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One thing that impresses me as I read through the Old Testament is the two-way relationship that takes place between God and individuals. And the fact that the two-way relationship is between the all–holy, perfect Creator and an imperfect and rebellious human being. In spite of this, God is still willing to engage with these people.
Take Hagar for instance, a woman who has the flaw of looking on Sarah and her barrenness with contempt. Sarah in her turn treats Hagar so badly that Hagar runs away.

But an angel of the Lord encourages Hagar and says to call her son Ishamel which means God hears. After this encounter, she begins to call God “El Roi which means “God sees me“. Then she asks herself a question: Have I truly seen the One who sees me?

I stopped short when I read that because it showed me that it’s not only helpful to ask God questions but it’s also good to ask ourselves questions.
God sees me. Have I seen Him?
God hears me. Do I hear Him?
God acts. Do I notice?
God blesses. Do I thank Him?

Too often my life with God does not reflect this two-way relationship. Instead, I tend to view it more as a box of puzzle pieces for me to fit together. Some pieces are those hard-to-answer questions I’m trying to make sense of.
Other pieces are the seemingly contradictory aspects of God’s character: loving and just, accepting and judging, graceful and lawgiving. Still other pieces are the stormy spots of my life that seem to make no sense to me. I can’t understand why He would let me go through such a terrible trial.

What I want to do is to figure it all out and then sit back with the satisfaction of knowing every piece is in its place.

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But what I see in Genesis is that it’s not a puzzle but a tapestry with warp and woof. Hagar’s question reveals the dynamic that goes on between me and God: He hears me, He sees me. And then it is my turn to draw close and see Him. God speaks , and then I respond. He calls, and I act in faith. It’s a give and take like a weaver’s shuttle going back and forth through the taut threads on the loom. Without my response, God can’t weave in my patch because He doesn’t force Himself into my life. It is up to me to listen and trust and obey.

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I don’t often see the larger picture as the Master Weaver chooses the colors and makes His pattern in my life. But day after day, month after month, year after year, the shuttle goes on, back and forth in our relationship.
And the tapestry He is weaving is even bigger than I can imagine. For my life is just one tiny spot in the master tapestry of the Master Weaver, which He began before time.
Yet, think how the smallest snag in a thread can bring a flaw to an entire piece of fabric. The beauty can be interrupted by a little jagged hole.

My tiny place counts. So does yours. Rather than thinking that it doesn’t really matter how I respond to God, I need to remember that I have an important spot in His magnificent, beautiful tapestry. I need to partner well with Him. I need to listen to Him and respond in faith.

What about you?
Where do you need to hear God and respond to Him?
What is He weaving into your life these days?

Speaking of questions

February 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Questioning God honors Him. It turns our hearts away from ungodly despair toward a passionate desire to comprehend Him.”
Dan Allender

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“We act and live in confidence that someday we will see face to face, that we will live into the answers. For God’s grace embraces our questions as well as our answers and our blindness as well as our vision.”
Jean Blomquist

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“You can find answers to the hard intellectual questions, but God gives us something better than answers. He gives us a rich sense of His presence. He gives us Himself. Answers satisfy the intellect, the presence of the great El-shaddai satisfies the soul.”
Selwen Hughes

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God asks:
Why, when I called, was there no one to answer?
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?

Isaiah 50:2

Ask me a question

January 30, 2014 — 3 Comments

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a study guide for Walk with Me: Pilgrim’s Progress for Married Couples. The guide has just been released and you can download it here for free [don't you love that word?].

Each of the nine sections focuses on a chapter from the book, with three sets of questions to choose from. There’s a set for general small group discussion, another set for small groups who want to take a deeper look at the material, and a third set for individuals or couples. [Take a peek at the introduction here.]

As I worked on the questions, I was reminded of all the questions Jesus is asked in the gospels.

Questions, questions

  • “How do you know me?” Nathaniel asked.
  • “Where do you get that living water?” the woman at the well asked.
  • “Who are you?” the Pharisees asked.
  • “How can we know the way?” Thomas asked.
  • “What is truth?” Pilate wanted to know.

