Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pour Out Your Heart

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us. --
Psalms 62:8 (ESV)
Learning to pray constantly requires ever-present practice.  I gained a good insight into this from Alexander Whyte's sermons (Lord Teach Us To Pray, Christian Ethereal Library.) We sail through our days and we find all kinds of things happening to us and around us.  Who does not go through a wide range of emotions in a day -- joy, gratitude, peace, and being tickled to worry, dread, anxiety, anger, fear, and frustration?  Sometimes other people are there and might even be the cause of the feelings.  Frequently, we may find ourselves alone with these feelings not knowing what to do with them.  This is powerful verse in the advice it supplies.  "At all times" with everything that might be going on within us there is a place to "unload" it.  God is always and everywhere prepared and ready to receive whatever we're thinking or feeling.  As we pour out our hearts to God, God turns God's heart around and sends back to us faith, peace, and assurance.

Recently, I've been working with praying the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.")  There is an interesting calm that comes to my soul after saying it a few dozen times.  I have reflected occasionally however, wondering if God might get a little bored (inattentive??) with the repetition.  Suddenly, thinking about prayer as pouring out my heart opens up a lot of other (significant) things to pray in a less repetitive way that God happily hears and embraces in WHATEVER I think or feel.  But, the things of my heart are not like putting out the trash.  I mean I'm not just dumping them at God's feet - I'm putting them on God's own heart.  God cares enough that if something is weighing on my heart and interfering with my walk with God enough that I have to share it, suddenly God feels what I feel too.  Out of the depths of God's compassion then flows the very divine care, love, and support that only God knows.  After pouring out my heart long enough -- until I'm "spent," the best calming assurance comes.  It feels like a true refuge.  So much so that it can be hard to want to leave it, which, of course, we must.  But, even that gets you to once again enter into praying and pouring out your heart all over again.

God you made us, and did not just hurl us off to fend for ourselves.  You stay interested and in love with us, wanting to hear everything about our day.  Help us find the safe refuge in you to pour out our failings, our successes, our worries, our joys and do it through Christ, by Christ, and in Christ.  Amen.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Can You Be?

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" – Exodus 3:14 (English Standard Version)

In this often read story, Moses is out tending his sheep minding his own business when he notices a fire.  As he approaches the bush that is on fire a voice speaks and tells Moses to take off his sandals as he is on sacred ground.  Moses complies.  Then God tells him the big plan: you’re going to go to Pharaoh and lead your people out of slavery.  Moses replies, “Who am I that you’d want ME?”  After some discussion about that he then asks, “And just who are YOU?”

This is an exchange that we could well be having every day.  Who am I?  Who are you, O God?  You and God are inextricably bound to one another.  Whether we are consciously aware of the bond or not, God is ever alongside of us.  As the book of Jonah testifies, this bond is inescapable.  So, what impact does this awareness have on your day?   First, there is not a one of us who is completely capable, competent, and wise.  God has a bigger estimation of us than we can have of ourselves – even on our best day.  Up against that high estimation of our abilities we might all say, “Who am I?  How can you think I can do THAT?”  It’s pretty easy to get that God is who God is – defying all concept, definition, and mysteriously greater than we are capable of imagining.  So, some other questions might well be: Who are WE together?  Who am I with God?  Who would I be without God?  Which feels better to you?  Facing your day with our Infinite God working on your side, or slogging through it without that help?  What is God wanting you to do with all the assistance God is willing to give you?  Or, have you just settled for living within the smaller world that you can control and manage alone – content with your excuses?

I believe Moses could have walked away from the job God laid on him.  That is the quality of free will.  Moses chose to be persuaded by God.  On the other hand, it is obvious that God does not need thousands of Moses’ to be historically significant and epically famous.  But together, who can you be?  What does God want for the two of you today?


Lord, I’m sitting down with you for a few minutes here this morning.  Help me to feel what we can be together today.  Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guard the Treasure!

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. 2 Timothy 1:14
When I first read this verse my first reaction was,”Well what treasure do I possibly have?”  So I suddenly was caught and swept away to places of deep thought ruminating on what treasure I have.  More, what GOOD treasure do I have? Then, presuming I have some, in what ways am I entrusted with it?  And, as a steward of that trust, am I caring for it properly?  Finally, in what ways can I rely on the Holy Spirit to help me more?  What a lot of ponderings from a 17 word verse!

What good treasure do we have that the Holy Spirit has helped us acquire?  A lot of our material possessions count, but they are superficial.  They are like the hermit crab's shell.  Possessions surround us and in some ways protect us - food, shelter, clothing, (big screen TV's?)... the list is lengthy.  A far more profound treasure exists.  We possess our being in Christ.  Before the world was made, while we were yet just a clump of cells en utero, God knew us.  God knew us and loved us.  Loved us so much that God would not allow the sacred treasure within you to be eternally lost.  You in your being-ness are the good treasure.  So guard that treasure!  How?

Guard the treasure by not allowing the negative toxic people and events of life to stain the positive affirmation God has indelibly stamped on your soul through Jesus Christ's sacrifice for you.  Do not allow the treasure to be tarnished or for yourself to be dragged into bitterness, defeat, and destructive thinking and behaviors.  Remember the treasure within you that God purposely refined and molded into you and be grateful.  Remember the treasure!

Separate me, O Lord, from all that pulls down my sense of spirit and holy purpose.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to guard the infinite gift of eternal hope you crafted into me from my birth.  Through Christ, and in Christ, and by Christ.  Amen.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Gratitude in Everything

Be earnest and unwearied in prayer, being on the alert in it and in your giving of thanks.   --Colossians 4:2 (1912 Weymouth NT)
I have been getting spoken to a lot the past week or so.  Have you had the experience of coming across a concept or thought and you at first just acknowledge it a little bit. Then, it seems like everywhere you turn that same thought or concept is presenting itself to you in all kinds of ways?  From the sides of buses and billboards to internet folk-isms to books and magazines you pick up it becomes like the idea is stalking you.  Perhaps it is?  Perhaps that is God answering a prayer in God's wonderfully backhanded kind of way?

I recently had to move and I've had a very difficult time making the transition.  I tend to like where I'm planted and the uprooting process makes me exceedingly grumpy and unhappy.  So I've been diligently telling God how unhappy all these changes make me.  A couple weeks ago I was channel surfing and came across a program about happiness.  No, not a Hollywood fiction, but a researched and documented scientific kind of program.  One of the assignments to try in that program was to find three things you're grateful for every day for 21 days.  So, I thought I should try that.  Since that decision the idea of having gratitude has been in my face relentlessly everywhere I go.  Like getting what you think is the rarest new car on the planet only to start seeing them at every stop sign, the necessity to be grateful has stalked me.

This morning along comes Paul saying, "Pray always and be vigilant in your giving thanks."  We all can fall victim to taking what we have for granted and finding ourselves on the treadmill of dissatisfaction if we don't have more and more.  Instead of praying ceaselessly for what we lack, perhaps praying by embracing everything God has already given will bring more satisfaction such that what we're lacking seems unnecessary?  I'd encourage you to try and see.  It does seem to work.

God of sea and sky - we thank you for water, food, and shelter; for bodies that work as they should and know that even without some of these that You are God and capable of embracing all our needs.  Give us this day our daily bread and let us be ever thankful.  Amen.