Monday, December 27, 2010

A new year

This week ends with a new year beginning, and commonly the new year beginning is marked with lots of new resolutions.  I'm not sure if this is a resolution, as much as a recommitment to this blog as something I trust God can use.

December first marked the first day I used The Daily Bible Devotional - A One-Year Journey Through God's Word in Chronological Order by F. La Gard Smith.  I know you are supposed to start these things at the beginning, but I jumped in at the end and have found it a challenging read. So I am hoping to begin a community who will be reading and commenting on what they are learning and being challenged by and discussing how God is using it to nurture their relationship with Him.

 I won't post this week about what I am reading, but I hope to begin with the New Year....and I pray that others find this an encouragement.

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's all about doubt! or is it faith?

Faith, by its definition, requires a suspension of the requirement for logic, for a suspension of credibility based on human understanding. Faith demands risk-taking; a willingness to live in that place where there is good reason to doubt.

If a reasonable person does not have some legitimate doubts along the road to faith, one rightly wonders about the depth of his or her faith....

The question of faith is: If sometimes I have genuine doubts about God, do I stop to consider the sea of doubts I would drown in if God weren't in the picture at all. November 1;(The Daily Bible Devotional, F. La Gard Smith, 2008, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, Oregon.)

I cannot imagine that there is a believer who has not been assailed by doubt of some kind.  It appears to be a significant tool for the evil one -to whisper doubt in our ears - Can it really all be true?  all this Jesus stuff?

I knew I have heard those words whispered in the middle of a trial of some sort...then I think about what faith is and the choices before me.  Either choice requires faith:  God is Who He says He is and will do what He has said He would through His word, or it is all a matter of chance, that creation "happened" and death ends it all.  Which do I believe? 

Yes, I know that there are all kinds of "proofs" for either position - but I also believe an element of faith is required for either position.  After all, the only eye witness we have for any of this is God.
some thoughts.........................

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One thing to live for

Thomas Merton wrote in 1947, "There is only one thing to live for: love.  There is only one unhappiness: not to love God."

Words so easy to read and say, they are almost glib.  But then, once you start thinking about them, kind of mind-blowing!!  It is about purpose, and ultimately about peace and then, I think, about joy.  I wonder what it would be like to live so unfettered, so undistracted, that one is completely focused on living for the purpose and object, perhaps, of love. 

It seems to me that, though I would like to be able to say I understand and agree and experience what Merton says here, I can only say, I want that to be true of me.  Instead, the reality is that I fear a spiritual ADHD has invaded my being.  I long to be "all about loving and serving God,"  but I find myself too easily more concerned about getting things done, making people like me, counting on the patience of God, at least unconciously, if not intentionally to wait until I can regain a right perspective. 

Sunday Jim talked about the emptiness and aloneness of a life apart from faith in God, both now and in eternity.  Those words have been loitering around in the corners of my mind ever since, and when I slow down enough to think, they are like some kind of horror movie - the blackness, the heavy bellied sickness, the desperation and futility of what it would be like to have a life without relationship with God.  It is one thing to have regret for having failed my God, for knowing I have offended or disappointed Him.  It is another thing entirely to not have Him at all. I praise you God for your everlasting mercies, and I thank you for loving me.

Loving God brings an enduring happiness.  How we must grieve God when we turn away from His face because we prefer the pity of men, the attention of men, when He wants our face, to shine His love on, to receive His love.  We blow Him off like a piece of lint and wallow in our "issues," when we could have sweet peace and joy immeasurable.

Enough letters on paper.  I need, not to seek His face, because it is near, but to appreciate His presence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Too busy ...

I wonder what it says that we have the audacity to be too busy for God. We comfort ourselves for not spending significant time in prayer because, after all, we pray all the time….don’t we? Well, if we are between a rock and a hard place, we pray. If the car coming toward us appears to be wandering out of his lane, we pray. If our child, or best friend, or brother, or boss seems to be making a bad decision, we might pray. Hmmmm, seems like all that praying is coming out of fear, fear that we won’t get what we want – even if what we want is a good thing. So we whisper up quick emergency flares! And from time-to-time, we whisper of “Thank you God” prayers, but I am not all that sure they are in the same proportion as the “Please God“ prayers.

Then there is that business of devotions…in general, soon after we pray the “sinner’s prayer,” we are taught that good Christians have daily devotions. Every day, we should spend some time reading the Bible, and maybe a devotional journal like “Daily Bread” and we should pray. So we squeeze that in somehow, feeling guilty that we don’t give it more time when someone brings the subject up, or feeling a bit sanctimonious that, after all, at least we did it, even if it was just before we turn the lights out at night.

Now, lest you think I am trying to say I am above it all and this is someone else’s problem, I’m not. I struggle with it like most other people I know. I do read a devotional journal and write in it most mornings, and I pray a bit most mornings, and I try to read something edifying spiritually before I turn the lights out, and I pray on and off throughout the day. But the bottom line, it takes way too little to interrupt me, to put me off schedule, or to squeeze into even that time.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that we have boarded a boat going down the river of life with no one at the helm, and we are at the mercy of the winds. Or maybe that’s a bad analogy. Maybe we are on that boat, but we keep the captain below deck. We peek at him from time to time, and ask his advice when the winds pick up so much that we can ignore them nor further, but in general, we just don’t think much of him.

So what do we do about this? I guess the first question really is Are we bothered by this? The second would be How much are we bothered by this?

Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:16 that God would give the Ephesians the power to be strong inwardly through his Spirit, that God would live in their hearts by faith, and that their lives would be strong in love and be built on love. As I read that, and have prayed that for myself and for others, I wonder if the reality is that God has done all that but we are too busy to notice.  Just too busy...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

from Catapult - an article I wrote a year ago

Modeling the mango

by Carol Brennan King

If you want to see God’s sense of humor, you have to go to Chad, Africa in March, seven months after the last rain. Seven months of heat: the kind of heat that fills the air, thickens it and evaporates your sweat almost before it emerges from your skin. The kind of endless heat that sucks leaves brown, wrinkles them into hard husks that blow about in the dust where grass once grew.

The sky burns a hard bright blue, cloudless. Liquid fire, a globe floats across the broad expanse marking time, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Palm fronds bang against each other, no soft rustles, as the wind stirs them at sunset.