Sometimes, a question is used to accuse: “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” the Jews asked Jesus.

Or a question can be a way to find an easy out, like Peter’s question to Jesus: “How many times must I forgive my brother?”

They can carry a complaint like Martha’s, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

I think the best questions are those designed not to find an answer, but to start a dialogue. It’s an asking that doesn’t try to push the other person away. With God, good questions help us come closer to Him, whether they are questions of doubt or mystery or confusion or despair.

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God’s questions for me
And when I ask an honest question, I open myself up to being asked one in return. When the lawyer asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by asking, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” He didn’t give the dead-end answer. He invited the lawyer into a give and take.

When the chief priests asked Jesus to tell them by what authority He was teaching and healing, He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or from men?”

Back and forth, back and forth, the dialogue goes. A question is asked. A question answered, sometimes with a question that enlightens us far more than the easy answer we were looking for.

However God chooses to answer our questions–even when He keeps silent–He want us to stay with Him. Our honest questions never drive Him away because He is always waiting for us to take another step closer, even if that means drawing near to Him in our confusion.

Probably every journey of faith starts with a question, a mystery. And sometimes they end with a question too. “Why have You forsaken me?” God was silent and withdrawn from His son, and still Jesus had a question for Him.


What about you?
What question do you want to discuss with God? When will you start the dialogue?
And what question do you think He will ask you in return?

[Edited from the archives]

For pity’s sake

December 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

In Walk with Me, as Peter crosses the Swamp of Selfishness, he falls into a sinkhole of self-pity. Instead of trying to get out, he settles into the mud. Perversely, he savours his feelings of woundedness and isolation. Perhaps he sings a song our daughters learned when they were young: “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.”

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Self-pity is such a seductive feeling, an emotion that feeds on itself. The more I nurture my self-pity, the bigger the sinkhole becomes. I begin to feel that no one else has ever suffered like me before. No one has gone through such hard struggles like I have. I actually take pride in my pain.

That is a very dangerous place to be, and that is exactly where Satan would like me to stay. My enemy tells me to nurse my hurt, hold my grudge, care for myself because no one else will. He tells me to shut myself off from people so I can avoid feeling pain, to give up hoping, to stop trusting God, to act for myself. If he got his way, Satan would keep me wallowing and self-absorbed forever.

In contrast, Jesus invites me to come out of the hole and sit with Him at His feet. He wants me to lay down my burdens and tell Him what the trouble is.

So last week when I found myself being swallowed up by a sinkhole of self-pity, I resisted the impulse to stay in the swamp. Instead, as I spent time with Jesus, I began to open up about one area in my life. I told Him how difficult and awful it has been, and how hopeless it feels to me. As I shared the emotional tatters of my life with Him, I discovered that self-pity is hard to sustain when you’re sitting at the feet of Jesus.

It’s not that Jesus gave me an instant fix. Far from it. But instead of sending me away, He told me to come closer. Instead of judging me or lecturing me telling me to buck up, He lamented with me and comforted me.

In the presence of His strong compassion, my weak and whiny self-pity vanished. I stopped demanding that He make things better right away and simply acknowledged with Him that the world is not the way it should be. Jesus sadly nodded His head. More than any of us, He knows how true this is.

This quiet pondering is one of the lessons of Advent. In the rush to Christmas, I want to skip over the suffering and head straight to hope and joy and light.

Yes, all that is coming, but first I need to lament the brokenness of the world.
He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted.

I need to name the darkness.
…to proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners.

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I need to hear once again, “Comfort, comfort My people, speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”

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I need to listen to songs in a minor key, songs tinged with despair and longing.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

What about you? What are you pondering this Advent?

