Living in Limbo

Not this. Although it looks fun.

I went outside this morning, hoping for light rain on my run. I got blessed. A watery half moon peered down as the trees dripped. No new precipitation. The leaves have fallen, so the streets and sidewalks held no slippery leaves. The streetlights glimmered on the wet pavement.

As I pounded up the hill, I considered all the things that we still have no decision on. The house hasn’t sold. We got a low-ball offer , asking us to pay closing costs as well, more than a week ago. When we countered with full price to account for the closing costs, they disappeared. Things at work still hover in the land of indecision. How will our department reorganize in the wake of staff changes and budget cuts? And the biggest question of all: Did I win the $320 million Powerball Jackpot?!

Probably not, since I never buy tickets.

Anyway.

I dislike limbo land. Immensely. I’m a yes or no person. I’m not a fan of indecisiveness. If I can’t decide on something, I usually default to no. So to me, waiting around feels like a negative answer. But my way of thinking isn’t God’s way of thinking.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Okay. So what do I do in the meantime, when the answer doesn’t come in a timely fashion and I start to feel foolish for even believing? Did I even hear right, Lord? Or was that some bad pizza?

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
 – Psalm 27:14

It’s never seemed courageous to me to wait for anything. My paradigm consists of practicing and working for things. But there’s a meekness to waiting, and a surrender. You’re not solving it yourself. You’re not chasing answers. David, who wrote Psalm 27, knew something about this as he waited to become king, and in the meantime, got hunted down by the existing King Saul. Several times, he had Saul in a vulnerable position and could have killed him. But he didn’t. He trusted God to bring it to pass.

So this season of waiting is not wasted. I’m learning patience. Not my strength, honestly. But I know Jesus walks with me, and I can keep doing what I know to do in the meantime.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

 

 

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Tasting

Deli-Cold-Cuts-italian-food-22611373-1280-9601(source)

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8

This psalm came up in my Bible reading plan today.  I’m going through the psalms for a second time now.  What does it mean to “taste and see”?  I’ve heard this scripture quoted often over the years. David wrote this psalm after he had faked insanity in front of Abimelech.  David’s acting skills saved him from death twice – from King Abimelech, who wanted to kill David while he fled from King Saul, and from King Saul himself. “And the Oscar for lead actor this year goes to…David, of the tribe of Judah!”

David escaped death many times. Praising God for His faithfulness became second nature to him.  Many of the songs he composed reside in the book of Psalms. He wrestled with God, there, too.  Look at Psalm 22.  “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  The fullness of David’s character, his flaws and fortitude, come to light in the pages of the Old Testament.  God called him “a man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

I think David fully tasted of God’s goodness. He sought and found God in minding the family’s sheep. He learned to trust God in the great seasons and the trials.  That meant surrender.  That meant honest faith – or lack thereof. God’s not afraid or put off by our emotions or quaking.  He is love.  He’s bigger than all of our circumstances and pain. He can meet us where we are, right now, today.

Taste and see.

Too Late to Apologize?

I’ve worked a lot of different places, as you know.  Most of them, people owned up to their mistakes and took their lumps.  Well, okay, harder to make happen when you work with engineers.  But the rest of us common folk have learned when we botch a job, we ‘fess up and move on. We learn from our mistakes.  At least, that’s what I was taught.

It seems apologies are out of fashion now. Look at our role models – professional athletes, politicians, entertainers. Which brings us to ask, what does it even mean to apologize?  People in the limelight only tend to confess when they’re caught.  Is this a true apology? Google has this to say:

a·pol·o·gize
verb
  1. express regret for something that one has done wrong.
    “I must apologize for disturbing you like this”
    synonyms: say (one is) sorry, express regret, be apologetic, make an apology, ask forgiveness, ask for pardon;

    informal eat one’s words, eat humble pie
    “please allow me to apologize for my wrongful accusations”

It’s never easy to apologize.  Nobody likes to stand up and say “I was wrong.”  We like it even less when we have to say “Please forgive me.” But it’s necessary.  It heals and repairs.  Nobody has all the answers in this life.

At one place I worked, I made a mistake.  Kind of a big one, if my recollection serves.

“I’m so sorry,” I said to my boss.

“You don’t need to apologize,” he said, squirming at my honesty.  He smiled a self-conscious smile.

I thought it strange.  Of course I needed to seek pardon.  I made the mistake.  I cost the company money, time, etc. Taking the hits is part of life, isn’t it?  You fall down.  You dust yourself off and get back up again.  Right?