And the mango tree behind my house hangs heavy with the pregnant peachy plumpness of reddening, ripening mangoes. Finally too heavy for the branch, they fall into the eager black hands of little children. Their bigger brothers climb the long limbs filling their shirts and bellies full, juice staining streaks across their dust covered cheeks.

Magnificent mango, God’s joke. Every other tree stands barren, hanging onto a few lifeless leaves while the fifty-foot-tall mango stretches into the sky, lusty, a shade tree laughing in the face of the sun, bearing juicy life-giving fruit when even weeds are distant memories.

They needed to squeeze a church building onto a narrow lot there in the city. Nothing could be done; the tree had to go. Machetes, sharpened hatchets and long-armed axes were pulled from dark corners to hack the roots stretching like thick tendons from the base of the tree. The last root severed, cries of “Run! Run!” rang out, and they waited for the giant to lie down.

But it just stood there, like a nonchalant suitor, waiting to be recognized. They began to dig around the base of the tree. There must be a root yet undiscovered. Down, they dug, down, down, down…they shoveled the dry dirt from the tree’s base, a trunk still thick like an iceberg below the sea. Down went the tree’s taproot, a quarter mile deep toward the center of the earth, to tap the river that flows cold and wet beneath the desert, the root, a straw sucking moisture a quarter of a mile back up into the juicy fruit hanging like heavy Christmas bells.

Sometimes I feel like a leafless tree in the desert, sucked dry of energy and motivation — faith, even. Depression blows about like wind evaporating moisture from the leaves. And then I remember the mango tree’s strategy for survival. With a taproot extended deep down into the river of life, no wind can blow me down. No heat can devour me. No enemy can defeat me. Like the mango tree, I can survive and even thrive, bearing beautiful fruit in the driest of seasons: God’s joke and mine.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The power of the Word - over the airways

I looked over the field of antennae astounded!  Like Christmas trees or an apple orchard, row after row of antennae sending the gospel message from where I stood in the Andes as far as half-way around the world.  If that wasn't enough, we traveled further and higher into the Andes to the headwaters of the Amazon where a turbine powered from the rushing waters of a small mountain stream harnessed by a narrow dam generated the electricity needed to send the gospel message through the antennae into the ears of eager listeners from the Middle East on one side to the Far East on the other.

Now think of it, the Message, the gospel message is being communicated to locales where missionaries cannot go, by the hand of God as  He draws water up from the earth, into a relatively small stream through the turbine, to generate electricity to convert words spoken in a concrete building in Quito through the air.....Taking the Word of God, the spoken message, to other members of our family. Some already in the family, others yet to cross over from death to life, but whose only opportunity is rooted in the waters of a stream high in the Andes at the hand of God.

Almost like magic, but not really.  God is and has been doing it through the shortwave radio ministry born in the Andes nearly eighty years ago when HCJB, call letters standing for the purpose of that ministry “Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings” aired its first broadcast from Quito, Ecuador Decemeber 25, 1931.

I think of Acts 1: 8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Then  Romans 16:25,27  Praise God!  He can make you strong by means of my good news, which is the message about Jesus Christ.  For ages and ages this message was kept secret, but now at last it has been told...And now because of Jesus Christ, we can praise the only wise God forever! Amen.

It's all about the power of the Word, the living Word, the Logos, Jesus Christ and the written Word He left us, spoken into the airwaves to change lives.  All of that power yet to be harnessed by the turbines of our lives.

I am not sure what God is doing, but He is reminding me of the power of the Word, and of believers before me who had that vision - getting the message out there so the Holy Spirit could use it.  We live in an age of technology, and I wonder how many new and amazing ways there will be for us to "get it out there" so the Spirit of God can use it.  After all, He cannot use what people have not received....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The power of the written word - even when a teenager speaks

Every summer we send the RAs home with a book to read over the summer, not something terribly heavy, but something that we trust will be useful as they anticipate ministering to a new group of men or women in the residence halls.

This year we sent them home with Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations written by teenage twins Alex and Brett Harris. Now I can just imagine the low expectations you might have for this book, but let me warn you, it doesn't matter how old you are, this book is worth the read.  And in case you think I am saying that because it might help you work with teenagers, you are mistaken.

This book will challenge you to consider just how high your own expectations are for your life...and then it will demand that you think about what are you doing about those expectations.  There is a real challenge too, for those of us who say, I am doing my best, so God is happy.

I always struggled with that expression, but I wasn't sure why.  I think it might be because we settle.  We settle for a pretty low "best," and we do little to make our "best" any better.  It becomes an excuse for stunted growth, for failure to thrive.  If I'm doing my best, and God should be satisfied with that, then why should I try to do any better, learn anything more, develop further in any way?

So, right now, I want to buy this book for my grandchildren as well as the RAs, and I would love to sit in a circle of my peers who have read it.  It would be a challenge to work through these chapters and enter into some accountability for rising up out of the mud of the status quo where I find it too comfortable.

Hebrews 10:24 admonishes us to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  This book felt like that an old friend, one who wants to spur me on to greater things for His glory.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

To capitalize or not, that is the question!

Current punctuation rules indicate that one should not capitalize pronouns referring to diety. 

Marva Dawn said something so profound about this that I wanted to pass it along:

"As I have pondered the objections of feminists to masculine pronouns for God (because they "oppress women"), I have become convinced that their arguments are given more weight since we stopped capitalizing those pronouns and thereby lost the mystery of God's transcendence that can also be personal.  Therefore, I have returned to capitalizing the pronouns to enphasize that they are meant to signify not gender, but surprising relational intimacy.  Though I grew up in a somewhat patriarchal denomination, still I have always recognized the words He, Him, His and Himself not to signify God's maleness, but to carry a sense of the ineffable, the secret yet revealed wonder of God's immanence. For further discussion see, "He, His, Him, Himself" in part one of my book Talking the Walk: Letting Christian Language Live Again (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2005." 

 I found this in her book My Soul Waits: Solace for the Lonely in the Psalms.  She is an amazing woman who has known rejection, loss, cancer, and loads of other trials, and found God in the dark places.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The sacred ordinary

A week ago I was sitting under the teaching of Eugene Peterson, pastor and teacher, man of God.  Not only did he translate the version of the Bible we know as The Message, but he wrote countless other books and articles.  I was impressed with his humility, his own ordinariness.  He would not be someone you would pick out of a crowd, a man of insignificant stature, he does not dress to impress; instead he looks more like someone's beloved grandfather.

