In the silence

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The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. ~Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

Sometimes in my waiting I become anxious. Especially if during my time of waiting I feel that God is being silent. In the silence, I still must trust that He is busy working all things to come together for my good. I forget that in His silence He can be doing some of His mightiest works. Fear of the silence only lays traps for my heart, stumbling blocks for my feet. Even in the silence, my eyes should be trained on Him, trusting Him. In my trust, I find comfort and the realization that despite my perception of things, I am safe in God’s hands.

Advent is that time of quiet expectancy for me. Outside can be dark, cold and bleary but I know that God is sending His Light to bring hope to the darkness. Light is coming to warm my heart. I shouldn’t be afraid of the darkness for it is just a time of preparation.

Prepare my heart O Lord, help me welcome the silence. Calm my anxious heart. I know that You are doing a might work and that because I place my trust in You I am safe. Help me to see reality and not my perception of the way things are. Give me strength to bear the silence knowing You have not abandoned me, just that You are busy working in those secret places of my heart, readying me for that Light You have promised. Amen.

What pleases God

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So then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to keep living the way you already are and even do better in how you live and please God—just as you learned from us. Aim to live quietly, mind your own business, and earn your own living, just as I told you. That way you’ll behave appropriately toward outsiders, and you won’t be in need. ~ 1 Thes. 4:1,11-12 (CEB)

1 Thessalonians 4 verse 1 says you ought to live a life pleasing to God. I think that is one of those universal statements that is easily accepted by any of the religions based on belief in God. But then the observation prompts a universal question~

“How do I live a life that is pleasing to God.”

As always, if you keep reading the Bible, answers come to the questions we have.  Starting in verse 11 we begin to find our answers… We are to aspire to live quietly, to mind our own affairs and to work with our hands so that we can behave properly and be dependent on no one.

That just seems too simple…  another universal question arises, “What does God really require of me?” In Micah I find another simple answer. God requires of me to love Him, to be fair and to be compassionate (Micah 6:1-6:8).

That is pretty simple and straight forward. Sometimes it amazes me when I am looking for the complicated answers to “what pleases God” and “what does God require of me” to find that it is really so simple that even a child can understand it.

Heavenly Father, help me this day to live a life pleasing to you. Help me aspire to the quiet, life minding my own business. Help me to be Your hands and feet to others, loving as You would have me love. May I always be fair in what I do. May I always work hard for myself and others through the strength You freely give. Amen.

Pay attention!

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“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. ~Matt 5:13-16 (CEB)

One of the dangers of waiting is forgetting to let my light shine while I wait. I have never been one to wait patiently. It almost paralyzes me. I have had several reminders in the past few days that I have been hiding my light. Reading this passage from Bread for the Journey was just another reminder that not only am I to be patient but active in my time of waiting:

“How do we wait for God?  We wait with patience.  But patience does not mean passivity.   Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise.  It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.”  Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants.  Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Heavenly Father, help me to shine for You. May I continue to be active in my time of waiting, continually seeking the ways that I can serve You this day. May I pay attention to what is happening here in these moments and live them to the fullest. Amen.

On to perfection

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So let’s press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics about Christ’s word. Let’s not lay a foundation of turning away from dead works, of faith in God,  of teaching about ritual ways to wash with water, laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment—all over again. ~Heb. 6:1-2 (CEB)

In the United Methodist Church, the second question of a series of questions a minister is asked before being admitted into full membership in an annual conference is “Are you going on to perfection?”

“Where are you going? If you continue on the course you have charted, where will it all end? So often we discount Christ’s return, forgetting that in many ways Jesus Christ has never left. Or we begin reasoning that since Christ has not returned yet, why think about it? But the truth is that at the very best, our lives are short and soon we will have reached out destination, whether Jesus Christ will have returned in a cosmic unfolding or not. Are you going on toward God? If not, where are you going? It is always a good time to review and if necessary redirect your life toward God.” ~From A Guide for All Who Seek Prayer, Rueben P. Job

Today on the Church calendar we are celebrating “Reign of Christ Sunday”. Next Sunday marks the first Sunday on the Christian Calendar. As we come to the end of the church year, it is an appropriate time for reflection and thoughts of new beginning.

Heavenly Father, help me to sort through and decide where I am going. Help me to move ever forward on my path toward You. Amen.

