The Coronavirus Gift; An Easter Awakening

We have been given a gift, perhaps in an unusual way, but nonetheless a gift.  A gift of time.  But what are we doing with it.  We have been freed from our routines, freed from traffic and daily grinds.  But what have we done with our freedom.  I heard on the news this morning that despite the added time on our hands, most of us are working out less, most of us are falling into poor eating habits and most of us are adding more screen time into our lives.  If the coronavirus doesn’t get us,  our own sloth and gluttony certainly might.

Most churches have closed.  What have we done to stay connected to God?  Have we opened the Bible?  Have we taken time to pray?  What are we doing to stay close to God when it is not offered to us on a silver platter? What are we doing to praise Him?  To thank Him for all of the abundance that we still have even if we are currently suffering?

Today I opened up the Bible to the book of Samuel and I read these words:

If you fear and serve the LORD, if you listen to the voice of the LORD and do not rebel against the LORD’s command, if both you and the king, who rules over you, follow the LORD your God—well and good.  But if you do not listen to the voice of the LORD and if you rebel against the LORD’s command, the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.

1 Samuel 12: 14-15

Each of us fails at times, sometimes more than others, to listen to the voice of the Lord.  The Lord woke me up the other morning urging me, actually shouting to me, to SPEAK and yet I let work, TV and my cell phone distract me.  I look at our country currently, with many churches closed, with governors threatening to quarantine anyone who dares to gather in worship of the Lord, and with abortion clinics being deemed “essential businesses” and I question whether we are listening.

Samuel goes on to say:

“Do not fear,” Samuel answered them. “You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing.  For the sake of his own great name the LORD will not abandon his people, since the LORD has decided to make you his people.  As for me, far be it from me to sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you and to teach you the good and right way.  But you must fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for you have seen the great things the LORD has done among you.

1 Samuel 12: 20-24

I am reminded of a similar verse later, when God tells Solomon:

The LORD appeared to Solomon during the night and said to him: I have heard your prayer, and I have chosen this place for my house of sacrifice.  If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7: 12-14

Indeed, I was napping after reading Samuel and again I felt God stir me with these words: “if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

If we look to the governors, and Congress, the CDC and the president, we continue to look in the wrong place.  If we focus on the news and social media, we are focusing in the wrong place.  If you have listened to them at all, you know… they do not know anything about this virus or how to control it.  They have changed their opinions about what to do multiple times.  Why do we keep looking to them to save us?

God has told us what we need to do:

“serve the Lord”

“listen to the voice of the Lord”

“Do not fear . . . . You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing. ”

“serve him faithfully with all your heart”

“humble [your]selves and pray, and seek [God’s] face and turn from [your] evil ways”

And God will hear us from heaven and pardon our sins and heal our land.

On this Easter weekend, may we all arise from the dead in our hearts, may we all break free from the tombs that encase us, may we all witness God’s love, and may we humble ourselves and pray.  We are not the solution.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats, neither science nor the media, neither anger nor fear is the answer.  God is, and always was, the only answer.  How quickly we forget when things go well and how quickly we blame when things go bad.  May we praise God this Easter and every day with our voices raised wherever we are.  We don’t need the church building, we just need to open our hearts, listen to God’s word , and humble ourselves and pray.

Dear God,

You sent your only son into this world because we could not undo the harm that we caused.  Redeem us once again.  We who have let this world envelope us with material goods.  We have allowed “leaders” to cut you out of our lives.  And we have chosen gods, including facebook, and cell phones,  above you.  Awaken us this Easter.  We need you.  We need you in our lives everyday.  Allow us to be reborn.  Send forth your Spirit upon us and renew the face of the earth.

We know that we can not cure what is wrong in the world.  We need you, Lord.  Lord, we pray that you heal our land.  And more importantly that you heal our hearts.

Help me to listen more, to serve you more, to not turn to gods who are nothing.  You alone are my strength.  You alone are my salvation.  Heal us Lord, from the inside out.