Among a million other words, Peterson wrote, "His (Christ's) entire life was lived in a sacred ordinary that we are apt, mistakenly, to call the secular."

I've been thinking about that ever since I read those words - the sacred ordinary.  Christ lived as a human, confined to a human body, in some sense, working a job for 30 years, worshipping with other humans, then living in relationship with the twelve for three years.  He walked, talked, ate with, kept company with ordinary men and a life not a lot different from ours, an ordinary life- one we would not think inappropriate to call the sacred ordinary.

I wrestled with the phrase "sacred ordinary," trying to make sense of it.  I guess it boils down to our recognition that everything we do matters because there is no ordinary for the believer.  Everything we do matters to God - everything.  Not only do we take him everywhere we go, but everything we do reflects on him.  I think we think we can have secrets, that because no other human sees something we do or hears something we say or knows something we think, that it doesn't matter.  But there is that unseen world that does know all of those things.

Everything we do is done out of the sacred  - that place where Christ dwells. We carry the sacred with us, whether we like it or not.  There is no ordinary, and the secular exists only for the one who does not know Christ.  Faith is that dividing line between the sacred and the secular, and that truth weighs heavily on my mind today....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I've been thinking about compassion this month.
Here are a few verses that speak to the issue; the numbers refer to the words and their definition in Strong's concordance.

After each word, I will write something: the numbers refer to Strong's dictionary and definitions.

Mat 9:36

But 1161 when he saw 1492 the multitudes 3793, he was moved with compassion 4697 on 4012 them 846, because 3754 they fainted 2258 1590 , and 2532 were scattered abroad 4496 , as 5616 sheep 4263 having 2192 no 3361 shepherd 4166.

Here we see Jesus having compassion on those who were at their wits end, so discouraged and despairing that they had no hope, they felt lost, who needed someone to help them find their way.  I think he is still doing that - having compassion on us as we grow weary and discouraged from whatever.

Mat 14:14

And 2532 Jesus 2424 went forth 1831 , and saw 1492 a great 4183 multitude 3793, and 2532 was moved with compassion 4697 toward 1909 them 846, and 2532 he healed 2323 their 846 sick 732.

This passage shows his compassion not only on the sick and dying but those who loved them and were overwhelmed with both the physical and emotional toll of their pain.  It is amazing what happens when we trust him with our pain in this regard.  He sometimes heals it, but he also gives meaning to it
Mat 15:32

Then 1161 Jesus 2424 called 4341 his 846 disciples 3101 [unto him], and said 2036 , I have compassion 4697 on 1909 the multitude 3793, because 3754 they continue 4357 with me 3427 now 2235 three 5140 days 2250, and 2532 have 2192 nothing 3756 5101 to eat 5315 : and 2532 I will 2309 not 3756 send 630 0 them 846 away 630 fasting 3523, lest 3379 they faint 1590 in 1722 the way 3598.

Here, their hunger, their physical needs mattered to him as they do now. He continues to love us and because he loves us, these things matter to him.

Mat 20:34

So 1161 Jesus 2424 had compassion 4697 [on them], and touched 680 their 846 eyes 3788: and 2532 immediately 2112 their 846 eyes 3788 received sight 308 , and 2532 they followed 190 him 846.

Though he healed the physically blind here, it appears he also healed their spiritual blindness because it says they followed him.  So he heals our spiritual blindness today...if we look to him for healing.

Mar 1:41

And 1161 Jesus 2424, moved with compassion 4697 , put forth 1614 [his] hand 5495, and touched 680 him 846, and 2532 saith 3004 unto him 846, I will 2309 ; be thou clean 2511 .

A remarkable thing here is that he touched the leper. He could have healed him without touching him, but he touched the one who had been untouched, who longed for someone to give him the dignity and comfort of touch (lepers were unclean and no one could touch them.)  I wonder why it is that too many times we withhold that touch people so desperately need.

Luk 7:13

And 2532 when the Lord 2962 saw 1492 her 846, he had compassion 4697 on 1909 her 846, and 2532 said 2036 unto her 846, Weep 2799 not 3361.

He notices and heals the broken hearted, caring for the one so broken she wept. He still notices oiur tears and has written words of comfort to us.

There are lots of other examples of Christ showing compassion - on the woman they were going to stone for adultery, on Thomas who doubted, on Peter who denied him, on his mother when he told John to take care of her...certainly on all of us in our need for forgiveness and hope.

But the point I want to make is that Jesus cares for us, the ordinary person with common needs. And as he showed compassion on us, we, made in his image, are to show compassion on others. I know some people are lousy at it, but we have all experienced it....

So take some time to recognize the compassion you have experienced and consider how you can be a vehicle through which he shows compassion.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Answered prayer: does it depend on me?

James 5: 16 says in the old KJV where I first memorized it: Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The ESV puts it this way: 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

And NASB says it this way: Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

The word translated effectual fervent or effective comes from the Greek word energeo meaning 1) to be operative, be at work, put forth power; a) to work for one, aid one; 2) to effect; 3) to display one's activity, show one's self operative. 

Honestly, I wrestled with this verse and the conditions that seemed present in the KJV on answered prayer.  First of all, it seemed like it had to be fervent; I couldn't figure out what fervent meant.  I knew the English word has the idea of 1 : very hot : glowing; 2 : exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling, so it seemed like the prayer had to be passionate about the prayer, but I was not sure what that looked like.  Did it require sweat, tears, long periods of time, depth of sincerity?  Somehow all of that seemed like the work of the person determined whether God would answer the prayer. 

Then I looked at the rest of the verse, the idea of a righteous man.  That Greek word translated righteous man is the Greek word dikaios meaning 1) righteous, observing divine laws; a) in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God; 1) of those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves in their virtues, whether real or imagined; 2) innocent, faultless, guiltless; 3) used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life; a) only Christ truly; 4) approved of or acceptable of God; b) in a narrower sense, rendering to each his due and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them.

