Not Me! | 9.26.16

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt completely like a ‘poser’ and always a little fearful about getting found out for who you really are? When I was hired to fill the position of a worship leader, it took me a long time to feel comfortable with that job title. I was sure people could see right through it to the real me: I didn’t have all the answers, and wasn’t at all perfect – not what I thought a real worship leader was, or should be – an introvert who happened to have musical talent, but would rather be in the background, uncomfortable performing and being in the spotlight – especially speaking, What WERE you thinking??? Poser!

Out of all the characters in the Bible, I identify most with Moses. When God asked him to do his part in rescuing the people of Israel, that guy balked and came up with more excuses than even I could have! In the story of their dialogue in Exodus Ch. 3-4, five times Moses talks back to God – protesting, pleading to be let off the hook. “Who am I to do this? What if they don’t believe me? I don’t speak very well, etc, etc.”

Reading this story, I am amazed at this God of ours. He listened and answered Moses respectfully with kindness and patience, not brushing his fears and feelings aside, but instead giving him reassurance, advice and tools for each objection. Amazingly enough, even the fifth time when Moses said, “Not me! Pick someone else to do this,” God didn’t give up on him and kick him to the curb, although He was frustrated to the point of anger! He flexed and worked with Moses’ insecurity and lack of trust by giving him Aaron to do the actual speaking.

I wonder if the reason God was angry was because Moses had focused on himself and his own flaws rather than trusting in God and His promise to come alongside him and give him everything he needed to do the job. After all, as M. Basil Pennington says:

The fact is that there is nothing that we are doing that God could not raise up a stone in the field to do for him.

But He wants us to be a part of what He is doing. God completely understands our issues and fears, and always gracious, won’t override or control our choices. He has promised to be with us and give us whatever we need to bring about His good purposes, for His glory – not ours. Contrary to what we may think, His power is often seen through His ability to work through our weaknesses and failures.

Hard Times | 6.5.16

 

Noticing and enjoying the presence of God is sometimes easier when things are going well. But what about those harder times, when you have just hit the bottom, and it’s all you can do just to get through the day, consumed with worry, fear, insecurity, guilt, physical or emotional pain?

The brokenness inside us and of the world we live in can’t be denied by happy talk or bland optimism. Nobody gets to escape the darkness, suffering, and injustice in our own lives and in the world around us. That’s often when God seems to be silent, uncaring and so very far away.

But, remember that God can only be experienced in the reality of the present moment. So, this must include good AND bad, sunshine OR rain. We have a default tendency to think that God is loving and blessing us only when we are happy, healthy, successful, and perfectly behaved – and forget that His unconditional love never stops. His mercies are new every morning. His compassion never fails. He weeps with those who weep. His grace covers every sin. He has promised to never leave us alone, that He knows the bigger story and is working everything toward a good ending.

Christian faith is based on hope and confidence in the grace of God and in His power to save us, not in having everything go our way. Light in darkness, hope in despair, life in death; this is the reality of faith in good times and in bad. We wait in hope for the morning light because we know it is coming. And many who have walked through intense suffering will tell you that it was inside their pain, with nowhere else to turn, that they most deeply experienced the presence of Christ and peace that wasn’t dependent on their external circumstances. C.S. Lewis says this in his book, The Problem With Pain:

We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

There is not a single circumstance that He isn’t right there, waiting for you to notice Him, to see Him loving you in the middle of it all. He may not resolve the circumstance or pain in the way you would prefer, but you can choose to interpret your story in light of God’s story, trusting in all that He is, all He has done, and all that He will do.

Seeing God | 5.29.16

At the center of the Gospel is the good news that rather than being a disinterested and unapproachable deity, God is with us, present in our place and time, and involved in our day-to-day reality. Yes, we believe this – at least in our head – and we are hungry for transformational experiences of God in our lives,
but as one friend of mine asked, “Why does it seem so hard? Shouldn’t it be easier?” I have asked the same questions.

I know that part of my problem is that sometimes I don’t actually live in the present moment. Far too often I’m busy worrying over a thousand possibilities for what the future might hold, or obsessing about something in the past. I was convicted by something I came across in my reading; Awaken Your Senses, by J.Brent Bill and Beth Booram:

We can’t experience God while thinking of the past or planning the future. Neither exists right now. God can only be experienced in the reality of the present moment.

How do we come to see Him in the here and now? There are miracles all around us, but maybe we just don’t see them because they are hidden from us by their very ordinariness. Remember that all of life is spiritual; God can be found everywhere, if we have the eyes to see.

I like what theologian Belden Lane suggests as two things that are needed in order to experience the presence of God in the daily routines of life – attention and love. The first step is to pay attention: what do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? But then, to experience God in that moment we must combine paying attention with love. What does this mean? Here’s some examples I came up with:

  • That annoying co-worker: notice his or her unique distinctiveness; begin to appreciate how he or she has been made in God’s image.
  • A stream of sunlight coming down the hall to illuminate a single chair: a work of art by creator God, just for you in that moment.
  • That child, intent on telling you something so very important while you are in the middle of making dinner: a sweet and transient moment, if you stop to notice with love.
  • The smooth, beautiful curves of the wood of a grand piano: gratitude and appreciation for the God-given talent, and for skills of an unknown craftsman.
  • A story in the evening news of a community coming together to find a lost child: my unexpected tears and a sudden lump in the throat speak of something right and beautiful.
  • Family gathered around the bedside of a dying parent: feel the love, pain, sadness, and beauty of shared hope that one day all tears will be wiped away.

Can you see God in all of it? He is very much present, filling the moment with love, and waiting for you to notice.

God’s Word | 4.10.16

This is my second spring in North Carolina. If anything, I’m more excited this year than last. Every day I go out and poke around in the yard to see what new green thing has popped up. The really amazing thing to me is that most of this overflowing color and life just happens; spring is kind to all, even in the yards that aren’t really even being taken care of.

What does this have to do with hearing God? God’s word comes to us in another important way. Alongside His written Word in the Bible, Jesus the Living Word, and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, the Bible also tells us that God’s word also refers to any expression of His heart and mind, His character, and His purposes. Continue reading God’s Word | 4.10.16