Change

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.

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.

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.

De-cluttering

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

Most of my conflicts and difficulties come from trying to keep my spiritual and practical aspects of my life separate instead of realizing that they are part of one whole. If I practice a life that is centered on my own interests that are cluttered up by possessions, distractions of ambitions, passions of wants, worries, beset by a sense of my own rights and importance, anxiety for the future, or longing for success, I can not expect my spiritual life will be any different.

When I am anchored in God, then my spiritual life become simply a life where all I do comes from that relationship. Life becomes soaked through by a sense of this great movement of His will and soon I find my life has more order and less worries.

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

Searching, again

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4 (NRSV)

There are days I feel adrift from God. Sometimes it may be a result of my trusting in self again. It isn’t that God has moved, I have moved away from Him. Other times He has moved and I need to seek after Him. Again. Gary Moon in his Book Falling for God says it this way:

“All believers who want to become an apprentice of Christ and not just his admirer will find themselves in the blank space between the verses in Psalm 23. Because he loves us so much, the Shepherd moves on. We look around and wonder where he has gone. We feel alone, abandoned. We call out. Nothing. The voice that used to call our name is silent and does not respond when we call. He is gone. He has moved farther down the road that leads home. During the dark night experience our job is to seek God and to go to him again. When we do, we realize we are not the same person. Our relationship with him is not the same. We [too] have moved. We are closer to home and closer to union.” ~From Falling for God by Gary Moon

So whether my rough spot is due to me moving toward idols (Self-reliance) or God moving me on down the path to greater maturity, my job, your job, remains the same. We say, “Here I am, Lord, helpless without you.”

Heavenly Father, help me to seek You in all I do this day. May I ever grow more into who You see me to be. Amen.

The call of my heart

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed ). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter ). ~John 1:35-39 (CEB)

Are we looking for a miracle worker, a warrior to fight our battles, a savior to put right our lives? Just like us, in Bible times people flocked to Jesus looking to him for various reasons. Here in John we see two disciples who came looking for Jesus. The two disciples were followers of John the Baptist and were with him when he watched Jesus walk by and they heard him exclaim “Look here is the Lamb of God”. He surely must have known that to speak of Jesus in such a way would invite them to leave him and transfer their loyalty to this new and greater teacher; and yet he did it. There was no jealousy in John. He had come to attach men not to himself but to Christ.

John the Baptist was the first witness to Jesus’ identity and mission. John the Baptist begins a chain reaction of witnessing and discipleship, combined with affirmations of Jesus’ identity in titles: Lamb of God, Rabbi/Teacher, Messiah, son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man, Jesus is the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. Once Jesus was pointed out the two disciples decided to follow Jesus. It may well be that they were too shy to approach him directly and followed respectfully some distance behind. Then Jesus did something entirely characteristic. He turned and spoke to them. That is to say, he met them half way. He made things easier for them. He opened the door that they might come in. God does not leave us alone in our search. He comes out to meet us.

The initiative must be ours to begin with though. God will not force himself on us. But when the human mind begins to seek and the heart begins to long, God will come out to meet us. Jesus began by asking a most fundamental question, “What are you looking for?” The question is very relevant of the Palestinian time. Were they legalists, looking to have conversations about the Law like the scribes and Pharisees? Were they ambitious time-servers looking for position and power like the Sadducees? Were they nationalists looking for a military commander who would smash the power of Rome like the Zealots? Were they humble men of prayer looking for God and for his will? Or were they simply puzzled, bewildered sinful men looking for light on the road of life and forgiveness of God?

It would serve our selves well if we too allowed God to ask of us, “What are you searching for?” Some of us might answer that we are looking for security, a position that is safe, money enough to meet the needs and wants which will take away basic worries in life. Some of us are searching for what they would call a career, an opportunity to put their talents and abilities they believe themselves capable of doing. But these aims can be distorted as the world tells us what is important and what is right. Some of us are searching for some kind of peace, for something to enable us to be at peace with ourselves, with God and with others around us. This is the search for God; this only Jesus can meet and supply.

