Tag Archives: Scripture

No Words: Just Prayers

So many things to feel right now. Last week (was that only last week?) began with an eclipse in North American that captured our attention for a while. That pleasantly distracted us from the difficulties and horror of Charlottesville before that. Then, seemingly out of nowhere Hurricane Harvey ripped into Texas and is still planted here, devastating communities and uprooting thousands and thousands of people.

For me, personally, the rest of life kept happening too. A son off to college and seeing him again after an intense 10 day boot camp environment. An empty nest that grieved me and freaked me out too. Officiating a beautiful wedding of people I cherish. Friends going through deep losses and more than difficult life situations.

Our daughter, son-in-law and baby grandson live 30 minutes from the coast of Texas. Their town, Dickinson, has been on the national news since Saturday. It is now under mandatory evacuation. It is still raining there.

My nest is no longer empty. We’ve added a couple of adults, a baby and 2 big dogs to the household. Seeing the devastation and upheaval on the news is one thing. When it is people and places you know, it is excruciating. Our daughter’s best friend is a nurse. She actually kayaked to work a few days ago. The hospital is understaffed, over full, rationing food. The staff is working back to back shifts with little sleep, no showers, all while not knowing about the status of their own homes.

If you think too long about the damage of the floods to the infrastructure, economy and health of this huge area, it is more than overwhelming.

One time, when I was in the midst of a health crisis, I had a nightmare that I was swimming in the deep of the ocean in the middle of the night. I could not see shore. The water was black around me. In the dream, I felt sharks bumping me. I woke up terrified and gasping for air. From deep in my heart came a scripture that I must have memorized along the way. I did not think of it. It just rose up inside me. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:2 Those words brought immediate peace and relief to me.

Today, I have so many feelings but not too many good words. Today, this scripture is a prayer in my heart for all who are touched by this hurricane or of pain and terrors of other types. God, send the comfort and reassurance of your Holy Spirit and give us peace. Amen     

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Your Face is Shining

I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it. (Jack Handey, American Humorist) I agree with Jack, I don’t get it. The older I get, the more I don’t understand…like politics, plumbing or why bad things happen or even why good things happen.

I’m home today with a plumber and he’s helping me see how much I don’t know about my home’s plumbing needs. He’s telling me in big long paragraphs about water minerals and I’m wanting him to condense it to 140 characters or less. Finally,  I ordered a new toilet and he seemed excited about that and stopped trying to teach me things. Clearly,  some things I’m not meant to understand.

But, I’ve never stopped trying to learn more about faith, life and our purpose here. I don’t believe at all that life is a big joke. I do believe it is a fleeting gift. I believe some people squander it and some people savor it.

I believe the key to it all is light. Yes, light. It’s why I’m slightly obsessed with sunrises and sunsets. That whole twice a day phenomenon is about light. Sometimes I’m watching a sunrise that seems unspectacular when something tells me to wait for it and all glory breaks out. Sometimes a sunset is plain and then you look at the sky all around it in a panoramic view and that’s somehow where the color has gone. I like light through the trees, seasonal light changes, candlelight, starlight, moonlight.

Scripture is full of light images too, like it’s trying to tell us some truth we need to know. Do a Biblical word study on light and you will see. My favorite images are the ones that try to tell us about God’s light glory. Arise, shine; for the glory of God has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 I love scripture about God’s radiance rubbing off on us like this blessing, May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you….Numbers 6:24. Read the 34th chapter of Exodus where Moses comes down the mountain after talking to God but doesn’t realize his face has changed because of God’s light.

Once upon a time, as a very young pastor working in a small west Texas town where female clergy were unheard of, I visited a local nursing home for the first time. I do not wear a clerical collar, carry a big Bible or wear giant crosses. Nothing about me says “pastor”. As I entered the facility there was a collection of residents dozing in wheelchairs near the door. One woman woke up when I entered and called me over. She said, “You are one of God’s pastors.” I was blown away. “How did you know that?” I asked. She said simply, “Your face is shining.”