“A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us — not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.”
― Marva J. Dawn

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“God rested on the seventh day… Rest, therefore, is seen in the Bible not as a sign of weakness or laziness, but as a divine activity as a sign of his wisdom and holiness. If resting is important to God, I don’t think we can minimize its importance for us as humans.…

We were designed for Camel travel, not supersonic jet behavior. Except for the last 50 years, humans have been able to live within the limits set for the human body. Today, however, we are exceeding these limits, not just barely, by a huge margin. We need the principle of Sabbath keeping.

Real resting takes time. Extended time. Unfrustrated time. Idle time. It also demands that you have nothing waiting in the wings. You have to disconnect, disengage, Let go, and forget what you were doing before and what waits for you after. You have to completely separate yourself from your regular routine.”
–Archibald Hart

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“Worry: The Sabbath is an invitation to rest emotionally and mentally from things that cause worry and stress, such as budgets, major decisions, and planning the week ahead. At the end of the Sabbath, from a place of rest, we can engage in some of the decision-making that needs to be done in the week. How can you say “No” to worry on the Sabbath?”
Developing a Sabbath Practice

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“Since the definition of “work” involves trying to effect change, I am embracing one simple fact: Sabbath is the cessation of trying to effect change in my environment.  This is primarily a mental discipline, and means that I must cease thinking: 1) that things are not okay as they are, and 2) that I need to take steps to change things.”
–Ruth Everhart

Jesus, as a mother you gather Your people to You:
You are gentle with us like a mother with her children.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Often You weep over our sins and our pride:
tenderly You draw us from hatred and judgment.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:
in sickness You nurse us and with pure milk You feed us.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Jesus by Your dying we are born to new life:
by Your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Despair turns to hope through Your sweet goodness:
through Your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Your warmth gives life to the dead;
Your touch makes sinners righteous.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

In Your compassion bring grace and forgiveness:
for the beauty of heaven may Your love prepare us.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.”
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1109

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But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way?
I Corinthians 3:1-4 [The Message]

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Nursing infants gurgle choruses about You;
toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.

Psalm 8:2 [The Message]

The balanced dance

October 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

A few years ago in early fall, we stayed at a wonderful cottage in New Hampshire. Being a natural early bird, I had the pleasure of taking the morning shift when 2-year old Lucy did her rooster imitation, usually a few hours before the other adults in the house were ready to meet the day.

Lucy had recently started to dress herself, and one chilly morning she picked out a tank top and shorts to wear. I found a pair of socks for her which she put on and then took off. A long sleeve shirt ended up with the same fate. I showed her what I was wearing: jeans and socks, a long sleeve shirt over a tee shirt over a tank top. Later on the cooler porch, I added a sweater.

I asked her, “Won’t you be cold?” She shook her head.

I said firmly, “You are going to be cold.” She pretended not to hear me.

Now grandparenting is a tricky business, especially when the parents are getting much needed sleep. I quickly considered the cost-benefit ratio between Lucy bursting into a powerful tantrum that would wake up the entire house, and letting her wear only the tank top and shorts [even if it might put me at risk of being considered a negligent caregiver].

I opted for choice number two and we went to play and have breakfast. Later I felt her fingers which were like icicles. She was nonplussed, though I did manage to convince her to put her crocs on her equally cold feet.

I found it hard to believe Lucy didn’t mind the cold. Perhaps she didn’t feel how cold her arms and legs were. Perhaps after a hot summer, she didn’t like the feel of clothes on her skin. Perhaps…well who can fathom the mind of a two year old?

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The next morning I got smarter. This time she chose a sundress complete with thin straps and I acquiesced with a shrug. But once we were downstairs and she asked me to tell her a story, I made up one about a little girl named Lucy whose cold fingers wanted her to wear a long sleeve shirt and whose cold toes wanted her to put on socks.

Amazingly, the story worked. After some negotiation about which long sleeve shirt to wear [a striped one was nixed by her as was a nice white fleece, but one with little flowers was deemed acceptable], I felt very pleased with my renewed parenting skills. Lucy was even willing to put on leggings in addition to socks. Suddenly the little sundress was appropriate for a brisk New England morning.

