Friday Sandwich

sandwich

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I ran 3 miles this morning in the cool yet humid air. The sky threatened rain at any moment. I tried to talk myself out of the distance but did it anyway. I’m working towards a mileage goal for the week. Two miles tomorrow, and I’ll have it.

I’ve been meditating on this scripture lately – Proverbs 10:22. A good friend of mine gave it to me months ago when I asked her to pray about us moving and all.

Proverbs 10:22 – The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

I had lunch with a different friend and I mentioned it. I told her about the scripture.

“You know, the one from Proverbs that says ‘The blessing of the Lord….'” I trailed off. And I completely blanked. I shook my head. Really? Granted, often I find Proverbs a dusty book, but still.

She looked at me, waiting, her lips quirked up.

“The blessing of the Lord…blah blah blah…?” she queried. Her eyes sparkled with mirth.

I had to laugh. Someone had taken the time to give me confirmation of our dreams and I hadn’t taken the time to actually *look* up the reference. Sigh.

I can see God’s blessing on our lives. We’ve got a couple of great kids and live in a nice town. Our church lets us serve in ways we love. Jonathon and I have good jobs with great people. Financially, we’re doing well. We have limited debt. We can live within our means. We can give as opportunities arise. We’re already rich in so many ways.

This verse out of Proverbs has helped me stay the course. Living in the middle of renovation and working full-tilt throughout makes for weary folks. I’ll admit,  I questioned all of this. I couldn’t see the end. Would we recoup our investment? Did we do the right thing? Would it ever end?

Yes, it will. Because God planned this from start to finish. He never leaves us halfway.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. –  Philippians 1:6

Those two verses together make something that resembles a faith sandwich. The blessing of the Lord initiated this work, and the Lord will finish it. The verses apply to the house circumstances as well as running. Can’t give up now. I need to take a big bite out of that reality today.

Go Right

 

go right poster.jpg

I saw this poster recently, and it’s stuck with me. I’m someone who thinks through scenarios in my head. I try to plan for contingencies. I’m a planner, part of the administrator in me.

I find myself getting extra plates and extra cups. I put out more utensils than we will need for a gathering. I bring extra money on a shopping trip, “just in case”. Okay. Well, clothes shopping isn’t really a contingency issue. Maybe a cute little spring dress will…call out to me. I must answer, right?!

Anyway.

This poster above is how optimists think. At least, looking at it from the realist/pessimism point of view, it seems that way. I see what is. I see the bad things and the shortcomings. I sense what could go wrong. But those Pollyanna folks see all the great outcomes. They see their kids, down the road in the future, serving God and bringing him glory. I see those same kids struggling right now to even attend church. It makes me gloomy, in point of fact. Glass-is-half full people figure out how to make the most of their money, deliberately building joy  and surprises into the mundane tasks of bill-paying and keeping house. Us glass-is-half-empty types only see that the month is 1/3 gone and the money is running out. We feel like indentured servants to our jobs. We see no hope.

I’ve painted stark pictures. These days, I tend to fall more in the mid-range on pessimism.  Jesus has worked on me. My husband has helped with this also. He’s a natural optimist. He’s a happy person. So is Ruby. They get happiness out of small things, like donuts on Friday and riding their bikes on sunny days. I admire them. There’s a beautiful contentment in this personality trait. In fact, it’s like Jesus said:  you need to become like a child to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3). Some of us (ahem) are too sarcastic for our own good. It masks a fear to look forward to something too much, to hope and be let down. We have a history of painful experiences behind us. We don’t want to feel disappointment again or, even worse, fail. After all, we think smugly, we’d rather be right than happy. Which, now that I’ve written it, sounds rather pathetic.

But living in the negative scenario in your head doesn’t leave room for what could become a wonderful event. I’m not open to the great things – serendipitous things – that God can bring about. So I’ve decided to let this go. I want to focus on the good in situations and believe for the best. I’m discovering a new place to walk. Yes, wear the boots if it’s raining outside, yet also dress in layers, cause the sun could start shining again any minute now.

 

 

 

 

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.

Friday Faith

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This week, I realized I’m working 3 half-time jobs.  I had meetings and reports and all sorts of things going on.  Oh, plus church.  Did I tell you we’re ramping up for our Christmas program?  Yeah.  So, I’m feeling the finiteness of my being keenly this week.  Not enough Susan to go around, folks.

I sometimes reminisce with great fondness of my old life of chores, church, working out and visiting with friends.  Seems so long ago now.  I don’t anticipate things slowing down any time soon. My limited human capabilities remain. But I remembered this:  Jesus said, in Matthew 28:20, in his closing instructions to the apostles:  “And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Bam!  Now peace can flood in.  Because no matter what life throws at you, be it a drenched, windy Friday, or a sunny Monday, Jesus remains at your side.  You don’t have to worry; He’ll never leave you nor forsake you.  The twists and turns of outrageous fortune don’t faze Him. Jesus said it in Hebrews 13:5, but God said it way back in Deuteronomy, too.  Stuff happens.  Life isn’t fair.  But Jesus.  He will make a way.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

The Seeker

JesusAkiane

Have you ever spent time asking God for some of His best gifts?  By best, I mean a baby.  A spouse.  Healing of a relationship. Since God’s priority is and always has been people – not things – I believe He loves it when we seek Him for changes surrounding the people in our lives.

