Thursday, August 6, 2009

Truth with a Capital "T"

I expressed in my last post my struggles to find the way to keep my time in the Word fresh and relational rather than routine, all the while longing for consistency. My prayer life also always seems to fall short of my aspirations. As much as I know I can always do better, I also know that despite my many shortcomings, the Lord is always in the forefront of my mind and every area of my life is filtered through my relationship with Him. He is my center and my source of strength.

I struggle sometimes because I do not consider myself an intercessor despite the fact that I get labeled that often. I struggle to remember all the prayer requests, I try my best to pray when I am asked and immediately if it comes to my memory, but I am not the "prayer warrior" who finds herself alone in her prayer closet interceding on behalf of others the way others I know are. I want to be, but I'm not. On the other hand, I do find myself in constant conversation with God. When I wake up I talk to Him, lately it's been asking Him to give me strength to face the day. Yesterday I didn't even want to get out of bed, I really just His hand to help me rise and face what waited.

When I am frightened, or frustrated I almost always begin to pray, most often in the Spirit because I don't know exactly what is needed or even how to pray. If I am overwhelmed with anxiety or a physical response to the stress I just pray quietly under my breath. The Bible describes it as the Spirit making utterances on our behalf.. I fall back on the often. Sometimes when I hit a proverbial "speed bump" in the road I will cry out loud, "Lord, PLEASE!" and even though it's all I can muster, I know He hears me and is listening. He is patient with my frustrations built out of my own weaknesses.

Reading the word too has been a challenge, not knowing where to begin, what or how to study, I have taken to just asking, "where today Lord?" and listening quietly for the still small voice. Yesterday in the shower he gave me two different passages, an old testament and a new, as I read them they went perfectly together, both speaking the same truth, "Act righteously." So I receive the word, and do my best to follow it. Last night I got out the Bible to read with Neal and the kids so we could have family prayer time. It used to be a regular habit, it's been a seasonal habit off and on for as long as I can recall. When life is hectic we settle for me praying with Victoria as I tuck her in, Neal with Ethan as he does the same, and Jake (the teenager) being left to himself. In good times it's easy to slip on the priorities. But as I am feeling the desperation for the Lord myself, I want to feed my family too, so last night we prayed, me exhorting them not to run through the routine prayer, but each of us choosing someone outside the family to pray for too, and beforehand we opened the word. It was August 5, 8/5, so I opened Psalm 85 (it's how my mind works) we chewed on the Word together, and it was a good thing. The Lord speaks to His people.

Despite all that, I woke up with anxiety again this morning. More thoughts tried to be heavy upon me. As I stood in the bathroom brushing my teeth (maybe I should write a book titled Things God Said in the Bathroom) I was declaring Truth, speaking words of life, and the Lord brought to my remembrance Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Plans to "prosper... That is Truth - don't miss the capital "T."

When I asked the Lord what to read this morning, I heard Psalm 73. I read it in the Bible in the bedroom and it touched me, but I was still unsure. When I went and looked it up in the translation I am most familiar with, it boosted my heart... verses 23-27...

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

This is a special passage of scripture to me. There is a song that is very similar that during one of the darkest and most difficult times for our family was a lifeline to sustain us. The song sings,

I will bless the Lord forever
I will trust Him at all times
He has delivered me from all fear
He has set my feet upon a rock
I will not be moved
And I'll say of the Lord

You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need

Whom have I in heaven but You
There's none I desire beside You
You have made me glad
And I'll say of the Lord

You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need

Words of truth to sustain us. By the time I got to work, conversations and circumstances were enough to bring the anxiety on again. When Neal came upstairs on his break I shared everything with him, and again my faith began to rise...

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

...plans to prosper you and not to harm you...

It's not glib, it isn't tripe, it is Truth, with a capital "T"!

My God is near, my God is here, my God can be trusted.

One of "my things" with the Lord (we all have them) is to hit the shuffle on my MP3 player and ask God to speak to me through one of the 924 Christian/ worship songs I have there. With 924 songs, obviously there are many I don't know well, but today the one that began to play was one I have no memory of ever having heard before. I prayed it, "Lord, speak to me... This is the song that came up, and ministered such hope and peace to my soul, so I wanted to share it with you as well...