Because I loved Lucy, I wanted to prevent her from feeling discomfort or pain. If she had been older, I might have let her experience the consequences of her choices even when they weren’t pleasant. But with a 2-year old, much of what I said was designed to help her avoid harm. “Hold my hand when we cross the street.” “Don’t stand up on the chair. You’ll fall over.” “Be careful eating the noodles. They’re hot.”

Often on that weekend, Lucy would remind me, “I used to be a baby, but now I’m a big girl.” In many ways, she was right. She no longer wore diapers, she didn’t need to be carried, she could dress herself and feed herself.

Since I didn’t want her constantly asking me for help, I was happy to let her make decisions for herself whenever possible. I let her decide what she wanted to eat and what she wanted to play with. I let her choose which long sleeve shirt to wear. But she still needed to rely on my wiser judgment about choosing a long sleeve rather than a short sleeve. And I didn’t mind when she needed to hold on to me while she put on her pants.

It was a balanced dance between the two poles of dependence and independence. When would I assert my authority over her and when would I let her exercise her free will? When would I give her autonomy and when would I dictate what needed to happen?

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Later, Papajack and I played Ping Pong with Lucy. He held her up to the table and showed her how to hold the paddle. When her mother came, Lucy instructed her, “You hold the paddle like this and push away from you.” I smiled as she parroted what she had just heard. She sounded so authoritative, as if she had been playing all her life.

There are some similarities between my relationship with Lucy, and God’s relationship to me–and some differences too. I’ve progressed beyond being a spiritual two-year old. I’m less apt to throw tantrums. Most of the time, I don’t accuse Him of not loving me, or blame Him for being too restrictive, or chafe against His discipline. I’m more willing to follow His direction because over the years, I’ve learned He always has my good in mind.

And yet there are still times when I sound like a directive child, telling God how to care for me or what He should do in a situation, as if He has no idea. When He doesn’t answer my requests, I can still whine and complain.

I continue to make bad choices and fail to follow His guidance, just as Lucy ignored my warning not to run too fast down the hill. And just as she came to me for sympathy when she fell, I also turn to God after my willful failures.

Sometimes He lets me experience the consequences of my bad decisions, and sometimes He saves me from them. But no matter how petulant or obstinate I behave, He is always there, waiting to love me and comfort me under the shadow of His wings.

As the perfect loving parent, He never gives up on me. He continues to shepherd me so I can become who He created me to be, fruitful and flourishing in the light of His love.

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What about you? How has God been shepherding you? Where have you been listening to His direction and where have you been ignoring it?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1

[edited from the archives]

Learning how to count

September 5, 2013 — 5 Comments

I have a problem with math, which is slightly ironic since my father was a math teacher. My biggest trouble with numbers is that I’m lousy at counting. Or perhaps more accurately (!), I don’t stop and figure out:

  • how long will it take me to do something
  • how far is it to get somewhere
  • how much will this activity cost

Probably the most important thing I ignore is time. I know it is precious but you wouldn’t think so, given how I can spend my days frittering away at this and that*. Too often I live as if I have all the time in the world–which I don’t. As the psalmist so bluntly reminds us:
The years of our lives pass quickly, like a sigh.
and
Look, You make my days short-lived,
and my life span is nothing from Your perspective.
Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.
**

I don’t know about you, but to me reading that feels like a bracing swim in a winter pond.

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Looking ahead
It would be nice to slow down time, but I can’t. It keeps flowing on. As summer and its long lazy days passed, I found myself looking ahead to the fall. I knew I would only have so many hours to spend and I thought about what my focus should be:

  • In my relationships
  • In my work
  • In my service
  • In my sabbath-keeping

As I considered these priorities, I realized that I needed to learn how to count, like the psalmist who prayed, “Teach us to number our days.
and
O Lord, help me understand my mortality
and the brevity of life!
Let me realize how quickly my life will pass! ***

Then I discovered God’s response to my dilemma:
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
for He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust. [Psalm 103:13-14}

That's right. Compassion. My heavenly Father knows me. He knows my talents, my weaknesses, my human limitations. And instead of asking me to work harder or more efficiently, He offers me His compassion.