As I waded through all of that, it occurred to me that the only way one is righteous is through Christ.  In Romans 4: 3 - 6,  Paul writes about righteousness by faith:  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness...But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also decribeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.

The point is the verse tells us that the believer (one who is righteous through Christ's work on the cross, not his own work) who prays accomplishes much; his work is not in vain.

The word translated in the English avails or great power or accomplishes much is ischyo meaning to be strong; a) to be strong in body, to be robust, to be in sound health; 2) to have power; a) to have power as shown by extraordinary deeds; 1) to exert, wield power, to have strength to overcome; b) to be a force, avail; c) to be serviceable; d) to be able, can.

The bottom line is that prayer works; it has power.  It is not magic, a guarentee to get our way, what we want, a way to blackmail God, sort of like   If he said it works, and I pray, I will get what I ask for; after all, God must keep his promises.

No, prayer has power because the praying changes us, if we allow it.  It brings us into community with God.  As we leave ourselves and our will and desires behind, as we are still in his presence, seeking the face and will of God, we are changed.  Our cares are left behind.  Our anxieties are dropped along the way.  Our fears are absorbed by his love.  We grow stronger and confident in the love of God as we commune with him, allowing the Spirit of God to remind us who loves us - God loves us.  And God knows not only what our needs are but how to meet them in the way that is most beneficent for us, and for all the needs of those we love.

We cannot make those we love conform to the image of God by our prayers: that comes only personally as any individual desires God.  But we can pray that God will move in their lives that they recognize him and listen to him and respond to him.  Then by faith, we must acknowledge that God has given us a will and though he accepts all who come to him, he does not force anyone to come to him.  John 3:16.  There is no guarentee we will get exactly what we ask for, no matter how many times we ask it.  God, in his love for us, knows what we need, and in his love, will not grant what will ultimately harm us.

So, I guess that is a lot of words to say that prayer works; it accomplishes much.  However, answered prayer does not depend on our fervency, our works; it depends on our relationship with the Father - how real and personal that is.  Or at least that is the conclusion I am coming to this morning.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Suffering, God's tool

God only allows into our lives what will help conform us to the image of Christ.

It was just one of those lines in the middle of a sermon, but I couldn't write it down fast enough. All of a sudden, suffering came into focus. Admittedly, I had struggled with the goodness of God, in the face of suffering and prayer....all those verses that I've been told work - the ones about keep asking, keep knocking, and God will give in and give you what you want. Well, they didn't say it exactly that way, but you get the idea. Or, if you don't get what you ask for, there is something wrong with how you are asking.

Anyway, I struggled with all of that. Sometimes I had a clear answer to prayer. Sometimes I got what I asked for, but meantime, a lot of people I care about kept suffering. I couldn't figure out for sure what was going on. Certainly I knew God knew what was best. And I did pray that God's will be done. I do know that suffering is sometimes a trust, that God knows certain people have been gifted with the faith and strength to honor Him through the battle and will glorify Him, but I just struggled with the why sometimes.

Then I heard those words: God only allows into our lives what will help conform us to the image of Christ. And it struck me about how little attention we pay to God, how shallow and fast are our prayers, when everything is going well. And it also struck me about how far I am from the target of being conformed to the image of Christ.

Suffering does give us the opportunity to change all of that. It boils down to two choices - become bitter and blame God, or seek His face for comfort and strength - and even to understand why. I'm not sure that is a bad thing, the wondering why, but I wonder if that should be a reflexive search. I should examine myself for the possibilities that might be reasonable realities for why God would allow this challenge into my life.

Perhaps sometimes, the suffering is a direct result of poor choices I have made. But just maybe it is a tool God will use to make me just a little bit more like Christ. Anyway, I was comforted by those words: God only allows into our lives what will help conform us to the image of Christ.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Praying for Others

I am using A Daybook of Prayer as a devotional.  Each day has a selection from a Christian writer from church history - recent and not so recent.  Today there was a selection from Prayer and Worship by Douglas V. Steere.  I copied it out here and then added my thoughts in red.  It  had such helpful ideas on how to pray for others.  So here it is:

Steere, a Quaker writer from the Twentieth Century says: For when we hold up the life of another before God, we expose it to God's love,

when we pray for its release from drowsiness,

from that proneness to lethargy, to taking God's love for granted, when we pray that she might be released from boredom, knowing God means so much more in their relationship

for the quickening of its inner health,

that God would stir up her spiritual appetite, as we pray, that she will hunger and thirst after God, after righteousness; that her inner life would be free of sin - disease

for the power to throw off a destructive habit,

that she would recognize and throw off those things that would seem more important or more appealing, those things that would control any part of her life, and would hinder any intimacy with God

for the restoration of its free and vital relationship with its fellows,

that she would be restored after dealing with "besetting sins and temptation," freed to be in a living and helpful growth relationship with God first and with other believers; that she would know biblical Body Life, that she would have a passion to experience and to minister the "one anothers" in the Body

for its strength to resist a temptation,

that she would be aware of temptation, recognize it for what it is, a tool of the evil one, designed to defeat her, and then that she would draw upon God and the Body for strength to resist temptation

for its courage to continue against sharp opposition-

that she would have courage to persevere through any roadblocks the evil one might put in her way

for only then do we sense what it means to share in God's work, in his concern; only then do the walls that separate us from others go down and we sense that we are at bottom all knit together in a great and intimate family.

It is as we mediate between God and others that we begin understanding what matters to Him, and not only do our relationships with others change, but our understanding of who God is radically changes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So why go to church at all?

Last week we had a series in chapel: Call to Wisdom, where different people in my office addressed different subjects.  Now it wasn't only people in my office, we could partner up with other people, and that is what I did - partner up with a pastor friend.   I took the why go to church and he took the how to choose a church  aspect of our workshop- relevant to our audience of young people, many of whom will be settling into their own homes and choosing their own church, perhaps for the first time.

So, to the why go to church thing:  I spent hours studying this, trying to discover what church was and what it should look like and why should we go.

The first thing I noticed is how like a family church is supposed to be.  Just we have in our human family a father and siblings - brothers and sisters, so we do in our faith family.  Just as we have distant relatives in our human family - people to whom we are related but whom we do not see because they live so far from us, we have relatives in our faith family, who live a great distance from us. 

