What exactly is "a meeting"? A number of synonyms come to mind: an encounter, a confrontation, rendezvous, engagement, assembly, a conference, convention, rally, get-together, forum, or even just a session. I have been pondering this word after reading from the book of Exodus, the 25th chapter. In this chapter God is giving instructions to Moses on those items to be included in the Sanctuary Moses is in the process of building for God. God descibes the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and on its top would be the mercy seat where God says to Moses: "There I will meet with you...I will speak with you" (vs. 22) The question I wrote in the side column of my Bible was "Where do I meet with God, the God of the Universe?" That is relatively easy for me to answer as I turn my head and view my multi-colored recliner in the corner of my bedroom adjacent to southern facing windows allowing me a front row seat to morning sunrises. Does He, God Almighty, speak to me? Maybe not in an audible voice as He did with Moses but in soft whispers of the heart as I pray and read HIs Word. Is our daily "meeting" productive? That is a more difficult question. I would like to say yes but I have to be honest and pose the questions to myself-Am I always alert to His voice? Do I allow my mind to wander into the coming day's agenda? Do outside noises distract? I am certain on a number of occasions I have to say yes to any one of these questions. Yet I am so thankful my "meeting" is with a merciful Father who created me and knows my flaws. He justs wants to be near me and recognize His presence. Sometimes it is difficult to "wrap my brain" around the fact that the God of the universe, the one who formed the earth, warming it with the sun and gently sustaining it in motion, wants to take time with me! Awesome! These meetings I have with God should be the pinnacle of each day! We all have free access to the God of the universe. No appointments necessary. Where and when do you meet with God? Do you have productive meetings that result in spiritual fruit in your life and the lives of others? Questions to challenge the soul!
"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly."
The word Pain, especially as it refers to physical pain, is often thrown into the "four letter" word pile. It's ugly, unwanted, and not allowed in proper conversations! And yet it is so real and everyone's companion in life sooner or later. Quite often we fight against it applying every known medical intervention to soften it's effect on our lives. Intermittent pain has been my faithful "friend" since entering my retirement years, but recently it's twin: constant pain has come to call. Constant meaning every step I take skyrockets from a 1 on the pain scale to an 8 or 9, depending on the time of day. Currently I am in Physical Therapy hoping for some relief. But while on this journey I have begun to ask God the question: "Why, God, did you create pain?" I am trying to see it from the perspective that it is a gift not a curse. So how far have I come on this quest for an answer?
He has shown me a number of reasons it has value.
1. As I experience pain I am reminded of others suffering that I can lift up to God in prayer. As I take my eyes off of self and look outward He flashes faces into my mind that need prayer and encouragement. So I send cards, give them a call, or whisper their name before the throne.
2. Pain draws me, like a vacuum, to the scriptures. As I "suck' in God's Word it soothes me. David and his Psalms are a wonderful source of comfort. It's there I claim His promises!
3. Pain tells me to slow down and allow God to work HIs miracles of healing.
4. I'm learning it is OK to cry out to God-be human-listen for His voice. Let pain be the vehicle that carries me to the feet of Jesus, giving over my independent, "have it my way" spirit, surrendering instead to the creator. Let Him in the driver's seat even when the road is bumpy and the direction He is driving unknown!
5. My reaction to pain allows me to model the spirit of Jesus to the heavenly bodies! In reading "The Scars That Have Shaped Me" by Vaneetha Rendall Risner I read this idea that we are "ever on display". She says, "The angels and demons are constantly watching to see how we treasure God." She goes on to say, "It became strangely comforting when I realized I was not alone in my suffering. That there was a greater purpose to my being faithful than I could see." Wow, what a new concept for me! In her words," God's glory is on display for the Angels and Demons when people demonstrate that their hearts are satisfied in God alone rather than in his gifts. When we declare that God is more precious than our health, our happiness, even our very lives, we highlight his supreme worth to an immense, invisible audience." Ephesians 3:10 says, "through the church, (of which I am a member) the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 says," You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model..."
It is about time I am leaning through pain that life is not about me but it is about being a model of Christ and about giving God glory even while walking with my "unwanted friend". So when your "unwanted friend" knocks on your door and pushes her way into your living room, invite her to have a seat, offer her a cup of tea, and learn from her visit!
