The day after

After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” ~Acts 1:3-8 (CEB)

This summer has held many “day-afters”. The day-after vacation, the day-after a funeral, the day-after a family reunion, the day-after a celebration… you know, the day you get back to reality, the day-after a disruption to your normal life and the day when you try to figure out where you left off.

Summer in general is a difficult time for me. There are several contributing factors. Even with all that I have seen God do in my life, the things I have witnessed, I still sometimes find myself mourning “anniversaries”.

This summer has gone pretty well for me despite all that we have handled. What changed? I began five years ago to let people into my inner circle. I slowly began to share aspects of my life that I had kept to myself before. Now when hard times arrive I have people praying for me, reminding me that I am loved and offering support.

Today I am working my way through another day-after. As I have been trying to get back into my reality I have been thinking about the Disciples. Where were they the day after Christ was killed on the cross? The day after Christ died on the cross did not find the disciples running the streets announcing that people should be on the lookout the following day for Jesus to walk out of the grave as Lazareth had. No. They were hiding.

Sometimes it is easy to get mad at the disciples for their moment in the darkness. “What about all those miracles you witnessed, all that you were told?”, you feel like yelling to them. They had walked the streets with Jesus, witnessed miracles, saw demons cast out and saw Lazareth risen from the dead! Surely after all they had seen they would not… could not doubt! But they did.

Even the time after the resurrection still found the disciples at a loss and in my interpretation, still afraid and confused. Jesus collected them together and gathered them close so that he could remind them of who he was, who they were and that there was a bigger picture that they were part of.

We too get lost and confused. When we gather with our Christian family we are reminded who we are and whose we are. We are reminded that Jesus is out savior and he has all our tomorrows covered. There will always be a day-after something. There will always be a time that we must gather our resources and remember who we are. It is not so much that we do the day-afters well; sometimes it is simply that we did it.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for all my moments. Even the not so right moments as I walk around wondering where I should be or what I should be doing the day after life events. I thank You for my Christian family that is so willing to love me where I am at and to nudge me in the direction I should go. Amen.

Time to move on

At Horeb, the LORD our God told us: You’ve been at this mountain long enough. Get going! Enter the hills of the Amorites and the surrounding areas in the desert, the highlands, the lowlands, the arid southern region, and the seacoast—the land of the Canaanites—and the Lebanon range, all the way to the great Euphrates River.  Look, I have laid the land before you. Go and possess the land that I promised to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as to their descendants after them. ~Duet. 1:6-8 (CEB)

There are some things I just never seem to get over. Oh, yes, time does ease the pain of it but some scars will always be with us. I used to get mad at myself when “anniversaries” came around and I found myself siting in old pain. I have come to a point that I don’t get upset and instead allow myself some extra space to deal with what I know is coming. I have learned to accept that the pain is real (even if illogical) and sometimes I might need to sit with it.

One day when I was reading about Elijah, his story gave much insight. After doing a mighty deed with God in calling down rain when the false gods remained silent (1 Kings 18), when he should have been feeling on top of the world, Elijah let fear slip in when Jezebel swore to have him killed. Elijah ran away to Mount Horeb. Elijah sunk into such a deep depression that he couldn’t function. God didn’t berate Elijah but instead sent a messenger to tend him. God allowed Elijah some time to his feelings but after a little while God’s Word comes to Elijah. There is work to be done. It’s time to get back to living, back to the work you have been called (1 Kings 19).

The scripture from Deuteronomy 1:6-8 is telling the Israelites the same thing. You have been wandering around in the desert building up your strength long enough. It is time to move into the promise I have for you. Sometimes it is important to be still. In our stillness we are reminded who God is (Psalm 46:10). In our stillness we are reminded that God has a plan for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). But if we remain still for too long fear will begin to take hold.

When I get nervous about moving on, I recall verse 8 from Deuteronomy 31, “But the LORD is the one who is marching before you! He is the one who will be with you! He won’t let you down. He won’t abandon you. So don’t be afraid or scared!” Living hurts, but we are not meant to stay in the sad moments. God has promised great joy. (John 15:11)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your promise of joy and of hope. I thank You for the people You placed in my life to walk with me on this journey.

