Tag Archives: God

Focus, Breathe, Listen

Sorry I’ve been so hit or miss this year. I could easily pull the “I’m so busy” excuse, but the truth is, writing has always been a priority for me, and if it’s not happening, than something besides busyness is going on in my life.

As for the last two months (some might say last four?), I’m not exactly sure what that is, except that today it feels like I might finally be pulling out of it. Nothing has changed. I still have all of my commitments and potential distractions, but I sense a pattern emerging.

That, and I am learning a truth. For at least the last two months people have been telling me how they have so much filling their lives – school, activities, obligations, relationships – and yet, if they rest in God, if they focus on Him, if they give Him a bit of time each day, it all gets done in a comparatively unharried manner.

Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention the first, I’m sure twenty, times I heard this. I mean, it’s something you hear a lot of as a Christian.

“Focus on God; He makes all things better.”
“Give God your time.”
“Tithe your time too.”
“Are you doing your devotions? They’re critical you know.”

The thing is, traditional devotions have never done anything more me except make me antsy and feel guilty that I’m not having amazing, huge revelations. And so I’d spend time with God in my own way. Like, journaling when I needed to vent to Him. Or praying in the car on the way to any one of the many places I travel in a week.

But, the thing is, I need to be more intentional than that. I need to sit down, expectant that God is going to meet me in whatever fashion He desires. I need to quiet my mind and just listen. Sure, having a Bible nearby is a good idea, but having my journal near by or my ipod with music is just as important. And I need to be still. I need to remind myself that He really is my first Love. I need to treat Him like that instead of just taking Him for granted.

I need Him to be first, my motivation.

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Fanta and Mirrors

In the last week, there have been a couple moments of simple beauty that struck me.

The first, I was stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the infernal red light to turn green, when three boys around the age of 12 come out of the corner gas station.  They all wore t-shirts and long, baggy, teenage boy shorts, and were each carrying a bottle of orange Fanta. They walked across the street and into the neighborhood of houses, and I no longer could see them.  I don’t know what it was about that sight, except that it felt precious, innocent, and rare to me.  Three boys just hanging out.  Friendship.  No technology in sight.  It was almost like a moment from the past reached into the present.  I wish more of my youth kids had moments like those – moments of pure friendship.  Moments of walking to the corner store to buy a soda after school.  Moments of hanging out and having conversation without technology somehow infringing on their bond.  And sure, these kids were probably headed to some basement where they would blow bad guys up for a couple hours.  But even that walk, to the store to get a Fanta, that was moment enough to actually build friendship.

It left me smiling for the rest of the day.

The second I again was in my car (I spend quite a lot of my time in my car these days).  I was driving by a small lake (pond in any other part of the country) and noticed how absolutely still the water was.  When I say it was a mirror, that there wasn’t a single ripple on the water, I’m not being metaphorical; I’m being quite literal.  I have never seen such still water.  I could see the reflection of every single tree and bush that graced the edge of the lake.  I could see every single cloud in the sky perfectly reflected in the water.  It was as if some giant had carefully placed a mirror on the ground.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  And I was reminded that I was made to reflect my savior as this lake was reflecting its surroundings.  I wondered how well I’ve been doing that recently.  Am I such a reflection as this pond?  Or am I a more stormy or muddy pond that is too anxious or contaminated to reflect His beauty well?

It was a pretty sight, and one that has challenged me.

I love when I notice the little moments; they are usually the ones that dig into me most, the ones I remember and stick with me.

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Come Thou Fount

A couple weeks ago I talked briefly about “ebenezer”s, and how we all need things (physical things) in our lives to remember what God has done.

Well, I think maybe “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” might be a theme for a while in my life. I’ll post the lyrics at the end, just in case you didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and have never heard this particular hymn.

Anyway, I say that because it has been an interesting week. It’s the week before I start back to school. There have been some absolutely fantastic and fun moments in it. There have also been several honest moments. And more than a few that left me emotionally drained and just finished.

But as I was driving home from work last night, briefly headed toward the mountains, the last glow of the sun leaving the mountains a pointy silhouette on the horizon, I saw a shooting star. You don’t see shooting stars much in city bounds, but I saw one last night.

And it reminded me that no matter what, no matter what was going on in my week, good or bad, memorable or simply ordinary, God is good; God loves me, and that is enough.

So, as I go into school and my already full schedule flexes to take on more reading and class attendance and paper writing, I need to remember that God is good.

He is to be our focus and motivation for everything. And as long as that is true, all might not be easy or comfortable or make others happy, but it can be good.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2.            Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3.            O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

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Fog

I’ve had to drive in the fog a couple times in the last week. Which, in Colorado, is weird. I usually drive in the fog MAYBE once every six months; to have driven in the fog several times in the last months is completely weird and slightly global-warming-end-of-the-world-the-dinosaurs-are-going-to-return ish. Weird.

