Monday, January 28, 2013

God of Love and Righteousness

Another leg in our journey through Psalm 119 - my poetic response to verses 153-160. Also, after the poem, is my report on a few of my God stories from this past week. What a great time I've had looking for and reporting on what God has been doing in my life. Enjoy!

God of Love and Righteousness
Only You know why Lord
when You had no need of more
You took upon Yourself the crafting
of mankind – a largely thankless chore.
For we do not give the praises
that so rightfully belong to You.
Nor do we faithfully live in gratitude
for all the things You are or do.
You created us in Your own likeness
and breathed in us the Breath of Life
You called us sons and daughters
and talked and walked with us.
You shone Your light upon us
You provided our every need
Yet in our pride and arrogance
we renounced Your Divinity.
Sinful, we hid from Your holiness
when we should’ve fallen to our knees.
Now You, the Lord, had a quandary –
What’s a holy righteous God to do
when the object of Your affection
chooses sin and death
over Your perfection?
How can Your love allow us
to answer for our crimes – to die?
How can Your righteousness,
without our deaths, be satisfied?
Oh what a predicament You found Yourself in
and what were You to do?
You stayed Your hand of justice
just for a little while.
Long enough to arrange
for Your miraculous arrival.
In human flesh, yet sinless
You came into this world You made
and taught us to love and seek Your way,
to rely upon Your mercy.
You urged us all to repentance
to receive forgiveness in Your Name.
Then gallantly You took our place in death
to satisfy Your righteousness.
But death can’t hold the great I Am
and victoriously You rose to claim
those who rely upon Your sacrifice
to take away their sin and shame,
to restore in them Your holiness.
You’ve redeemed Your wayward children
O glorious God of love and righteousness.

God Stories:
As an introvert, I need a considerable amount of alone time to recharge and energize myself. In his infinite grace, God gave me four wonderful days of peace and quiet which I used to rest, relax, and read - about him in my bible and in books about prayer and spiritual warfare.

I was blessed to witness some wonderful things this week: a family bringing their youngest to be baptized and sharing their stories of faith with us and also an adult who shared his incredible faith journey from a Jewish background to agnostic to passionate follower of Christ, as well as celebrating the joy of God's abundance and being part of sharing that abundance with missionaries across the world and mission agencies in our community.

What is God doing in your life?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Oh to Be a Betsie or a George

From I Stand at the Door and Knock by Corrie ten Boom     
      I had been in the concentration camp a couple of weeks when I said to Betsie, my sister, "What should I do? I have a cold, I don't have a handkerchief." 
      "Pray," she said, and I laughed. But she folded her hands and prayed, "Father, in Jesus' name, I pray to You, please will You give Corrie a handkerchief? She has a cold. Amen."
      Yes, I laughed again, but do you know what happened? I heard someone call my name. I went to the window where I saw a friend of mine, a fellow prisoner, who worked in the hospital. 
      "Here," she said, "take this, a little gift for you."
      I opened the parcel and it was a handkerchief. "Why on earth are you giving me a handkerchief? I asked. "Did you know I had a cold?"
      "No, but I had found an old sheet, and I made a couple of handkerchiefs out if it, and then there was a voice in my heart which said: 'Take a handkerchief to Corrie ten Boom.'"
      Can you imagine what a handkerchief means to you at that moment? That handkerchief told me that there is a God in heaven who hears when one of His children is praying on a small planet, the earth, for something incredibly small. And that God in heaven tells one of His other children to give Corrie ten Boom a handkerchief.

From I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glen Clark
A story told by the Captain of a ship on which George Müller of Bristol was a passenger:  They had encountered a very dense fog. Because of it the captain had remained on the bridge continuously for twenty-four hours, when Mr. Müller came to him and said, “Captain, I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon.” When informed that it was impossible, he replied: “Very well. If this ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chartroom and pray.”

The captain continues the story thus: I looked at that man of God and thought to myself – What lunatic asylum could that man have come from. I never heard such a thing as this. “Mr. Müller,” I said, “do you know how dense this fog is?” “No,” he replied, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.” He knelt down and prayed one of those simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder and told me to not to pray. “Firstly,” he said, “because you do not believe God will, and secondly, I believe God has, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.” I looked at him, and George Müller said, “Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get and audience with the King. Get up and open the door and you will find that the fog is gone.” I got up and the fog was indeed gone. George Müller was in Quebec Saturday afternoon for his engagement.”