And just as we anticipate going home to our family because it is a place where we are loved, missed, and even needed in a variety of ways, we are to go home to our church family.  God designed for us to function as a family.  He is our Father; for most of my students, I am their big sister, and for some in my church, I am still a little sister.  I need family, my faith family, as a place of safety, where I can love on people and be loved.

When you read the books of Romans through  II Thessalonians, you are reading letters written to local churches, small local bodies; these letters meant to be passed around from family to family, bodies of believers then meeting in homes primarily.  The writer was dealing with family issues, sometimes telling them how to resolve problems, and sometimes how to build better relationships. 

We are in that same family, the larger family (Church universal) as our distant relatives were back two thousand years ago, and those instructions about family life are meant for us as well.

Just as family members love on, miss and need each other, so the local church family is to be that intertwined.  Sometimes, we are the one giving the love and support and even admonishing, and sometimes we are on the recieving end of it all.   Did you know that there are over 34 one another commands and at least nine "do not do to one another" commands?  God means for us to be involved with each other, and the local body is the place for that to happen.

Now, just as there are many dysfunctional human families, after all we are marked by the fall, there are dysfunctional churches.  But, we have not given up on the human family, we keep trying to get it right, so we must not give up on the faith family and the local church.

Instead of walking away, we must seek after that local family and be that local family where our brothers and sisters can find rest and safety.

As I near the end of this little piece, I must say that another blessing, and not the least because it is the last, is that in a local body, a local manifestation of the greater family, we get to see evidence of the reality of our Father at work.  I stood in the back of church a week ago, not because I came in late....well, that's another story, but as I stood there looking over hundreds of heads, it occurred to me that they are evidence of the living Spirit of God at work.  They are here in my faith family home because they are responding to God's call to come home, that they are loved, and needed and missed, that without them, this body has a hole.

Scripture tells us that  we are members of the whole body.  And though our roles in that body, like the arm or leg or eye differ one from another, each one is necessary to the healthy functioning of that body.  So, I guess it all comes down to this, do I go to church for what I can get, like the visitor who comes invited as a guest to my house,  or do I go to church because that is where I belong, as a family member?  And just as family members work together to make the house a home, so should we in our church.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Discouragement?  Like a virus, it can lurk unseen, then strike bringing a sense of being absolutely overwhelmed.  And allowed to run its course, like any virus, it can take you to your knees in exhaustion.

That's the way I felt the other day when my husband suggested that I take on a specific new ministry project.  Now, this ministry project is right down my alley, but at the moment, I said only, could we not talk about it until Saturday afternoon, after the Bible study I am leading (and physically feeding) is over?  And I said that feeling as though if he pressed it, the only juice he was going to get was my tears.

Everyday this week brought more challenges, and there seemed no end in sight when he asked me that.  But God!  Don't you love the "But God" moments.  But God intervened smoothing out situations, bringing blessings where I didn't expect them, and meeting me every day there between that rock and hard place.

Well, the week is almost over.  I have brunch to shop for and handouts to prepare for tomorrow, an ordinary work day to get through, and about fifteen hours of grading to do between now and Sunday night, but God!  He did it again.  This morning as I was reading, meeting God where I do every day, I came across this cool reminder in Luke 18:1 and I will give it to you from the NASB - Now he was telling them a parable to show that all times they ought to Pray and not lose heart. 

It was the connection between those two thoughts that caught my attention: pray and you will not be discouraged.  This is not the kind of prayer, being talked about here, that we pray thoughtlessly, like the grace we used to say at meal times when I was growing up.  It is not the list of people or situations that we work our way through. 

Instead, I think it has to be that know that your are talking to God thing.  He loves you.  He knows your every thought and deed and still loves you.  His plans are for your good and not evil.  You matter to him, and he pays attention to your voice, when you really talk to him, and that is different than talking at him.

How can we lose heart or be discouraged when we are having a conversation with God, our Father, who loves us unconditionally, who is constantly looking our for us, and who really, really knows what is best for us?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Prayer: What is it?

Prayer: just what is it?

P. T. Forsyth says in Prayer and Worship , "Prayer is an act, indeed the act, of fellowship" In the same book, Douglas V. Steere says "...prayer is awakeness, attention, intense inward openness." H. A. Ironside says, "Prayer is first of all, communion with God."

In scripture, there are several Greek words translated prayer, all with different nuances meaning everything from prayer addressed to God, a place set aside where there is plenty of water for washing of hands before prayer, to seeking, entreaty, a coming together, that for which an interview is held, a petition or supplication...well, you get the idea.

In Scripture, prayer always refers to a communication between God and a person, the content of that communication varying, sometimes praise and thanksgiving, sometimes personal requests and sometimes intercession for other people. But it always refers to a coming together, as Forsyth says, "the act of fellowship."

What a different perspective, at least for me. I feel like I was taught that prayer was more done from a kneeling submissive posture, with the emphasis on the distance between me and God.  It was a place where I had to warm God up with praise and thanksgiving. Then, and only then, I could tell him what I wanted or needed.

And maybe there is truth to some of what I said here. However, as I reflect on the character of God, and as I rehearse that He loved me first, that he sought me out to bring me to himself, that kind of love, I am not so sure that He cares as much about form as I thought.

Considering prayer as an act of fellowship gives me an entirely different perspective. Certainly prayer and thanksgiving should be part of that fellowship, just as I would tell anyone who had ministered to me that I appreciated their kindness and mercy, but prayer is so much more - that slowing down of life to an awareness that I am in God's company.

It makes me think of what happens when someone stands in my doorway or comes into my office. There is no fellowship until I stop tapping away on the computer, stop reading letters on the screen, stop attending to phone calls, my to-do list or calendar. No fellowship can come until I look into that person's face and attend to them - really taking time to listen and read between the lines, considering our history and all that I know about them - because every conversation brings with it a context.

So is prayer - a conversation, communion, communication between two people in the context of relationship. God loves me, he cares about what matters to me, and he wants fellowship with me, and you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heaven - think it will be boring?

I can remember not being all that excited about heaven. I mean I sure didn't want to go to hell, but heaven just seemed kind of boring. What would there be to do? I know there would be all these great people to see, but I knew I wouldn't even get close to the really cool people. Then, you can only say"Hello," and "I'm really glad your here," just so long before that gets boring. With all of eternity ahead, I just couldn't figure out what I would do.  So, I kind of stopped thinking about it. Is that OK to confess?

