Saturday, January 15, 2011

Prayer as a Delight

My small group met last night and the topic was prayer. Specifically, we covered the instance (recorded in more than one gospel) when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Several things struck me from our conversation, but one comment in particular led me off into my thoughts.

I think that above all the things the disciples asked/asked for, this request most delighted him.

The quote isn't exact, but it did start me thinking. Why would this delight Him? Well, if what the disciples saw and desired was that interaction with the Father, and if Jesus came to make a way to/draw us to the Father, then their request was (an initial/partial) fulfillment of His incarnational purpose!

And then that phrase 'delight' began to bounce around in my head. It delights the Son to have us approach the Father. It delights the Father for us to come to Him through the Son.

And then I began to realize this: Prayer is an invitation to join in the fellowship of the Trinity.

We come at the initiation of the Father.
We come through the introduction of the Son.
We come with the instruction of the Spirit.
We come to have conversation and fellowship with the Most High God!

And this, this delights Him.

God is delighted when I choose to exercise my blood-won right to come into His presence with adoration...thanksgiving...burdens...requests...repentance...with worship. For no reason other than He chose it to be so, my pondering pause in His presence is a delight to Him.

I truly stand in wonder. What kind of love is this? What kind of God is this?

Welcomed in His presence,

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. --Revelation 5:6-8, NIV

Sunday, January 9, 2011

So, On to the Assigned Task: Building My Faith

So, if building faith is one of the purposes of this 'lag time,' and if remembering God's provision is one the the things that will build my faith, then I'd better get to it! And here's one that just popped right up.

A few days ago as I was posting here, I found myself reading back through some of my posts from earlier in the year. I was relieved to find that they did not sound nearly as whiny as I had feared. But that's an aside. :-) Here's what I noted:

In my April 30 entry, I tried to describe the emotional state which had been building in me for months, this overwhelming sense of restlessness/anticipation/anxiety/longing which I could neither dismiss nor fulfill. And a greater part of the challenge was that I felt that it was God who had stirred (and continues to stir) the waters of my heart. At that time, I didn't know how to respond to the challenge. (Actually, I am only just figuring out how to do that.) I signed off of that note in this way:

Oh God, what would you have me do? Is this of Your purposes or my distraction? I both want and hate this, embrace and reject this. Be merciful to me, O God. Remember that I am but dust. O Lord, save me, or I will be washed away with the tide.

And do you know what I realized a few days ago when I reread this? He did. He did remember that I was but dust, and in His mercy, He reduced my emotions to a level I could manage, and has kept them there. This may seem small-ish, but it wouldn't if you had been in my head when I wrote those lines. I was not even remotely exaggerating or kidding. I was desperate!

So I am reminded that even in this, my 'stirred waters' journey, His ears are attuned to my voice, and His mercy is renewed toward me again.

I'm liking this assignment. Remembering. Recalling. Rehearsing the good my good God has done in my life. I'm encouraged already.

I'll leave you with an idea presented (almost in passing, but boy did it grab me) in our worship service this morning:

To stay when God says, "Stay," is an act of worship.

We so often think of going & doing as least I do. But my overall struggle stems from God's command a few years back from me not to go to the mission field as I desired & planned to do. This quote is a beautiful reminder that obedience--in whatever way--is worship.

May I always be a worshipper of One so very worthy.

To the praise of His glorious grace (& mercy!),

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story...Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LORD. --Psalm 107:1, 2a, 43, NIV

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wow! Maybe I've Stumbled onto Something...

So, this morning, when I opened Facebook, I discovered that one of my alma maters, Columbia International University, had posted a link to one of their professor's blogs. And guess what this series of entries was about?

...How times of waiting are calls to walk by FAITH!

Weird? More likely, providential. In a separate, opening article (on this concept as it relates to leadership), he defines waiting as living in the gaps: reality most of my life is in the gaps between God’s promise and the answer. Much of my leadership has been seeking clarity on what to do while we are waiting on something else — that God seems to be delaying.

