Ever mindful

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28 (CEB)

“The more healing I experience, the more I understand one of the most magnificent truths of the Christian faith: God can turn our worst pain into the source of our giftedness.” ~From Ashes Transformed by Tilda Norberg

A little hope for this Saturday morning as we near the end of “Ordinary time” and begin to anticipate Christmas time. I sometimes need reminding that God takes my pain and loss and can use it for good if only I will let Him. In my restlessness, I need the reminder today that He is working in my life even when I do not presently see any evidence. The Holidays ahead are such a mixed time of blessing and sorrow, of things to look forward to or people to miss. As I anticipate gathering with family and friends in a couple of weeks  and  the celebrations of all that lies ahead may I ever remember to be present in the moment.

As we move closer and closer to the season of Thanksgiving and onto the Celebrations of Christ’s birth, may I ever be mindful of all You have done in my life O Lord. Amen.

Does God really care?

LORD, how long will I call for help and you not listen? I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t deliver us. Why do you show me injustice and look at anguish so that devastation and violence are before me? There is strife, and conflict abounds. ~Hab 1:2-3 (CEB)

Often I find myself wrestling with questions. In reading the book of Habakkuk I find he is wrestling with some of the same things. His primary question to God is “Why does the Lord permit the righteous to suffer while the wicked prosper?” He has a series of questions and as he continues to raise these questions, the Lord responds. Habakkuk seems to be most concerned with how wicked people can even play a role in God’s work.

The time frame for this book is during the time of Israel’s defeat by the Assyrians and Judah’s oppression of those same Assyrians. The Assyrian rule was being felt greatly. Alliances were being made with other nations instead of turning to God. Habakkuk’s vision declares that this practice of trusting in human power and strength would ultimately lead to defeat. Habakkuk reminds Judah that the righteous live by faith.

In the ensuing conversation that Habakkuk has with God, he learns that the question at stake is not how one is made righteous but rather how the righteous might face evil’s apparent domination. He begins to realize that the question at stake is rather how the righteous might face evils apparent domination. “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” (2:3-4) The prophet’s vision emphasizes trust in God despite circumstances. At an appropriate time, an answer will come; in the meantime, the righteous will continue to trust in God.

From Habakkuk’s honest dialog comes a hope based not on visible circumstances but in God, who ultimately triumphs over evil and all of its manifestations. We too can say despite not knowing what tomorrow holds, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” (3:18-19)

Lord, help me find my security in You, not in my present circumstances. As long as my eyes are on You I have the faith needed to know that You will ultimately triumph over evil. Amen.

Forgiving the church

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. ~1 Cor 12:26-27 (CEB)

I was once by my perception, hurt deeply by “the church” or rather by the people in the church. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how “Christian people” could act in such a way as they did. I was holding them up to my standard of perfection and not seeing them through God’s eyes… wounded and broken like me.

“When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it.   But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.  When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.  The challenge is to forgive the Church.  This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.  But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

Although I never officially left a church over my wounds I know I was guilty of losing Jesus while I held onto my hurt and anger. Even though I continued to grace the steps of the church that hurt me I was blinded by pain, thus unable to see Jesus and His Grace for me. As always, unforgiveness only injures me. In time I was able to see that we are all human and none of us perfect. Now I see that time period as a necessary part of my journey. Many life lessons were learned as I regained my sight of Jesus through that time of trial. Most important of all was the reminder that Jesus forgives me every day and I need to extend that same grace to others.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the grace you give me every day. Help me to see others as needing your grace too. May I not let my past hurts blind me so deeply as to not feel Your love this day. Amen.

Illumined

Now children, listen to me: Happy are those who keep to my ways! Listen to instruction, and be wise; don’t avoid it. Happy are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorposts. Those who find me find life; they gain favor from the LORD. Those who offend me injure themselves; all those who hate me love death. ~Prov 8:32-36 (CEB)

“Faith is not belief in an afterlife based on today’s moral litmus test. To the contemplative “bad” and “good” make no matter. Each has capacity to become the other. Out of bad much good has come. It is often sin that unmasks us to ourselves and opens the way for growth. Mature virtue is tried virtue, not virtue unassailed. Great good, on the other hand, whatever its effects, has so often deteriorated into arrogance, into a righteousness that vitiates its own rightness. But both of them, both bad and good, lived in the light of God, blanch, are reduced to size in the face of the Life that transcends them.” ~From Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister

This selection from Illuminated Life reminds me not to be judgmental of others. It also reminds me to not be so harsh about my failures… or too prideful of my success.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for using my failures for Your glory. Help me to never think so highly of myself that I forget Who enables me to do good. Amen.