Then it occurred to me that in heaven I would have no sin dwelling in my flesh, so all of my perspectives about everything would be different. Sin and boredom wouldn't be an issue because I wouldn't be able to sin; that part of me would be gone.  I thought about that for a while, then kind of stopped thinking about heaven for a while again.

Then, yesterday, in church, we had what was to me the most wonderful time of worship in song...not new songs, but perhaps it was the sequence, the grouping of these particular worship songs.

We sang Father, Spirit, Jesus. Here are the words:

Lord, the worship we bring
Is more than songs that we sing
It’s a reflection of our ever-changing lives
The best we have to offer

We don’t just lift up our hands
Lord, we lift up our lives
For we know that You are worthy of our praise
To You our lifesongs raise

Rescued from darkness
We are walking in marvelous light
For we are children of the King!

You are worthy of all honor
Glory, praise and power
King of the nations
You are holy God almighty
Clothed in brilliant majesty
Father, Spirit, Jesus

Then we sang Glory to God Forever. It goes like this:

Before the world was made
before you spoke it to be
You were the King of Kings
yeah you were, yeah you were

And now you’re reigning still
enthroned above all things
Angels and saints cry out
we join them as we sing

Glory to God, Glory to God
Glory to God, Forever

Verse 2
Creator God you gave
me breath so I could praise
Your great and matchless name
all my days, all my days
So let my whole life be
a blazing offering
A life that shouts and sings
the greatness of the King

Take my life and let it be
All for you and for your glory
Take my life and let it be yours

The beautiful worship continued as we sang Spirit of the Living God and finished with O, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.

O the Deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Spread His praise from shore to shore,
How His love is never-ending,
And it changes nevermore;
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He’s interceding,
Watching o’er them from the throne.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of ev’ry love the best:
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing,

As I was singing, all I could think of was this: Heaven, I think heaven will be like this. I felt such a sweetness, such a love flowing from my heart to God's...all I wanted to do was to honor him, and the lyrics of these songs seemed to be the words that best expressed my heart.

When that part of the service was over, I almost had the sense of not wanting anything else. I had tasted heaven in those moments of sharing in the worship through singing with my community of believers.

So, now when I think of heaven, it is not with dread, nor thoughts or fear of boredom, it is with appetite. I will get to be part of the heavenly choir praising my God, and I will never tire of that.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Falling Seven Times

Right now our pastor is going through a series on “Modern Questions: Ancient Wisdom” focusing on applications in the book of Proverbs. We have also been challenged to read through Proverbs this month – the appropriate chapter for the day. All that to say, I read Proverb 24 today, and though all of it had value, verse 16 struck a chord for me today.
Proverbs 24:16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in the time of calamity.

A righteous man falls seven times, hmmm. A righteous man falls. A righteous man falls.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who questioned her righteousness, her value or usefulness to God since she had just made a series of poor choices, sinful choices, and had fallen over and over again. I encouraged her with reminders of a number of people in Scripture who had fallen, yet who had been used by God.

I’m sure David comes to your mind as readily as he did mine – called a man after God’s own heart, he had also fallen into adultery, conspired to bring about a man’s death, and in general, failed as a leader. And Peter, he denied Christ three times, and we could talk about Paul, who was a follower of God, as he knew him, and brought about great persecution of believers before he met God face-to-face along a dirt road .

It would be one thing if these men had fallen and stayed down, wallowing in discouragement and guilt. As some have, they could have figured that since they had already failed, their identity was sealed, and they might as well live the life of the unredeemed prodigal enjoying their sin. But they didn’t. They got up and tried it again.

I wonder if this verse gives us the test of whether a man or woman is righteous, whether his or her faith is real. Not does he fail? Because this verse assumes that the righteous man will fall or fail, but does he or she get up again? Every time? The proverb describes a righteous man having fallen seven times getting up again each time. The implication is that every time, the righteous man attempts to get it right, to live a holy life. The righteous man is not a quitter.

The latter part of the verse says that the wicked stumble in calamity. When the wicked or unredeemed or lost person falls into an unpleasantness, mischief or evil situation, he stumbles, falls down, and the key here is the missing words: he doesn’t rise again.

Oh God, I thank you that you don’t count me out when I fall, but that you extend your hand of mercy and forgiveness, and you lift me up. I reflect on all the times that I have fallen, and instead of wallowing in self-pity, I am overwhelmed with your mercy and kindness. I am encouraged and rejoice in that blessed hope of one more chance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

So, maybe here's my confession, a confession

I'm reading my way through a pile of books to get prepared for a conference I am going to in April.  One of those books is Lit by Mary Karr.

Mary Karr had a nightmarish childhood: sexual, physical, verbal and mental abuse – she knew it all. Her mother, though brilliant, struggled with mental illness and did not appear have much of any capacity for parenting. Her father roved in and out of her life but remained in many ways her hero, saulty though he was. Mary Karr herself had a brilliant mind that her early years of debauchery failed to destroy. Then she appeared to marry well and build an enviable, to other writers and educators, life.

But she drank. She was addicted to alcohol. She was ruled by alcohol. Alcohol owned her and, for a time, had such a claim on her life, she was willing to risk everything else to hold a glass, a bottle of any alcoholic beverage in her hand, believing as she drank it, her life would be better, if only for a moment. Finally, after more than one effort, she began the journey toward sobriety that she would discover would require an honesty more painful than she imagined, would introduce her to real, and community, would lead her into a relationship with God, the one with a capital G.

And she jerked my chain, well, her words did. She wrote about the power alcohol had in her life, even when she knew it would or could cost her everything. She wrote about the ugliness she saw in the lives of other alcoholics, yet she persisted, continuing in what she could acknowledge was self-destructive behavior.

I read a newspaper article many years ago that talked about how some alcoholics are truly addicted to carbohydrates, and how some people who struggle with obesity could have as easily become alcoholics. And today, as I finished Lit, I wondered how closely am I to alcoholism or carbohydrate addiction.