He also gives me hope for the future: "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." [Psalm 23:6]

I found that the phrases “all the days of my life” and “dwell in the house of the Lord” are also repeated in Psalm 27:
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.

Yet when I read that, my first thought was, “I can’t spend all my time gazing on the Lord, there is work to be done.”

Then I remembered Martha in Luke 10 who was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made and asked Jesus to tell her sister to get a move on. His response was, “…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.

That’s God’s answer to the math problem of my life. One. One thing is needed. My days are dwindling, but there is only one thing I really need to do, and that is focusing on Him.

I confess that’s hard for me to even write, let alone put it into practice. Still that’s what He teaches me. The oughts and shoulds and want-tos in my life do not come from Him. His path is simple and His yoke is easy.

He only desires that I learn to sit quietly before Him,
enjoying His beauty;
listening to His stories;
and receiving water and food and fresh strength as I follow Him home.

What about you? When can you spend some time listening to Jesus?

 

...like a tree planted by streams of water [Psalm 1:3]

…like a tree planted by streams of water [Psalm 1:3]

Notes
*Speaking of frittering: back in the dark ages, my downfall was looking at all the mail order catalogs that flooded our mailbox. Now it’s browsing on the internet.

**Psalm 90:6 and Psalm 39:5

***Psalm 90:12 and Psalm 39:4

Psalm 27:4

Luke 10:38-42

Last Sunday while visiting a church in Los Angeles, I sang this song for the first time. I was immediately captivated by the words and music.  It has become especially meaningful to me as I sit with my father during the last days of his earthly life.

Forever Reign by Kristian Stanfill

“You are good, You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You’ve covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are truth, You are truth
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life
In You death has lost its sting

(Chorus)
Oh I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
And nothing compares
To Your embrace
Light of the world
Forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I’m made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I’m letting go”

What a wonderful reminder of who God is and the kind of relationship He wants to have with us.

This morning as I face

  • a new day
  • a new week
  • a new month
  • a new season

I have so many possibilities to choose from. I need to listen to God and learn which signals are from Him. Continue Reading…

It’s hard to know what to do when you get mixed messages.

This is what I saw downtown yesterday as I went to cross a major four-lane road:

To walk or not to walk, that is the question

So what do you when you get mixed messages?

Continue Reading…

When you read, is it sometimes just a blur?

 

Sometimes when I read scripture, I have a hard time slowing down and really paying attention to what God is saying in the passage.  It might be a familiar section and I already know what it says. Or maybe I’m distracted and my mind is somewhere else. Either way,  by the time I get to the end of the passage, it’s pretty much a blur.

That’s a problem because the reason I read God’s word is so I can be reminded of His truth and wisdom and grace, and carry that with me into my day. After all, what’s the point of reading something if it doesn’t stick with me? It’s not like God has a reading chart with my name on it where He checks off what I’ve read and then gives me a gold star.

Continue Reading…

Just because I didn’t post during the last two weeks doesn’t mean the buffet production line has stopped completely. In fact, there are six new post ideas I’ve been mulling over and my OneNote blog notebook is stuffed with dozens and dozens more. My to-do list is equally overwhelming after a wonderful month-long visit from Caitlin and crew with trips to the beach and the park and the playground. But as I panicked looking over my list, I remembered a question I sometimes heard over the past few weeks. Every so often, one of Sam’s parents would look him in the eye and ask, “Who’s the boss? Who’s in charge?”

Sam was usually asked the question after a third cookie or complaining about what he wasn’t allowed to do, and the tone of his answer tended to be one of grudging acceptance. I too find it challenging sometimes to be reminded that I’m not the boss.

But at other times it can be a comfort to know I don’t have to figure it all out. The position of submission is the place where I can receive God’s love. This week, I’ve found it reassuring to know that I can go to God with all my ideas and opportunities and possibilities and tasks and put them under His lordship. I can trust Him to turn my fragmented and unfocused life into an integrated and ordered whole.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3



Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for He is our God
and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care.

