There are many ways in which our abundance here in America has had a negative affect on the American church as a whole. It transcends denominations (in all but a few cases) and it is probably not noticed by many. As I started to write this, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears popped into my head. Here we have a cute little girl who stumbles upon a house while she is walking through the forest. She decides to enter the house and finds three bowls of porridge sitting on the table. So she decides to eat the porridge. Unfortunately the first two bowls don’t meet with her approval. The first bowl she tastes is “too hot” and the second is “too cold.” Finally she finds on that is “just right.” And isn’t that how we function here in America a lot? Things have to be “just right.” We are not usually content to wait for something to cool down or watch the water impatiently as we wait for it to boil. It’s a stretch, you say? Here’s another example: temperature. The very moment the air conditioning goes out it is an emergency. “It’s too hot,” we say. For thousands of years, people lived without A/C but now because we are accustomed to it, we are not able to envision life without it. Our standards of comfort in life seem to be on our non-negotiable list. We can’t imagine living without heat or A/C, memory foam pillows and mattress pads, warm food and cold drinks…the list goes on. I do not believe in ascetiscism and I don’t believe that God would have us give up all the measures of comfort in our lives just to ensure we are not experiencing any comfort or joy, but I do believe that God is calling us to serve not the god of comfort, but the God of Comfort. There are many people in this world who would take a bowl of porridge that was starting to mold on the top and eat it thankfully. That bowl of porridge may help them make it one more day in the struggle that is their life. So let us live as Jesus calls us to live and sacrifice our comforts for the benefit of the kingdom of God. Let us give our of our abundance of comfort that others might know of the comfort of God’s provision and that we might remember the provision of God’s comfort.
Archive for the ‘devotions’ Category
I love truth. Well, at least most of the time. Sometimes I deceive myself, as we all do at various points in our lives, to avoid facing something that I don’t want to deal with. When I am talking with someone about something, anything, whether it be the price of tea in China or something going on in their lives, I am often compelled to tell them the truth, as I see it, about the subject or situation. This is a good thing in one respect because it seems that I have been given a gift that allows me to “put words on things” in ways others cannot. And it is neat to see how God has used those words to help others with things they are wrestling with. In other ways, my “truth-telling” is not so great. First of all, as I said a few sentences ago, I tell them the truth as I see it. Well……needless to say, the truth as I see it isn’t always the truth. Shocker, I know. As insightful as my words and thoughts may be, I view the world through my culture, my life experiences, my age, my education, and my hurts.
I was talking with a new friend recently about some things that allowed me to see that some of the people in my life were purposefully not givng me their personal opinion on things in order to allow me space to wrestle with the ideas I was telling them. I often wondered why and was frustrated by the fact that it seemed they weren’t responding or dialoging with me. And now I can see that they were loving me each and every time and allowing me to be right where I was with whatevere issue or thought or life experience I was talking about. It’s mind blowing really. I’m not trying to make it seem like I am painting these people perfect, but as I look back, I can see that there were multiple times these folks died to themselves in order to encourage, edify, and validate me just as I was at the time. These people are smart and they have a significant amount of life experience and could have spoken to any of the things I said. But many times, they kept their thoughts to themselves. They held on to them. And I feel as though I have eyes to see ears to hear a different dynamic of relationships with people. And I am humbled really. While there were times I thought I was possibly getting apathy or disinterest, it really wasn’t that at all. It was love.
Today during my lunch break, I read today’s entry in a daily devotional book I have called The One Year Daily Grind. A few of my past posts have been about entries from this book. It’s not your typical devotional and today the woman who wrote it (Sarah Arthur) included a poem that she wrote after getting a ride home from college with an aquaintance and some of her friends. The conversation was mostly about boys and at least one of the girls smoked so Sarah was miserable. Here is the poem:
Jesus, you encountered the cigarette smoke
of your people’s self-destruction
and traveled long distances
as they talked and talked
about themselves and their boyfriends
and their messed up lives.
You didn’t filter their hearts
through the tar
or their words
through the slang or crass language
carefully–full of care–
and through it all,
you heard their hearts crying out
for the grace to somehow stand
in the presence of him who sees all
and hears all
and knows all
and still loves.
