Monday, August 27, 2012

The Pharisee Within

The Psalms are poetry. They're songs, hymns actually - the music of God's people. Some time ago, I began an unusual study of Psalm 119. As I began to study the first eight verses of the psalm, I was inspired to write a poem. The experience was so amazing that I knew I had to meditate and respond to the rest of this psalm in kind. I'm not retelling scripture, but responding to it's message. Below is my response to verses 121-128. Enjoy!
Riverside Inn, Cambridge Springs (August 2012)
The Pharisee Within
Why God?
Why are we so quick to condemn
the sinners around us,
all the while
overlooking the sin within?
How can we scour Your Word
to hurl condemnation,
stoning others with our interpretations,
loudly rejecting the very ones
You came to save,
in our self-righteous arrogance,
even as we shout Your Holy Name?
Why do we think this is what You,
who came to serve,
would want us, Your people, to do?
You came not to condemn us
But to save us –
to live and die and live for us.
You came as Healer
And Forgiver
Restorer of life through grace
And then asked us to do the same
through Your Spirit
and in Your Glorious Name!
Forgive us Lord, but especially me
for my self-serving part
in this sanctimonious game.
You didn’t meet me with fire and brimstone
but in kindness and love You reached out Your hand.
Not with condemnation
but with hope and forgiveness
You loved me as the sinner I am.
You brought light to my darkness,
not to judge but to save.
With joy You welcomed me in Your embrace.
You healed all my wounds
and removed my disgrace.
It didn’t happen all at once.
But over time I began to grow and change.
It’s a journey we walk together,
hand in hand,
with You guiding the Way.
Still I find myself in need of Your grace
from beginning to end
day after day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Learning about Faith While Buying a Car

Oh my goodness – I have had a wonderful and stressful week! For the last couple of years, the family mechanic has been telling me that my car wasn’t going to last much longer and judging by the repair bills, ($2000-$3000 twice a year) I decided it was better to start looking for a replacement before the next inspection due in October.
This is the first car I’ve ever bought that I’ve had the opportunity to take my time in looking for and choosing the one I really want rather than the one on the used car lot that fell in my limited price range. Not only that, but this is the first car where I, myself, did the work and made the decisions. Until recently, I’ve relied on other people to make these kinds of life decisions for me – my husbands or my parents.
After two months of looking, I finally found “the one” late last week and initiated the process of purchasing it. All week long, I’ve been taking two steps forward and one step back in the process of buying my new-to-me car. I don’t remember it being so confusing before or time consuming when my husbands or my parents were running the show, but I pushed through the mistakes and the hassles and I am happy to report that I will be holding my new registration card in hand soon. I learned a lot about the process of buying a car this past week – both in my successes and mistakes. And I’ve proven to myself that I’m not as helpless and incapable as I thought I was. 

So what’s this have to do with faith? Recently, my mentor, who has been helping me grow in spiritual wisdom and in my walk with the Lord for the last nine years, mentioned that it seems as though the Lord has brought me into a position where he is using me to disciple others. I can’t disciple others!!!! I’m not trained for that!!! What if I get it wrong and it screw it up? Discipling is for someone who knows more, has more scripture memorized, who’s more spiritual and can answer those tough theological questions.

As I reflected on my week today, I realized that I wasn’t trained in automobile facts and statistics or in the process of purchasing one. That’s always been the responsibility of someone who knew more about cars, negotiation, and financing. I’m not a mechanic – I don’t know anything about engines or brake systems. And one practically has to take a course in economics to figure out the best way to finance anything these days. Here’s one tip I can now give you after all my running around last week – when you sell the old car (instead of trading it in) and you are planning to transfer your license plate to your new vehicle, it’s a good idea to take the plate off the old car before you leave it with the new owner! Otherwise, you have to drive back the next day and pick up the plate. All I’m trying to say here is that I wasn’t specially prepared for buying this car. It took a whole lot of research, using all my resources at hand, and relying on the expertise of others when necessary that put my new vehicle in the parking lot outside my apartment building.