2020: The year of Clear Vision (not Coronavirus)

It may feel like “our” world is falling down all around us.  The coronavirus/COVID-19 has created a worldwide crisis and panic, the likes of which most of us have never seen.

We can bemoan the lack of toilet paper, the closed restaurants and activities, the impact on our wallet…   But what an opportunity for awakening it provides!

It seems like everything is closing.  We are being told to distance ourselves from others, to self isolate.  Our sources of entertainment, bars, restaurants, schools, and activities are closing.  I was saddened this weekend when I heard that so many churches were also closing.  I found myself asking, “What is the plan, Lord?  Help me make sense of this.”

And then it hit me — what a blessing all of this is.  A chance to slow down.  A chance to be quiet.  A chance to be alone… with God.  Even in church, I sometimes find myself just checking a box, distracted by those around me, rather than in a conversation with God.  There are so many distractions in our daily life — now many of those are being closed or isolated from us.  No excuse not to spend some quiet time with God.

What an opportunity to make 2020 not the year of the coronavirus, but the year when we open our eyes and ears — the year when we get clearer vision — 20/20 vision on what’s important.

Let’s take the time that we have been given, the social distancing that we are supposed to be observing, to remove the distance between ourselves and God.  Let’s fill the six foot space around us with God . . . His love . . . His arms . . . His wisdom . . . His plan.  He never asks us to distance ourselves from Him — we seem to do that all on our own.  What a great time to recapture that space with Him.

May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1: 18-21

Lord,

Open our eyes.  Help us to see more clearly.  Open my eyes to see the wonders of your law and of your love. I want to focus on you.  I want to use this year of 2020, to make my vision 20/20.  Guide me in your ways.  Help me to see and utilize the opportunity that the current situation presents.  Help me to focus on your world not what we get distracted by in our world.  Our world is temporary — yours is eternal.

Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see more clearly.

 

Strong Faith, Big Heart, Can’t Lose

The snow fell today — like the dewfall — silently coating the world in a white soft blanket.  Like a baptismal gown or a white funeral pall covering the casket, the snow seemed to wipe away the gray and darkness of the winter skies.  Beautiful, silent, purifying and slowing down the world.

The perfect backdrop for a funeral.  God wiped the world clean with snow as he welcomed home his son today.  And while there were tears for the human loss, there was glory in the hope and love of God.  And we were reminded of our call to love.  The priest’s words still resonate in my ears and in my heart.  As he praised the love and big heart of the man we lost, he encouraged the rest of us to “pray to have a big heart.”  The priest went on to state that those who have a strong faith, can’t help but love.  You cannot have one without the other.  Something I had never thought about before, but as I thought about the people in my life who have a strong faith, their lives do brim with love.  Love for God, love for their families and love for strangers.  They have big hearts and they show it.  It is not enough to simply claim faith, to simply claim to love God.  When I opened the Bible this evening, it opened to Galatians:

For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14

We are all called to love.  Faith requires love.   It is easy to love God.  He is all powerful, He has given us everything, He is our salvation.  It is harder to love our fellow man — what have they done for us?  But true faith requires true love.  God’s love.  Love even when someone might not deserve it.  Love even when someone hurts us. Love even when someone doesn’t show it back. Love in the good times and the bad.  True love.  Not just words.  But actions.  Indeed, the priest today reiterated that we must pray for that big heart — and then act upon it.  It is not enough to simply say it.  It is not enough to simply have a big heart.  It is not enough to just have faith.  We must act upon it.   We are called to make Christ visible.  To share His love.

As I read further in Galatians, it again echoed the message from today’s funeral:

Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.  Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.  So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.

Galatains 6:7-10

We reap what we sow.  Let us sow love.  Let us act upon that love.  While we have the opportunity (and today’s funeral is a reminder that we never know how long that opportunity will be), “let us do good to all,” especially those in our faith family.