One point of hope that I pull from this reading is when Andrew shares with Simon Peter that the Messiah has been found. He brought Simon to meet Jesus, who looked at him and said “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Peter” When Jesus comes out to meet us, he doesn’t just see us as we are or as we used to be He sees us as what we can become. Jesus didn’t go into all the details or his purpose for his time here on Earth. He simply asked, Follow me. As the disciples obeyed and left their past behind them Jesus revealed more and more of his purpose to them. One of my favorite verses on the Bible comes from Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with a hope.” It gives me great comfort to know that God not only sees the actuality of who I am standing here right now but he also sees the possibilities of who I can become. God does not label me by my mistakes or by the lack of my ability. He says to me, Follow me and I will bless you and give you hope. He asks simply my obedience.

My search for God and learning what His will is for us is close to my heart. Sometimes it is hard to trust prompts from God. I have struggled for years trying to trust what I felt in my heart. But one thing I have finally begun to understand is that God places a desire and a passion in our hearts to do the things He calls us to do: Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (You will have a love & joy & passion for doing the things God has created you for & calls you to do). God calls to our hearts. He asks us to just believe.

~~~~~

If you made it to the end of this long post I will share with you that this is part of the first message I ever gave to a group. I celebrate three years of stepping up to what God has called me to do. No longer am I hiding from who God has planned for me to be. I am thankful for all that He has shown me since accepting the dreams God has placed in my heart. I am eager to see where He will lead me.

Heavenly Father, I simply thank You for all you have done in my life. I thank You searching for me when I was lost and didn’t listen to me when I said that I didn’t want to be found. I thank You for the Hope you have placed in me. Help me to show Your love to others. Amen.

My part

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.” After taking a cup and giving thanks, he said, “ Take this and share it among yourselves. I tell you that from now on I won’t drink from the fruit of the vine until God’s kingdom has come.” After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “ This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you. ~Luke 22:15-20 (CEB)

“When we invite friends for a meal, we do much more than offer them food for their bodies.  We offer friendship, fellowship, good conversation, intimacy, and closeness.   When we say:  ‘Help yourself … take some more … don’t be shy … have another glass,’ we offer our guests not only our food and our drink but also ourselves.  A spiritual bond grows, and we become food and drink for one another other.

In the most complete and perfect way, this happens when Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as food and drink.  By offering us his Body and Blood, Jesus offers us the most intimate communion possible.  It is a divine communion.” From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Although Christ’s death, burial and resurrection swung open the gates of heaven for us, we must be willing to do our part. We must pick up our own personal cross and choose the will of our Father over that of our own- several hundred times each day.

The only way I can do this is to have Jesus inside, alive, powerful, loving and acting through me. This great sacrament is fully revealed not through the intake of bread and wine but through the outflow of Christ through me.

In Jesus’ name I claim the power promised to those who believe. I choose to live, love and act this day as if I have Jesus in my heart. Amen.

Drawn out

 

 

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate. ~Romans 8:31-39 (CEB)

I have been reading in Deuteronomy the last couple of days. Deuteronomy can get bogged down with details and repetitions sometimes, but if I fade out too much I can overlook some powerful scriptures. For example, “It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” ~Duet 7:7-9

So it is not by anything that I have done, or anything I could ever do that God has drawn me out and loved me. He freely gave His love to me, not because I was anything special. In Romans Chapter 8:31-39 Paul comes at this topic from a different direction than being chosen by God. Instead he talks about how once we belong to God we can never do anything to be separated from that love.

Not by anything I have done did God choose to love me. Not by anything I could ever do would God choose to stop loving me….

So what should I fear?

Heavenly Father, sometimes I find myself lost in “what others think”. Help me to remember this day that the only thing that matters is that You love me. Help me not to get swept away or distracted by what other people think of me. May my eyes be only on You and Your will for my life. Amen.

Equilibrium

 

Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and see God’s face? My tears have been my food both day and night, as people constantly questioned me, “Where’s your God now?” But I remember these things as I bare my soul: how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode, to God’s own house, with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs— a huge crowd celebrating the festival! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. My whole being is depressed. That’s why I remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep called to deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your massive waves surged over me. By day the LORD commands his faithful love; by night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my solid rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I have to walk around, sad, oppressed by enemies?” With my bones crushed, my foes make fun of me, constantly questioning me: “Where’s your God now?” Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. ~Psalm 42

If I am not careful my desire for equilibrium can become an idolatrous attempt to deny a large part of what life is about. Messages I receive from the world around me tell me that there is something wrong with me if things are out of kilter and that life is meant to be lived on a plateau of happiness. Advertising sends messages that if only we buy this product or that product all my needs and longings will be satisfied. But if I turn to my Bible instead looking for answers to my restlessness, I find that the psalms show that this kind of thinking is a lie. I should boldly deal with life as it really is seeking out God for my balance and harmony.

Life is not meant to glide along always so smoothly for then I would forget to question. Without questions I do not seek out answers. Who am I? How am I to respond to the all-encompassing power of God? Without the questions I would not know that God is behind, in front, and above, laying a hand upon the one who feels searched out and known. Without the questions I would not know of an Omnipresent Creator nor would I see Him as reality.

In my questions I find myself on holy ground, and as I allow myself to be held in that moment of awareness, I must respond with what is truly in my heart. I tell God that I am afraid, uncertain, relieved filled with gratitude or a longing for more. It is in theses stirred up moments that deepest part of me finds the depths of a living God.

Heavenly Father I know that it is in the valleys and mountain tops of life that I will find myself closest to you. Only You can touch the deepest parts of my heart. As I travel through this day may I feel your hand on me. Amen.

Compassion

Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “ Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”Jesus answered, “ Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.” ~Luke 5: 37-32 (CEB)

“To go where healing and love is needed, and give it in a way in which it can be received, often means acting in the in the teeth of our own interests and preferences. Christ risked his reputation for holiness by healing on the Sabbath; he touched the unclean and dined with the wrong people; he accepted the love and companionship of a sinner (that most wonderful of all remedies for the wounds of sin). He loved with God’s love and so went straight to the point: What can I do to restore my fellow creature and how?” ~From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill

Sometimes I forget just what Jesus gave up coming into the world to save us. More than just coming down from Heaven into this hurtful world, he gave up his reputation, his home, a chance for a family, standing in the community and a place in any local synagogue. Instead he slept where ever he could find a place to lay his head; hung out with less desirable people; and went places that weren’t always safe. We don’t see Jesus hesitating and saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this, what would people think?”

Compassion is a gift that Jesus gave to everyone he met. We have just a skeletal view of Jesus’ life before he entered into ministry, but when I think about what compassionate people have in common I can’t help but wonder what Jesus’ life was like before his ministry. Some of the common characteristics of compassionate people often are significant suffering or painful life events of their own, a generous heart, a non-blaming and non-judging mind, a passionate spirit, and a love that embraces the oneness of all creation.

Jesus, being God’s Son probably came to earth already with the qualities of compassion. But I still think that the attributes of his compassion were hard won yet freely given to all. He never held back his compassion from others.

Another gift Jesus gave others was his companionship. With Jesus as a friend people began to realize that they could be forgiven for the lives they had previously lived and could begin a new life because a simple carpenter first loved them. Christ is new life. He came down from Heaven just to show the way.

In Christ I too can think of my old life as dead, the words from the Message translation say it this way, “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.” ~Col 13:3-4 (italics mine)

Out of my thankfulness for Christ’s compassion and companionship I need to in turn show compassion and give companionship to others. Not to make anything of myself, not to say look at how good I am now, but to say instead, if Jesus could love even me, he can love you too!

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your son down from Heaven to personally touch each of my wounds and to spend precious time with me. I thank You for the gift of compassion. I thank You for Your companionship You have so freely given to me. Out of the over flow of Your love for me may I in turn give of Your compassion and gentle companionship so others may find their way home to You too. Amen.

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