Saturday, March 25, 2017

He's Holding Me

Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday
The word is “embrace”

At first glance I thought, 
     “No, not this week, can’t relate”. 

And then it all happened. So many facets in one word.  Like a diamond, every time I turned it, it shone differently.

//He’s Holding Me

We drove around the Bible School campus, my alma mater. Due to circumstances relocation took place 30 years ago. The property is now used for other purposes, but most of the buildings standing are in dyer need of repair. The deterioration speaks loudly of the lack of purpose and motivation of those who occupy it now. Like flash floods, memories surfaced and overflowed from me and swept me into a time warp when and where my life in Christ was just beginning to embrace every part of me.

As I think of those buildings, what they were then and what they are now, I see what I have also let go of and what I have embraced.

These things I consider:

What are the neglected places I have let go of, and what have I held on to too long? Either one can have negative outcomes. What have I avoided to care for that is now in plain sight? What have I held to that has been retarding my growth?

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven ... A  time to embrace and a time to shun embracing”. Eccl 3:1, 5b.//

I think hindsight sometimes gives us the greatest insight into our hearts condition. What is dead and unproductive? Perhaps a belief, a concept, a tradition, a habit, or even a relationship needs to be evaluated.  Where has apathy crept in and left its mark? I may think I can hide it, but usually the one who chooses not to see it is me.

Psalm 139 tells of God’s thoughts of His people. Having all knowledge of every part of me, He purposes to embrace me. “You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me”. Ps 139:5.

In His embrace He wishes to share His breath with me, but will not suffocate me. He allows me to breathe freely.

His embrace is protection from the elements, a shelter from the storm in the midst of the storm.
His embrace stabilizes me so I don’t have to be tossed to and fro.

His embrace is where I am close enough to hear Him whisper even in chaos and calamity.

It is because of His embrace that I know I have roots that are deep and whatever befalls me I will never be outside of His hold.

Maybe broken structures and crumbling foundations are what we need to look upon once in a while so we can wake up and remember.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Back again with Kate Motaung five-minute-Friday

For the love of Friends

I thank God for the friends I have and the unique relationships with each one, for truly each one is different. No two began or developed the same way. Some have been tested by time and distance and others on a day by day basis. I don't consider the ones I see often any less friends than the ones I haven't seen, but sometimes I feel like I neglect them. Life gets busier than the time I have available to even sometimes make a phone call. Does that mean I'm a bad friend?

A friend loves at all times Proverbs 17:17. 

What does that mean? The first thing that tells me is to define love. That's not easy. Seems like mankind has been asking that question forever. There are some things however, I have a pretty good idea it does not mean. It does not mean being a doormat. It does not mean you have to meet all my expectations to win my approval. It does not mean you don't have other people and things in your life. It does not mean we always agree.

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”. Jn 15:13-15. 

This passage always bothered me. Jesus isn't my friend unless I do what He says? Well, now I think (and I'm not above being corrected) I know what He was saying.

He is the greater love. He is going to lay His life down, yes for the whole world, but the ones that benefit from that act of love are the ones who are obeying Him. They are the ones acknowledging and receiving His love. I am not going to die for anyone in order that they have eternal life. I can't – my love isn't that great. Even if I were to die willingly for a loved one that wouldn't be enough to grant them heaven. This puts me in a position to choose. I am Christ's friend. Is He mine? He always gives me a choice. The love is sealed, it is for all times. If I choose to obey Him that is when I will know how to be a friend to others. I don't have to worry about their friendship towards me if I know I am their friend.

Maybe knowing the correct definition of love through the one who is love would make our friendships a little stronger and our hope a little clearer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Willing to Abandon

Walking into the wind I felt the stinging sensation of it’s gusts on my face. I pulled my coat tighter around my neck and my hood over my head.  I love wind, but this is crazy. Single digit temperatures in March and a nor ‘eastern on its way, I feel the weariness of it all mixed with contempt as I enter the church. Yes, I'm a sinner going to  church.  I would rather be home, but my friend is playing her bagpipes for the offering. As much as I dislike the  instrument, I love her and Amazing Grace, so I sit down beside her. And yes, the building is cold.