Psalm 95:6,7

The point of pruning

April 14, 2011 — 3 Comments

I’m a hoarder by nature. I like to hold on to things, even after they’ve served their purpose. So not surprisingly, pruning and weeding are not my strong suits. In the past, J and I have had some fierce discussions about whether to trim back trees, bushes, and vines. But last month, I discovered the point of pruning when the gardener chopped away at a fast-growing tree and a mass of ivy in the back yard. The last time this foliage was pruned was several years ago. It didn’t grow back overnight, but bit by bit the vines and branches took over the space above the wall.

Instead of being upset by the drastic pruning though, I loved being able to see on the other side of the wall again. The formerly cramped view from the upstairs terrace has been replaced with a wonderful vista. Now the ocean is in plain sight. We can see the cows and the sheep crazing on the far hill, and the walls of the old necropolis across the valley.


I’ve been realizing the same thing happens in my spiritual garden. When I let discouragements and bad attitudes and foul thoughts overtake the space, it’s much harder to see who God is and what He is doing in the world. I need to go through the discipline of cutting back and pruning so I can see clearly beyond my little area.

Now as longtime readers of this blog know, I’m something of spiritual life junkie. It might be easy to think that this leads to greater holiness but that’s not true at all. In fact I sometimes wonder that all my explorations are simply a convenient and acceptable way to avoid really encountering God face to face. But be that as it may, I recently discovered a good tool for spiritual pruning from Saint Ignatius. He was the founder of the Jesuit order and I’ve always viewed the Jesuits as overly intellectual and heady. But I discovered that Ignatius focused on the heart and emotions and imagination too.

One of his contemplative practices was the Daily Examen. To me, the word examen sounds too much like exam, with the emphasis on rating performance and trying to be perfect. So I’ve found it better to think of it as the Daily Reflection since that’s really what it is: a time to reflect back over the day.

The daily part doesn’t work well for me either [this blog isn't called 'the cruise buffet' for nothing]. Doing the same thing every day, I easily lapse into an unreflective roteness. Also being introspective by nature, I can easily overdose on reflection and end up wallowing in a mushy self-centered soup. Since looking at myself is really only a stepping stone to letting God’s Spirit come into my life more fully, it’s best for me to do it every few days, or once a week. But I am finding it very helpful to look at what is going on in my life with God and talk about it together.

Here’s a five-step version that I’ve adapted from an Ignatian spirituality website**.
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
This first step is the most important. I need to center down, clear away distractions and focus on God. I’ve found it helpful to remind myself: “You are here with me now,” six simple words that encompass a profound spiritual reality.

You are: the personal, loving, redeeming God, the “I am that I am”
here: in this place, this room, this house
with: in relationship, connected, interacting
me: creature, friend, counselee
now: at this time, in this moment

2. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit.
Ask God to bring clarity and understanding. Where was God at work? Where did He lead me? Where did I resist Him? What pulled me away from Him? What are you thankful for?

3. Pay attention to your emotions.
Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. How did you respond to events? With boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence?

As you look at your emotions, invite the Spirit into those areas. What thanks and what requests come from these feelings? What growth do they indicate? What needed growth do they point to?

“Our feelings, positive and negative, the painful and the pleasing, are clear signals of where the action was during the day. Simply pay attention to any and all of those feelings as they surface, the whole range-–whatever was there. Some of us may be hesitant to focus on feelings in this over-psychologized age, but I believe that these feelings are the liveliest index to what is happening in our lives.” Dennis Hamm, Jesuit scholar

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. Look at it. Pray about it.

5. Look toward the coming day. In what ways would I like to see God move in my life the coming day? In what ways might I more fully give myself to God in the coming day?

Although the daily reflection is traditionally done before going to bed, I’m a morning person and find that it’s better for me to do at the beginning of the day. I also find that I only get through the first three steps before my reflection turns into a more general time of talking with God and listening to Him. I don’t mind though. The main point is to look at what is going on in my life and to bring God into all the nooks and crannies.


