When God’s Word Goes Haywire {Operator Error}

P_20181111_130112You know how it is when you’re clicking around online and you visit a website link looking for information and up pops that 404 Error message?

I was stuck in a rabbit hole kind of like that recently, stewing for weeks over an issue (always the battleground for me, the ol’ noggin) and could not seem to get past it. I had worried the situation to death, played scenarios over and over again about a particular Terrible Thing that I needed to pray against and it wouldn’t go away. I woke up with it on my mind and went to bed mumbling about it in my prayers.

There was spiritual warfare going on like crazy, fighting principalities and powers, pushing back that stupid devil/destroyer/stealer. I was in a battle for sure.

So~one night in the shower--the land of ‘aha’s’, we all know this, right?–I heard the first half of John 10:10 running through my head, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy….” and the next thing I heard was the Holy Spirit saying, “Um, there’s the abundant life part. You forgot the rest of the verse.”

The problem with memorizing Scripture, if I may be so bold, is that sometimes the wrong parts stick. I’d been so uber-focused on the steal/kill/destroy part of the verse in John that it had overshadowed completely the fact that God is a good and abundant God.

He is aware of what is needed and able to take care of those we love. He is not blind to what’s going on in our lives and the lives of others. He’s not caught by surprise with the challenges we face. He is rich in mercy, lovingkindness and grace. And he’s like superpowerful, to use the theological term, capable of accomplishing what seems impossible.

So, in my head, I made up a counter-ditty for the God Team.

Ready? 

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus comes to heal, build and give joy.  Heal, build and give joy. That’s what He does. That’s what He’s all about. That’s who He is, what His character contains. Resurrection power, unending love and unlimited resources.

I’d like to work on memorizing t h a t.

Here’s a picture I made in case you need to remember, too. heal, build and give joyThis week look for Scriptures as you read that focus on God’s capabilities, his care and his concern. See how it turns your prayers around and then let me know how it goes;  I’d love to hear about it.

Jigsaw Puzzles as a Prayer

Every year at Christmas our kids get my husband and I a jigsaw puzzle. This year Santa pitched in and we actually ended up with three puzzles–birds, the beach and kites–our three favorite things.

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Actually, this is the beach AND kites

A great Friday night date for my husband and I is to build a fire, turn on the music and puzzle away….a simple, quiet joy for us. (You 30 somethings are wondering which planet we’re on, I’m sure…).

The joke around here is if the puzzle goes on the card table on the day after Christmas, we can usually finish it by the first or so of June, when the ‘kids’ show up again for Father’s Day. Alas, we got a late start–one week into this new year. But, praise be, it’s a 300-piece small one this time–easy peasy.

Working on jigsaw puzzles got me thinking about tying up the ‘loose ends’ of this year and looking at the new one ahead.  How can I focus on what God wants?–there are just TOO MANY PIECES–the shapes! the colors! They all look exactly alike–how will I tell which is which? And I’m not sure what the border even looks like. Where are my boundaries?

I began to think of you, dear friends, some of who’ve typed me personal notes, those I’ve exchanged emails with sharing prayer requests, joys and some not so joyful times. I thought of the challenges we face, the aspirations, the daily-ness of our walk with Jesus.

Hence, this prayer about puzzles, a metaphor for our lives:

“Father, we give you all the pieces of our lives, rounded, jagged, ill-fitting.
We place the ideas, dreams and desires,
the want-to’s and the need-to’s,
the prayers for family and friends,
the cries of our heart to follow you, into your hands.
 
Show us the puzzle frame, Father.  And remind us that YOU are the designer. 
 
Help us to pick up one piece at a time, one day at a time.
 
Show us how to consider each one well, notice the round edges,
observe the ways it could work–‘maybe over here?’ ‘maybe over there?’
 
Remind us that it takes time to make something beautiful, so that everything fits in place.
 
Whisper whenever we need it, the words telling us we will not be finished with x y z in a week, or a month. Maybe not even this year.
For we may need to ponder and puzzle over the fragments more than once,
laying them down and picking them up with a fresh look the next day.
 
Remind us Father, that when we surrender everything
lay it all out on the table
that YOU can take it and make it into
something beautiful in your time.
Amen.”
Philippians 3:13,14
“(this) one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,   
    I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is an edited version of a post originally written in January 2013. HT Jennifer Ferguson and The Knot Project, talking about puzzles. Some truths are still so very truthy.

Why I Stopped Having ‘Quiet Time’ {for all the right reasons}

“…the resolving of the conflict between sacred and the secular (or, better said, the repairing of the damage done by divorcing them) has been billed as the major problem of modern theology.”

-Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, 1967

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The writer of those words penned his thoughts 50 years ago, and while the current world of practicing Christians may have different theological problems, I think Capon’s got a point. I have looked high and low in my Bible the last few years and I can’t find any mention where believers are encouraged to develop a daily “quiet time” or spend time having “devotions.” There is no mention in Scripture of a particular time of day that is more sacred than any other—so why do we make the separation?

