Tag Archives: faithfulness

Sunday Verse for Reflection

(Creative Commons photo of Robert Williams/Navy)

As you read these, absorb them. Worship our Maker and Savior today.

(3 versions/translations)

Psalm 37:7

(The Message)

Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.

Psalm 37:7

(Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the man who carries out evil plans.

Psalm 37:7

(Today’s New International Version)

Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Thoughts or comments?

Traveling Light with Crazy Love

Francis Chan

We don’t just have upon us a crisis of faith, but also a crisis of faithfulness.

We’ve been reviewing Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. I encourage everyone to read it. It’ll do you good. Also, it makes an interesting and thought-provoking small group study, or Sunday School class.

"Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

This last lesson was on Risk and Faith. Chan asked everyone to do something in their regular life that requires faith. He asked that we abandon the typical planning we do to minimize our risk. We should do something others could think of as silly, and allow ourselves to live and act in a more vulnerable way. We shouldn’t rely in our stuff to satisfy us. We should live bigger lives.

Along the same lines, Rolf Potts leads this sort of recommended simpler type of lifestyle. He calls it vagabonding. (I found out about Rolf through the Tim Ferriss site. Thank you, Tim.)For Potts, a travel writer, his style is not just a method of travel, but a way of life. It’s unlike the American way of life, because it does not trust in stuff.

I’ve wondered if it’s the case that in America we seem to act like “in god we trust” refers to the money itself, or the things we can buy with it.

We do a lot to feel safe. We buy insurance to minimize various kind of threats. We buy things we feel sure will help us, or at least soothe us. What is the lasting consequence of this approach? A false sense of control? Feathering our pillow of self-sufficiency? Other things…

Rolf Potts takes the theme of traveling light to a whole new level, as he now begins his No Baggage Challenge: Traveling to 12 countries in 6 weeks—With NO baggage (not even a man purse/satchel). [His blog details his travels, and his packing techniques are also quite useful.]

The journey of faith is the same way. When we seek out the comfortable, and we travel heavy, by preparing (mentally or physically) for every potential event, challenge, or threat–something important gets left behind. Perspective for one thing. But what else?

In the life of faith, “taking nothing for the journey” means that one must trust in God’s provision (and his way of providing), trust others, and build relationships. It’s not about what we’ve packed (prepared) for, it’s about the trip itself. It’s about being brave, and opening up to others, and the experience of not being weighted down (both literally and figuratively) by our presuppositions: What we think the trip should look like, and feel like.

You don’t like bumps, you say? Sorry, it’s bumpy. You just might have been insulating yourself. For some perspective… Think: padded cell.

The spiritual journey (journey of faith) is undertaken so optimal preparedness is removed as an option: It’s a method of living, not to be comfortable, but to survive, live, and eventually thrive, where you are, as you are. You come as you are. When the going gets tough–and it will–you stay. [The only thing you “plan on” is love and loyalty.] You work it out. You don’t let yourself have but that choice. You live has though you don’t have a chance/option to flee–like we are too often ready to do. We trust others, and God with abandon, despite the risks, or pain that may/will come.

Why? Because it is the surest way to growth, more rewarding experiences, and a sense of being in a Story bigger than yourself and your self interests. In spending ourselves, we gain our lives.

When we take a risk to help or love (without examining the our potential losses, and assessing all the personal risks) we live by and in faith, not by sight.

[Now, realize, I’m not talking about a life of folly, or veritable reckless behavior. I’m talking about being okay with discomfort, and sacrificing the known and manageable, for something greater at stake.]

What could that look like for you?
Please-Leave your ideas.

Maybe giving away the extra car to someone who needs it? Opening up your home for someone else to live in? Inviting a family to your home for supper once a week? Using a paycheck to buy someone groceries?

What kind of faith will you live by?

In this sense, a little pain goes a long way. Soon, our sights move away from ourselves in pursing selfless faithfulness.

AND-How light can you travel? (on vacation, etc.)

Comments, thoughts, and questions welcome.

10 years ago, today

 

Now, Nathan must use every finger digit to show his age.

 

It was ten years ago today after 14 hours of labor, on an unseasonably 70º day that Nathan came into this world, as our  healthy first born child.

A decade of joy, pain, struggle, triumph, and rewards followed that day. Lots of interventions and therapy of various kinds for his autism. Nathan continues to show us he is one amazing person. He is a special child, and a precious gift from God.

Prayer of Thanksgiving 

God,

Your faithfulness is everlasting. You love endures.

You bind our wounds and cure the hurts of our hearts.

You make each day sweeter, and give us all we need.

Your abundance overwhelms me and dives into my soul.

Thank you for your provision. 

Thank you for your strength.

Thank you for your mercy, and steadfast love.

Thank you for Nathan.

Amen.

Faith and Fleecing God- Hoodoo Part II

Gideon and wool

A common tactic among Christians who seek God’s guidance and direction is to follow the example of biblical hero, Gideon. (see Judges 6:1-8:32) Many people searching for God’s will, lay out a “proverbial fleece,” and ask that God show them which way to go. They hope for a sign, or at least a strong feeling.

Let’s think about Gideon for a moment. When God called Gideon to lead his people in victory over their oppressors, the man was hiding out in the bottom of a winepress threshing wheat. Remember, to thresh wheat, one needs the wind, and open air, so the chaff can blow away, and leave the kernels behind. (One doesn’t get much of that, in a pit of a winepress.) This man was scared silly. One can’t expect to feel even much of a breeze in a hole! God calls him “mighty warrior” too. HA! What a sense of humor! He was either being totally sarcastic, or meant Gideon could be this with God’s divine intervention–in the future. (or maybe both, I wasn’t there to hear the Angel of God’s actual tonal inflection) 😉

Then, Gideon starts mouthing off, acting all bitter, and asks that the Angel of God to actually prove he is really God. To my knowledge, no one else in the Bible is this brash. Graciously, God permits this, instead of just smiting his sorry butt, he obliges him, and burns up a meal, right in front of Gideon. This, of course, scares the snot out of Gideon, and he believes, sort of. He’s still a big-time coward. God instructs him to take down his family’s idols that they all worship. God’s not a big fan of idols. DUH. God was already putting up with a lot of bologna. This garbage removal is an obvious “first things first” order of business.