Search me, o God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24

**Link
The Daily Examen

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

***

This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is His name: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Jeremiah 33:2-3

***

Almighty and everlasting God, You are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve.

Divine Hours

***
This Week’s Special
Continue to work out your salvation
with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you
to will and to act according to His good purpose.
Phillipian 2:12-13

Warp and woof

February 8, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’ve been dipping into the Old Testament lately to balance my reading diet, going all the way back to Genesis. One thing that has impressed me is the two-way relationship that takes place between God and the different people, most of whom are pretty flawed. Take Hagar for instance, a woman who has the flaw of looking on Sarah and her barrenness with contempt. Sarah in her turn treats Hagar so badly that Hagar runs away. But an angel of the Lord encourages Hagar and says to call her son Ishamel which means God hears. After this encounter, she begins to call God “El Roi which means “God sees me“. Then she asks herself a question: Have I truly seen the One who sees me?

I stopped short when I read that because it showed me that it’s not only helpful to ask God questions but it’s also good to ask ourselves questions.** God sees me. Have I seen Him? God hears me. Do I hear Him? God acts. Do I notice? God blesses. Do I thank Him?

Too often my life with God does not reflect this two-way relationship. Instead, I tend to view it more as a box of puzzle pieces for me to fit together. Some pieces are those hard-to-answer questions I’m trying to make sense of. Other pieces are the seemingly contradictory aspects of God’s character: loving and just, accepting and judging, graceful and lawgiving. I want to figure it all out and then sit back with the satisfaction of knowing every piece is in its place.


But what I see in Genesis is that it’s not a puzzle but a tapestry with warp and woof. Hagar’s question reveals the dynamic that goes on between me and God: He hears me, He sees me. And then it is my turn to draw close and see Him. God speaks , and then I respond. He calls, and I act in faith. It’s a give and take like a weaver’s shuttle going back and forth through the taut threads on the loom. Without my response, God can’t weave in my patch because He doesn’t force Himself into my life. It is up to me to listen and trust and obey.


I don’t often see the larger picture as the Master Weaver chooses the colors and makes His pattern in my life. But day after day, month after month, year after year, the shuttle goes on, back and forth in our relationship.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.”
Isaiah 55:1

“Here I am, I have come–
…I desire to do Your will, O my God;
Your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:7-8

**Links
Take two on a faith of questions
A faith of questions

The old-fashioned way

February 19, 2010 — Leave a comment

Some wisdom from Jack Wald:

The old days were a lot simpler. If I wanted to check to see if anyone had sent me a message, I went down the hill to the mailbox and got the mail. If someone sent a telegram, that would be delivered to me. If I was not there when someone called on the phone, there was no message left. There was no answering machine. There were not too many places to look.

But today? I need to check the mail, although fewer and fewer messages come to me via snail mail. I check the phone to see if the answering machine has a message. I need to check my fastmail account. I need to check my gmail account. I need to check my aol account, which I am in the process of abandoning. I need to check facebook for messages people have sent to me there. I need to check skype for messages people have left for me there. I have to check my cell phone to see if someone has sent a message. There have been times when I have been talking to someone via the computer and our fixed phone rings. So I have one earphone on each ear and then it has happened that my cell phone also rings and I have no ears left.

I get so busy talking and checking for messages that I forget to check to see if God has a message for me. Why doesn’t God adapt to the modern technology? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could go to your email account and discover God had emailed you with some encouragement or instruction or correction? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your cell phone would ring and there would be a SMS from God?

But although I am sure God is not confused with technology as I am confused, he chooses not to use it. God prefers, the old-fashioned, tried and true method of speaking through the Holy Spirit into our lives.

Because God loves us, he wants us to grow in faith and none of our technological advances seem to improve on his method for doing this.

So don’t forget to take some time to push away the technology and sit and read your Bible and think and journal and listen. It may be that God has a message for you that you very much need to hear.