Friday, October 28, 2011

God, In My Pocket

I can hardly believe that the month of October is almost over. 2011 has gone by so quickly. In some ways it feels as though it has gone in a blink of an eye, but as I sit and look over the challenges and changes we have faced, things that happened only months ago feel like years.

I started 2011 with two goals: I wanted to read through my entire Bible in a year; and I wanted to journal to the Lord every day. 2010 was such a difficult year for me spiritually, and in some ways a defining one, because never were my faith and character more challenged than during that year. It was just over a year ago now when I had my "come to Jesus" moment and realized I had to decide who I was and what I believed. And in the end, I knew I had to seek the Lord with a renewed passion and purpose. I didn't wait till the New Year to do that, but I knew I had to enter 2011 with a resolve.

The Bible reading has remained solidly consistent. I know it has to be Holy Spirit powered, because honestly, like a fast or an oath, certain things don't get accomplished through sheer willpower, not in the spiritual realm of things anyway. It hasn't always been easy though, and often I have had to try to break the tendency towards my reading becoming just a check on my "to do" list. I have to stop and remind myself often that the Word IS God. It's not just reading, it's relational. And when it becomes just reading, it isn't being done right. (But some books of the Bible, quite honestly, are just harder than others.)

The journaling commitment has not held up as well as the reading. When I write in my journal, it's not your typical diary style keeping, it's not even writing with an awareness that God is somehow peeking over my shoulder. I guess the best thing I could compare it to would be taking two tin cans and tying them by the string, making a makeshift telephone like we did as kids. I think it's a good metaphor because although as I write to God, and I try to listen to hear what He says in return, the message doesn't always come across clearly. And likewise I often find myself struggling to speak my own heart clearly. Someday when I am dead and gone and my children find my journals they will find the deepest and darkest places of their mother, pride to humility, hope to pain, anger to love, all poured out. And because it is deep, and intimate, there are times when I don't have the strength or desire to go there with the Lord. And so I don't. I break my promise, and I stay away, those are often the days I struggle most with my reading being a check mark.

I did a great study over the summer, "Becoming a Woman of Freedom." It many ways I think that title was prophetic, though I didn't realize it when I started it. I don't think the prophecy has come to full fruition, but leaps and bounds have been accomplished. I'm doing another study now, called "Duty or Delight," and without intention, it has turned out to be the perfect continuation of the summer study. God has continued to stretch and grow, stripping and healing, refining and redirecting. But the process of growth can be painful.

I remember when my middle son was little and he would cry at night with pain in his legs. The growing pains he suffered hindered his rest. I've been mindful of the fact that spiritually speaking, "growing pains" don't rob you of rest, but they do weary you at times. Only in God's hand can you find the underlying peace in a storm, and rest in weariness. And that is very much how I have been feeling this past year, and in particular the past couple months. There has been a lot of change and a lot of loss, and sometimes I feel extremely lonely in it, except for the fact that God, Himself, feels very near.

I came across a verse in the current "Duty or Delight" study that has really become an anchor for this season. Isaiah 30:15 says, This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."

The Lord is speaking to the nation of Israel in the midst of (one of their) rebellion(s) against Him.

"...but you would have none of it."

That was me, not much more than a year ago. I was going to do things my own way without counting the cost. I was silencing the Lord's voice, and His Spirit's conviction. I thought I knew better, and then I came to my senses. And so I look at this verse and I see, I don't want to be that person. I want to be the one who believes what God has said here:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."

Repentance has been ongoing, rest is a reality from the Lord, I am grateful to say, I do know He is trustworthy, and I do trust. BUT... Quiet isn't always easy for me. But I am working on it. I am finding something about the moment- the moment where instead of moving and speaking, even barreling ahead that I just stop, quiet: God is in that moment, and just like He promised, strength is found there too.

In our study this week we were advised to write on a stone one of the characteristics of God that really spoke to us. Because of what I was learning about the truth of this scripture, the best attribute I could come up with was "Present," so I wrote that on one side and the scripture reference on the other. As I have at times carried this stone with me, it has more than once been a reminder to me to stop and be quiet before the Lord. Moving and feeling the weight of the stone in my pocket, God has established again his truth in my heart, and revealed Himself there and with me, in the moment, very present, very real, very much my God. When the stone has not been there, even it's absence has been the reminder to stop in the struggles and find my strength in quietness before Him, wherever I am.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

Sunday, October 23, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 7

In the commentary regarding this week's verses, Robert J. Morgan shares some seriously disturbing statistics about the future of evangelical Christianity. His numbers include an expectation that by the year 2050 Southern Baptists expect there denomination to have been reduced by 1/2 if current trends continue. And by the same year, Anglicans in England expect a reduction of 90%! NINETY percent!

Morgan goes on to tell us, in 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart that the most alarming statistics are regarding teenagers and young adults. It seems that young people are leaving the church and their faith in masses after graduating high school. As the mom of a senior in high school, I find these statistics terrifying.

Morgan goes on to share the importance of modeling real and vibrant faith to our children. They need to see us living what we preach, and we need to model a love for God's Word that will hopefully inspire the same in our children, and counter the risk to them of becoming another fallen away statistic. Watching my own son struggle with life these last few months, I have never been more aware how real the risk is.

The Bible promises us in the Book of Isaiah that God's Word never returns void to Him, but always accomplishes God's purpose. It is surely God's purpose to anchor our children in their faith and in the Truth. It is the utmost importance, therefore, just as we care for and feed our children's physical bodies, we must also feed their spirits to strengthen them with the Bread of Life. And that is the exhortation of this weeks verses:

These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

I want to encourage those of you participating in the Challenge, we are on the right path for doing this! Continue to learn and meditate on God's Word, speak it, and also speak of it. Press on in this Challenge, and involve your children, physical and spiritual in nature. Let's continue the efforts to equip ourselves and those around us to do something to counter the downward trend of Christianity.