Almost immediately I begin to relax. It is where I want to be and who I want to be with. When she plays I close my eyes and let the song minister in spite of the underlying drone of the bag pushing out it’s air. After, she is concerned that I am okay. I think she is surprised I sat up front with her and not in the back row ready to bolt.  “yes”, I replied. “I like my coffee stronger than I used to, but it took small doses over many years”. I guess I was saying there is still hope.

The abandonment of ourselves in small decisions to bless others reap a greater contentment on our souls.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Participating and learning with Kate Motaung five minute Friday. The word is purpose.
Just a few thoughts to ponder.

//My Purpose or His Purpose?

Rom 5:10 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

You know, as much as I believe the Bible, read it, talk about it, study it, I still can’t understand some of the basics. Genesis 1 still is a controversial subject. Creation, evolution, time durations, all seem to have rocked the world's thinking. I have come to the conclusion, though, for my own peace of mind, that God tells us what He wants us to know and leaves the rest out for a purpose.  If, at any time, I decide to really indulge in deep study over an issue, I will let you know. In the meantime, I have to rest and let His purpose be enough.

The Lord said to Isaiah in chapter 1:11”…To what purpose are the multitude of your sacrifices into me? I am full of the burnt offerings of lambs, the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of Bullock’s, or of rams or of he goats.” He said similar to Jeremiah in chapter 6:20 , “To what purpose comes there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.”//

Wait? Didn't He require them in the first place? He set the example for Adam and made garments from animal skins. Then Cain and Abel brought sacrifices. I guess it didn't do Abel much good in the end. Oh, I guess after years of sacrifices it didn't do the nation of Israel much good either. So, to what purpose? To what end? They just couldn’t get it right, could they? They stilled rebelled, worshipped other gods and went there own way, and the end looked like captivity, destruction and a scattered people.

Mt 26 gives an account of a woman pouring costly, precious ointment over Jesus' head. His disciples were indignant and asked Him “To what purpose is this waste?”. They did not recognize Jesus purpose. She knew who He was an believed His words, even before He sacrificed Himself on the cross.

To what purpose, to what end when things don't change? To what end when things get worse? When your own sacrifices don't bring the results you hope for? The decisions, time, investment and money leave you alone and wanting. When they flow out onto the ground and mingle with your tears do you call it waste? Does hope for you become an empty word?

What about God's purposes in Jesus' death?

In the Old Testament we see a holy God who is pure justice, perfect love, and all knowing getting  displeased when people complain. The sacrifice of Christ was just as much for God the Father as it was for mankind. The only way God could tolerate us being imperfect, was to himself provide a perfect sacrifice. It was in part so he could continue to look upon and love one who did not attain his requirements. Jesus' death and resurrection provided for both God and man.

I wonder if as Jesus calls us to look at His cross and sacrifice, does God have the same need? Jesus is  mediator between us, for each of our benefit. Without Christ, He would exist alone for he would have to annihilate us. We were His enemies before the cross.

It is not all about me and my purpose. It is for Him and His purpose. It is to reconcile us both together to be one. I guess the purpose of the sacrifices were to bring them to an end of themselves. The one final atonement of Christ gives me purpose, thus giving me hope. One does not exist without the other. To what purpose or end?  My end of trying to always get it right.

Monday, February 27, 2017

From Where I Sit

I've been trying to figure things out. I've been trying to figure people out, including me. Not an easy task. I've been around the block a few times. I'm on the back side of my life (that's a scary confession). Kids are raised and more or less on their own. It hasn’t been an easy trek. It hasn't been hard as some either.

Everything that grows starts with a seed. Every genus of vegetation, edible or ornamental or medicinal. A single seed. According to the Bible, man began with clay and breath. He was created after the animals, fish and fowl, thus we are different.