By nature we are independent people. "I can do it myself", is one of a toddler's first sentences! Pride in our accomplishments blossoms as we master more and more under our own power. It is a natural progression on the road of life. Children look forward to each new step, becoming more and more "free"-independent. But what happens when we are forced to go from independence back to dependence? There is generally no natural progression here, just a sudden awareness of what you can no longer do on your own! It can be discouraging, having to depend on someone else! These feelings cascaded over me as my oldest son rented a wheelchair for me at the Virginia Zoo in Chesapeake, recently. I have been fighting a bout of bursitis in my left hip, causing considerable pain resulting in a noticeable limp! Everyone knew I could not negotiate the miles of walking to see the zoo animals. So, of course, I rode the wheelchair. It is not as though I have never been in one before. After four knee surgeries I am familiar with them but only from the hospital room to the car door. This was different. It was an indication, a "picture" if you would, of the future. Progressive scoliosis, Parkinson's Disease, and now bursitis all point to a more and more dependent lifestyle. A hard pill to swallow for an independent spirit! After all, I have navigated the back alleys of China villages by myself and now I need a wheelchair? Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for a very capable caregiver in Hunter, my loving husband. He always puts my needs first. He wheeled me around, even adding his own brand of humor, although my response was not always "jolly"! It was a humbling experience. Yet through it all there were two moments of joy as the grandsons each had a ride on my lap. Their warm bodies snuggling into mine was special! I am told to be thankful and look for blessings in all circumstances-right? (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) So here were two!
In the spiritual realm, am I dependent on God or playing the independent card-"I can handle it myself"!
There is a story in the book of 1Kings in the Bible about the widow of Zarephath. She was told by Elijah to be totally dependent on God's daily provisions for her basic needs of flour and oil. God met her needs as promised. One of my dear friends is a living, breathing example of total daily dependence on God. She is blind. After losing her husband two years ago it was assumed she would move in with her brother. After all, how could she live alone being blind? God and she had a different plan. She stayed in her home and her stories of God's daily, continuous provisions for her inspire and challenge me to let go of the "reins" and say, "God. It's all yours."
Currently I am reading a book entitled, "The Scars that have Shaped Me: how God meets us in suffering" by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. In it she states that "dependence is always better than self-sufficiency in the kingdom of God. Self-sufficiency leads to pride and selfishness, while dependence leads to humility and an intimacy with the Lord. Dependence yields good fruit in our lives. As Charles Spurgeon said: "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.""
Love this quote from Charles Spurgeon! I have decided to use this quote as my 2017 New Year's resolution. I resolve this year to learn to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages, even if the wave comes in the form of a wheelchair!
We all experience "waiting room" moments in our lives. For some it might be waiting for the birth of twin grandsons, as is the case of my dear cousin. Others might be waiting for an upcoming knee replacement surgery to relieve years of pain or a successful repair of a broken heating system in an RV which is stalling travel plans, as is our case currently. Maybe it's a phone call from an interview for a much needed job or the answer to a prayer lifted up to God for years concerning salvation of a loved one. Everyone has a "waiting room" event sometime in life. And everyone's episode is unique. Some are easier to "survive" or shall I say "walk out of" than others. As Hunter and I wait day by day for word from the technicians concerning the status of our RV I have discovered some things while sitting in the "waiting room" about myself. I'm not a patient person. I don't like empty calendar days and thwarted plans. I see the glass half empty instead of half full. I want to yell at maintenance men I don't even know! And I REALLY hate cold and snow! OK, I'm digressing.
If I were to look through a window in this room and watch "me" what would I see?
The Bible has much for me to learn on this topic.
Psalm 37:7 "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him."
Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry."
Lamentations 24:26 "I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion", therefore I will wait for Him...It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
So I guess I have a choice. I can noisily complain, pacing around the room, fretting and stewing, even trying to "pull" the door open before it is ready to unlatch OR I can quietly sit in the chair, accepting God's current plan, being still before Him knowing He is faithful and will unlock the door when it is His perfect time. He may very well be shielding me from storms outside the "room" waiting for the return of the sun. And He continues to provide new opportunities to enjoy every day whether writing Christmas cards with Hunter, packing a box of clothes for orphans in Tanzania, unplanned baking opportunities with grandchildren and even enjoying the beauty of Christmas white snow (inside, of course)!
"Waiting is no waste in God's economy." David Mathis
Recently I have come "face to face" with this word. In the last couple of months I have eaten at a Cafe called Simple, one serving only organic, raw foods and I walked into a bakery with the name Simple Taste, offering treats with no gluten, dairy, or egg. Hunter and I have tried to simplify our life by down-sizing our possessions, refusing cable TV, cleaning out clothes closets and sending bags to Good Will. I am even in the process of simplifying my collection of recipes to only those most often used. We live in a technical world that often seems overwhelming to a 67 year old woman. I like simple: paper and pencil to do lists, hand washing dishes, playing board games, eating vanilla ice cream.