 My Confession
I share these stories of prayer because I’ve been thinking a lot about my own prayer life. I read these stories and have no problem believing it happened just the way the stories tell. God hears our prayers, large and small, and as our loving Father, does what he does to comfort, protect, provide for and support us. I believe that whole-heartedly. I admire people like Betsie ten Boom and George Müller and desire and strive to have the intimacy with God that was so evident in their lives.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I am more like Corrie and the Captain when I look at prayer in my own life. I have experienced great miracles of healing of my pain and my past through God’s grace in faithful prayer. Of this I have no doubt. And yet for some reason, my prayers often lack the conviction shown by my heroes in these stories. Too often I pray in earnest but down deep I’m not really expecting or looking for God’s answer - when I say amen, I’m still expecting the fog to be there even when I’m hoping against the odds that it has dissipated. Or I don’t pray at all because I feel it is too insignificant or absurd to pray about – like a handkerchief in the middle of a Nazi concentration camp. I wonder why God would answer me. I wonder if I’m asking for the right thing – am I praying in His will? Often, I don’t know what to pray for, and worse yet, too often it doesn’t even occur to me to pray before I rush into life’s moments completely unprepared and vulnerable to worldly influences.

I know there is some kind of barrier of doubt or disbelief that hinders me from having the kind of confidence that Betsie and George had on their knees and I know that I’m not strong enough to remove that barrier – destroy that wall that has built itself up between my Lord and me. However, just as I know that God took the brokenness of my life and created something beautiful out of it, I know that if I ask him to break that wall down for me, he will. So that is what I am asking right now and where my hope lies.

What kind of barriers stand between you and a more intimate relationship with God and will you trust him to remove them?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

God Stories - Week Three of the Challenge

Here is this week's report on a few of my God stories from the past week. Three weeks ago I challenged myself and anyone who cared to join me to look for and share what God is doing in our everyday life for 30 days because "that would be a story worth sharing." The past two weeks, I posted the stories with poetry I shared (so non-poetry readers had something to read too). Well this week's blog isn't poetry, so I decided to post the God stories early! Enjoy!
God Stories
This has been a blessed week of peace. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed the peace of God’s presence such as I have this past week. And in blessing me, I believe He blessed all those around me (who had to put up with my most cheery and happy self all week long)

God gave me a wonderful gift of understanding this week. A friend of mine paid me a surprise visit at work this week with his exuberant, rather large puppy and his precocious but painfully shy three year old son. While enjoying the rare gift of the attention of a very energetic and loving dog (I’m not permitted to have pets in my apartment complex) I reassured the little boy that he was safe and didn’t need to worry about not talking to me and hiding in the corner. I told him I was happy he had come to visit from eight feet away while I receive a ton of affection from the dog. They stayed only a few moments and when they were leaving, my little friend made sure I saw him (standing a safe distance away in the hall) waving good-bye to me. His smile and that first step toward trust filled me with great joy. Later as I was going over the memory, I realized how much like that little boy I was, and sometimes still am, with God – hiding away in a corner obviously very unsure, insecure and fearful. God doesn’t scare me by “rushing over, picking me up and squeezing the stuffing out of me” – he is patient and understanding. He gets down to my level and in a soothing tone lets me know that he’s not mad at me for hiding and is just happy I am there with him. He lets me reach out to him at my own pace. What a patient, loving God we have!

If you recall in October, I talked about how one of the areas in my life that I have been pretty stingy about and keeping away from God was with my finances. Suffice it to say that, like too many Americans, while I am rich in the eyes of most of the world, I’m sometimes wondering how I’m going to get by until payday. While I was giving a token gift to my church, I felt God was calling me to trust him and not my balance sheet in my giving this year. When I asked the Lord how much I should give, I became convinced he wanted me to double my current giving – half to my church and half to anti-human trafficking organization. So in November, I prepared 2013 monthly budget to do just that. Now in my heart I felt that “twice nothing is still nothing” – yet doubling my charity was as bold a first step as I could take. Still I remember saying to God that I wish I could do more. Now the next part is going to sound like a really cheesy commercial… In the beginning of January, I was contacted by my insurance agent and told that by updating my policy, they could save me some money!! I laughed when I realized later that God had heard my wish and provided a little more than double my new charity amount. After prayer, courage, desire, discernment, and God’s abundant blessing, I am now happily resolved in giving more than 4x the amount of charity my balance sheet permitted me to give last year. I pray I am faithful in my giving.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Blessed Humility

Last week we returned to our poetic journey through Psalm 119 and we're so close to the end of the Psalm now that I was driven to response to the next set of verses (145-152) this week. Also, after the poem, is my report on a few of my God stories from this last week. If you remember, two weeks ago I challenged myself and anyone who cared to join me to look for and share what God is doing in our everyday life for 30 days because "that would be a story worth sharing." Enjoy!

