a gift!  This idea is so wonderful and so full of hope.  With God's Presence comes the reality of cover, power, strength and provision.  But, that is not what God emphasizes in these verses---in this conversation of promise with Moses.   He offers something else with His Presence...  

"My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest."  

Rest.  

With His Presence comes the gift of rest...  Pull up next to God and you get such a beautiful gift.

I would venture to guess that if I asked most any room full of people this question, "Who would like or is in need of rest?"  I would bet that every hand would raise and a resounding, "Me!!" would sound with enthusiasm.  

We all need rest.  Deeply, we need rest.  Body rest... soul rest... mind rest.  

With His Presence, I find rest.  You, too, can find rest for your soul.  

I can enter in.  We can receive this gift.  We can sidle up next to Him and receive---or, at least, what He longs to give---is rest.  

"Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)  

What a lovely, very practical gift He gives!!  This practical girl is a happy girl.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

God's Status Update

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Today Facebook asked me to "describe who you are".

Apparently this is a new feature Facebook added recently. (or, am I just totally behind the times...equally possible!)  Anyway,  I am asked to answer this weighty question by filling in a tiny square at the top of my page ...in 101 characters or less.

I sat a while and wondered what is most important. Who am I? What shall I say here to sum-up Stephanie ... in 15 words.  Where do I start?  Funny, these thing.

As I sat down to read in Exodus 34 this morning, I saw God's answer--- I saw His "describe who you are" post.  Succinct and to the point, (although, I am not sure He hit the 101 character limit) He tells us what is most important.  He tells us who He is.  

Who are you, God?  

"I AM compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet I do not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exodus 34:6)

There are many words I could use to describe God.  If it were me filling in God's "describe who you are" box, what might I write?  Where do I begin?  Strong, Wise, Powerful, Eternal, Kind, Right, Holy,...

These are all true about Him, to be sure.  But, when He describes Himself in this instance... He chooses to start with compassion.

Some translations use the word mercy.  Either way, I am so deeply grateful that He starts with mercy!  He begins His description with compassion and grace.  Abounding love and faithfulness.

What a beautiful picture!  In these words, God Almighty reveals an incredible truth to Moses---and to me.  God's foundation, His very core ...the very center of "who He is" is compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice. These are the words He chooses to use to describe Himself--- to reveal Himself.

Oh! How I want to know this God more!

Now that I have God's "describe who you are" section.  I wonder how He might fill in "where you work" or "what's on your mind"?  What would God's Facebook status be today?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hard Questions

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"Why?"... she stumbled to formulate her question.  Sweet girl.

 She asked, with hesitation, as if unsure of the appropriateness.  Maybe she was wondering, 'Can I even ask such a question?' ...

"Why... do you think... why, would God allow you to have this long term illness?  Is there something... anything... is there a 'reason'?  What has He shown you?"

What a question!  What a beautiful, honest, appropriate question.  
We ask it all the time, don't we?  Deep in our hearts, we wonder. We hesitate to ask.  Why, Lord?  We want to understand.  We want reason behind pain and suffering.   I have asked this question about many things through the years.  Sometimes, I get 'the answer' (or an answer) and sometimes I don't.  A hard question.  No easy-come answers, to be sure.

But, when this young gal asked (who has her own long-term illness with which she must wrestle), ... when she asked...  I had an answer.   I knew the answer.

It surprised me.

It came so quickly to my mind and so clearly to my heart... that I just knew.  I knew ---at least---one of the reasons He has allowed me to suffer with pain, weakness, and illness (in varying degrees) my whole life.

It is my kryptonite.  That was the thought.  A funny thought, right!?

I am ...as I truly believe we ALL are...  a gifted, competent, strong person.   I am super-girl.  This illness has given me a gift--a huge gift.  

My answer to her was simple:  It is my kryptonite.  It reminds me most days that I need God.  I desperately, desperately need Him.  I have weakness and that is okay...  I have a strong God!  

I believe that if I hadn't been allowed this suffering, I would have easily done life on my own. Entirely.

My pain and illness have been a key...  a pathway and a light along the path;   always leading me to my desperation for God.  Through the years of suffering, if I have 'learned' anything it would be my need of God:  as my Father, my Deliverer, my Provider, my Calm, my Shepherd, my Strength, and my Shield.  I, laughingly, admit that I can't even sleep without Him.  It's true.  I can't!

I have learned--- and continue to learn every day--- that His grace is truly sufficient.  (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

After sharing this with my young friend, she said a profound thing,  "Wow.  That is almost the exact thought that has been growing in my heart these past weeks."  God has been answering her hard, awkward question, too.

Yes!  I am so glad you asked, sweet girl.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

My Golden Calves

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I feel a deep, gut-level cringe even as I simply read the title to Exodus 32: "The Golden Calf".  It has taken me two full days to decide "it's time" to dive in.  Every time I open up the Bible, I can feel myself wanting to hide.  This journey through the Old Testament---looking for God's heart--- has been so rich and sweet.  And, I just know, this one is going to be painful.  Exodus 32 is going to hurt.  They are going to hurt God's heart.

God had been with them.  I have just read about Him delivering them.  He has provided for them over and over.  From Exodus 24 onward, He is speaking His words and His ways for them.

And, then... the golden calf.  

When I read the section title alone, I wince and think---What?  How?!  Why?  How did they do this? How did they so quickly turn?   I feel shame for them.  Shock.  Pain.

Less than 10 words into the reading... I get my answer:  How?  Why?

"When they saw that Moses was so long in coming down..."  (Exodus 33:1)

They were impatient.  Simple, as that.  They were tired of waiting.  Impatient.  Maybe, afraid. They just couldn't wait any longer.  Waiting for Moses to bring them God's words, they grew weary...

As I read these words, I am stopped in my tracks.  Oh!  Lord, how often...  how OFTEN, I get impatient.  I get tired of waiting, too.  Praying... asking... waiting... seeking...  and, I, too, grow weary.
 
My culture doesn't lend itself to carved calves from gold.  No, we do other things when we grow tired of waiting on the Lord.   My culture has other paths...  We push harder.  We do.  We do it ourselves.  We medicate.  We think.  We dig.  We plan and organize.  We figure and research.  We buy what we think we need.  We adorn.  We eat.  We drink.  We fill our minds with more.  And/Or, we just give up--- and turn on the television and numb.  Until, we get up, push harder and plan.  Or eat. And, drink.

Oh, how we must hurt God's heart.

...God has been long in coming down and answering my prayers...  

I do get tired.  Impatient.  Afraid...  will Moses ever come down!?  Will God ever answer?  "We don't know what happened to 'that guy'", the Israelites say to Aaron.

So, Aaron... or Google...  make me a god that will take care of me.  I need something here!
I can't wait any longer.

As I sit with the Lord, confessing my impatience to Him, my mind is flooded with verse upon verse... a whisper and breath of Truth bringing light to the moment...

There is another way, Stephanie.  There is another way...  

"Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart"  (Psalm 27: 14)

"They that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles." (Isaiah 40:31)

"Let us not grow weary of doing good..."  (Galatians 6:9)

"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  Do not worry."  (Psalm 37:7)

There are things I am waiting for and asking the Lord.  Help me, Lord, to choose the way of trust.  Help me to wait for You.  You, Faithful One, have always delivered me.  You have always come through.  Help me to wait for You.  

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