Now, before you go yelling at me through your screen or hitting the ‘delete’ button faster than bees buzz, let me say this, yes: we ARE urged to study to show ourselves approved indeed. Don’t get me wrong; I know God’s word is my daily bread and living water, I need spiritual food like I need physical food, like I need air to breathe. And yes, Jesus modeled for us how to get alone in a quiet place and pray.

But we get into all kinds of unnecessary shoulding all over ourselves when we say, “First thing in the morning you must meet with Jesus, read God’s word, pray and write in your journal. THEN you can head into your day.”

In God’s kingdom all of time is sacred.  When we belong to Jesus, all of our life is sacred.

If your ‘day’ begins at 3:30 in the morning because you work as a cameraperson for a television station, like my worship team, bass-playing friend K, I’m guessing it’d be hard for her to fit in a ‘quiet time’ first thing in the morning. Then there’s the barista at the local coffee shop, pulling espresso shots for all the weary folks heading into their mornings. (Raising my hand. Espresso-drinker, not barista). How does said barista balance the want-to of a time with Jesus with the have-to of a job?

And what if you’re not a morning person?  What if when you wake up, there’s six things on the to-do list that must be out of the way before you can even t h i n k  about a set-aside time to focus and settle in and listen to Jesus? Things like getting your kids off to school on time or cleaning the kitchen floor or paying the bills or writing an email or calling your mom?

When we do come to a more focused part of our day—whether 4:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m.—we can look at it, as my pastor recently said, not like a “quiet time” but a listening time. A time of coming and settling in before God’s presence, whether it’s only 10 or 15 minutes. (Many days, that’s all I’ve got).

We talk about active listening being the better part of communication; it is the same when it comes to our time with the Lord. Listening half the time, writing a fourth of the time and talking (praying) the other fourth.

That attitude of listening translates to a more balanced living time, where there’s no division in our days. Scripture’s clearest model is to walk in an integrated way—spirit and soul inside lined up with our actions on the outside.

We have much to learn, not for knowledge sake, but to show that what we know about Jesus makes a difference in the way we live.

I think we forget the Apostle Paul’s admonitions about walking in the word or John’s encouragement to abide in Jesus. Walking, abiding (or dwelling) are continuous, ongoing states of being. Even the Pentateuch reminds us as we “lie down and get up and when we walk along the road, that we are to teach our children.” (Deuteronomy 11:19). We can only teach our children what we already know, and this makes it clear–God knows a lot of our lives we are on the move. Moving in the car, going on a walk, strolling through the store….teaching/talking/singing to and with your spouse, your kids, your friends.

Here’s what I know is true about spending time with God: He doesn’t care WHEN we come to be with Him, but THAT we do. 

How about you? When do find time to be with God? What does that look like for you?Please share in the Comments. I would love to hear.

Bob Goff, Keith Green & Gratitude

2015-07-24 12.34.03

Lower Yosemite Falls, 2015 jlc

“We’ll know we’re living gratefully by seeing how our love multiplies itself in the lives of the people around us. People don’t follow vision; they follow availability.”

-Bob Goff, founder of lovedoes.org

Last week I rewarded myself for five days straight of computer-gnashing a.k.a. book writing, by getting a pedicure. I dropped into my usual place downtown, grateful they had an open chair. Deciding to switch up my summer electric blue, I reached for a new color before I sat down, something closer to candy apple red, in honor of fall.

Instead of tapping on my tablet, playing Words with Friends (where my brother and sister always beat me), or checking Facebook, Instagram or email on my phone, I vowed to just be available, focus-wise, and opened the magazine in my lap.

As it turned out, there was a new gal taking care of me that day and we didn’t have any kind of conversation, per se. Instead, I found someone speaking to me through the pages of The Magnolia Journal (Joanna Gaines’ inspiring print endeavor).  The piece I read was entitled, “Time for Gratitude,” by Bob Goff. The article began with Goff’s retelling of how he wrote a letter to Keith Green one year when he was in college. And how Keith took the time to write him back.

Keith Green was probably one of the best-known Christian musicians in the late l970’s and into the 80’s; his music was a huge part of my newfound walk as a Christian.  Back in the day when the Jesus Movement was bursting the seams of Southern California, many, many musicians and singers were also being birthed. Every other weekend there was a Christian concert of some kind. (Free, I might add).

My husband and I were living in a Christian community at the time and the leadership decided to organize a weekend-long Christian music festival. Keith was invited and just like that, he and his wife Melody drove up to our Central California location, sharing their life and music with us.  Keith and Melody were part of a Christian community similar to ours in Southern California. We shared several conversations with them over the weekend about what it was like working and living in close proximity to brothers and sisters. I will always remember how the two of them took time to speak with us, exuding grace and giving, embodying the way Jesus would live.

Read & Pray in Your ‘Walking Around Life’

I was going to subtitle this, “Will Jesus Still Love me if I Don’t Have ‘Quiet Time?” ‘cause I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately.  Don’t get me wrong—I’ve studied Psalm 119—I know God’s word is the compass for my life, that I can’t live without it.

But sometimes life goes in a different direction.