Everyone in Israel knows you should not worship idols, EVER (they all are aware of those 10 Commandments, and laws of Moses stuff.) Gideon is totally justified to rip them down immediately; so he marches over and does it, no problem. NOPE. Not at all. Gideon goes the cowardly route, and tears down the family idols, by sneaking out to do it in the middle of the night, with a few buddies.

After gathering troops, still, Gideon struggles to feel right or the least bit courageous about God’s calling, or God’s Almightiness. This unlikely victor asks for, not just one miracle, but 2, yes two, miracles, before he follows God’s direction. Very presumptuous, indeed, not to mention faithless.

Here’s the kicker sometimes left out in this hero’s story. After a mighty, and completely miraculous victory, over a powerful and oppressive enemy, the Midianites (with a tiny fighting force of just 300), Gideon constructs a sacred golden object in his town that is soon worshiped by him, his family, and the whole community. WTHuh? I think Gideon and his ways boarder on ridiculous. He’s quite ordinary, in fact. Just like you or me?

While some use the fleece part of the story as a prescriptive idea for determining God’s will–a genuine way to find God’s guidance and will–I believe the Bible includes it as a failure of faith on Gideon’s part, one of several. Really the entire story is part of a greater witness to an idolatrous and unfaithful era in the times of the Judges. It’s really not a picture of Gideon as a good follower, at all, but instead a picture of God, and his forbearance with a very weak individual, a supremely unlikely leader, and a faithless people he has called his own, and wants to save. God continues to use misfits, and losers in his is amazing Story, but we don’t have to emulate these folks in their weaknesses.

In reality, Gideon was like a lot of godless inhabitants of the region; he was a superstitious sort. This was an unfaithful and tumultuous time in Israel’s past as they co-opted with many ungodly practices. Are behaviors of Gideon’s type really the best for us, or the most advisable? I say, “No.”

So if not, what should we do? I’d love for you to weigh in here on this! But, I’ll put in a few ideas.

First, we shouldn’t think of spirituality/the Divine as magic. “If I do this, I’ll know I should do this thing here, if this such thing happens.” Totally hoodoo. That is trying to get God to jump through hoops, so we feel more comfortable. Yes, sometimes God works with this shortcoming in us, but we should also understand that God will purposefully let us flounder sometimes.

Which way to go, or what to decide, might be part of our growth process. Also, Biblical narratives show that God will purposefully allow us to encounter temptation, or the opportunity to make an unwise choice.

Loyalty, and a close walk with him is one of the best guards against going hoodoo with God. (I call this close walk, Practicing the Presence of God. So did Brother Lawrence.) If we are being loyal/obedient, and we thoroughly love God with all we are, it is much easier to choose what God wants for us. And I really think it’s not always just one specific thing we have to pick that is his “will” for us. Sometimes, it’s the situation of good, better, and best. God doesn’t bite his nails wondering if we’ll pick the right thing, and then viola– “be in his will.” He redeems situations, even the foolishness we get ourselves into. It’s that much better if we pick wisely, and make him the center and glory of our decision making.

Yes, sometimes God will open and close doors, and almost seem to force our hand. If we love and trust him, we’ll be okay with that, knowing that he will do that sort of thing for our best benefit and interest, (though it may be hard to see what that is at the time.) To test God, by fleecing him, is to deny ourselves the opportunity for a close intimacy with God. He is a relational Being. He gives us opportunities to walk with him by faith, and not just by sight.

I would love to hear your responses to this post.

Leave a comment, if you will.

Standing Stones-A meaningful spiritual practice

 

standing stone monument-Joshua 4:9

standing stone monument-Joshua 4:9

Standing stones in a jar as a spiritual practice

Standing stones in a jar as a spiritual practice

 

 

 

 

 

When I first spoke about remembrance stones, or Ebenezer stones, a visitor friend of mine wrote this:

I also have small “alters” of stones in my house…up in jars. They are written on with a sharpie pen. I write one or two words down when I have a breakthrough, or a praise. When people come to visit, they ask about the stones and I can tell them that “good things happen here”. I take that from the Bible. Whenever there was a victory, as you probably already know, they use to build an alter…so that when people came by, they would see, know and remember.

This visitor’s practice of erecting contemporary “standing stones” helps her remember God’s goodness, mighty works, and faithfulness in her life. It can help her tell her story. It’s wonderful to have a visual reminder, also, because we can too quickly forget God’s work when we hit troubling times, or get too busy.

The practice of using stones as a memory device goes WAY back. For a brief devotional or your own research, look up the Scriptures of Joshua 4:9, and I Samuel 7:12.

Consider trying this practice for yourself. The materials are easy to find, and when you go through your jar and reflect on what’s inside as you are alone with God, or with someone else, you’ll be reminded of God’s faithfulness, and goodness.

I’m sending out a (free) fragrant stone, plus 18 ideas for meaningful practices to increase awareness of God’s presence, and memory of his faithfulness. I’ve found something as simple as a stone can create added spiritual awareness and mindfulness, and this has brought me a lot of hopefulness and joy, as I have an enriched experience of God’s love.

The stones I send out go to blog visitors, like you, who express an interest. Just say so in the blog comments. You can find out more here.