Tuesday, June 24, 2014

There’s always a stack of books beside my bed, some read and not ready to be sent away, and some to be read, and then there is that top one, the one I am currently reading.  Right now that one is Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson, 2014. Honestly I cannot remember when I got it, but I am so glad I did.    
The author begins by discussing how we identify ourselves and how this shapes our lives, our choices, how we understand ourselves.  Then she talks about how this becomes a significant problem because it is like looking so hard at the details that we miss the big picture – think focusing so hard on a plant that we miss the forest.  She establishes early on that her primary audience is women; then she says the following:

"This book is not a call to deny womanhood in order to embrace being made in His image. But it is a call to understand that womanhood and everything that comes with it serves a greater purpose…It is a call to wrestle with what it means to be made in His image and to believe that you are made for more than what you often settle for.”
What I love is how this book goes along with one I am using in my “Quiet Time,” A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines. The chapter I am currently wandering through is about spiritual service, serving God in every task, and here is where the two kind of run together.  The challenge is to see everything we do as an act of service to God, whether it is washing the dishes, cleaning the house or changing the tire.  Then move out of the house and consider how we related to others as an act of service to God: how we behave toward the person ahead of us with 30 items in the 20 item lane or the one who swoops in and takes the parking place we have been waiting for…or someone facing real challenges, like the loss of a loved one.

Do we even think of these things as opportunities for an act of worship or service or have we left that kind of thinking at home, when we closed the door behind us. We make those decisions based on how we have come to understand ourselves: are we a woman, a retiree, a grandmother, a school teacher or are we an Image bearer?
I’ve been reading Anderson’s book without a pen, and now I recognize that was a mistake. I think I will go back to the beginning tonight with one. One section I underlined already this morning was the following:  “Most of the time we associate legalism with strict adherence to a specific set of rules, but legalism is not simply choosing the letter of the law over the spirit.  Legalism is any attempt to model God’s attributes apart from a relationship with Him.  Legalism is trying to be an image bearer without relying on the Image. (78)

These words made me wonder how many times I have walked out of the house or into a store or even into church, forgetting that I am an image bearer, and especially without being conscious that I can and should be relying on  and living like the One Whose Image I carry.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Don’t plan on too much!

Let me tell you, these last several months have been a challenge!  Graduation was over, the wedding was over, and we finally had a quiet week ahead.  The weatherman forecast a week of 80’s, so what do you do?  Go to the lake!  And that’s what we did.  Trusting the weather man, we settled into our little cottage right on the waterfront the glorious weekend of June 7.

The windows brought in a sweet breeze off the lake billowing curtains into every room keeping us cool and inviting us to read on the deck.  Though an occasional boat towing water skiers brought choppy waves against the dock, for the most part, we listened to birds and the sound of that breeze soughing through the trees shading out cottage.  And we shed the weight of busyness and planning and a long cold winter.

Then Monday came, and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, and every day heavy clouds hid the sun and a cool mist draped itself over the lake.  Now, this was not what we signed up for!  We had plans, including lots of hiking and maybe some water sports and …and we needed sunshine and those promised 80’s, not the chilly fifties and sixties and low seventies, the thermometer said, but which felt like fifties.

Or did we? Was God saying, we needed to trust Him and we needed to really rest…like work my way through that bag of books we brought?  Was He saying go see a silly movie, like How to train your dragon?  Was He saying you don’t need a hot sun to relax? Really, after the weather man promised?

Well ,we are back home, and we had a great week.  We snuggled over movies on the laptop.  I heard students did it, and I just couldn’t figure out the appeal, but it was fun and cozy.  We read and went for ice cream and ate Chinese and Greek food, but we also had time to listen –to God speak through the chilly mist, to feel His arms around us in that little knotty pine walled cabin, and time to thank Him once again for knowing exactly what we needed…rest and stillness and time to sit and hold hands. And a time to celebrate and worship Him in the midst of some of His best work.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I still feel guilty!