So, if most of my life is lived in the gaps (as it certainly FEELS like I am doing), what do I do with this most-time? How do I live here? In the first article he asserts:
The Christian life is filled with waiting. Sometimes waiting feels like standing in a long, slow moving checkout aisle at the store. At other times, waiting is more like desperately clinging to the floating scraps of broken wood after the ship has gone down. And then there are those moments when waiting is like a young child on Christmas Eve; not being able to sleep from the excitement of what might be under the tree in the morning...How do we wait? We wait in faith.

In the second article, he asserts that what we do in times of waiting is remember God's past provision and anticipate his future gifts:
Remembering and Anticipating are spiritual disciplines that grow our heart’s capacity to respond to God in faith and hope. [My note: previously, he has stated that these--faith, hope, and also love--are God's goal for us.]

Also, and this was the humdinger for me:
A good definition of the Christian life could be – it is a waiting life punctuated by samples of God letting us taste what will be.

Yes! That's what I feel. Lots of waiting, punctuated by moments where God displays His brilliant glory and self. (My struggle is just that I'm ready to get on to the 'display' part!)

And isn't that what we see in Scripture anyway? Those moments we all desire our lives to mimic were just that--moments! Think about it--most of 'our heroes' lives were spent waiting too. (Go ahead: pick a hero, and then read the back story. You'll see.)

Waiting is standing in a space where we look back to mountains God has led us over in the past and where we can see mountain tops in front of us that make our necks sore from looking up. Waiting is the flat plain in between. Waiting is that boring walk through miles of endless open terrain where there are very few identifiable land marks to give us clear bearings...In the plain of waiting it is easy to feel lost, unsafe, exposed, uncertain, and then doubt shows up and asks to walk with you.

This is how I feel--lost, unsafe, exposed, & uncertain--and probably for this exact reason. Doubt does show up. Which is why faith is the only response that works.

And though this isn't exactly the point of his third article, it spawned this thought:

God waited first.

God offered all of Himself and His perfect provision to me...and then He waited for me.

He waited for me.

He waits for me.

What kind of love is this?

Amazing love, oh what sacrifice
The Son of God, given for me?
My debt He pays, and my death He dies
That I might live. That I might live!
(I hope you know this Bebo Norman song)

Loved beyond imagination,

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. --2 Peter 3:8-9

A Postscript for the Theologians of the Group: I know God chose me before I chose Him. Please see my point and understand that I'm not breaking down the theology here. More on that later, perhaps. :-)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not Alone

To those of you who posted here or messaged me saying I wasn't alone, thank you. I truly can't tell you how encouraging that was to me. I often feel alone, and I while I know it isn't true, it's nice just to know it a bit more tangibly.

The comfort of the Body of Christ. I'm pretty sure there's something really good in that package. I'm pretty sure that's how it's supposed to be.

In in together,

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it... So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. --Ephesians 4:4-7, 11-14, NIV

It's Tougher Than I Expected...

So, I still wrestle. And I would be ashamed to admit how often tears are my companion these days. But in the midst of my pondering, I see this:

The emptying that God has done in my life is a call. That call is to faith.

The Michael Card lyrics come to mind:

To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That’s what faith must be.

When my hands, heart, head, and planner are all empty, then faith is the response He calls me to.
That He will lead.
That I am not forgotten.
That there is more.
That faithfulness today is enough.

Funny. Somehow I thought faith would be easier. This might just be the biggest mountain I've had to climb. I don't doubt my God's greatness or goodness, or love, or mercy. But I think I've doubted His timing. I've doubted the plan He has mapped for me. I've not rested, but rather have wrestled in the place He has put me. And the only answer I can come up with is...


It doesn't stop the pain, or the tears, or wipe away the emptiness. But it does tell me what I should do. I must faith.

Weaker than I thought, confident in my Caller,

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. --2 Corinthians 5:7-9, NIV

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lights, Lag Time, Learning, and Life as a Six-year-old

Have you tried those new energy-saving lights? You know, the ones that come on veeeerry, veeeeeeeeery slowly?