And then there are the trees. One is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Oh, that's the one that messed us up. That ended the party. There's always one who eats or drinks too much and gets bounced. But these guys made it bad for everyone. Like getting caught with your hands in the cookie jar, now no one gets cookies! Of course, being the only ones at this party, from where they sat, they didn't know. So they have to leave and the whole place gets shut down and guarded by angels and swords.

But God isn't sitting were they sit. Funny, He suspected as much. Okay, He knew before it happened. Well, the free will thing, remember? They could choose. So, He had a plan in place. One that would redeem every man and this sin nature he now comes with. It is a popular belief we don't come with instructions, but we do come with a sin nature. All because of an apple or a pomegranate (which I think is more likely), and it's seeds.

Ah, but there is another tree, remember? It is the tree of life! They could eat from that one along with others. But the garden was closed, not for the season, but forever. Do you think that these trees are still alive? I know Revelation talks about the tree of life. Seems to signify eternal life, never ending life, like the more you partake of it the more life it has. The tree that keeps on living.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil is also alive, but it just keeps telling you what's good and bad. It offers no life at all. We are reminded of it in the law man puts upon himself and others to determine their standing before God. It comes in judgement, both of ourselves and others. It comes in should'ves, would'ves and could'ves. (Are they words?)

What are we doing? If we are accepting the sacrifice of Christ to put an end to sin which started at that tree, why are we still trying  to pick and eat it’s fruit? Where are we sitting?

Jesus made a lot of statements about obeying Him, obeying the Word, obeying your husband, obeying the Pastors  and ordinances of the church. I am confused with good works and grace. I can no longer reconcile cause and effect. At the risk of sounding heretical, let me say I believe the words He said. But I believe obedience comes only after a heart exchange of intimacy with Him. Obeying for obedience sake is not at all what Jesus wants.

A ruse of Satan is to confuse faith obedience with blind obedience. He tempts us with our weaknesses and needs. He’s been doing it since the garden. He tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He is still trying to keep us from experiencing life. I'll obey you Lord, because I have a need. I need you to come through. I need to feel worthy and blessed. I need you to provide for me. I need to have peace, I need reconciliation.

All the while we are sitting at the wrong tree.  Jesus provides, loves, feeds, gives worth, reconciles not because we obey the commandments, but because we are His own. He paid for us with His blood. The only requirement is acknowledging it and allowing Him to love me. Only then will it be a willing obedience.

I need to see where I am sitting. What tree am I facing? And what does Jesus see from where He is? Good and evil, or life? I want a life-giving love relationship. Good and evil and knowledge won't give it to me. I need to change my seat.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Participating and learning with Kate Motaung and some wonderful writers  in a five minute (plus) free write.

The word is slow and I was slow in writing it.

//Not My Plan

When I think of the word slow, my first reaction is, “yup, that's me.” I'm a slow starter and a seldom finisher. I'm quick to stumble over the obstacles, get distracted by the opposition, and cave to the critics. The irony of all this is that my thoughts are always on fast forward, and so much more often than naught, they get tangled together so becoming a blur. Because of this if there is pressure to make a decision, impulsiveness takes over if I don't purpose to put the brakes on. I don't give myself permission to be slow or to say no. This past season in my life God has been teaching me it is okay to slow down. It's more than okay. It is necessary. He is not in a hurry with His plan. Why should I be? //

My son plays chess. He was showing me a match between a grand master and a child of about nine. It was a timed match. I was watching, mostly the child. He would take a few extra seconds to make a move, then make 4 or 5 really quick ones. I questioned his thinking. “He is planning His strategy, looking ahead at the board and the position of the pieces.” He makes one move, then the next few come very quickly. It falls in place with his plan.” As much as he was attentive to the game, he was also fidgety, looking around, shuffling his feet, his body not completely relaxed. He was slow when he needed to be and quick, not impulsive, when it counted most. He won the match. I walked away thinking about it.