Truth, with a capital "T"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Seeking Him - Foundations

Sniff.... snurple, ::sigh::, sniff... (wiping nose with back of hand...) I can't believe we're here at the end of our Seeking Him Together journey. It has been an incredible 12 weeks, and I honestly cannot believe how quickly it's gone by. Honestly, it's just so very sad, and I hate to see it end, but our hostess Amber has made it known we get to write one final "wrap up" post next week, so I will suck it up and just get through today's discussion questions as quickly as I can.

Honestly after weeks of deep thought, digging in to both the word and self, at times filleting our hearts, motives, habits, words, attitudes and more, the final chapter has truly come about in a surprisingly, very simple and practical way. We've been asked to look at our devotional habits and the process of being in the Word. So let's hit the questions.

1.Why is daily prayer and scripture reading important? I would not travel on a far journey or attempt a great feat without a map or/ and a plan. Honestly even going to the grocery store is a smoother process when I plan and make out a list of what I need. When I find myself wandering in the grocery store lst and hungry I make poor choices and getting out of all the good lines like budgets and recipes. If something so simple as that goes more smoothly, how much more important is it to have a course set and a plan made, with clear guidelines than this great big beautiful experience we call life.

When I find myself wandering, "lost and hungry" through life it is undoubtedly because I have wandered off of the course I need to follow. The map and plan are found in God's word. Unlike the grocery store where I know where I am going and what exactly I will find, however, the adventure of life is more like a great treasure hunt. I don't know what lies ahead by any stretch of the imagination, I do not know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future. Since I know that, the best possible plan for me is to follow the treasure map He has given me and be in the Word constantly. If I do not study the Map and the Plan, it is impossible for me to know the right way to proceed.

2.What is your current routine? Can you hear my conviction about the importance of the Word of God in my answer to question #1? Because I really think I believe it, but (funny God) my pastor made a comment on Sunday that gives me pause. He said (paraphrase) our actions indicate our beliefs. And my current (recent) routine doesn't indicate my conviction about God's Word at all, because it has pretty much stunk. Seeking Him has of course been a big help, it's been a more consistent direction for me. I have had seasons where I followed a steady course in my devotional time, but the problem always becomes for me that it gets very routine and I get caught up in the checking it off my "to do" list rather than really seeking God. A couple of years ago during a long successful season of rising daily before the kids to spend time in God's word I stood in a worship service at a women's retreat and heard the Lord whisper to me "I don't want to be a habit." Ouch. And I by no means am saying that is the case for all, but it was the case for me, so I struggle to find a way to be consistently in the Word, without being routine. BUT I cannot use "routine" as an excuse to be neglectful.

3.How will your current routine be changed (if at all) after studying this chapter? Hmmm.... this is a tough one. I have to find that balance of consistency and freshness. One thing I know to be true is that in hard and stressful times, the draw to the Word becomes greater. It's like being so hungry and lost, you can't find the grocery store, your wallet or the keys to your car (and there might even be a few evil ninjas laying in wait between your front door and the check out line). In that moment you will tear the house apart to find the map and the list to get to where you know you need to be,and you'll head off to the store carrying a really big sword. Well, in a lot of ways, I am really feeling like I am in that place. There is so much going on I can barely differentiate between my upside and my backside, and I am feeling so very needy! And not the kind of needy where I was to be coddled or stroked with junk food, I want some good solid meat that will nourish me to the bone. (Please forgive the mixed metaphors.) So I don't want anyone else feeding me at their table or dropping a few scraps by, I want to dig deep and feed my own soul, so I desperately study the map, pour over the plans and find myself Seeking Him with everything I am.

Even before we got to this chapter the Lord was weighing heavy on my heart about being in His word daily. I do not know what the exact plan for that is. I do know I have 5 more weeks in the study with my IRL group, so that will help, but all the more I long to find the freshness of a good and godly habit that is not a check off my list of "to do's." And like I wouldn't go a day without feeding my body, I am determined not to go a day without feeding my spirit, which is of far greater value.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
I have sworn and confirmed
That I will keep Your righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much;
Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.
Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD,
And teach me Your judgments.
My life is continually in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.
Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever,
For they are the rejoicing of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, to the very end.

Psalm 119:105-112