These are the bane of my existence. I have to turn the lights on a full 60 seconds before I actually hope to see anything! I like lights that as soon as the switch is flicked--BAM--come on! I know technically there is time between the switch being hit and the light coming on, but the differential is one this pea-brain can hardly measure. I like those lights. :-)

And you know what? I think this illustrates the struggle I've been wrestling with these many months. The problem is this:

Lag time.

I think lag time is the issue we struggle with.

Okay, maaaybe I'm being too general. I think lag time is the thing *I'm* struggling with.

As part of the thorough preparation I have done for this (and, of course, every post) (*wink*), I thought I would look up the actual definition of lag time. What I found made me laugh out loud:
( ′lag ′tīm ) (electricity) The time between the application of current and rupture of the circuit within the detonator.

WELL. Talk about hitting the nail on the head! Lag time is the time in the middle, between when the button is pushed and something happens as a result of the button being pushed--like an explosion...or a light coming on.

Yep. That's it exactly. It's the time in the middle that's bothering me. The time between when the fuse is lit and the fireworks go off. How long can a fuse be, anyway? The time between when God-the-Driver says, "This is where we're going," and when the car actually starts toward/arrives at its destination. It feels too long.

And I find myself in whiny mode, wanting to ask, "Are we there yet?!"

How is it that I can so quickly become a 6-year-old in this car trip we call life?


In church, we've been studying through the book of Acts. We've arrived at the part when Paul's life has taken a crisp downturn, humanly speaking. He's imprisoned for years, without justification and without 'due process.' But juuuuusst as this whole thing begins, while he is still imprisoned in Jerusalem, Jesus appears to him:

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." (Acts 23:11)

* The Lord stood near. Paul is comforted with the presence of the Lord.
* The Lord speaks encouragement. Paul is comforted by the living words of the Lord.
* The Lord lays out the plan. Paul is assured that he is not going to be killed yet. And better, his heart's desire (to preach in Rome) is about to be fulfilled.

Now, I don't know what Paul was thinking, but *I* would be thinking: Okay, the show's about to start. Let's GO!

But (and I hope I'm not spoiling the story for you) the show doesn't get started. Paul spends years imprisoned before he ever even embarks on his journey to Rome. And that journey is fraught with danger and suffering.

But you know what? Paul's job was to walk in the promises God had already given him. God didn't show up every night to tell Paul about the journey. Just once.

Only once.

But Paul trusted his Lord's words, and was faithful every day to those once-spoken words.

Um...the self-application is pretty obvious. Okay, well, God's spirit nailed me with it last Sunday, so NOW it's really obvious. I need to trust that God will complete His plan for me...even when it's been a long time since He said, "This is where we are going." A long, long time.

And this week, do you know what I saw? From prison (probably from Rome), Paul writes this:

...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11)

Learned. He learned to be content. Content in whatever.

Where did he learn it?

In the lag time.

So lag time is God's personal development program. Sometimes Scripture refers to this as "the fullness of time." As in, Jesus came in the fullness of time. And, Jesus will return in the fullness of time. When the time is perfect, and all the pieces are in place.

His promises will be fulfilled to the 'iota.' But first, first we must go through the lag time. And we must learn. *I* must learn.

Growing up in the lag time,

P.S. In the same epistle, Paul wrote:
*Rejoice in the Lord always.
*I will say it again: Rejoice!
*Let your gentleness be evident to all.
*The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
*And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
*Finally, brothers and sisters,
--whatever is true,
--whatever is noble,
--whatever is right,
--whatever is pure,
--whatever is lovely,
--whatever is admirable
--if anything is excellent
--or praiseworthy
think about such things.
*Whatever you
--have learned
--or received
--or heard from me,
--or seen in me
put it into practice.
*And the God of peace will be with you.
--Philippians 4:4-9

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sure of What I Hope For/Certain of What I Do Not See

Let Thy Goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee...

Familiar? This line from one of the latter verses of the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing has been sung as a fervent prayer by me many, many a-time. And, over the past several years, the attribute of God which has been most brought home to me is... His goodness. His absolute, undeniable, unquenchable, all-encompassing, every-life-invading goodness.

