Thursday, May 22, 2014

Got Hope? Not Always... Confessions of the sluggish worshipper

Hello there friends!

Hope you're all doing well. If not, Hopefully I can help that word have a little more meaning for you. (Oh yes, my terribly punny self is alive and well today 0:-)

Do you ever find yourselves just Struggling to join in worship? Today's just not your day, perhaps.
Trust me, I know the feeling.

I used to hate Philippians 4:4, that timeless verse that urges people to "Rejoice in the Lord Always." Obviously, you can see MY life, I would say. Lots to rejoice about, loads even. Oh wait, I forgot something in that sentence- NOT.
Then, as if things couldn't get Any better, the writer says "I will say it again, Rejoice!"
At this point, I would just be frustrated. What kind of God could look at this world and seeing all of its depravity, still ask me to rejoice? Even more infuriating was that it this God asked not just robotic rejoicing, but genuine, heart-felt joy!

Hopefully observant readers will have noticed my use of the past tense... I used to hate Philippians 4:4. I used to be angry with the God that would allow a devastated world to exist, and a broken me. Then He asked me to REJOICE? Maybe you can imagine my frustration, my disappointment.
 Until I realized that the author of this verse asks us to rejoice not because the world is good or because life is going well- but because of what the next verse says. "the Lord is near." Or, in some translations, "the Lord is at hand."
Can you imagine? Think for a moment. The God of the Universe, King of All Creation, the One who formed you and knew you before you were even conceived... even more, the One who has been working for all of time to reveal His love to man, the One who Gave His SON, He not only LOVES you, but He is near to You. Indeed, He is at hand.

I pictured Him then, standing in front of me.
He'd always been there, staring at me, with His arms wide open.
Then again, next to me. He'd always been there, walking with me.
Ever the gentleman, not to butt in unless asked,
He had quietly been doing what was best for me-- as much as I would permit.
Then again, behind me. He was there also, picking up the pieces,
Watching my back, Urging me forward.

Look, I can't always see God. I don't have Elijah's Open-Heaven-Vision glasses. Because of this, I make mistakes, and I still have moments of doubt. And just because I have had a few open-heaven moments doesn't mean my life is easy; I have had plenty of trouble. But I rejoice, indeed I "take heart" everyday, because there He is. Jesus walks in front of me as my Jehovah-Nissi (my banner), beside me as my companion and guide, and behind me as my rearguard. I look to Him and I find this inner peace and joy just bubbling up inside of me. I find this in all times. Recently, this has included times of grieving a suicide, contemplating the horror of a newborn struggling to survive, feeling exhaustion of finishing another semester, recuperating from health issues, and so much more, both of the good and painful sides of life. In EVERY one of these situations, when I simply acknowledge the Savior who said "I am the truth and the life and the way," He pokes and prods something within me that gives me joy in the midst of trial, pain and even weeping.

He said if I asked, I'd receive. I just never thought it could be this great.
Rejoicing in the Lord always is not just a command, it is my freedom and my right.
He has given me life and life to the full.
I am redeemed and He is within me, He is with me, in front of me, beside me and behind me.
All it took was just a step forward, a raised hand, a spoken word,
and suddenly, my heart would be full, like a river overflowing.
To quote another friend, "let the storms rage on" ( oh yes, I went there. )
this joy can't be taken.
He has overcome the world. He said it Himself.

"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." -John 16:33

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chasing Perfection

"Be perfect."

What phrase could be more daunting, more frustratingly impossible?
Try this one on for size -- "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
Now we have not just a call for perfection, but God as the standard. How can mere men ever dare or even hope to reach this lofty standard?

Honestly I'm not too much of a fan of theological debates. But this one cannot get away from my mind's unyielding grasp. Why would God say something He did not mean? Would He? Could He?

Or maybe.... He meant exactly what He said, and we have only grasped part. Surely, being perfect applies somehow to obeying the laws of God and living for Him, but that discussion is for another time. For now, I would suggest that perhaps part of perfection is not how we live or who we live for (though that must certainly have something to do with the subject), but how we love and who we love and on whose behalf we give and receive love.

All other debates aside, let us just think of God's commands for us to love.
Matthew 22:37-40 tells us to love God and love our neighbors,
John 15:9-12 tells us to abide in God's love and love others as He loves us,
Matthew 5:43-47 tells us to love our enemies the same way we love our brothers- which should be as He loved us first, and countless other verses throughout the Bible tell us to love one another....
All of these commandments to LOVE, and we say that perfection is in obedience?
(Mind you, part of love and abiding in love is obedience, but once again I think that is for another time.)

Here's an idea: let's try it, this love.
I'd bet perfection comes along for the ride.
After all, this love is unlike any other.

What could be more perfect than a love like His?
Love that covers, heals and comforts;
Love that is real, love that is 'patient and kind,'
Love that says 'you first, then me.'

Can you imagine, the peace and joy this love would bring?
Love of innocence, of truth and of goodness,   
Love with endurance, belief, and hope, and 
Love that never ends.

This love is radical. It is
Love for Him, love for me, love for them,
Love to lay down and not to take,
Love to love and nothing else.

Especially on this Mother's Day, when we are supposed to honor those women who gave us life at birth and life through living, let us go one step further than honor. Let's love one another.
Let's love- our moms, family, friends, and strangers too.
Let's chase perfection, starting and ending with loving God and people.

On a side note, thank you for your patience in all of my meanderings. I know my thoughts can be scattered and lengthy... And to any Mom's reading this, Happy Mother's Day- We really do honor you for all you've done, and love you for all you are.