Our culture has made apologizing into something of a witch hunt.  If we say we’re sorry, we admit our culpability.  And that, friends, is very bad.  The definition of culpability is “responsibility for a fault or wrong; blame”.  Yes.  We bear the blame for things.  If we get to bear the glory of our success, failure is her evil twin.

Does this mean everything is our fault if it fails?  No.  Of course not.  Many factors come into play in this life.  Weather.  Finances.  Poor decisions on the part of others.  But some things lie directly under our control.  Those responsibilities remain in our bailiwick.  Our families.  Our relationships. The bulk of our job duties.

One of the most famous Biblical apologies came from King David. As you may recall, he cheated on his wife with the lovely Bathsheba.  She conceived from that tryst.  David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to get killed. God didn’t like any of this.  Confronted by the prophet Nathan, David repented. He wrote a psalm to commemorate the occasion.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just…- Psalm 51:1-4

Did David experience true repentance?  Scripture proves that he did.  The first baby with Bathsheba died of an infant illness.  The second son they had together they named Solomon.  Solomon grew up to become a very wise king, influential and wealthy in his era.  God redeemed what started out as a bad situation.

Apologizing should be a part of our lives.  We don’t live in a bubble.  We say and do things that impact others. Let our conscience guide our interactions and let God take care of the rest. He brings beauty from ashes.

David’s Triumph

davidI’ve been battling some big-time discouragement lately. Trying not to let it get the best of me.  Today, though, it’s winning.

I read Psalm 18 – again – on the Bible reading plan.  We’re hitting up Psalms for the second time.

I love you, Lord;
    you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.
 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and he saved me from my enemies. – Psalm 18: 1-3

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enemies.  At least, not enemies who want to kill me or string me up from the nearest tree.  The giants I encounter most often look like discouragement, frustration, loneliness, anger and depression. While David’s psalm goes on to talk about a heavenly intervention from God Himself,

He opened the heavens and came down;
    dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew,
    soaring on the wings of the wind. – Psalm 18:9-10

I’ve never experienced such a visitation. At least, not that I remember. Perhaps David’s using poetic license here, but I get where he’s coming from.  God did deliver David from his enemies, over and over again.  He showed Himself faithful.

Fast forward to modern times. Should we somehow engender hatred in the heart of another person, thus creating an enemy, Jesus has something to say about that, too.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” – Matthew 5:44

We don’t get to stand on their necks or scatter their bones or destroy any chance they may have of future descendants.  More’s the pity. But we certainly can destroy discouragement.  We definitely must stand on the neck of depression and frustration, driving it far from us by repentance and seeking God’s help. We have an obligation to fight loneliness and and anger with the knowledge of Christ’s love and forgiveness extended towards us on a daily basis.

So now I’m reminding my soul today, too. I believe if we will do our part, praying, worshiping and seeking the Lord in times of desperation, He will meet us there.  Not with trumpets and rainbows  – although I wouldn’t put it past Him – but with His presence.  He will rescue us.

The Great Betrayal

jesus on mount of olivesI’ve moved on with King David in the Bible. He’s king now, an older man with grown sons and daughters. 2 Samuel 15 depicts the way Absalom, David’s son, betrayed him. He hung out at the city gate, listening to people’s possible legal issues. Absalom won the hearts of the people with his smooth words. He manages to stage a coup that has David running for his life – again. He gathers his wives and children and anyone else loyal to him, and sets off.

David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. – 2 Samuel 15:30

The significance of this didn’t impact me until this time I read it:  Jesus was betrayed in the same place, hundreds of years later.

The last week of Jesus’ life, he visited the Mount of Olives, a ridge running along the east side of Jerusalem, 3 times. First, he spent time there answering the disciples’ questions about the last days.  You know, the good news about persecution, famine and sword (Matthew 24:1-25:30). The second time, he rode a donkey into Jerusalem while the crowds cheered “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38)

The very last time Jesus spent time at Mt. Olivet (another name for the spot) was just after the Last Supper. Jesus went out and spent time wrestling with the taking all the world’s sin upon him. He sweat drops of blood.  He cried out to God to have the cup removed. But then He surrendered. He prayed for those believers who would come after, asking His Father for unity and protection. He walked to the olive garden and awaited the betrayer.

Zechariah says Jesus will return to the same location and split the sky at his Second Coming:  On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south (Zech 14:4).

As Easter approaches, I’m reminded again of this truth:  Jesus can redeem our broken places, those sources of bad memories. Jesus’ betrayal on the Mount of Olives reminds us again of the depth of his human experience.  He knows our pains; he experienced them while walking this planet. But in overcoming death and the grave, he is able transform our excruciating mountains of suffering into glory.