Our friend is ready to reap his harvest.  God’s white blanket of snow, purifying the earth before his body entered it,  tells me that his harvest is good.  I hope to one day be ready to reap mine.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for all of the people that you have blessed me with.  I see your heart in so many of them.  Through them I see how powerful and pure your love is.  I am inspired and contrite.  Lord, I pray for a big heart.  Help me to love like you do.  Help me to share your love with others.  Help me to get out of my self and my own wants and needs, fears and desires, and live for others.  Help me to act in love and faith with everyone I encounter.  Help me to make your son visible to others.  Thank you for renewing my spirit today, and wiping the world pure in snow.

O Lord, Create in me a pure heart and renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Just Keep Praying

It is Groundhog Day!  One of my favorite days of the year.  Remember the movie about Groundhog Day where the day just keeps repeating itself?  I thought about that as I left church this morning.

Lately, I have been frustrated because I feel like I am stuck in an endless cycle.  I have been repeatedly praying for God’s help with a situation and it does not seem to be improving.  Indeed, I was starting to think of giving up.  As I thought about this and Groundhog Day, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable:

Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

And then I thought of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

(This also made me think of Dory in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.”)

And then I suddenly realized how silly it was for me to get frustrated with things not moving forward as quickly as I would like.  I am grateful that God is more patient than me.  He too may think that our relationship often feels like Groundhog Day, as He watches me commit the same sins and make the same mistakes over and over again.  (One of those sins is not being as forgiving of others.)  Thankfully, God does not tire of forgiving me.  Thankfully, God does not tire of my impatience.  Thankfully God, is much more patient than me.

And then I thought about the shadow that the groundhog sees.  Sometimes we get stuck in our own shadow.  Sometimes, we only see the dark side of what is going on.  But there is no shadow too dark for God.  And regardless of whether we see our shadow (just like regardless of whether the groundhog sees its shadow), Spring is coming, renewal is coming.  Sometimes it just may take a little longer.  In the meantime, we need to just keep praying, just keep praying.

Lord,

Thank you for being there even when I am lost in the shadows.  Thank you for your patience when I fail again and again.  I know that you hear my prayers.  I know that you will what is good for me.  I know that your plans are better than mine.  I have faith in you.  I will keep rejoicing in you and praying in thanksgiving.  Lord, I want to be a light, not a shadow on the world.   I pray for renewal for me and those around me.  We are ready for Spring.  Shine your light upon us.  Break through the cold hearts.  Fill us with love.  Build your kingdom here!  Help us to just keep praying.  I trust that you will answer in your time, in your way.   Help me to listen and follow and never give up.

Tribulations? You got this! (Or at least God does)

I am trying to make it through the Old Testament.  I have read Genesis many times, but usually get bored after Noah.  This time I have made it to Deuteronomy, which is a first for me.  It has been a lot of Moses since Genesis and I find myself waiting for Moses to die.  I am getting tired of the people whining, God and Moses getting mad, the people turning back and then, within a chapter, the people are doubting or failing once again.  I did not realize how much of the Bible is taken up with Moses.

It is very easy for me to judge these early Israelites.  Don’t they realize how much God has done for them?  He brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  What more do they want?  But then again, I don’t know how positive or trusting I would be wandering in the desert.  It’s not always easy to see the good that God is leading us to.  And although I am becoming bored with the repetitive nature of the people’s shortcomings.  It is comforting to know that no matter how many times they fail, the Lord God is still there.  Today Moses reminds them, that they can always turn back:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice, for the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers which he swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

This is a wonderfully repetitive message in the Bible.  And one I should turn to every day.  There is no promise that there won’t be tribulation.  Indeed, Moses tells them “when you are in tribulation” not “if”.  There will be tribulation.  We all face it.  Sometimes we go from one tribulation to the next.  The Israelites went from slavery to the desert and, yet I am reading it thinking “suck it up.”  “Don’t you know that God is bringing you to the Promised Land?”   It is so easy to judge thousands of years later when we know the outcome.  And thousands of years from now, people will look back at us and think the same thing.  God is leading us to the Promised Land.  There will be tribulations along the way.  We will be challenged, physically, mentally, spiritually.  We will fall along the way.  We will fail to trust and be led astray.  But God will not fail us.  When we search with our whole heart and whole soul (in other words, when we really want to find Him), we will find Him.  When we turn to Him, no many how many times we have failed before, when we turn back and obey Him, He will show us mercy.