The point of me saying that though is that about the fourth trip into the mountains with fog clouding my view I began to wonder if God was trying to tell or teach me something. Rule of three – if three times something is mentioned, out of the blue, in some sort of weird circumstance, God’s probably trying to communicate something. I’m just not used to the rule of three applying to nature as well. Probably why it took me more than three…and someone mentioning fog in conversation completely separate from my driving experiences for me to take notice.

Anyway, as much as I love fog during the day, it can be rather intimidating at night. Fog during the day you can’t see stuff. Fog at night…well, you really can’t see trees looming at the side of the road or the occasional deer on the road or even the car one hundred feet a head of you.

And lately, this is how my life has felt. I have seen maybe a half step ahead of me, and while I take that step, it is kinda scary, and makes absolutely no sense and a tad bit unsettling.

But, as much as I might complain about my life being in the fog, I think I prefer it to being able to see everything. For instance, sometimes if we see how far we have to walk, if we see how far we have to go, we become paralyzed with how much we have to overcome before we reach our goal. Like climbing a tall mountain. We can see the summit, and it feels so far away and like we’ll never reach it.

And honestly, God works both ways. Sometimes we see the end, but not often. Sometimes we’re in the fog and have to trust Him about the next step on the road ahead of us.

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Here I raise my ebenezer

Ebenezer. I type that most people reading will think of an old, skinny dude with slightly used clothing who is always grumpy and grumbling about the cost of coal (thus, heat) and undigested potatoes. Or you think of a duck counting money.

But today is not about Ebenezer Scrooge, but about his name which, I suspect, Dickens might have given to him on purpose.

See, the word “ebenezer” is an actual thing. It’s a thing that you keep around to help you remember what God has done for you, or in you. So, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, and God had each of the 12 tribes pick up a stone and build an alter to remember what He did that day – He was asking them to build an ebenezer. He was asking them to remember what He had done for them.

God knows just how easily we humans forget things, especially during times of hardship or pain. And so, having things around to help you remember what God has done in you is incredibly important. Otherwise we begin to doubt God’s goodness.

No bueno.

As you begin this new year, think over last year. Where were you a year ago? How has God helped you grow? And then, figure out something to keep around to help you remember where He has brought you from.

For me, pictures are a big deal. Every year for the last four years (if you count this one too) at the beginning of January, I have gone through all the pictures I took of the year that just ended, and put them together in a memory book. Memories are important. Our journeys are important. The stuff God does in our lives – the big and the small, mundane everyday stuff that we might not even really notice – is important.

This year, take some time out to remember. Figure out an ebenezer – you’ll need it in the coming year. God is good, but sometimes we need reminders of just how good He is.

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Reflections

The last Friday of the year, a great time (and place) to reflect.

Things I’ve learned this year:

– Treasure your friends and never take them for granted. You never know when they will be called elsewhere. And you have no idea how much you are going to miss them.

– Also, sometimes you become friends with people you weren’t expecting, and it’s wonderful.

– You can be still and have a heart at Sabbath even when your world is spinning a million miles a second.

– That being said, times of physical stillness are incredibly necessary.

– Being thankful for what you’ve got, when you’ve got it is crucial to enjoying life.

– Relationships are the most valuable thing you will ever invest in. Don’t give up on them. Keep working.

– God loves you, beyond imagination.

– Priorities, priorities, priorities… and remember that HIS priorities trump yours.

– Be ready for surprise, side trips, and bunny trails.  And enjoy them.

– God restores, redeems, and blesses…though usually none of that looks like what you think

– Pain is not necessarily something to run from, or try to end.

– The Velveteen Rabbit is still my favorite children’s book out there. Read it before the end of the year if you haven’t yet.

– Laugh

– Take care of yourself, and trust your instincts. Often, they’re right.

– Love God and trust Him above all others.

What about you?  What did you learn this year?

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Christmas Sabbath

I’m done.   Every paper is turned in, every test taken.  It’s good. I felt such a crazy amount of freedom yesterday as I drove away from campus knowing I probably won’t be there again for a good six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love seminary and my classes, but breaks are needed and necessary!

Which is probably why God modeled Sabbath for us, and then decreed that we should do the same. Something I found interesting in my New Testament class this past semester is that often, Jewish holidays were treated as extra Sabbaths in their week. I love that idea. I love the idea of holidays being Sabbath.

Which is so foreign of an idea in Western Culture. We have presents to wrap, places to be, meals to prepare (or run to the store and buy and then arrange nicely), family to enjoy (or attempt to please), and church to attend (at the very least). It’s all very hectic.

But what if it wasn’t? What if, for Christmas this year, we took some time out and just enjoyed the tree, the people, the food, the presents. What if we just took time to be still? Or, since abiding and Sabbath are NOT just about being still, what in, in the midst of the chaos, we focused on God being our source of peace. He is supposed to be, after all.

It is possible, in the middle of garnishing the ham, to take a second and quietly give thanks (and I do mean a second), or in the middle of the presents, to simply soak in the joyous expression of a loved one. Sabbath and abiding, I have discovered over this semester, are usually found in the half-seconds, in reminding ourselves Who really Is the reason for all of this.

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