I hope that boy can take those strategies beyond the board into his daily life. So many can't and unlike the game, you can't just clear the board and start over. Mistakes, decisions and responses follow you into the future.  But the truth is, God knows the moves we are going to make and He doesn't press delete or put the game away. He walks with us, wherever we go, however long it takes. He teaches you to slow down, and introduces to you within that process new strength, new faith and revelations of the truth of who He is and always has been.

I think of Moses. He was hidden in a basket and found by the Egyptian girl. He was raised by the Pharoah in a palace. One day he did something very impulsive. His anger got ahead of his rationale  and he killed an Egyptian. He then ran away to the backside of a desert and didn't return for 40 years. He lived a secluded life. He married, had kids and raised sheep. A slow start. He thought He probably thought he would die there with no remembrance or legacy. But we know God didn't forget.

And then the wilderness. Forty years walking in circles. Many died. Moses was now leading a slow, complaining people. How did he feel?

But God, I don't have 40 years left! It's all been circles! No, it hasn't. Knowledge is increasing and it seems time is flying and everyone is hurrying and expects you to keep a pace. And when you can't keep up, out feel you let everyone down. But time is the same. One second lasts one second. There are sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour; days, weeks, years, the same.  It's all God's slow process and it's for our learning who we are and who He is. It's learning how to make space for His grace. It is not in ourselves to become who we are because we haven't a clear view.

I don't understand chess. How do I know what the other person is going to do? I guess it has something to do with the odds. I can't gamble with God. It's Him against no one really. I can't fight Him. I can't flee Him. He wants me to slow down. Not really a bad thing. But when He quickens me, He wants me to keep pace.

If I drink my coffee slow, the warmth of it will envelope my senses.

The extract is by the teaspoon and it infuses the whole batch.

A sprinkling rain will refresh and nourish the ground, whereas a deluge will flood and destroy.

Too warm too soon in Winter can make for an unproductive crop in the summer.

We want a quick healing, an instant reconciliation, complete understanding. We don’t want to write a second and third draft, rehearse a twentieth time, repeat the course again.

It takes time, it takes slow and it takes process to see and discover all we are created for.

Friday, February 17, 2017

FMF with Kate Motaung
The word is “weak”

Not Meant for Shame, Only Gain

“We are weak, but He is strong”. Remember the child's song? “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.  I sang it in Sunday School. I loved it. I knew I was weak and wanted to trust there was someone who was stronger who would help me. The only thing I really saw was people who were getting stronger, learning more and not helping.  I saw my weakness as a negative thing so I got stronger in my pride and I left the song behind for the children. I could handle things on my own. When all fell apart around me it became my cry, my plea. However, I didn’t sing it with assurance, I sang it with desperate hope. “Oh Lord, please let it be true”.

When I finally reached out and called out to the Lord it wasn't in my strength. It was in weakness. My own strength never draws Christ unto me. It's the one truth I keep learning. Is also the one thing I still don't like. Who likes weakness? Don't we usually try to hide it?  We boast in what we accomplish, the good and healthy decisions we make, how far we have come, but who boasts in weakness? Seems like once we think we have it together we blow it, if not in one area, then in another.  It can paralyze and pride can move right in. The moment I think I am strong, it's like asking the Lord to step aside and let me take His place.

Jesus didn't die for the strong or as the strong. He died in His own human weakness. He had to be broken and depend on God the Father.  I too need to be broken and depend on Christ the resurrected one. Then I can look at my weakness and say “It is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed”. (Lamentations 3). And in our weakness, that is where Christ strengthens us. That is where the confidence comes from. That is where we will find our true hope.  The children's song is for all of God's children, no matter how old. He is our daddy, our Abba.

Paul said “But He said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me”. Paul knew, and he had more to boast of in his flesh than most. But he met the Lord and his accomplishments took a back seat. May I keep seeing my weakness as an avenue to Christ and not a refusal to believe in His power.

When I finally dare to fall to pieces, that is where I will fall into peace.