My God, My God,

I know you will never forsake me.  I know the tribulations bring us closer.  But sometimes I need the reminder.  Thank you for being merciful.  Thank you for loving us through our darkest times.  My heart and my soul seek you.  I feel your love and your strength.  May my struggle through every tribulation and my rejoicing at every mountain top honor you.

 

God’s Book or Facebook?

The billboard on a local church had some poignant words:  Which do you open more? God’s book or Facebook?

This morning God’s book opened to Jeremiah:

When someone falls, do they not rise again? If they turn away, do they not turn back? Why then do these people resist with persistent rebellion? Why do they cling to deception, refuse to turn back?  I have listened closely: they speak what is not true; No one regrets wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Everyone keeps on running their course, like a horse dashing into battle.

Jeremiah 8:4-6

I have never been a huge Facebook fan.  But I do flip through it from time to time.  And post a few pictures from time to time.  And I notice when I do, I generally start feeling doubt.  I feel regret.  I feel jealous of the perfect lives that others seem to have.  And when I post something, I wait for the affirming “likes” and approvals.

It is amazing how many of us look in the wrong places.  We cling to deception.  The deception that the world sells us.  The deception that we sell ourselves on Facebook and other social media platforms.  We speak what is not true.  And when we do wrong, when we make mistakes, we blame others.  We lash out at others.  It can never be our fault.

The courtrooms are filled with blame.  And the confessionals are empty.  Marriages are marred with divorce.   And children are being raised to believe that they are perfect and no one should tell them differently.  We do not ask “what have I done?”  Instead we exclaim, “Look what was done to me!”

We have convinced ourselves that we are perfect.  We are never to blame.  We are smarter and stronger and richer than others.  We don’t need God.  Our Facebook page proves that we are “liked” and “loved”.  And yet, our society is more depressed than ever.  Clearly we are wrong.

When I turned the page in the Bible, I read this:

Thus says the LORD:

Let not the wise boast of his wisdom, nor the strong boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches; But rather, let those who boast, boast of this, that in their prudence they know me, Know that I, the LORD, act with fidelity, justice, and integrity on earth. How I take delight in these—oracle of the LORD

Jeremiah 9:23-26

I am not wise.  I am not strong.  I am not rich.  Although I sometimes play those roles on Facebook or otherwise.  I am sometimes headstrong and keep running my course, when I know I should turn back, turn back to God.  I know God, but I want to know Him better.  I know that He acts with fidelity, justice and integrity.  But sometimes I forget.

Lord,

I know that You are the Truth.  In this world of deception, You are the Way.  Your book brings me Hope and Joy.  Your book reminds me what true Love is.  I know that no matter how far we fall, we can rise with You.  Thank you for always being there to remind us.  Thank you for always welcoming us back.  Help me to boast of you, not of me.  Help those who do not know you to find the way back to you, so that they too may boast of your goodness.  You are my God.  I boast of your goodness. I boast that I am your child and I am loved by you!

 

Faith of Abraham

So this past week, I took my only son to college, and dropped him off for a new adventure.  And as proud as I am of him, the separation is heart-wrenching.

This morning the Bible opened to the story of Abraham and Isaac:

Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance.  Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Here I am,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”  “My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”

Genesis 22:2-12

This story challenges me, even more so this week.  This is faith.  This is putting God before all else.  Do I have the will and desire to put God before all else?  I like to think I do but my actions rarely carry this out.  Could I have done what Abraham did?  I feel pretty strongly that as much as I would like to say yes, the answer is no.  It was hard enough just to drop my son off at college.  Thankfully, God has not tested me in this way.  Probably because I don’t pass the much smaller tests.  All too frequently I fail to put God before work, before social media, before my favorite TV show, before sleep, before whatever it is I want to do.  I blame the lack of time, the busy world, the need to be there for others.  After all, the world is exhausting.  These seem like good excuses, don’t they?  Of course, they are not.  Especially since God promises us the rest that we need:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30