I keep coming back to this scripture:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” – Matthew 7:7-11

Jesus was talking to His disciples here, and anyone else who cared to listen, during the Sermon on the Mount. And no, I don’t know why the answers tarry sometimes.  I’ve heard it said that it builds our faith.  It demonstrates our total dependence on the Lord.  I can see that.  I’ve also heard some say it’s all about patience.  We need to wait for the right people to be in the right place at the right time for the circumstances to clear up. Makes sense.

For me, I think it has much to do with proving the character of God.  Do we truly believe He has good in mind for us?  When the answers don’t come on our schedule.  We pass through another month without a baby to look forward to.  The boss at our job continues to harangue us for things we didn’t do. For singles, our future spouse, whoever he or she may be, doesn’t announce themselves with an orchestral “Ta da!”

But this is when our faith, patience and belief in God’s eternally good nature rise to the surface.  Our true colors bleed through when our strength fails. The test reveals our inner selves. Yet it’s never been about us and our abilities.  We don’t have it in us to conjure up the solution. Let’s keep praying.  Let’s keep praising. Let us keep asking, seeking and knocking. If we hold on, He will not fail.

Faith Rock

Image by beamingnotes.com

     Image by beamingnotes.com

It’s just getting light out.  I can hear the rooster across town, greeting the morning.  He crows a faint – yet illegal – minor second.  His notes carry across the valley.

I have been reading the minor prophets lately in my Bible reading plan.  I am minor-propheted out, if there is such a term.  Psalm 61 followed

O God, listen to my cry!
    Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth,
    I cry to you for help
    when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
  for you are my safe refuge,
    a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
 Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
    safe beneath the shelter of your wings! – Psalm 61:1-4

That’s where I am right now.  Overwhelmed.  Things spin all around me while I try to make sense of it all.

Yesterday, towards the end of a meeting, one of my supervisors passed out rocks with golden words painted on them. He dumped them all out of a coffee mug onto his lap, turning them face up. He held one up, examining it.

“These rocks have positive qualities on them.  You can keep them in your pocket and when you’re worried or stressed, you can hold onto them,” he said.

Then he doled out two each to the three of us.  To my immediate boss, he gave “willingness” and “prepared”.

“Those qualities exemplify you,” he said to her.

Next, my coworker at the front desk.

“You get ‘happy’ for your personality.  And I think you’re ‘brave’, too,” as she’s about to set off for a long road trip.

He searched through the rocks left on his lap.

“I have some Susan-rocks,” he said, smiling as he shuffled the pebbles.  I wondered what that meant. He must have felt my skepticism at this point.

He handed me my pair of stones.

I thanked him as I took them, smooth, flat-faced stones with neat gold script on them. “Faith” had rounded edges. However, “honest”, true to the essence itself, had a pitted, uneven cast. It didn’t rest easy in my palm.

If I were to be honest, I’d have to say my faith suffers at the moment. Reading Psalm 61 today, I’m reminded on whom I depend.  The small stones sitting face-up on my desk will help me to focus on the Lord. He is my refuge when my heart is overwhelmed.  He is the rock of safety. I hold onto Him.

Sweet Discipline

Last night, our pastor preached out of Matthew 6.  If you recall, this is the chapter containing the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve included it in the New King James version, the closest to my Episcopalian roots:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. – Matthew 6:10-13

This scripture has been put to song and everything.  I remember reciting The Lord’s Prayer, kneeling on a fold-out blue velvet bench, at Grace Memorial on 15th Street.  We intoned it together, and instead of “evil one”, we simply said “evil”.  Covers all the bases.  Debts and debtors became the less-wieldy “trespasses” and “trespassed”. Not as musical, that. However, I detest the song, so I’m not posting it.  You can look it up on YouTube.

Pastor pointed out that Matthew’s gospel covers spiritual disciplines.  Jesus starts out the chapter talking about doing charitable deeds. He warns of avoiding hypocritical behavior, in other words, doing things for attention or pats on the back. Jesus states, “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”  The “atta boys” and public praise constitute all the thanks they will get. The infamous “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” written here speaks of doing good as secretly as possible.  Generally, my hands have no knowledge of anything, but I think you get the idea. The Father sees all, and will reward openly (Matthew 6:1-4).

Jesus needed to recalibrate the Jews’ former training. Prayer, long the purview of bloviating elite, had to incorporate into the disciples’ daily life.  This second, longer section starts out with instructions on how to pray.  Again, he admonishes them to avoid hypocrisy by praying loudly with many words in order to be seen. Lots of words don’t help God hear better, either.  Again, the “assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” He tells them to go and pray in secret, at home behind a closed door. Again, the encouragement:  “your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.”

Then Jesus gives an example of how to pray (see above). I liked that our pastor explained it’s a model only, with places to add our particular needs and expressions of thanks.  Memorization, while nice, isn’t necessary.

Lastly, Jesus spoke on fasting.  He pointed out how the hypocrites made themselves visibly disheveled and despairing in order to gain sympathy and yet more accolades.  Don’t do it, devout dozen!  The same warning that hypocrites “have their reward” and “do it in secret as normal folk and let God bless you” apply here as well (Matthew 6:16-18).

Now that you have the basic outline, I’ll tell you what caught my attention.  Pastor said in this portion of the word, prayer is like the meat or “guts” (his word) of the sandwich.  The bread or two outer sandwich layers are good deeds and fasting. Jesus’ teaching on how to pray covers 10 verses. Prayer holds it all together. Prayer feeds us.   Prayer sustains the ability to give and the passion to fast. That intimate time with Jesus, the two-way conversation that is prayer, drives the believer.

Our other pastor closed the service with this scripture: But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6. Prayer time with God, speaking and listening, is never wasted.  In fact, it’ll feed your spirit.