So much of life is waiting. . .

As a Christian, I am waiting for a lot--for God to do His refining work in me, for Jesus to return, for me to GET how much God loves me and for me to see what He is doing . . .

What to do in the meantime? I have learned much about what the Lord is trying to teach me, tell me and show me through the discipline of daily time spent reading the Bible. So often we make this time harder than it has to be.

This blog was born out of wanting to share what God is showing me and wanting to be an example that daily time with God is not a deep or mysterious thing (well, every once in a while it can be), but simply a time to read scripture and note what jumps out at you that day. We don't have to be scholars or super-holy or ministry leaders to do this. Some days I hit the jackpot and others I come up empty--but only by persevering do I give God the space in which to speak and myself the stillness in which to hear and obey.

As of June of 2017, I've now decided to include parts of our adoption journey, which is, so far, yet another chapter of waiting.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unrighteous Indignation

It is an awful thing to see oneself reflected in the attitude of the Pharisees (the text says "chief priests and scribes--what I will call Pharisees--forgive my liberty if they are not technically that set of priests with that name).  Over the years I have thought more than once that I identified with those men at several levels.  In a positive light, they were trying to obey God, they wanted to do everything right, they were striving to follow all of the rules and be accepted by the Lord.  Looking at it negatively, they were trying to elevate themselves over others with that perceived righteousness, their very nature and attitude bred pride, and they were sorely lacking in grace and mercy.  On my worst days, in my worst self, without Jesus, that is who I am as well.

I was reading in Matthew 21 this morning, about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem right before his crucifixion.  He is in the temple healing people--restoring health and wholeness, performing miracle after miracle of physical restoration.  Imagine what the healed and their families must have felt:  Relief, euphoria, joy, happiness, disbelief. . . Imagine what it might feel like to, for the first time, walk independently (or at all),  hear a loved one's voice,  see your child's face, be free from pain.  Participating in such celebration would be overwhelmingly joyful and happy and good.  Unless you were a Pharisee:   
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant,  and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies  you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21: 14-16)
 C'mon.  They are in the middle of people being made whole and they are indignant?  Why?  Probably for a lot of reasons.  Maybe they were really upset that the children were calling Jesus the Son of David (the Messiah) when they weren't sure He actually was.  However, Jesus was fulfilling signs that the priests should have recognized (Isaiah 35:5-6, Isaiah 42:7).   Most of them, I bet, though, were upset for much less noble reasons.  Jesus was disturbing the order of the temple.  He was daring to put himself forward and mess up the order and flow of temple business.  He was stealing their limelight.  He wasn't playing by the rules and following the protocol.  All they could see was that Jesus was not acting according to their plan.  So they reacted with indignation.

I'm not a stranger to indignation, which exhibits itself in this decade as attitude.  I get attitude when things are not going according to my plan, not happening in the way I envisioned, or are making me uncomfortable.  Would I miss the joy in a room of healing because I was that upset about my plan?  I hope not, but I might.  In a similar situation, after seeing Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees (for sure the REAL Pharisees in this passage) criticize Jesus to His disciples, and Jesus responds by telling them that they need to learn what it means that He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13).

I need to learn what that means.  I do not want to find myself in a room where Jesus is at work and have my prevailing emotion be indignation.  I want it to be awe, or joy, or gratitude.  Thank God for the gospel's power in my life, which transforms my Pharisee's heart into a merciful and grace-filled one.  I just wish it would happen a little bit faster.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The More Things Change. . .

I just finished reading Genesis and have started Exodus.  Earlier in the week I read about Moses seeing the burning bush, and was pondering these verses from Exodus 3 (verses 2-4):
 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.  And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”  When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am."
I was thinking about how I needed to remember to be aware of God working and to be sure to "turn aside" and notice it.  There's an idea for a blog post, I thought.  But, hey, this seems a little familiar to me.  I wouldn't want to post the exact same thing I already posted.  So I checked the archives.  January of 2011. . . nope.  January or 2010. . .yep, sure enough, I posted about that very thought.

Dang!  I must be so dense that I just keep having to learn the same thing over and over.  At first, this was discouraging to me.  But then I realized that, yes, I am that obtuse sometimes, and I became grateful to God for the gift of His Word, and for the discipline to keep reading it.  If you haven't figured it out yet, I do a "read through the Bible in a year" plan (there are many you can choose).  I am often amazed at what new insight the Lord will show me in a passage I've read since childhood.  However, I am now also humbled and thankful that the Lord keeps reminding me of the things that I so easily forget.  Jesus compares us to sheep quite often.  Sheep are not very smart.  Jesus' disciples were not the brightest bunch.  I need to hear things over and over until they sink into my brain, and then my heart, and then work themselves out in obedience through my feet (thank you Beth Moore for that analogy). 

