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