Checking off my list

I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. ~Romans 7:15-20 (CEB)

Jesus doesn’t have a list for me to check off. He is looking to have a relationship with me. To have a relationship with Jesus I have to move beyond practicing the act of religion into a reality of really experiencing him.

I deal with so many expectations of what life should be and I find I do the same with religion. Religion taught me to think about “what would Jesus do”. A relationship requires me to trust Jesus to do what he would do through me. Expectation in any area is dangerous but when I apply expectations to Jesus it keeps me from knowing who he truly is.

Jesus calls to us. He wants to bridge the gap between perceived control to a holy trust, between how things used to be and how they can be. Jesus wants me to know that he accepts me as I am and not just how I should be.

No matter how much I want to do the right thing, I can’t. No matter how hard I try to do good it seems I consistently miss the mark. The desire to do good is inside of me. On my own I am nothing. With Christ working in me I can be more than I am. With Christ I can do more than just try hard.

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” The world teaches us to “try hard”. It falsely promises that if we only try hard we will be successful, but only through Christ’s transforming powers can I be more than I am. God’s promise is that I can do anything if He is my strength (Phil. 3:14).

Checking things off the list is “self” reliance, trying harder doesn’t create love. From the beginning of time God’s love existed. I don’t have to earn what is already mine. Jesus didn’t come into the world to create more bondage. He came to remind me of a love that has always been mine. Jesus doesn’t want me to be trapped in the try-hard life, he wants me to experience the freedom of letting him work through me.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your son into the world to set me free from the try-hard life. Thank You for the reminders that I am not to “do good” on my own but that I am to let Christ work through me to achieve Your will. Continually renew and transform me so that I may discern Your will for my life. Amen.

 

 

 

Psam 139

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand —
    when I awake, I am still with you.

I Thank You this day for knowing me inside out, Lord. I treasure Your knowledge of me. I thank You that when I come to the end of this day, You will still be here with me. Amen

Desired

 

When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him. He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. I tell you, I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom.” ~Luke 22:14-16 (CEB)

The good news is that Jesus’ sacrifice of his life replaces the darkness of my life with the purity and light of his own. Jesus calls to us in our darkness because he eagerly desires to be with us. He doesn’t just want our company when we have it all together. He seeks our company even when we aren’t who we should be yet.

Here in Luke 22:14-16, Jesus was confronting the greatest challenge of his life and ministry, and yet he longed for a holy time of sharing and breaking bread. To spend time with those we love is a wonderful gift of healing and strength to all of us. And Jesus also wanted this holy fellowship for comfort and strength for what lay ahead. Even though the disciples do not grasp what is about to happen Jesus still wants to share these moments with them.

I am far from perfect or wise and yet the Savior of the world seeks time with me. This is humbling and awesome. But how can I minister to Christ? What could I offer him? I can offer him my love and adoration. One hard lesson I have learned is that sometimes we are not asked to do but to simply be. How I can minister to the Lord is by simply being at his feet and giving him the time that he wants from me. No wise words needed.

Brennan Manning shares a view of this in his book, Reflections for Ragamuffins:

“Let me share an example of ministering to the Lord in the moment of his adversity. This happened in Chicago’s South Side on Holy Thursday night. I wrote in my journal: ‘The adoration of the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist (communion) began with a heaviness within me. It’s freezing outside; the chapel is cold; my mind is opaque; but foremost is the nagging doubt about my own sincerity’. Earlier in the day I sensed a tug in the direction of non-acceptance, when I read, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ Do I really want to be free? Do I honestly desire a Kingdom lifestyle? What are the real tendencies and desires of my heart? Do I long more than anything else to be God’s man? To serve rather than be served? To pray when I could play? Be slow to speak, Brennan, be cautious to answer… I felt confusion and discouragement tiding within me.

Then a beautiful thing happened. I realized that the only reason I was at prayer was because I wanted to be with my friend. The doubt and uncertainty vanished. I knew I wanted to comfort Jesus in his loneliness and fear in the Garden. I wanted to watch not an hour but the whole night with him. The only words that formed on my lips were those of the little boy Willie-Juan in the fairy tale I had written the year past. Over and over I whispered, ‘I Love you, my friend.’”