And in the same way, I’m not specially prepared to disciple anyone, but I have God’s Word and a large assortment of commentaries and Bible studies to draw wisdom from, and God’s Holy Spirit to open my heart and mind to his leading. Actually, I have everything the first disciples had when they started fulfilling the Great Commission - a relationship with Jesus. They were fisherman and a tax collector. They didn't take a course at seminary to learn to lead people in the faith. I’m going to take two steps forward and one step back as I continue on my faith journey with those whom God has brought into my life either as mentor or disciple and we all will be blessed from the successes and failures we share with each other. And when we make those mistakes, God's grace is always there catching us and putting our feet firmly on the ground and facing in the right direction to continue on down the road to our destination - God's holy presence among us.
my new-to-me car

About the pictures:
Riverside Inn (Cambridge Springs) August 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Christian Life

Riverside Inn, Cambridge Springs, PA (August 2013)

I'm still working my way through my poetic study of Psalm 119. What I find most amazing is that the poems I write in response to God's Word in Psalm 119 never end up where I think they are going to as I begin to write them. I hope you are blessed in the reading as I was blessed in the writing of this poetic response to Psalm 119:113-120.

The Christian Life
The Lord is my Shepherd,
the Vine to my branch,
the Light in my darkness,
the Wisdom that guides my hand.
He is the Strength in my weakness,
My Beginning and End,
The Peace in my chaos,
My Redeemer and Friend.
Nonetheless I turn my back
deceived by Satan’s lies.
I run away from the narrow path
till in my sin I’m paralyzed.
“Jesus, Jesus,” I cry out in shame
soiled in my disgrace.
“Help me, save me” I implore in Your Name
and turn from my sin as I seek Your face.
Not in dismay or fear
do I plead my case
But in the covenant promise
of Your most amazing grace.
You pick me up and bind my wounds,
You love and embrace the sinner I am,
and feed my empty soul with Your eternal Word.
You are Christ, the solid rock on which I stand.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The "D" Word

This past week I celebrated a birthday and received the news that my younger cousin Jay died of a cardiac arrest, a complication resulting from an asthma attack. Consequently, I’ve been contemplating the very serious and sometimes uncomfortable issues of life and death this week.

You know by now that as a teenager, I had made the decision to commit suicide on my 18th birthday. Some may disagree with me, but I give God all the credit for finding the one and only way to change my mind – I was 2-1/2 months pregnant on that birthday. While I was okay with ending my own life, I couldn’t end the life of the child inside me. And though I only had the joy of my son’s life and love for twelve years and six weeks, it was the greatest joy of my life and I thank God everyday for the privilege of knowing Bryan at all. For me, having faced death so intimately in my own decisions and the life and death of my son, every day is truly a gift from God. I hope to live it in love and gratitude.

Death is a subject nobody wants to talk about, but everyone must deal with. Let’s get this out there in the open right now – someday, maybe even today, I’m going to die and so are you and everyone you know. That’s not a horrible thing. The life we’re living right now is only temporary. In the beginning, God walked with us in the cool of the evening in the garden. We were fully aware of and enjoyed his presence and embrace. The nature of sin, that infects all humankind, has left us in a spirit-dead state. We were never meant to live in this veiled state, separated from his glory. Death is not the end, but the beginning of what we were always meant to be.

I once heard death compared to being born. A baby in the birth process might feel and fear the stress of the unknown to come like we do when we approach death. He only knows the joy of being fully embraced by the one who gave him life and protected him in his little womb world, the one who provided nourishment for him to develop and grow when he dies to the only existence he’s known to the new life to come. Only in the act of dying to the old and being born into the new can he see face to face the mother whose voice, until now, he has only heard muffled in the womb. Oh, he’s sensed her presence in his old womb life, but until he is born, he cannot know her in the way his mother wants him to know her. She wants to hold him and care for him. She wants to caress his face and play with his toes.

Now I don’t know if God wants to play with our toes or not. But I do know that he wants us to experience him more fully in a way we cannot do in this life – unhindered by the limits our current existence. He wants this so much that he sent his Son Jesus to the cross to open the way for us. I don’t know what happens when we die. That is a mystery of God that we cannot understand or unravel in this life. What I do know is that I trust God and he tells us that it is going to be wonderful.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5, NIV)

About the pictures:
North Park, PA (September 2011)