One of my favorite books is C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters".  On page 119 he discusses how God has given humans both the desire for novelty and the desire for permanence:
[The Lord] has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence.  He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm.  He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.  He gives them in His Church a spiritual year;  they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before. (p. 116).
Reading through the Bible over and over fulfills that same desire--the same people, psalms, and promises over and over and over, until the truth finally becomes a part of me, but balanced by new insights and new comvictions in each new year.  I am amazed at how He takes care of us!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Trusting the Timing

When I get to heaven, I am hoping there will be a chance to see behind the scenes of some of the accounts in the Bible. I have been reading in Genesis, about Joseph, and I really, really wish that I could ask him about those years in prison. We know that he was sent there unjustly, and that "The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed." (Genesis 39:23). We know that the cupbearer of the Pharaoh was also imprisoned, that Joseph interpreted his dream, and that Joseph said this to the cupbearer: "Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house." (Genesis 40:15) We also are privy to the fact that the cupbearer forgot Joseph and didn't remember for two years.

What did Joseph think right after he spoke to the cupbearer?  If he were like me (which he probably wasn't, since he had much more faith than I do, but surely he had his weak moments?), he would have been thinking, "Wow, God, so cool that you sent this cupbearer here, and that I could help him, and that he's going to tell Pharaoh about me, and I'm going to get out of here soon.  Yep, any day now, I'll be free."  And then he waits for two more years.

What's difficult about circumstances like that, at least for me, is to not just rely on the hopeful part of the situation:  "Look at this circumstance.  Surely God heard me and will answer me soon.", but to rely on God's grace for the unspoken (and unthinkable) part:  "Okay, Lord, I think this looks good, but I am going to trust that IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT WHEN OR HOW I THINK, then that is also the answer from you and it is the better choice."  It's the choice we have after the sixteenth job interview:  "I trust you that if this is your plan, I'll get the job, but if it's NOT, then that is your good work in my life as well."  It's the attitude we choose after another month goes by with no pregnancy, or another date ends with no relationship, or another year passes of estrangement from a loved one.

If I were Joseph, I would think that of course the Lord wants me out of here now.  However, the timing wasn't right yet.  Pharaoh had no need of him.  The circumstances had not yet fallen into place to bring Joseph to a place of leadership so that he could save many lives:  "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors."  (Genesis 45:7)

It can be so hard to trust in God's timing, because when we are in the middle of the story, it can feel lonely and sad and pointless.  I so want to know how Joseph handled the two years of waiting in prison.  How long did it take him to rest in God's goodness and trust Him that He would work all circumstances together for good?  How was he able to choose a peaceful and calm attitude, walking in the truth that God was at work even if He was silent?  The irony is that Joseph knew far less of God than I do, and yet came through his circumstances knowing that God had purposefully orchestrated his life.  May I learn to trust as well in the God that I KNOW is at work on my behalf:  
"The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.  The Lord's lovingkindness is everlasting.  Do not forsake the works of your hands."  (Psalm 138:8, NAS)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God's Got It

Happy first week of 2012!  Once again, I am unduly excited to be finished with the minor prophets and Revelation and back reading in Genesis and the gospels.   I wonder if I will be 90 years old and still saying, "I can't believe how God can show me something new in a verse I have read a million times!"?  Last year I participated in a memory verse activity through Beth Moore's blog community (Living Proof Ministries Blog).  One of the verses I chose to memorize was Proverbs 28:13:  "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,  but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

Probably I am the only person who has ever done this, but when I picked that verse, I had a specific situation in mind.  I hoped that by sharing this verse in "public" as it were, maybe someone would be convicted (by my holy promptings) to do what I thought they should do.  Yeah, that didn't work.  As I re-visit this verse, I notice something new.  My focus had been on how this person should confess so that they can obtain mercy (and do the right thing).  I missed the beginning, which was that if they didn't, they wouldn't prosper.  God has given us built-in consequences.  None of us can conceal sin indefinitely, and, even if we appear to be successfully deceiving people, we will not prosper.  There will be some area of lack, some deficiency as a result of deception. 

I was encouraged to see this not because I want someone else to suffer consequences, but because it reminds me that God has it under control.  He knows what His children are doing.  He sees when we are hurt by someone's sin, and He sees when my sin hurts someone else.  He is not oblivious to how we are living, and, like I remind my students when they tattle by asking them if they are "the cop of sitting on the carpet" or "person in charge of being quiet", I am not the "Police Officer of the Universe."   Thank God for that.