Why then do I let the world get in the way of what I need.  Why do I let it stop me from coming to God, putting Him first.  The only answer is a lack of faith, a lack of patience and a lack of a willingness to sacrifice.  I know God is the answer.  I know He will provide.  I know that it is only through Him that I will find rest and peace.  But my senses are bombarded with the worldly promises of happiness, which never quite come true.  I don’t want to give up what I want.  I don’t like to sacrifice.  I am stuck in the world and mindset of “I want it now” and if I can’t get what I want now, I will settle for what seems like the next best thing.  This is what keeps me from having the faith of Abraham.  And as I say it out loud, I know how stupid it sounds, how childish it sounds, and I pray, as my son heads off on his own, that he has not learned this from me.

God,

I know that you are everything, everything that I want, everything that I need.  I want the faith of Abraham.  I want to put you first above all else, but I am struggling.  Help me, Lord.  I am burdened and weary.  Fill me with your love and your peace.  Fill me with your strength so I can resist the temptations of what seems easy.  Give me the patience and faith when I cannot see you or feel you to not settle for something else.  I love my son and I miss him dearly, but I love and miss you more.  Pull me back into your arms, so that I may do your will and stop worrying about my own.  (And please provide the same for my son as he begins to embark on his own in this world of distraction).

Blame No More

How many times have I cursed Adam and Eve.  How could they be so stupid and selfish to ruin it for the rest of us?  I like to think I would have been better.  I would have resisted the temptation.  If I were in the Garden of Eden with all of the goodness around me, where everything was easy and happy, I would never have been so stupid and so ungrateful.  I would have been satisfied with what I had.  I like to think that…  But I probably prove daily that I too would have fallen, indeed I do fall.

Today, I re-read the story we all know so well,  and what struck me is Adam and Eve’s response to God and God’s response to Adam and Eve:

When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.”

Genesis 3:8-13

Wow!  Not only do they disobey God, but then they blame others for it.  Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake.  They almost sound like 5 year olds.  “It wasn’t my fault.”  “She made me do it.”  Our shame often makes us blame others for our actions.  Society seems to encourage us to ignore individual responsibility.  We fill the courts with lawsuits blaming someone else for things that “happen” to us.  It’s the gun manufacturer’s fault, the bartender’s fault, the drug manufacturer’s fault.  Social media, video games, movies and TV all cause us to do things we know are wrong.  Its hard to correct our behavior when we refuse to accept that we make the choices that lead to evil.  There are plenty of snakes out there, plenty of temptations, but we make choices.  And as much as I want to blame Adam and Eve for all of the misfortunes in the world, or blame politicians or media or others, I make choices everyday.  I cannot hide from my actions.

I do not want to be like Adam and Eve blaming others. When we blame others, it is easy to become victims and feel helpless.   I cannot control others, but I can control my choices.  I need to open my eyes to my choices.  I need to take responsibility, and seek God’s forgiveness, for my actions.

We often focus on the man and the woman in the story, Adam and Eve.  But the best part of the story is God. God knows His children have sinned, have disobeyed Him, have not trusted His goodness, but He does not turn His back on them.  He searches for them.  He calls for them.  Just as He calls us back to Him.  We think of this as the greatest sin, the original one, the one that started it all.  But look at what God does.  Adam and Eve have turned from Him, but God doesn’t give up on them, or us.  He comes down to earth to meet Adam and Eve.  He meets us where we are.   They are hiding in the darkness of the trees and God calls for them. God calls us out of the darkness.  He questions them about what they have done.  He helps us recognize our sin because He wants us to do better.  God does all of this for Adam and Eve, and He does the same for us.  We chose to know evil, and God keeps calling us back to know good.