I remember the days when I was able to sit outside on my deck for an hour at a stretch, maybe three times a week, and just listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speak. I wrote and wrote and wrote what I heard in those whispers on the wind to me.

I recall sweet moments at my desk reading Scripture or perusing a favorite devotional—Oswald Chambers, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon. The words seemed to light up the page, resonating deep in my spirit.  Time after time there would be an ‘aha’ moment when I sensed God’s presence and His pleasure as I sat to soak myself in the Word.

But I wonder about those folks like myself who find themselves in a season where quiet time is pretty much non-existent. I’m writing a book, shepherding a small group of like-minded writer folks, editing for others and caring for my kids via phone calls and texts that come all hours of the day. I need to be interruptable for that; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, what about this question—is there really a divide between sacred and secular? A time that is not God’s (if we belong to Him)? Is He more pleased with me because I take time for studying the word or reading a devotion? Or is He okay (because He knows this season of my life) if I lean into Him when I can, stay hungry for His presence in all the hours of my day?

My son has a new job in a Frito-Lay warehouse (yay for all-you-can-eat Doritos) and he works 60 hour weeks these days. Even on a regular day (i.e. 8 hours) his moments of alone time or quiet time vanish as he communicates with his wife or nurtures his five children. His thirst is there for God’s word—he has a seminary degree, steeped in Scripture inside and out–but the chances to drink are few and far between.

Or what about my niece’s husband, new dad of two, who works nights, sleeps days and hugs his wife and babies in between? Where or how would he, could he, find moments to spend with Jesus? Would it be before or after worship practice, where he plays drums and/or guitar?

Or what about the baristas at Starbuck’s who get up at oh dark thirty to make sure our coffee-fueled world goes on? There are plenty of Jesus-loving espresso-making folks out there—how do they manage to fit in time with God?

And is God worried about that? Really?

Here’s what Oswald himself had to say about “quiet time”; May 12th ‘My Utmost for His Highest.’

“Your god may be your little Christian habit— the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day. Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes. We say, “I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.” No, this is your time alone with your habit. There is a quality that is still lacking in you. Identify your shortcoming and then look for opportunities to work into your life that missing quality.

Love means that there are no visible habits— that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it. If you are consciously aware of your own holiness, you place limitations on yourself from doing certain things— things God is not restricting you from at all. This means there is a missing quality that needs to be added to your life. The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere. Is there someplace where you are not at home with God? Then allow God to work through whatever that particular circumstance may be until you increase in Him, adding His qualities. Your life will then become the simple life of a child.”

On Prayer, Potatoes and Pulling Weeds

I have two garden beds in my back yard—one a perennial bed of flowers, the other a 12×6 rectangle of mostly weeds. The flower bed is behaving as expected this time of year–peony shoots with their magenta spikes heading skyward, the clematis tendrils beginning to twirl up and around the bird gazebo. A ‘Sombrero’ Echinacea (bright orange) is just beginning to sneak back through the dirt and the columbine leaves are unfurling.

The other space is a mostly weed bed formerly known as a vegetable garden. I have absolutely no illusions about actually planting a real garden this year, although I gave it a try. I recently impressed my friend Natalie by telling her about all the lettuce and green pea seeds I planted a few weeks back. She can’t see the weed-infested dirt around those sprouts so she doesn’t know how far from Martha Stewart-y my urban spot of green actually is.  Half of the peas were dug up and gnawed on by squirrels and about 10 of the sprouts have survived.

The lettuce has yet to be seen.

We had some nice-ish weather the other day here in Seattle so I went outside to pull weeds in the, ahem, vegetable garden. I had no grandiose ideas about making any kind of dent in all the volunteer greenery out there, I actually just wanted the therapy. Pulling weeds and praying is one of my favorite things to do. I pray out loud or sing while wielding my handy digging tool. I love it.

Imagine my surprise when I found next to the Mint that Would Not Die four potato plants sprouting through the dark earth. I thought I’d dug them all up last year, but there they were next to the stray sweet pea vines and self-sowing sunflower seeds. Like an invisible surprise, they’d been growing all this time. They’re Yukon Golds—yum.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It made me think about how often when we are despairing that God will ever answer our prayers because we don’t see anything happening. But underneath the surface of our lives, often in the dark, His power is growing and moving on our behalf. There is life about to happen and we just don’t know it.

Flower and vegetable seeds have a necessary process for producing a new plant—they must shed a dead layer, a shell, then push roots down into the earth then force their brand new leaves up through the soil. It takes time and patience and a lot of energy. God has all the time, certainly all the power, but sometimes we are short on the patience part. Or the faith part. “God, why is this so hard right now???”

We have to hold on for the right season and trust God’s timing. When you have a new opportunity to see growth or change in your life or a need for provision, close your eyes and imagine what God might be doing behind the scenes. Maybe there are some weeds to pull, some things that need to go before you’ll be able to see what God is doing. If you feel weary of waiting for an answer, take your eyes off the soil and look up.  When we least expect it, God is often working invisibly on our behalf, waiting to bring surprises our way.

And they might look like gold (potatoes).

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