Blessed Humility
I love that moment in prayer
when I realize all over again
how great is my need for my Savoir
in the presence of Jesus,
my Redeemer and King.
Before my God, I’m on my knees
admitting my weaknesses, my sin.
Not in fear with trembling, yet
marveling in Your grace.  
So much in me I want to hold back –
to keep just a little of my sin,
to dabble in that darkness
that, for me, has been a familiar place.
Yet I know if I am to serve You,
to love You with all I am,
with all my mind,
my heart and soul,
nothing from You can I withhold –
my dreams, my hopes,
my fears and my woes,
my strengths and weaknesses too.
Even in my uncertainty,
with overwhelming gratitude
I give all I am to You.
No strings – no disclaimers do I make.
I’m Yours to do with as You please.
Spirit of God work in me.
Make my heart Your very own.
Reach out to those in need.
Teach and love and heal them Lord
with Your Word of Truth, Your arm of grace.
I pray You choose to use my simple song
and compassionate embrace
to show the world Your glory,
bring about Your kingdom for them to see.
And Lord it would be my privilege
if You would consider reaching out to them through me.

My God Stories
I have a friend I have been praying for who has been going through a hard time and will be enduring this hardship for a long time to come. Part of my prayer for her is that God would bless her with moments of peace and joy. This past week, she called excited over a good thing that occurred and it was such a blessing to hear joy in her voice again.

I have been battling against a particularly unhealthy habit recently and losing that fight completely. With some guidance and lots of prayer this week, the Lord has enabled me to be free from it for six days now. Praise God!!!

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I am excited to finish this journey through Psalm 119 and being so close, I asked God to work the next poem in me. Saturday morning, he greatly amused me in that my spontaneous, completely unscripted prayer time came out of my mouth completely in meter and rhyme! I was laughing out loud by the time I got to “Amen”! It certainly helped set the tone for the poem above. What a wonderful God we serve!

Monday, January 7, 2013

What Is Justice Without Mercy?

We've taken quite a break from my poetic journey through Psalm 119 and I thought it would be nice revisit it with a new poetic response to verses 137-144. Also, after the poem, is my report on a few of my God stories from this last week. If you remember, last week I challenged myself and anyone who cared to  join me to look for and share what God is doing in our everyday life for 30 days because "that would be a story worth sharing." Enjoy!

What Is Justice Without Mercy?
Though justice may seem more noble,
more righteous,
more right,
who is qualified to judge
among the inmates of this life?
Poised with a pride we haven’t earned.
Liars, thieves, blasphemers all!
Hiding behind our virtuous masks
building up our righteousness
on another’s fall.
Judging sisters and brothers
as if one brand of sin is better
or less wretched
than another.
It’s not our place to condemn
to point our finger at someone else
to build our pulpit on each other’s sins
all the while
singing our righteous hymns.
Jesus came to earth
to fulfill the letter of the law.
To take upon himself
every person’s fall!
Your pride,
my addictions,
his gluttony,
and her lies.
No sin is left unpaid for
even before the sinner’s cry.
No life is beyond redemption.
God will work in and though us all,
every last one of us
no matter where or when
or how we fall.
If we are to judge,
let us judge – forgiven.
Let us see past the stain of sin
that marks our every fall
and just as Jesus taught us –
embrace every man and woman.
It’s not for us to say when and where or how.
Christ has redeemed our sin-stained souls and
God’s love and grace are upon us now.

My God Stories
Last week, I had the great blessing of sharing New Year's dinner with my family. My mother had a high blood pressure issue and heart attack symptons the Tuesday before Christmas and while I am keenly aware of what a blessing family is, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have this time to share with my mom and all of my family.

Also, I was faced with temptation that I really didn't want to resist. Knowing my weakness, I prayed diligently to the Lord to make it possible for me do the right thing even thought I really, really didn't want to. My prayer was heard and answered in that God not only made it possible, but made it impossible for me to make the wrong choice.

Then later in the week, I was feeling rather insecure and insignificant and instead of seeking comfort and approval from others, I focused my mind on the fact that my significance comes from God and even if I didn't feel it, I was loved and important to him. The next few hours, he proved that to me through several unprovoked compliments given and through the words of a song I heard.

I hope you had a wonderful week filled with God stories and would love to read any you wish to share.