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2014-11-14

“Pastor Steve is preaching a series called ‘Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit.*'” I said.

“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow. “What have you thought of it so far?”

“Well,” I said, “Something he said in the very first sermon of the series has really stuck with me.” I could hear it again, see Pastor Steve’s expression, see the words on the power point presentation. But most of all, I could see the words written–in my own handwriting, on my page of notes. “He said that sometimes people are afraid of the Holy Spirit because they don’t think He will show up.”

“Hm. Interesting.” We were quiet for a moment or two. Then,

“Do you think that way sometimes?” He wanted to know.

I nodded. “That’s why it stood out to me.”

Quiet again.

“Sometimes I get afraid that You won’t show up, that You won’t be with me when I need You . . . or even just when I want You.”

“Even though I’ve promised to be with you always?”

I nodded. “Even though You’ve promised,” I said. “And then sometimes I am afraid that when You do show up, You’ll be a different person than I thought I knew. That I won’t recognize You.”

“Or that I won’t be FOR you, right?” He finished the thought I didn’t even realize I’d begun. But it was true. I nodded again. He was silent, and I was silent. The kind of silence that comes from there not really being much to say at the moment. Finally,

“What do I do?” I asked.

“You keep calling Me and watching Me keep My promise,” He said simply.

 

 

 

*[yes, the series title has been taken from a book of the same name: Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit: An Investigation in the Ministry of the Spirit of God Today by Daniel Wallace]

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“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”
also known as “On His Blindness”

a sonnet by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

(this poem is in the public domain; I copied it from poets.org  http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/when-i-consider-how-my-light-spent)

 

–this background commentary on the poem from  http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides5/Blindness.html
John Milton’s eyesight began to fail in 1644. By 1652, he was totally blind. Oddly, he wrote his greatest works, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, after he became blind. Many scholars rank Milton as second only to Shakespeare in poetic ability.

November 11, 2010

I just figured out tonight why Psalm 103:5 would need to happen.

I was reading the background Lois Lowry gives for her book Number the Stars in her afterword. She spoke of the courage of the Danish resistance fighters who dared to defy the Nazis in so many ways . . . and of the youth of so many of them. One young man she spoke of was only 21 when he was executed by the Nazis. Young, brave, and idealistic, he wrote a letter to is loved ones asking them not to lament the past that has ended but to work for the future they truly longed for (and needed). So young. So brave!

And it hit me that I have grown old at heart. Afraid to risk, afraid of the pain, afraid that all I’ve done and risked in the past was a mere foolish waste after all. All that pain, that fear, that doubt is crippling. Because when you’re young you know that the risks are there but you haven’t experienced them firsthand. And you tell yourself that you are proceeding in spite of the risks when really you are simply throwing yourself out into the fray as though there are no risks. Because for the young, the risks don’t exist. But when you have experienced the risks, you grow up, you become conscious of the cost, and you grow wary.

And before you realize it, you’ve grown old.

Perhaps you become more strategic, but maybe that’s a nice way of saying you play things safer.

And perhaps that’s why we need God to renew our youth like the eagle’s–so we can launch ourselves out again and take the risks as though they aren’t even there. Because in the real world, the world that matters, the risk of loving others is great, the greatest, but it’s the one ideal that is the most important. Because if we are going to act like God does, we are going to have to love like He does–in spite of the risks. And–like those young, brave, Danish resistance fighters–perhaps even because of them.

 

Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. Psalm 71:9

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things: so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:5

Every time I lay me down to sleep,
I give myself to You, O Lord, to keep;
Your arm my shield while I rest, unaware;
I place into your keeping all my care.

“My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel
confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces,
the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece.” – St. Ignatius
of Antioch

qtd in NBBC Alumni update 10-22-2007

For this to be true in any heart requires a rewrite of our spiritual DNA! But that’s the beauty of the promise in Jeremiah 31 and in Hebrews 8–God promises to write His law into our very hearts. That’s the promise I love best in Scripture!!!

I wonder how it felt to the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch.

I wonder how the poor widow woman felt as she prepared the loaf for Elijah instead of for herself and her son.

I wonder how the lady felt as she dropped her whole income–one penny–into the treasury at the temple.

I wonder how Moses felt the first time God used his stick.

Wonder.

Sometimes the sense of helplessness comes first. The sense of smallness. Maybe even the sense of ridiculousness. But underlying all of it is a knowledge of what is right. And often a tiny, incongruous sense of hope.

And afterwards . . . A sense of wonder.

A sense of satisfaction and then curiosity and then utter amazement that could hardly find the words to speak itself.

A sense of wanting to be still and quiet for fear of breaking the silence.

And sometimes there’s just the comfortable sense of knowing one’s God after all.

Oh, every year hath its winter,
And every year hath its rain—
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

When new leaves swell in the forest,
And grass springs green on the plain,
And alders’ veins turn crimson—
And the birds go north again.

Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
And every heart hath its pain—
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

‘Tis the sweetest thing to remember,
If courage be on the wane,
When the cold, dark days are over—
Why, the birds go north again.

~ taken from Streams in the Desert (copyright 1925) October 9

Found this poem in today’s reading (June 1) from Streams in the Desert, 1925 ed. by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
(I am uncertain who the poet is; the poem was followed by a paragraph written by Madame Guyon and preceeded by Spurgeon. For all I know, Mrs. Cowman may have written it herself.)

“Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
The storms are raging on God’s deep—
God’s deep, not thine; be still and sleep.

“Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s hands shall still the tempter’s sweep—
God’s hands, not thine; be still and sleep.

“Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s love is strong while night hours creep—
God’s love, not thine; be still and sleep.

“Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s heaven will comfort those who weep—
God’s heaven, not thine; be still and sleep.”

~Streams in the Desert (1925 ed.) June 1

In the bitter waves of woe
Beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors that faith has cast
Are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast
To the things that cannot fail.

And fierce though the fiends may fight,
And long though the angels hide,
I know that truth and right
Have the universe on their side;
And that somewhere beyond the stars
Is a love that is better than fate.
When the night unlocks her bars
I shall see Him–and I will wait.

~Washington Gladden

Hoping.
Waiting.
The Spanish verb “esperar” means two things: “to hope” and “to wait.”
I wonder how they translate this verse:
Psalm 130:5-5
5. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

A few months ago, our pastor did a series on the seven Hebrew verbs translated “wait on the LORD” in the Old Testament and the things they teach us about waiting for God. Waiting is not something that is easy to do. We grow tired. We become discouraged. We think that perhaps we missed the bus and there’s really no point in waiting anymore. We give up and throw in the towel and go away–if you were waiting for any activity on this blog, you probably gave up a long time ago!

But Pastor pointed out that waiting on someone shows how valuable they are to us. And it’s true. Think of how a parent waits for his baby to be born or how a gardener puts in seedlings in hopes of a good harvest at the end of the summer. But I know it’s true even more from my own life as people often end up waiting for me. I have heard over and over that being on time shows a regard for the valuable time of those I am meeting; true, but being waited for has shown how much those waiting for me regard me. Not that I am making them wait as a test to see how much I am loved! God forbid! No, the tardiness is an attribute I am both learning to accept about myself and working on changing. But I know a sense of value that comes from being waited for without a mention of the sacrifice the person waiting for me has made , and I know the sense of worthlessness that comes from being berated for my slowness. I want to say, “If it was so difficult to wait, then why in the world did you do it? If you didn’t want my company, why did you bother waiting for me?” On the other hand, I feel safe, accepted and loved just as I am when someone has waited for me and hasn’t complained (much).

Today, another message from another pastor reminded me about waiting on God. When we wait, we wait because there is hope. And even when we cannot understand what God is doing, we can wait for Him because we know that when He is finally ready to unveil his work of art, it truly will be a masterpiece. Today’s message reminded me that to wait on Him, I need to commit to Him the issue I am having trouble understanding and then carry on with my life, trusting Him to take care of things. The message I am sending to Him as I wait for Him is “I know that you can’t fit things into my timetable right now, but I trust that You are working things out so that they will be the best. I’m willing to wait till You’re ready to show me.”

My sister and I waited up for my parents to get home from their trip tonight. It’s late, but waiting up for them was worth it. They are worth it. [seeing their reactions to the changes we made in the living room was worth it, too]

Hoping.
Waiting.
Because He is worth waiting for.

Estoy esperando para El.

Salmos 130:5
5 Esperé yo a Jehová, esperó mi alma;
En su palabra he esperado.

Last night was a night that–although not bad, not tragic, not melodramtic even–left me thirsty. I wasn’t even sure what I was thirsty for at first. Milk didn’t do the trick. Airborne (the hotcider version yuk!) definitely didn’t. When I found myself disappointed that I had recently finished a childhood favorite book and started reaching for another, I realized what I was thirsty for.

O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; ~ Psalm 63:1

“God, I need to be near You tonight. I need You to be near me. I guess basically I just need a hug from You.” And that’s about as far as I got with my nightly Bible reading before I fell asleep in my chair. Waking up about an hour later, I stumbled up to bed. Guess He knew I needed sleep, too. =)

When people talk about hearing God’s voice, it seems as though it’s going to be something either audible or mysterious or both. And I admit that sometimes I have wished He would just thunder out of heaven His instructions for me or that He would have a bush burst into flames in my pathway (without setting fire to anything else and without consuming the bush–especially if it’s pretty) and speak to me out of it. But He doesn’t speak that way, and (much to my relief) when He does speak it isn’t mysterious at all, either. It just IS.

Sometimes when He speaks it’s like having a friend or family member that’s humming a tune which gets stuck in my head. Like this morning: when I woke up I had the song “Peace Be Still” by Ron Hamilton going through my head–Peace be still,/ Peace be still./ Hear His words come softly/ Through the storm/ Through the night/ Bringing perfect rest./ When the thunder crashes loudest/ And the waves grow wild and high,/ Jesus hears my cry,/ And He whispers “Peace be still.” [from memory, so I apologize for any errors!]