Maybe that is one reason I am so attracted to the message of Jesus. It is simple.
Each morning I have two simple questions I ask God. "
"Okay, Lord, what would you have me do today?"
"Whom would you have me help today?"
Then I end my day reflecting on how well I achieved my three simple daily goals:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1 NLT
What am I doing here, I thought, as I stood in a "pack" of runners/walkers in the annual "Race for the Cure" event sponsored by the Indiana Parkinson Association. I am NOT like my daughter and son-in-law who thrive on the adrenalin of a competitive event. They willingly brave cold, heat, and rain to join others in enduring and even finding joy in the race to the finish. Many a time, usually while babysitting the little ones, I have stood on the side lines watching the two of them pin their "numbers"on their jerseys, stretch, and mentally prepare for the race. And I am quite often parked near the finish to cheer at least one of them over the line or positioned somewhere on the course to witness their efforts and yell "go, go, go"!
So here I am, standing in a torrential downpour, waiting for the "gun" to signal the start of my portion of the race. Now mind you I have a bum right knee with advancing scoliosis not to mention Parkinson shakes and imbalance issues. Therefore today I am only walking a mile-no big deal. But why am I doing it? I guess I felt it important to support the Parkinson Research Organization. After all, someday soon, I hope to benefit from new developments in curing this dreaded disease.
Yet as I stand here watching the little rivers run off my hood I think I am here for another reason. I want to, in some small way, feel what my daughter feels as she is competing. I want to understand her drive, her excitement, her joy in the race. So I endure the rain and walk on when signaled. By the time I complete my mile I really want to continue on! It IS fun. People cheer and when crossing the finish line you experience a sense of extreme accomplishment. Next year, after knee surgery and sessions with a chiro on my back, I WILL walk the 5K. Who knows, maybe someday I can join the elite 10k walkers!
While driving home God reminded me that life is a race. He has set each one of us on our own individualized course. Some days will be filled with sunshine while others will involve going through battering storms. Yet He will provide a cheering crowd of witnesses and will be our protective "raincoat", if we take what He offers. Sometimes we will slip in the mud or stumble on the rocks but He promises to lift us up out of the mire and set us on dry ground where we can continue the race.
I want to cross His finish line, spent but joyful knowing I "stayed" the course!
Below is a photo of my race number. God has an individual number for each of us. He cares for us personally. In fact He is our greatest side-line cheerleader!
"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand-when I awake , I am still with you." Now THAT is reason to cheer!!
When Hunter and I are traveling around in our RV on Sunday we choose a church to visit nearby the campground where we are overnighting. One such church last Sunday was "The Good Shepherd Church" in Loveland, Colorado. Unfortunately I can not remember the pastor's name who delivered the message but it was so good that I want to share his "points" from the Summer in the Psalms series he was preaching. This particular Sunday he was focused in Psalm 127. It is one of the 15 ascent Psalms, which the Jewish people would sing on their walk to Jerusalem to celebrate a holy holiday.
This particular psalm addresses the blessing of children (grandchildren). He said there are two things our children need from us:
1. Homes built around God as the center!
We are responsible to pass along our faith to our children (grandchildren). We must teach them that they were created for God's glory. In today's culture we too often "labor in vein" to teach our children the importance of the 3 As: athletics, academics, appearances. Instead we should teach our children the importance of reading the Bible, praying to God both alone and as a family, and making church a priority. After all, what are they going to be talking about 20 years down the road: their recent soccer match, their cool jeans, their A in spelling or what God has and is doing in their life??
2. Adults who BELIEVE in them!
Are we challenging them to rise to high expectations in integrity, work ethics, character development-modeling the fruits of the spirit daily (Gal. 5:22 "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control")? Are we teaching them to lead or are we saying "you aren't old enough or capable of this". "We don't trust that you can do it,yet."
The psalm states that "children...are like arrows in the hands of a warrior". Arrows are weapons-right? Weapons are dangerous-right? Are we teaching our children to be "dangerously good", "dangerously courageous" for God's kingdom? Will our children be world changers, arrows not just staying in the quiver but shot out into the world??
Our homes and our lives will impact generations to come! It all starts with each of us adults as we make Jesus first in our lives and our homes!
Bless the children. They "are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him". Psalm 127:3