Posts Tagged ‘faithfulness’

We are living within patterns and cycles. Nature teaches about the seasons; each year the same and yet each year different, affected by a combination of forces, some human-made, some divine.

harvestLove and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest. [Psalm 85:10-12, NIV]

Here’s how I imagine this verse playing out: love and faithfulness are the human response. Out of the meeting of love (unconditional love, that is), faithfulness springs forth. What is faithfulness but trust and dependability and truth. Love is the ground from which these are born. Righteousness is the yardstick that emanates from God. It is only in God that righteousness and peace can dwell and prosper together. But here is the promise in this verse: as our love and faithfulness grow here in this three-dimensional world, God sees and we are blessed.

But what then is the harvest that God is blessing? I remember an old friend was adamant that a believer “bearing fruit” meant bringing more and more people to the Christ. I always felt like he was notching his spiritual guns. But today, I find myself leaning to a different understanding.

The harvest is the result of seeds planted, tended, and reproducing themselves. Wheat makes more wheat. Apple seeds make more apples. I am not a single seed but many. All humans are a composite. We see some of our reproduction capabilities in our families. If we are bitter, we bear more bitterness. If we are selfish, we teach the same (most often by example). But, if I love, then love is born in others. If I am faithful, a synergy is created like an unstoppable wave. Love and faithfulness are the strongest and most powerful forces and yet, the least appreciated. Instead, we have cheapened love to mean sex and heaped faithfulness with a list of exit clauses and “what ifs.”

These are the ones to practice and nurture: love and faithfulness and then righteousness and peace will pour down like rain.

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sunday-school-jesusWhat does that really look like? Sometimes, my imagination carries me away and I think of my body as some kind of hollow, yet intricate cave where the Jesus of Sunday School paintings sits around and chats up all my body parts and memories. Absurd, I know. Or, how about one of those alien movies where the creature pops out of the chest or stomach? Yuk.

Now I have found the freedom to truly live for God. I have been crucified with the Anointed One—I am no longer alive—but the Anointed is living in me; and whatever life I have left in this failing body I live by the faithfulness of God’s Son, the One who loves me and gave His body on the cross for me. I can’t dismiss God’s grace, and I won’t.” [Galatians 2:19b-21a, The Voice translation]

The scriptures about Christ’s Spirit, that also being called the Holy Spirit or Spirit, is the stuff of non-traditional thinking. The Christian experience, the believer’s life, with the Presence of God within, is supernatural. It is just as “woo-woo” as any other Eastern beliefs or “new agey” talk. The walk with Christ is the stuff of transformation. Because it is full of paradox, it requires faith . . . of things not seen or even understood. Miracles are things that happen outside of the natural order. That’s the point.

Jesus withinThe difference is the affiliation. Do you engage with the other powers or do you engage with the power of the One God, manifest through the Christ and offered to the faithful . . . freely. The sacrifice is in letting go of “self.” But the “other powers” want the same thing. Who do you trust with your soul?

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12, NIV] And when you see “heavenly realms,” think spiritual realms, the world within.

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unfairHow many times have I heard my children complain about a decision of mine not being fair? No matter that last year or month or week, a similar decision probably benefited the complainer, but it’s all about the moment and it’s all about them. It’s unfair today. I can even remember counting Christmas presents when they were little to be sure the numbers came out even (I created my own monster). To what end? But am I any different when it comes to the things of God?

The older brother got really angry and refused to come inside, so his father came out and pleaded with him to join the celebration. But he argued back, “Listen, all these years I’ve worked hard for you. I’ve never disobeyed one of your orders. But how many times have you even given me a little goat to roast for a party with my friends? Not once! This is not fair!  [Luke 15:28-29, The Voice translation]

I am questioning God’s judgment all the time. Whenever I look around and compare myself and my situation to those around me, I am judging God’s direction. When I get frustrated with my children, my marriage, my body,  my aging, and more, I am actually saying my life could be better if only. . . !

But would it really? They say people tend to re-create their negative circumstances even when given a fresh start. Women divorce to get a better husband and find the next one equally unbearable. Running away from what is does nothing but delay the learning.

I am who I am. I have many gifts and I have many flaws. I am a follower of One God. And I have said over and over again that I trust that God to protect me and guide me. That journey will never look like anyone else’s journey.

Fairness is relative. When my children accuse me of being unfair, I want to scream! Everything I do for them and with them, is for their good, for love, for a future. Circumstances will never appear particularly fair. One day, they will learn that lesson too.

God forgive me for my own childish tantrums.

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stone altarThe erecting of pillars and altars and memorials was prevalent throughout the journeys of the ancients. Their milestones marked an event in their journeys that was valued, a testimony to the moment. And today, although we have statues and tributes of buildings, walls, and waterfalls to the wars and losses to be revered, there are no remembrances anymore for a life-changing experience with God.

Genesis 35:14-15
Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel [House of God].

In fact, if anything, most of us forget that moment when we cried out to God, “See me, hear me, oh Lord, help me!” And the cry was heard and our circumstances changed.

I am probably being harsh here. I suppose, if I had to recount some key moments when I was touched by God, I could recount them. But I built no memorial, nothing permanent.