It was a long time ago, but it takes seconds only for me to feel that same guilt.  I rationalized the sin at the time, but I knew it was wrong and offensive to God, but that did not stop me, at least for a while.  Then I got it! And turned from it and pleaded with God for his forgiveness, which he is always ready to give.  Have you ever been there?  And days and months and years later, the memory of that time sneaks right up on you asking who you think you are to think you can serve God now.
I am sure that was Paul’s experience. We meet him early in the book of Acts as Saul and The Message puts it this way, “And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.”  And that was right after we see him holding the coats of and congratulating Stephen’s killers.

Some time later God pursued Saul, changing his life, and the newly named Paul, after a period of study put all that same energy into building the Church, preaching to the lost and teaching the found.  As I was reading there in Acts 7 and 8 where it tells about Saul/Paul’s early years, I wrote in the margin, “a basis for guilt,” because Paul would never be able to forget what he had done. But, he did not allow those feelings of guilt, not real guilt because he was no longer carrying around that burden of sin; God had forgiven him, to keep him from serving God.
I wonder if all believers are not sometimes haunted by our past, certainly a work of the evil one, who will use our past to cripple our present if we let him.  Paul speaks of his thorn in the flesh, saying he had asked God three times to remove it.  And God said, in II Corinthians 12:9, “…My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul replied, “Most gladly will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Many commentators suggest Paul was referring to his vision, that he had pain or some illness or injury to his eyes, perhaps from his encounter on the road to Emmaus. But it occurred to me this morning to wonder if his thorn in the flesh might have been the heavy weight he felt knowing that he had persecuted and even caused the death of Christians in the early church.  Can you imagine how that might feel, or be used of the evil one?
Anyway, once more, I thank God for his forgiveness, that he has put all of my sins as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103: 12.  I thank God that it is not through my works that my sins are paid for, but it is by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…through faith in his blood, Romans 3:24-25.

So when that old guilt washes over me, I have to rehearse once more what I know to be true. True guilt can be taken care of, and God has done that for me.  The evil one wants to incapacitate me through shame, and I will not have it. Shame is destructive. Shame seeks to make us useless to God, BUT God loves us and longs to see us rejoicing, at peace and living so filled with love that it spills over. 
Paul did not let his guilt destroy his future or usefulness to God, and we must not either.


Monday, June 2, 2014

I’m going to try taking my shoes off…

In some cultures, it is important to remove your shoes when you enter a house.  It is a sign of respect, that you do not drag in the soil from the streets to dirty or dishonor their home.  Even in this country, there are families for whom this is the custom, to keep the house clean.

This morning I have been thinking about worship, and the text I am reading says this: “why is important, and what, but also how: how we speak, how we pray, how we act, how we worship.  This matters to God, and it ought to matter to us…Today pay attention to the “how” of your worship.  What kind are you most comfortable with? Do you find that having a certain order or ritual to you individual worship of God is helpful? Why or why not? “ from A Year With God-Living out the Spiritual Disciplines

After I read this, I started thinking about my own personal worship, what I do and what could enhance it.  I know that I have struggled somewhat separating my mind from the rest of the day, the chores done and those waiting to do, and all the other things that make up a person’s day and thought life. I know I have to be intentional about this getting my thought life focused, or I can be half way through the first Bible reading of the day and not be sure what it was. So, the timing of this study for me here is good. I need to remember that although all of life is holy, lived out in the presence of God, this morning worship time (for me) is dedicated to Him, or at least that is my intention.

It came to me, as I thought about being intentional that my morning worship be worshipful, that God spoke to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3 and said “…remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Then God identified Himself to Moses.  And I wondered if it would help me to focus better if I removed my sandals or slippers or shoes as part of my preparation to separate myself from the distractions of the moment to pay attention to God. Would removing my shoes be a way of honoring God and focusing on the inside of this worship?

It’s a little thing, and we don’t see this repeated in the New Testament as a command to be part of the way we are to worship God, but I wonder if it might help me. I wondered if it could be useful in helping me move from a morning of routine to a time of worship, of listening more closely to God and talking more honestly, with greater awareness of His presence. 

If it matters to God how we worship, and I think it must because it matters to me how my children speak or don’t speak to me.  Then perhaps I need to pay more attention to the how I worship, how I prepare my heart, to hear from Him and to respond to Him.