I lose weight. I have lost weight, 40 pounds at a clip, swearing I will never have to do it again, swearing that I will be in control, and in too few years, I stand at the abyss again looking across 40 or 50 pounds again.

Here I sit, looking at those pounds, this time more than 40, but knowing I would be happy with the 40. And I look through the looking glass and see my alcoholic father, the one I loved to hate and wonder how thin the line is between us. His addiction was public; mine secret, but I choose to eat the chocolate bar (Kit Kats a favorite), the cookie, the French fries with as much momentary passion as he approached the glass of liquor, as mindlessly as he did. And probably, I have come to hate myself and my weakness as he did, from time-to-time, because I do remember periods of his sobriety, when he would say he wasn’t an alcoholic because he could go without drinking. And I use the word probably because I don’t want to admit the reality of my own self-hate.

Am I so different? I can go months without eating a piece of chocolate, but when I fall off the wagon, the fall feels so complete and so impossible to stop that I find myself not even knowing how many pieces of forbidden carbs I have injested,

Mary Karr knew her life style could lead her to the streets. My father knew his alcohol consumption could cost him his family, if not his life. My addiction to carbs, because that is what it is, could cost the respect of my children and grandchildren, my own health….my own self-respect. And that is not say what it does really to my relationship with God. How can I hate what he loves? How can I give control to anything but his Spirit, and that is what I do to carbs, when I allow myself to come under their spell?

Just as Mary Karr found excuses to refuse help, so do I find excuses to do it alone – to rationalize my way out of exercise groups, weightwatcher meetings or Bible studies that focus on life modification.

And I must face the reality that I haven’t hit bottom yet, and what, I wonder, would that look like, and would I survive it? And do I need to hit bottom? Is today bottom? In God's mercy, is today the day that I say, with God's help, with the help of the Body, I will aspire toward Spirit control - not carb- control? Is today the day that I will humble myself and post this knowing what this transparency might mean? Accountability? Embarrassing comments or offers of help? Or maybe, an undergirding of prayer from those I love?  Well, here we go...I'm leaping into the abyss.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Confession, for me?

There is nothing like confession to resolve conflict or to break down barriers. Once we have cleared the air, so to speak, we can communicate with clarity.  Max Lucado puts in this way: Confession does for the soul what preparing the land does for the field....(gets it ready for the planting and growth)

When I was much, much, younger, I used to think the Catholic Church had it right - one day for confession and get it taken care of for the week... However, the closer I grew to God, and the more I understood that we are called to holiness, the more I knew that would never work. I couldn't keep track of my sins in one day, much less one week.

Then first, there is that issue of holiness - of measuring my value system against God's value system. I remember remonstrating a friend when I heard him say he had done something stupid when what he had done was sin against God and the other person. Calling it stupid somehow made it seem less....

And there is also the issue of what on earth confession means - in reference to sin and God, it means saying the same thing about our sin that God does.  As I think that through, it means also admitting that I have offended God's holiness, and that my failure here grieves him.  He loves me and wants only what is good for me, and sin sure isn't good for me.  It always ends up costing sooner or later.  And God grieves for what it will  cost me just as I have grieved over the cost of the sins of my children.

So, I fear we feel good about ourselves that we don't go to confession once a week like the Catholics do, but I fear also that we don't go to confession at all. And I wonder what that does to our relationship with God and with others.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Honor/Pride or Affirmation?

This morning I was reading the Proverb of the day and came cross this verse: Pr. 18:12, "Before his down fall a man's heart is proud, but before honor comes humility."

It brought up all kinds of memories related to pride - like the first time I remember telling my sister that I was proud of her when she sang a solo in church.  Man, did she ever give me a scolding about pride, that it is a bad thing, and we all should be willing to serve God in any way that we could and never be proud of ourselves because he gifted us a certain way, and I know that is a run-on sentence, but that is the way it all rushed out of her.

And I sat in stunned silence, not knowing what to do with it.  I was just trying to do, to say something nice to her, not that it wasn't true, that she sang well.  Now, I must say here that we were both fairly young Christians, only a few years, and I was about 11 so she would have been 22...both of us three-year-old Christians. So it was in her earnestness to do right that she scolded me.

Anyway, ever since then I have struggled with this issue - is it wrong to want or give affirmation, to want someone to tell you that you did something well or right?  This has weighed on me for years, and this morning, in my other devotional reading, the writer quoted a couple of verses from one of my favorite Psalms...139:23-24  "Search me O God and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." 

I learned that Psalm at about the same time as a I learned a song in church and have loved and been challenged by it ever since.  This is partially because, also at that same time, I was challenged that to sing a song was to pray its words.  Singing the song was praying the words, and I could never lightly sing that melody or ask God to search me and know my heart.

So, back to the thought I started with, is it sin or pride to want to be affirmed, to have someone tell you that you have done something well?   I have come to the conclusion that I do not think it is wrong to give some- one affirmative words, to tell them they have done something right or well because how on earth do we learn?  How do we know what works, what honors God, what we should and shouldn't do if no one ever tells us so?  Certainly, someone could allow these words of affirmation to become occasions for pride, but I don't think that is reason to withhold them.

I think it is a kindness, a gift we give someone to tell him or her that we have been blessed by that ministry or that they have done something well.  Isn't this part of loving someone or part of encouraging them?
That before honor comes humility thing: isn't that the part we give to God - we allow him to work in the hearts of those around us....and as they are humble before him, it is his business to honor them in whatever way he chooses....and sometimes that is through us here and sometimes, I think, it will be in the future, perhaps in eternity.

Friday, January 15, 2010

God: concerned about my life?

Isn't it amazing how we ignore the reality of God as a friend, as someone who has and does love us sacrificially and unconditionally and, even more amazing, personally?  Oh, we know those things intellectually and as theological facts, but as a personal reality?

This morning in my reading I came across these words written by Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy: "Prayer is a matter of explicitly sharing  with God my concerns about what he too is concerned about in my life."  The bold emphasis is mine.

I don't know why, but those words stopped me cold - making me think or rehearse what God might be concerned about in my life.  Well, he is probably concerned with how easily I am distracted from the daily reading of his word and prayer time.  I confess, I have great intentions, but it only takes a change in my schedule to throw those things off.  It is not that he cares about me rigidly adhering to a schedule, but he is concerned about our daily fellowship.  I think has is as concerned about our communication as I am about communication with my children, and moreso.