Except the words.

I understood today, that these are where I have built my milestones. These are a memorial to my growth as a believer, a follower of Christ. These are the memories collected in digital ink, to help me remember.

It may be time to take this all a little more seriously. For this season, for this time in my life, this milestone, feels important. Perhaps it’s all the talk of apocalypse (even though we joked through the end of the Mayan calendar), there is a sense within me that challenges will come. This is a time of gathering: my thoughts, my devotion, my surrender, my commitment, my disciplines.

Today, God spoke: Remember who I am and where I dwell. Remember who fights the battles. Remember your promise.

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Art by Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison

I had an epiphany this morning. The Book of Life only has the good stuff in it. I mean, it’s not a list of all our mistakes, our sins, or our misdemeanors. That’s the point. If one’s name isn’t in the “book,” it’s because there’s nothing to write. That which is written there, nurtures life in others.

Revelation 20:12, 15
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. . . . Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

The other day, we had our micro-church (small group) meeting and talked about the feeling some of us have about “not doing enough.” [James 2:14-26] And at that time, I shared how that feeling or self-perception can morph into condemnation, which is NOT from God [Romans 8:1]. It’s like this: the poor will always be with us [Mark 14:7], the need will always be greater than what we can give. This is the nature of our current world, filled with strife, jealousy, and yes, even evil. Everywhere we look, there are people who are in ill health, depressed, lonely, out of work, addicted, or just plain lost. Each of us cannot tackle every misfortune. But we can touch one. And then another one.

We must, as they say, “keep on keeping on.” And that means, doing what we can, when we can, because we can. Each good work, each loving deed, each prayer, and each kindness works to tip the grand scale toward love and away from despair. We tend to minimize our good actions because they seem so small in the face of a daunting and urgent need. That’s unproductive thinking.

None can know the impact that a single kind remark might have.

I remember, a long time ago, I wrote a note to a woman who was participating in a retreat (Walk to Emmaus, for those who are familiar with it). Several years after that, while sharing my story at a Women’s Aglow meeting in a completely different state, this same woman came up to me with the note, now old and somewhat crumpled in her hand, and told me, with tears in her eyes, that my note had saved her life. I have no clue what I even wrote. And yet, this tiny act, so seemingly insignificant, became the difference between life and death for someone else.

As Yoda said, “do or not do, there is no try.” And so it is with the extension of self toward others. Do. But do not judge what you do, this is not the way of love and God.

When Jesus walked this earth, did he not face even more insurmountable odds. One man, then three, and then twelve, changed the face of humanity in three years. Ok, so he did a few miracles, but ultimately, I’m not so sure those are the actions that made the real difference. I think it was his authentic presence, his touch, his listening ear, his compassion, and his unconditional of acceptance of everyone he met. He showed us “human,” the way human was intended to be from the beginning.

Today, I can choose to write into the Book of Life.

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To my faithful readers and subscribers as well as those who are new to my writing, I wanted to give you a heads up that I will be taking a break from my systematic walk through the New Testament in order to do a Lenten series.

As I considered where to begin, I imagined Jesus’s 40 days in the desert. Although it is often called his time of temptation, I believe he was seeking confirmation and enlightenment, communion with the Father, and focus for the days beyond. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, I will be doing the same, based on a series of scriptures taken from the Old Testament and the New.

Please join me on this daily journey, a type of discipline, a quest for understanding.

Some years ago, a dear priest friend of mine always said that Lent should be a time of letting go, a fasting, if you will, from some of the life’s luxuries but it is also a time for adding things of the spirit, time devoted to the things of God.

This is my Lenten offering to God and to you.

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If there’s anyone out there who seeks suffering, raise your hand. That’s what I thought. The view of suffering put forth so strongly by Peter is one of the reasons “suffering” has been elevated, in some circles, to holiness. I can’t line up with this completely.

I Peter 4:1
SO, SINCE Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], . . . [Amplified]

I believe, for those who are suffering now, today, these words are a comfort. There is hope, then, in suffering, there can even be a purpose and reward, in some space/time. The people of Peter’s time were suffering deeply, whether by poverty or by persecution. Times such as those must be endured with a respect for their existence–an acceptance of what is.

There is no doubt in my mind, that a person of faith who has gone through agony of the body, has little energy for anything else. Like the “refiner’s fire,” it will remove every useless thing, every useless thought. Endurance is an energy suck. Hope is the best fuel for sustaining oneself in a flood of pain.

I understand all of this.

But the greater part of me wants to fight suffering, not my own, but that of others. I want healing for them. I want renewal and restoration. I want “manifested hope” through wholeness.

As long as I am strong and healthy, then I have a job to do on behalf of those who are not. I must have the courage of Abraham who negotiated the release of the faithful from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:33pp). I must be bold like Elijah who believed the rain would come (I Kings 18:45) and then later, believed the fire would come (II Kings 1:10), because God is faithful. I must be persistent like the parable of the widow and the judge (Luke 8:1-8).

Because I believe we are called to partner with the Christ to materialize heaven on earth, then wholeness is part of that equation. Can I bear it? Can I believe in the face of pain and sorrow, loss and despair? I must.

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