Could I sit in the Garden with Jesus during his darkest hour? I would like to think I would. Would I follow him after his arrest? Well, I am not so sure. Would I be like the eleven, hiding after his crucifixion? Probably.  But I have the assurance that despite my lack of bravery, Jesus seeks me just as he sought out the eleven in the upper room after he arose from death. He wants and desires us all.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your Son into the world so that I may have a better understanding of Your Love for me. I thank You for sending Your Son to seek and to find us when we are lost. I thank You that no matter where we are found we are still desirable. Amen.

Sighs too deep for words

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Rom 8: 26-27 (NRSV)

Have you ever found yourself in a place where words just seem too insignificant for what you are feeling?

When I know I should pray, but the words won’t come, when I want to cry out to God but all that surfaces is this welling up from inside of me, I am confident that God even knows these prayers. The comfort I receive in my darkest hours is knowing that even though I may not know how to pray, the Spirit- God’s Spirit will pray for me. In my weakness; God himself prays for me.

On the days when fear raises its ugly head, when life doesn’t go the way I planned, when I think I am alone in my struggles, I take a deep *sigh* and I am reminded that God’s Spirit is deep within me sighing too. Saying what I can’t. In my sigh I lift up my eyes and say “You know my heart God. You know when I lie down and when I get up. You know that I don’t have strength for this day.” My hands are not lifted because I give up. My hands are lifted because I surrender to the One who knows all my tomorrows and has my best interest in mind.

Romans 8:24-25 says, “We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” Because of my hope I looked upward. My hope saves me. I hope for what isn’t right now. I hope for the possibilities of what might be. Against all hope I wait patiently… and when I can’t hope anymore the Spirit prays for me.

When I am weak I am strong because it is God’s strength that works in me (2 Cor. 12:10). When I don’t have the strength or enough hope to lift up a prayer His Spirit prays my prayer.

So I sigh again Lord. Every breath I breathe is from You. Your breath flows through me. You sustain me. You shield me. You love me like no one else can. I know You hold me in Your hands. My hope is in You. Amen. 

Come away withe me

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things… When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.~ Mark 6:30-34,53-56 (NRSV)

Sometimes I forget how important those quiet moments away with Jesus really are. Jesus knows that His disciples are grieving, confused, tired, worried, scared…and His comfort to them is to “Come away with Me….”

Life can be so chaotic. In my busy-ness I begin to worry and fret. I’m tired… sometimes I am so spiritually exhausted – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so bone-weary. At times I feel pulled in so many directions. The more tired I get the less clear I am able to think which induces more tiredness and soon I am spiraling out of control. What do I need most at this time? Rest and quiet!

A quiet place and rest? Well, where I am in life a quiet place away just seems like a wishful thought. When I do find those quiet, restful moments, they are often laced with guilt of all that I should be doing. If I don’t take the time to rest I quickly find myself back in the place where I begin to rely on my own strength and will power. If I don’t take time with God I forget quickly where my real source of power and strength lie.

What I need most is the presence of God. Before I reach the point of exhaustion I need to carve out space to let God speak directly to my heart. Food and rest revive my body but they are just not enough to revive my spirit. Jesus didn’t just tell his disciples to go away to a quiet place, but he called them to be with him. Getting away wasn’t enough. Resting and being alone wouldn’t rekindle their spirit for service. Only the presence of the Lord can renew, restore, revitalize, reinvigorate and re-establish my spirit.

No matter how much I may long to, I cannot stay in this quiet place. There is work to be done. The disciples and Jesus didn’t stay away. A time of rest and rejuvenation is important but there is still work to be done. Examples of Moses and Elijah getting away to the mountain for time with God show us how beneficial it was to go up to the mountain and spend time with Him but there always came the time to come back down from the mountain and continue on in the work they were called to do. Time with God is meant to give me the strength to go about my work, it is not meant to be a permanent hiding place.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for quiet moments and mountain top experiences that remind me who I am and Whose I am. I thank you for renewal, restoration, revitalization and reestablishing Your spirit within me. Amen.

 

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