Later, I was told she had dementia and not to make too much of what she said. I disregarded that advice and consider it to be one of the highest pastoral comments I’ve ever received. Twenty eight years later I remember everything about that encounter.

I don’t know the meaning of life. But I think it is about light. God is light and we are to reflect that. Whenever there is darkness we are to be light. Watch the light places and you will see God. Watch the light faces and you will see God. Watch what God does with light every day. Study it in nature and in scripture and in the ways people love each other. If life is confusing or hard or bewildering for you right now, my advice is to go toward the light. Look at it. Bask in it. Fill your heart with it. Do light affirming activities.

I’m clearly not good at plumbing, but light I can do.

New

For several years now, I’ve chosen a word to guide me in prayer, study and focus. This was not my idea. It is a different kind of Spiritual Discipline suggested by the work of Rachel Olsen and Mike Ashcraft. You can read more about it at http://www.myoneword.org.

At the end of each year, I start making a prayerful list of words that simmer to the surface of my consciousness. I believe God guides this process.  Past words for me have been Radiance, Enjoy…last year’s word was Release. That one was powerful. I released a ton of clutter, my overbooked schedule, a ministry position I’d held for almost 2 decades. I released stress. In the wake of all that releasing, I found so much room to concentrate on the gifts and joy in my life.

My word for 2017 surprised me. It is so simple; so short. I chose the word New. When I told my husband my word, he just stared at me blankly. At first I thought he was thinking, “new? As in new year? new month? new? How boring!” Actually, now that I’m writing this I don’t at all know what he was thinking because I didn’t ask. For all I know he was just trying to figure me out yet again.

As happens when you choose a word, things start catching your attention. Today is only January 2 and already several scriptures have danced in front of me, aligning themselves with my word. Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I make all things new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!.” And this line in a devotional, “I am working newness into your life.”  Jesus Calling Evening by Sarah Young.

This morning I did a word study on this little word, New: fresh, what has not been known or seen before, unfamiliar, untouched.

Yes, it is simple, easy, short and I’m so excited about it. It will be my guiding word. Where will it lead? That is yet to be revealed.

This morning when I walked, I noticed how fresh everything was after our morning storm. I stopped and watched the water rushing by in a creek. The sky was the brightest shade of blue. Everything around me, new. 2017…new.  Yes! .

 

Just Wait

Every year, I have the same lament.  I almost didn’t say anything this year, but now I’m even being affected by the situation.  It is still a few days before Thanksgiving.  I have not made our family’s Thanksgiving foods yet.  My porch has pumpkins on it. Inside my house there are turkeys and signs reminding me to be “thankful in all things.”  And guess what?  I feel behind.

I’m behind because there are no Christmas lights on our house like all our neighbors seems to have; there are no red and green wreaths on our door. I feel behind because our Christmas stuff is still in the attic. There’s even a word for it now, “Christmas Creep.” I will not even speak of the stores having Christmas before Halloween complete with Christmas music.

I think I’m catching it. In my stress and hurry to get it all done, I wondered aloud, in front of our 17 year old son, if we should decorate for Christmas before we left for Thanksgiving. He actually grabbed my shoulders and shook me, saying, “Who are you and what have they done with my mother?”

He saved me.  He woke me up. So I’m going to say it once again to myself and whoever will listen. Just wait.

I love the book Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson.  He writes about how we have allowed our lives to become margin-less: in our time, in our money, in our overload.  He doesn’t write about Christmas but I believe we have also destroyed the margin between seasons.  If society had it’s way, baby Jesus would be born in early October and off to college by January. Stop. Just wait.

Can we not just be pregnant for awhile?  There is a reason for gestation. Good things need time to grow. We are supposed to wait for the seed of new life to grow and be big enough and developed enough to be born healthy.

In the church, we do plenty of things wrong, but one thing we get sort of right is the waiting.  This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.  We don’t call it Christmas because the baby has not been born.  We wait. We watch.  We will light just one candle. I know, it is a ridiculously simple decoration.  One blue candle? Yes.  We will read scripture about God doing a new thing. We are going to watch, wait and see what might grow.  It’s okay to just be pregnant.