Plead the 55th

I’m marching through the book of Numbers now in my Bible reading.  Lately, it’s been the Psalm selections that have gotten to me.  Today was no exception.

David sets the scene in Psalm 55.  He’s scared.  His enemies surround him. He calls out to God.

Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Do not ignore my cry for help!
 Please listen and answer me,
    for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
My enemies shout at me,
    making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
    and angrily hunt me down.

My heart pounds in my chest.
    The terror of death assaults me.
 Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
    and I can’t stop shaking.
 Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
    then I would fly away and rest!
 I would fly far away
    to the quiet of the wilderness.    Interlude
 How quickly I would escape—
    far from this wild storm of hatred. Ps. 55:1-8

Alas, no run-of-the-mill enemy taunts him. David outlines a much deeper betrayal.

It is not an enemy who taunts me—
    I could bear that.
It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—
    I could have hidden from them.
 Instead, it is you—my equal,
    my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed
    as we walked together to the house of God. Ps. 55:13-14

David makes his plea.

But I will call on God,
    and the Lord will rescue me.
Morning, noon, and night
    I cry out in my distress,
    and the Lord hears my voice. Ps. 55:16-17

Yahweh had saved him from bears, lions *and* Goliath.  He turns to God now in what must have been extreme emotional turmoil. Not a new scene for David, to be sure, but for the warrior-king to say this

Give your burdens to the Lord,
    and he will take care of you.
    He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Ps. 55:22

David didn’t say, “Gird your loins for the battle.  Steel yourself for the enemy’s blows. Take it like a man!”

No.

He advised surrendering your burdens to God. What counts as a burden? All those things we lug around are too heavy for us. Condemnation, my pet project. Jealousy. Frustration. Anger. Bitterness. Regret. Unforgiveness.  Often, our feelings have merit.  Situations turned sour. People have hurt us.  They betrayed us. But we can’t fix it. That’s the meat of the matter. We need to let God do it. Even better, it’s not our responsibility. Our part is to forgive and extend kindness.

I submit if we steel ourselves, we end up with walled hearts.  Our attempts at self-preservation will shut others out. Now, back to to truth. People will hurt us. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes through misunderstandings. I can guarantee you that. But our hearts must remain open and tender. That, friends, takes real bravery. We can only do it as we trust in the Lord.

Done Running

Today, a passel of kids and three moms went to see “Walking With Dinosaurs” at the dollar theater.  Ruby and I were among them.  I’m going to get lambasted for this, but I could care less about dinosaurs.  They’re interesting in a clinical way and all, but I’m a mammal person.  So there.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know it traces the story of Patchi, a runt in a litter of Pachyrhinosaurus hatchlings.  Voiced by Justin Long, he’s led along by Alex, the rook’s ancestor (Alexornis) and the two encounter various tragedies along the way.  Alex, voiced by John Leguizamo, provides much-needed comic relief. The key tragedy involves Patchi and his older brother Scowler witnessing the death of their father Bulldust in a battle with Gorgon (Gorgosaurus).  Gorgon, a blue-scaled, faster version of a T-Rex, likes the taste of Patchi and his pals.

Because, much later in the movie, through several migrations and bullying episodes by his big brother Scowler, now leader of the herd, Gorgon reappears to thin the herd.  Only this time, Gorgon latches onto Scowler.  Scowler, beaten and repentant at last, tells Patchi to take the group to safety and leave him behind.  Patchi doesn’t want to leave his brother behind.  In fact, he decides he’s done running.  He charges Gorgon and his 3 companions.  He leads the other Pachyrhinosaurus into head-to-jaws combat.  Their sheer numbers and impenetrable armor render the Gorgons defeated.  They refuse to be intimidated anymore.  Instead of standing by they decided to stand up. The final blow comes when Gorgon hooks his tiny arm through the hole in Patchi’s head (don’t ask) and Patchi breaks it.  Game, set, match. The arms, incidentally, appear to help with balance.  I mean, T-Rex bodies are kinda top heavy, you know?

I found myself encouraged during that scene.  I’d seen this movie before, and pretty much loathed it.  As I said before, dinosaurs… meh. But deciding to stand your ground and fight off the thing – or creature – you fear most got to me.  It reminded me of David and Goliath.  David armed himself and took his best shot. I think the decision is half the battle. I’m facing a certain Goliath in my life. I’ve gone around it and run away from it before.  I’ve let my own mind and the enemy talk me out of facing it head-on. Yet, it’s not as scary as it seems.  It has a weakness, perhaps baby arms or a soft skull. I’m sure gonna find out.