I think he is concerned about my priorities - what do I allow to have a higher priority than representing him, than being his ambassador? Than loving him back?  Where does he rank in my decision making?  In how I think about spending my money or time or possessions?

I am concerned today about my brother's health, about my baby grandson's health, about my grandchildren's decisons about college for this next year.  I am concerned about the wife of a graduate who is in a coma and the bother of a student who is in a coma.  I am concerned about three students we disciplined this week - not about their response - all of that went well, but about other repercussions from the situation.  I am concerned about when I am going toget my next class written and what to do with some other manuscripts I have. 

Well, you see only a few things that I am concerned about, and God is concerned about them as well because he is concerned about my life and loves me.  He is concerned about how I deal with these concerns.  Do I take them to him and trust him with them?  Do I worry myself sick about them?  Do I try to handle them or manipulate any of these circumstances myself, not consulting him? 

Thinking about the reality that he is concerned about me makes me think how really personal a relationship is possible with him, how really personal he wants it to be.

Oh God, help me to bless you today, not add to the weight of your concern for me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Friendship: with God?

Billy Graham said, "It's not only to resolve our problems that we should pray, but to share in the strength of God's friendship."

I don't know about you but the idea that we could be friends with God is astonishing.  And the  very idea made me wonder what Scripture said about the topic.

Did you know that Job mentioned friendship with God?  In Job 29: 4 we find Job speaking these words: As I was in the prime of my days, when the friendship of God was over my tent." 

I looked up the word friendship here and it has the sense of company of a friend, and by implication - intimacy and counsel.  What an amazing experience Job has personally with God; Job was aware of this relationship, this intimacy with God, the presence of God close over  him, in protection, at close hand for counsel.

Then in John, we find Christ speaking to the disciples and by extension to us, again offering us the possibility of friendship, of his close counsel and presence and intimacy in John 15:13 and 14:  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you....
And what did Jesus command them?  To love him and to love one another!!!
Let me quote from verses 16 and 17.... I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit....This I command you, that you love one another.

So, Jesus, God, wants friendship with me, and you.  He wants us to know that he is right here, ready with counsel for us when we need it.  He is the friend who will never betray us, the friend who will always understand and will be patient with us as we try to get it right.  He is the friend who is quick to forgive when we mess up.  He is the friend who always waits with open arms when we get off track, giving ourselves to false friends.  He is ready with bandages and caresses and kisses, to make us feel better when we hurt, whether we have brought the pain on ourselves or it has been inflicted by another.

How beautiful are the words of Job, words we can own: the friendship of God is over my dwelling place.  What a place of strength is my prayer time in that dwelling place (wherever I am - he is in that place, that dwelling place).  That intimate conversation with my friend Jesus, and with that reminder of his friendship, oh sweet presence of God, what on earth do I have to fear?!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your appointments

Have you ever thought something or even told people something, and then felt the least bit insecure because you had never heard anyone else say that? Well, I have.  On a regular basis, I tell students that God is waiting to hear from them.  I tell them to remember that he is their Abba Father, and that they are his children.  Like any father, he loves to hear from his children, to listen to them, to talk to them and to do for them.

Now I have to say that all fathers are not like that; it is true that some children never know that kind of a father, but that is who our heavenly father is and what he is like.

When I talk to students about prayer, I encourage them to consider that their loving father is just waiting to hear from them, and if they are having trouble establishing meaningful prayer time, there is a solution.  They need to make appointments with God, to put it on their schedule and respect that appointment as if it is with the president or some other person they highly respect and would never ignore, never be late for an appointment with that person.  Because it is all true, what I have been saying:  God loves them that much and wants to hear from them; in fact, he is waiting to hear from them.

Now to the collateral support for all of that: Billy Graham put it this way, "Prayer is really a place; a place where you meet God in genuine conversation." 

Imagine, because it is real, God is waiting to hear from you, to enjoy fellowship with you, and he is waiting at the corner of prayer and affection.  He is waiting to hear your voice, whether you pray out loud or silently, in your mind, he is waiting, just as you might wait for someone in your office or living room, someone you care deeply for, someone you love and long to minister to.

So I do think that prayer is a place, that it is can be an appointment, but it is more.  God wants it to be more, and ever and ongoing communion between two who love each other.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Fear of the Lord

Have you ever struggled with “the fear of the Lord?” I mean we are told God is loving and good and kind and compassionate, yet we are to fear him. I struggled with this conundrum for many years. How could he be everything good, and I am still to be afraid of him, because to me, that is what fear meant.

I just wrote a memoir of the first twenty years of my life and gave it to my children and siblings for Christmas. My oldest and youngest both commented on the thread of fear through it, though my oldest said the fear did not stop me. She’s right, you know. Growing up does offer many fear-producing moments, and by nature of being me and the times in which I grew up, yes the fifties and sixties, there were ample opportunities to be afraid. And there were a few more opportunities to be afraid simply because of a variety of events that occurred in my home…so, to fear someone meant, to me, to be afraid of, to avoid, because you just never knew what the outcome might be. Mostly, fear was something bad.

Then, today in church, our pastor was speaking from Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” As he talked about fear and what it meant, he referenced Andy Stanley’s definition from his book The Best Question Ever: the fear of the Lord is the recognition and reverence that leads to submission, or it is to recognize that God is God and respond accordingly – in surrender.

Now, in the past, I have said the fear of the Lord had to do with reverencing God, revering him, but I confess, I said that without a sense of security that I was right. I wanted someone who really knew what he was talking about to say that as well. So, I was happy this morning.

Then, I had to think about the last part of the definition, the submission thing. If I truly recognize and revere God as God, then I am acknowledging that he has the right to complete authority in all of my decisions. And I have to confess, that I have made some decisions that clearly were not made under his influence.

I am grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning; that also means every year. And as this new year begins, I long to live a life that shows that I do recognize his authority in my life, a life that shows I hold him in the utmost of reverence. So, I guess I need to pray that specifically…Oh God, Most High, help me to remember who you are – loving and good and kind, but the One to whom I must surrender completely. Help me to slow down this year, to listen to you, to be intentional about bringing my will always into conformity with your revealed will. May I be your ambassador in all things.