Change… doesn’t come quickly

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I will give them a single heart, and I will put a new spirit in them. I will remove the stony hearts from their bodies and give them hearts of flesh so that they may follow my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. ~Ezekiel 11:19-20 (CEB)

When my daughter was young she would worry ahead to things that were in the future. For instance she always worried about the time when she would be grown up and “have to live on her own.” She was nine at the time so I would tell her that she was supposed to want to live with me forever. That was where she was at that time in her life. I would also tell her that when it was time for her to live on her own God would have prepared her heart and she would be ready.

Today, I don’t think she remembers the conversations we had about her wanting to live with me forever and never leave me, but I do. I remember the conversations slowly changing from living with me forever… to buying the house next door where she could still be close by… to buying a farm when she grew up, naturally not next door since we live in a sub-division.

I like the book of Ezekiel because amidst the imagery found, I see God working on the hearts of his people. Among the promise of punishment for apostasy I see God preparing their hearts for their time of trial. Through the use of imagery God is showing His people that He is a mobile God not just found in the Temple but a God who can move anywhere in any direction. This was a new concept for the Israelites who felt that God lived and was to be found in His Temple. I also see that He was planting in their hearts even then the seeds that would one day help some of them accept Jesus as that promised Shepherd. That Shepherd who would gather them from among the scattered the nations and make them one nation again.

Change doesn’t come quickly. God must prepare our hearts, our minds and our circumstances for the change. God had promised that He would give the Israelites a new heart a heart of flesh with which they could live healthy and strong in His promises and be His children.

Sometimes in the waiting, for my circumstances to change I forget that my heart and mind must be readied so that when new circumstances come I will be strengthened for the task. It is not that God has abandoned me in my trials, He is mending heart, mind, and soul, those places unseen, so that I will be able to walk forward with my head held high into those Promises He has made me.

Heavenly Father, grant me patience for my circumstances, peace that although I don’t see changes happening that You are doing a good work on my heart mind and soul so that I may walk into Your Promises with the confidence of the daughter of a King. Amen.

Waiting

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“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Now five of them were wise, and the other five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t bring oil for them. But the wise ones took their lamps and also brought containers of oil. “When the groom was late in coming, they all became drowsy and went to sleep. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’ “Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’  “But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut. “Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’  “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’  “Therefore keep alert because you don’t know the day or the hour. ~Matt 25:1-13 (CEB)

“Waiting is essential to the spiritual life.  But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting.  It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for.  We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus.  We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory.  We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful – waiting.  As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen.

In my time of waiting, I must still be prepared… looking for the time when circumstances will change. I must be working and preparing myself, accepting the changes as the come, piece by piece, moment by moment… alert… finding the joy… active in this journey that God has sent me on.

Heavenly Father, help me to not become impatient in my time of waiting. Help me to feel Your Presence as You make my heart and mind ready. Keep me alert with the Hope You have hidden in my heart. Amen.

A Thanksgiving prayer

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him,  they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”  When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.  He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” ~Luke 17:11-19 (CEB)

Only one of ten lepers returned to thank Jesus for healing them. It is easy to criticize the nine who did not thank Jesus for healing them. The sad realization is that is probably my average on a daily basis. I probably only thank God for one out of every ten blessing He bestows on me. If that much…

Sometimes God uses our children to remind us to be thankful. Through my sons prayers I am reminded that I too should be thankful for my bed, a warm house to call my own and a family that loves me. When I tell my son we are not to feel guilty that there are others that do not have these basic needs but that we are to thank God for what we do have, I am reminding myself of all that I take for granted on a daily basis. We are rich compared to some and for these rich blessings I am thankful. So ever grateful.

I found this prayer and thought it was a good prayer to share on this Thanksgiving Day:

It is always right, O God, to praise you and to bless your name. Even if the harvest fail, even when economies falter, still you are our God; still you bless us richly. Help us to see your active hand in bounty or in scarcity, in pain as well as pleasure. When we fail to see you at work we fall into the sin of ingratitude, or even suppose that all that we have is the work of our own hands, the result of our own intelligence and industry. Forgive us, and save us from an existence so self-centered. Set us free from greedy and grasping hearts. By your generosity to us, teach us to be generous to others, and thus to give evidence to you that we are indeed your thankful people. This we pray through Jesus Christ, your most gracious and enduring gift to us, for whom be everlasting praise. Amen. ~From the book, This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey

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