And recently, as we sang this song in a worship service, I realized that my prayer had been answered with a resounding, "Yes!" You see, it is the goodness of the Lord that causes me not to despair. Life may be ugly sometimes, awful sometimes, achingly painful sometimes, and most times completely unlike what we thought or wished it to be. But God's goodness is what keeps me hanging on.

So when, as I asserted in my last post, I am in 'backwoods Sinai,' please don't let that mislead you to thinking that I despair. In fact, I am anything but despairing. I wrestle, I struggle, I press in to hear His purposes and to see my Savior's hand. And I seek to understand because I know God HAS a purpose.

And His purpose is GOOD, because HE is GOOD!

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd share with you some of God's good purposes--at least the ones I have eyes now to see--from over these years in backwoods Sinai. This sojourn so far has been almost a dozen years. Life went from full-speed-ahead to go-directly-to-Sinai-do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200 in about a millisecond. Or so. But the monotony of this place has taught me...

*I've learned what it is to hurt emotionally in ways I cannot pass over nor can I solve. And I've learned what it means to survive on His strength alone.

*I've learned to walk under the heavy burden of long-term physical pain. And, I've seen my Savior miraculously, instantly heal me--Praise His Name!

*I've learned not just to wait, but to wait on the Lord. 'Them's' two different beasts, I can assure you.

*I've had God call my bluff--when I didn't even know I was bluffing--and lived to tell about it. And even enjoy the journey beyond it...without ever understanding the "why" of it.

*I've learned what a spiritual battle looks like...and how to lose. And blessedly, also how to win.

*I've had my perspective on the Church, on Ministry, on Grace & Mercy, and on myself completely and utterly re-written. In very, very necessary and good ways.

*I've learned that when I'm banging on heaven's gates, begging God to, "Do something," He often is, just in ways I cannot see.

*I've seen God take places where I was shackled by sin and doubt and fear and set me free. In entirety. In ways that others had to acknowledge, to His glory!

*I've been disciplined for my lack of faithfulness...and then given another chance to serve Him.

*I've discovered the joy of offering God my pain in worship. There is a beauty in that offering that is unmatched by any other, I think. Worship through tears--to the praise of His glorious grace.

*I've learned to increasingly "entrust myself to Him who judges justly."

*I've discovered what a complete "patootie" (Southernese for one's hindquarters) I have been at points in my life (and possibly today), and thus, I have discovered how MUCH grace has been granted to me by friends and family. (I thank you all!) And more so, by my Savior.

*I've fallen in love with Jesus. I was His a long, long, long time before that was true. But praise His Name, it's true now!

*I've been deeply wounded by the Body of Christ, and in His grace, I've been healed so deeply that I can again love Her without reservation.

*I've begun to truly discover that I am utterly, every-fiber loved by a Holy God. THAT will change you!

So despite the disconcertion of my previous post, my Good God has had Good purposes in this, the 'stalled out' portion of my journey. I just wanted you to know that I knew that.

And you know what? I believe so much in His Goodness and His Good purposes, that I really do believe the best is yet to come. So I choose to wait on Him. For 'the fullness of time' never came when the story's characters thought it should, but it always came when the Master of time had perfectly planned for it to do so.

God teaches us in ways that are perfect for each of us. Some people learn best through the rigors of daily life, some through fiery trials. Some must have a thorn in the flesh, some prosperity. I, apparently, need long periods of monotony. Long, looooooong periods of monotony. ;o) But if that's the only way I can look more like Jesus at the end of this thing, may the monotony never end. (But just for the record, I'm hoping there are other ways, too.)

Hopeful at Sinai,

P.S. How about you? What do you 'have eyes to see' of God's work in your journey?

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? ...Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. ...I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. --Psalm 27:1, 3-5, 13-14, NIV

1. Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise His Name I'm fixed upon it
Name of God's redeeming love.

2. Hither to thy love has blessed me
Thou has brought me to this place
And I know thy hand will bring me
Safely home by thy good grace
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Bought me with His precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.
18th century Methodist pastor & hymnist Robert Robinson
--this version: E. Margaret Clarkson, 1973