Lord,

You show me again and again how great you are.  Your plans for us are good.  You know better than us what we need and what we don’t.  Forgive me for the times I have turned away, for the times I have thought I have known better, for the times I have blamed others.  I want to know good.  I want to know you.  I don’t need anything other than you and your plan for me.

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

It is Pentecost.  The day we celebrate the gift (and gifts) of the Holy Spirit. What an amazing and blessed day.

Last night my church celebrated Pentecost with a beautiful vigil.  To the outside world it may not have seemed that way.  The attendance was low.  The music quit working not once, not twice, but multiple times.  The wind blew the candles out in the candle-light procession, not once, not twice, but multiple times.  Rain began to fall during the celebratory bonfire.  To the outside world, perhaps not a success.  But what the outside world didn’t know — what the outside world never fully appreciates — is the true beauty of God’s presence.  And God was there.  The Holy Spirit was there.  I felt His presence almost immediately.

For several weeks, I have been struggling because I felt disconnected from God.  The world had become too busy.  Human events had dominated my life.  I had tried, and failed, on several occasions to welcome God back in, but quickly became distracted again by what the world deems important.

Last night, when the man-made speakers failed, and the flames from the man-made candles blew out, I felt the presence of God.  I felt His Spirit fall upon us.  And it was good.

Today the Bible opened up to the last verse in Matthew:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

This passage tells me a few things, all of which reinforced my experience last night.  First, the apostles who had spent three years with Jesus, doubted, even when He stood right before them.  This is comforting.  Because I too have doubted.  I have felt disconnected.  I have felt lost.  I have doubted.  Even when God is right there in front of me.

Second, of course, is the commission by Jesus to all of us to go and make disciples of all nations.  His name, His love and His commandments are not something we can keep to ourselves.

And third, and the one that I could use a reminder of every day, is the last line of Matthew’s gospel: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Sometimes I can feel God’s presence in a powerful way.  I become overwhelmed and am often brought to tears.  Other times, particularly when I am distracted by the world, I miss that feeling.  But He is there.  Behold, He is with us always.

And like last night, when things seem to be going wrong, or not in line with what we as humans have planned, God shows us that His plan is better and can not be judged by human standards.  He is with us.  As a Father who loves us, as the Son who carries our burdens and as the Holy Spirit who guides us.  He is with us and He will love us, carry us and guide us when we least expect it and in ways the human world cannot fully understand.

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

 

 

Joy in the Morning; Separating Light from Darkness

Do you ever lie awake at night just waiting for the morning to come?  And it seems to take forever?  The morning brings light.  It takes away the darkness and shadows.  The morning brings renewal, a fresh start.  But sometimes the night seems long. The darkness seems eternal.  Will the sun ever shine again?  Will the sun really come out tomorrow, as orphan Annie sings?

David reminds us in his Psalm:

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5

The night is dark.  And sometimes it sneaks up on us.    And sometimes it lasts longer than we like.  It tarries. It lingers.  It waits.  But God created light from darkness.  And His light brings joy.  There is no darkness that He cannot shine through.  From the beginning, God has created light where there was darkness:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—  and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1-4

We do not have the power to create light, but we can find it.  We tarry in darkness, searching for the light, hoping for the light.  And sometimes we forget that the light is right there in front of us.  Because we struggled to see it on our own, God sent us Jesus.  Peter reminds us of this:

Therefore, I will always remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this “tent,” to stir you up by a reminder, since I know that I will soon have to put it aside, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me.  I shall also make every effort to enable you always to remember these things after my departure.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.

2 Peter 1:12-21

God sent us Jesus — to be our guiding light in the darkness.  He is our lamp in the dark world “until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  We do well to be attentive to Him.  No matter how dark the place is, no matter how dark or long the night, the day will dawn.  The day will dawn.  Jesus will be our light until it does, until we fully allow the morning star, God’s light and love to rise in our heart.

Jesus,

You are my light!  I do not want to tarry in the darkness.  Help me make it to the dawn.  Help the morning star rise in my heart.  I want you to fill my heart and my life, with your light and love.  You separate light from darkness.  Help separate me from the darkness.