Wholeness and Purpose

 

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. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.  I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body.  I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse?  Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body. ~Romans 7:18-25 (CEB)

“Life is not a game we win, and God is not a trophy we merit. No matter how “good” we are, we are not good enough for God. On the other hand, no matter how “bad” we are, we can never be outside of God. We can only hope in each instance to come to such a consciousness of God that no lesser gods can capture out attention and not trifling, self-centered gods can keep us from the fullness of awareness that is the fullness of Life. It is the project of life, this coming to Wholeness, this experience of Purpose beyond all purposes, this identification with everything that is.” ~From Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister

Heavenly Father, help me with the ever present war that wages inside. Help me to come to a Wholeness and to experience a Purpose beyond all purposes. Help me to not be self-centered this day forgetting that it is You from which my strength comes from. Amen.

When He came calling

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. I praise the LORD— let the suffering listen and rejoice. Magnify the LORD with me! Together let us lift his name up high! I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. This suffering person cried out: the LORD listened and saved him from every trouble. On every side, the LORD’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! You who are the LORD’s ~Psalm 34:1-8 (CEB)

“You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.” ~From The Confessions by Saint Augustine

Once I began to listen to God calling to me, the more I wanted to hear. A simple taste of God’s word was not enough; it left me hungering for more. To the one who delivers me from all my fears I want even more today. I am never satisfied. As long as I seek refuge in Him I find true and complete happiness.

Heaveny Father, I thank You this day for calling out to me, for searching the dark depths for my lost soul. I thank you for finding me while I was lost, caught up in trying hard to live right. I thank You for the peace that awaits when I rest in Your arms. May I never stray so far to feel darkness’ bleak fear, help me stay in the light of Your love. Amen.

God sings

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.~Zeph 3:14 (CEB)

Reading Zephaniah shows us that God pleads for us to turn to Him. He does not want our destruction. He wants us to come away from our self-willed path and find a road that leads to him.

Have you ever wondered what God is saying to you when you line your steps with his? Zephaniah 3 says this:

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem. The LORD has removed your judgment; he has turned away your enemy. The LORD, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you will no longer fear evil. On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem: Don’t fear, Zion. Don’t let your hands fall. The LORD your God is in your midst— a warrior bringing victory. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing. I will remove from you those worried about the appointed feasts. They have been a burden for her, a reproach. Watch what I am about to do to all your oppressors at that time. I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast. I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth. (Zep 3:14-19)

He sings a song of joy and commands you sing too.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your songs of joy that You plant in our hearts for our day of return. I thank You that You are so willing to turn our ashes to joy, our suffering to purpose, and our pain to victory. Thank You for the calm you promise us if only we will look to You, our Hope and Redeemer. Ever guide my steps this day. Amen.

God’s timing

There is still a vision for the appointed time; it testifies to the end; it does not deceive. If it delays, wait for it; for it is surely coming; it will not be late. Some people’s desires are truly audacious; they don’t do the right thing. But the righteous person will live honestly. ~Habukkuk 2:3-4 (CEB)

Because I find it so hard to live in the “not yet” portion of life, whenever I find in the Bible words that address what I am feeling I find comfort. Reading Habakkuk gives me words to address that living in the “not yet”… in the “meanwhile” times of faith and trust.

Like Habakkuk, I must learn to be patient. There is still a vision for the appointed time. God is at work. He has a plan. He is working out God’s purpose. In patience and faith I can learn to find peace. God is working out the vision. In the interim, I am to live out the instructions given to me: “the righteous live [now and forever] by their faith. (2:4)

God’s timing is true.

Heavenly Father, Help me live in the here and the now by faith. Though I may not see where I am going, may I head out with the confidence of Abraham believing in the promises you give to me. Amen.

Sorting through the clutter

“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full. ~Matthew 5:6 (CEB)

“For a spiritual life is simply a life in which all that we do comes from the center, where we are anchored in God: a life soaked through and through by a sense of his reality and claim, and self-given to the great movement of his will.

Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of one whole. If  our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this. The soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan: there are few soundproof partitions in it.” ~From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill

Center me this day Lord, not on self-importance or self-ambitions but on You. Amen.

A God who woos

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. ~Matthew 5:5 (CEB)

“Our spiritual life is his affair; because, whatever we may think to the contrary, it is really produced by his steady attraction, and our humble and self-forgetful response to it. It consists in being drawn, at his pace and in his way, to the place where he wants us to be; not the place we fancied for ourselves.” ~From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill

When we allow ourselves to be wooed by God we find ourselves going places we never thought about going before. Anchored in him we find ourselves stronger than we ever thought we were, able to withstand the greatest storms. As long as we remember Who gave us this strength, Who called us from the depths, we will find that we are able to do all things…

Heavenly Father, I thank You for calling me, pulling me, steadily and constantly. May I never forget from Where my strength comes from. Amen.

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