Sometimes when He speaks it’s like getting a letter or e-mail from a friend that has just exactly the right words in it for the moment I am in–a friend who knows how I think and how to explain things so I understand them. Like a few days ago as I was reading through several Psalms and kept noticing things that had to do with satisfaction. I had asked Him a few days before if it were really truly possible to be filled up rather than empty inside (there are just some days when one feels completely empty! and it seems at those times that one has never really been full, ever). And there were the verses . . . and I understood them and was satisfied.

I don’t know why I am surprised. And in a way I’m not. It’s more that I’m at home in them and amazed that I’m so welcome.  Psalm 32:7 says to God “Thou [art] my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.” [I love the word “Selah.” It means “stop and think about it.” And it makes me laugh with delight to think that poets in Israel used to put it in just like that.] And He HAS been doing just that. I’ve been tired and discouraged, and somehow there’s a song in my mind that reminds me of how much He loves me. I won’t have any clue where it came from (not the radio, not another person); it’s just there! And it will answer perfectly the issue I’m facing. Oh, it won’t tell me the magic combination that will make all troubles vanish: it just reminds me that He is my deliverer after all.

<>Like today. My boss is under a lot of pressure. Totally understandable. But she got mad at me–really mad for . . . I’m still not totally sure if it was me or just a combination of things. I tried to apologize for the confusion I had caused her unintentionally, but she was not ready to hear anything I said. And I was persona non grata for the rest of the time I was at work. I remembered a verse my pastor had shared last night (I don’t even remember why he shared it, but I remember thinking “oh, yeah! that verse! I remember that one!”):Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  I Peter 3:9

But I saw no way to do it, not if any words I said would be brushed away like so many snowflakes. I prayed that I would be able to speak words before I left that would bless her. And then I remembered the verse about praying for those who despitefully use you. So I thought, “I can at least pray a blessing on her.” And I started to do that. [Please don’t take this as me being “holy and always kind” and all of that rot! I was shaking on the inside and a little ready to run and a little angry myself because I was only trying to help! And I felt like hiding in a corner and didn’t even know how to look her in the face anymore–ok, there’s the melodrama in my nature coming out =P] And before I left, she was ready to talk. She was able to tell me how she needs me to communicate with her and why she was so frustrated. I don’t know if she heard my explanation, but it doesn’t really matter. What is really cool is that I had the chance to bless her, to tell her that even if she decides this job is not for her, I’m glad I have gotten to work with her. And I think she heard that. Maybe. But I got my chance.

He’s doing it. He really is. Compassing me about like He said He would.

I’m a little flabbergasted.

*flabbergasted vs. awestruck: flabbergasted is what happens after the awe has struck =)

“If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem be against us, we do not believe Him at all.” – Charles Spurgeon
qtd in NBBC Alumni Update: January 28, 2008

I’ve been studying the life of Job lately. (Actually, the whole church was, and the children’s class got behind: we’re still studying that book along with the Psalms that the rest of the church is studying. We’re having a great time figuring out what each of the characters in Job is saying and getting quite an education on the behavior of people discussing things!)

If anyone had a hard time with circumstances, Job was the one. And he had so many questions for God. Questions I find that I have–sometimes even without knowing I’m wondering them.

“God, why are you punishing me? I’ve been doing my best to serve you!”

“God, if things are really truly ok between us, why these circumstances?”

“How is it considered punishment when it happens to others but not to me? It appears the same!”

“How can you still be ok with me when everyone else seems not to be? and when my world seems to be falling apart? and when I can’t tell up from down?”

Yet, before we begin the series of discussions between Job and his friends, we know the answers to some of the questions. As I say to my kids, God was really bragging on Job.

God: “Satan, see Job down there? He’s my friend. He’s such a great guy!”

Satan: “Yeah, he’s just your friend because you’ve given him everything he wants and needs and even some things he didn’t know he wanted or needed. Take all that away, and you’ll lose his friendship.”

So God let it be tested. And He had something more to brag about when Satan returned from carrying out the terrible deed of stripping from Job everything that he had.

God: “See, I told you he was my friend! You took away everything, and he’s still my friend! What a great guy!”

Satan: “Yeah, but he’s still healthy. Make him sick, put him into some real, physical pain, and he will start to curse you.”

So God allowed that, too. And still Job didn’t stop being God’s friend. And then (as an added “bonus”) Job’s friends misunderstood him. And they added misunderstanding to misunderstanding. And Job didn’t stop being God’s friend.

But He began to wonder if God was still his friend.

And I guess that when I’m under the circumstances, I begin to wonder that, too. I’m looking forward to the end of the book, looking forward to seeing how God answers some of these questions.

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see That without dust the rainbow would not be. ~ Langston Hughes

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