Gracious and Loving God, I am humbled at the way You and those You have placed in my life have ministered to me. I am in awe of the deep love that I now see in the actions of those who have sought to encourage and validate me. And I am convicted to be more like that. Please, Lord, now that you have given me eyes to see and ears to hear, help me listen more and speak less. Help me to love people right where they are when I interact with them. Help me to rely on You and Your Holy Spirit to discern when I should speak my thoughts and opinions and when I should die to self. Help me to love purely as Jesus did. Speaking truth as led and saying nothing when You ask me to. Thank you once again for your unmeasureable patience and for listening carefully–and full of care–to the busyness of my heart that was not still before you. And thank you for those you have placed in my life that immitate You in this way. In the name of the One who spoke no words when everyone else would have. Amen.
Long before The Beatles sang Free as a Bird, the idea has long been a part of the human story. We want to soar above the tree line and be wild and free in God’s bautiful creation. How many children have probably said, “I want to fly like the birds, mommy.” In fact, I would best the Wright brothers were inspired by birds in their pursuit to fly. But let’s face it…even when we do strap ourselves to something that can assist us in this endeavor, it’s a bit more complicated than the birds.
Just as the beautiful idea of flight has inspired many, beauty is something that has inspired quite a few others. The lily for instance is serene and simple in it’s beauty. There are entire gardens devoted to displaying lilies. They are used in weddings and they are a reminder in Easter-tide of the Lily of the Valley. Though children may not often say, “I want to be as beautiful as the lily,” the beauty of creation in general has transfixed many of us.
So of the three items mentioned in my title, which one does not belong? The Ball and Chain, you say? Are you sure? You mean a heavy black ball tethered to your leg is not desireable? Interesting. I wonder then why we decide to carry them around or drag them along so much.
22Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27″Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12.22-31(NIV, italics added)
Carrying our worries around is quite cumbersome and taxing…kinda like having a large metal ball attached to your leg with a chain.
Here’s to ditching the ball and chain!
The devotion I read this morning is titled The Fog of Not Knowing. And this phrase alone would cause an increased anxiety level in many of us…including me. After all, we live in the information age where an incalculable amount of information is at our finger tips only a few clicks away. When we have a question we don’t usually languish in the unknown. We clear the air through wikipedia and google. We search dozens of Bible translations in order to find that verse we have pieces of in our brain. We pick up the phone to call our mother on her cell phone because no matter where she is, she will be available! This point is actually quite laughable…I have called my mother for addresses, zip codes, phone numbers…but not just ones she knows. Since I am not part of the cult of the blackberry (though I must admit I want to be) I ask her to look stuff up online for me.
But it would seem that God calls us to live in a fog.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Heb. 11.1, NIV)
It appears that it is the natural state of being a human:
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13.12, NIV)
And so I am challeneged to obey His voice though I don’t understand. To throw out the nets as they did in Luke 5 even though what Jesus is asking me to do seems to be illogical and maybe even nonsensical. Maybe the fog is always there but sometimes I don’t see it and so I start to move forward not knowing I’m headed straight towards a cliff.
The author of the devotion ends with two questions: When have you been in a fog of not knowing? What happened to your faith during that time? I am humbled by my lack of faith but hopeful that the author of it isn’t through with me yet.
Photo by: Jairo BD
Gracious God in Heaven, thank you for waking me up this morning. Thank you for giving me the breath of life for one more day. As I spend time in your word please help me see you as you really are and myself as I really am. Only then will I be able to see where you want to move me and how you want to change me. Amen.
I find it interesting that the dated devotional I flipped open this morning talks about writing. She says, “For I’ve begun to wonder how long my husband and I will remain childless in this house, our evenings filled with hours of silence in which to write. Many authors would give anything for such peace and solitude…”
The passage for the day is Psalm 139.13-18:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you becauses I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15My frame was not hiddeb from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them could be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to ount them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand,
When I awake
I am still with you.
This passage is neat for a few reasons. First off, it seems that it is quite possible that God has been writing about my writing since I was formed in the womb (v.16). This is super cool to think about! Secondly, the last verse is quite fitting in light of my post yesterday and the fact that I actually got up early today.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
God’s love for me is quite unbelieveable to me. I think it probably is to most if not all people at least part of the time. But I walk around quite a bit believeing the lies that I am unloveable, undesireable, and unwanted. But God loves me passionately not in the physical sense of course but as one devoted to his beloved. I am my beloved’s and he is mine….. ( S of S 6.3).
If only I could think on this when I am walking around during the day. If only I could remember his love when I am going about the day’s work. If only I could remember and never forget.