Thursday, July 20, 2017

Knowing and Stillness

I've been feeling increasingly anxious lately as my long-term temp contract with Sysco Foods comes to an end soon with no word yet if they will offer me a full-time position or I will be laid off. I woke up this morning with tension in my body once again and my mind swirling over it.

As I sat with Psalm 46 for a few moments to help me enter into a time of silence and solitude, the Lord spoke powerfully to me. The phrase that spoke most clearly was "Be still, and know that I am God," a frequent guide into silence. Whereas sometimes I hear this phrase as some form of "Shut up, Scott, and respect God as God!" (which is a form of derogatory correction that actually exposes my functional view of God), this morning I heard it differently. It brought me into broad skies and green pastures.

Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 NIV

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present [and well proven] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The Holy Spirit applied this word to my situation:

Be still, Scott, and know me as God - your God, who leads, saves, cares for you and holds you. I AM your Shepherd, your God, so you don't have to be god. The pressure's off to figure everything out, to provide for yourself and your family, to make your life "work" and come out "right."

Trust in me with all your heart and lean on me instead of your own meager resources; your limited wisdom and power, your connections and experiences cannot bring you the peace and joy you were made for. In all your ways and means acknowledge me as your God and Father, know me as the living God who goes before you, is with you and has never failed you, and I will direct your paths and make them life-giving so you won't have to! You know well the burden of trying to make your paths straight and life-giving on your own; it leads to only weary despair. You don't need to do that anymore. Let go of your life as a thing to be managed and open yourself to the life I bring you moment by moment. Submit to this knowing and to the fruit it yields.

The job search is over, Scott. The job for "Shepherd, Father, Teacher and Lord" is over - I am more than able to care for you and those you love; my hopeful and joyful vision for your life is wide and vast, and has ample room for your uncertainty, anxiety, and struggles to learn. Your job is to trust and obey, mine is to guide and provide, save and heal. When you get these mixed up there is no end to your distress. My yoke is easy and my burden is light; rest for your soul is always right here, right now.

To "know that I am God" also means to "know that you are loved, safe and cared for." This is what the birds and flowers know without thinking about it. They are "careless in the care of God," and you can be too. They exist in the reality of my Kingdom and are not hurried or worried. Look to them and learn. Listen carefully for the slow patient work of God.

See Deut 31:8; 33:12; Matthew 6:25-34; 11:25-30; Prov 3:5-7; Ps 23, 46; Phil 4:4-7

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Let the Beloved of the Lord Rest Secure

The Lord brought this Word back to me when I was struggling with anxiety recently. It is a prophetic blessing that Moses gave to the tribe of Benjamin just before his (Moses') death:
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
    for he shields him all day long,
    and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” ( Deut 33:12 NIV)
Benjamin was the favored brother that the Hebrew Patriarch Joseph fawned over (as did Jacob - Genesis 42:4, 38; 43:29-34; 45:14). There has often been special affection in the Bible's story-line for Benjamin (Genesis 35:16-18), so it makes sense that Moses would use Benjamin's blessing to launch into a wider, deeper blessing that is linked to the Fatherhood of God. God is blessing his people through Moses like Jacob/Joseph blessed Benjamin. This blessing now comes through Jesus to all of his friends, those who are trusting in Him.

Interesting side note - "the one the Lord loves" - almost the identical phrase is used to refer to Jesus' friend Lazarus after he died (used by his sisters in John 11:3). Next time when you're praying try using this - "Lord, the one you love is _________ " (sick, hurting, needy, sinful, thankful, etc.)

Some affirmations that bubble to the surface:

  • I am beloved, and I rest secure in the love of Yahweh who is with me.
  • His love shields me all day long, through every moment, conversation and circumstance. Nothing can separate me from this love.
  • I am beloved of the Lord and am invited to rest against his mighty chest (between his shoulders). Upon his shoulders he bears the government of the world (Isaiah 9:6) and my life as well as all outcomes. I can trust my "little kingdom" to him.
  • I can rest. I can stop managing my life and trying to get people to do things. I can stop trying to make things happen and receive my life as a gift of God.

May we drink from the Trinitarian well before us! Disciples of Jesus are safely immersed in God.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Friendship and Barrenness

I am in a season of life right now where I don't have much "inspiration" to write. The fields of productive and creative writing lie fallow, and that's all right. It's for the best, actually, as cycles and rhythms of fruitfulness and barrenness are to be expected and welcomed in any healthy life. I trust God that other important things are going on in the soil under the surface!

I continue to be amazed at how vital relationships are for living life with Jesus. We cannot do this alone! I woke up this morning overwhelmed by everything undone in my life and knew that I needed to talk to my wife to help me sort out what was important and what was not (she did, she's so smart - and pretty!). I am beginning to give myself to rhythms of meeting with new friends here in Spokane, which adds to my regular phone calls to friends back in Louisville, men I have bled and shed tears with in the trenches of the heart. 

Friends that matter, that count, are not those who tell me what to do or how to behave; they are those who invite me into a better vision of life with God than the one I am currently devoted to and invested in. Usually that comes as we hunger together for God for help in broken places and torn and weary hearts. As we tell each other what's going inside as Jesus-friends, we are learning how to interpret ourselves as we learn to interpret each other in light of God.

Eugene Peterson, an old master, put it this way:
"Spiritual counsel, easy prayerful conversation between companions engaged in a common task, is [becoming] less and less frequent. But when Jesus designated his disciples 'friends' (John 15:15) in that last extended conversation he had with them, he introduced a term that encouraged the continuing of the conversation. 'Friend' sets us in a nonhierarchical, open, informal, spontaneous company of Jesus-friends, who verbally develop relationships of responsibility and intimacy by means of conversation. Characteristically, we do not make pronouncements to one another or look up texts by which to challenge each other; we simply talk out whatever feelings or thoughts are in our hearts as Jesus' friends." (The Wisdom of the Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends, 17)
Whether you are in a place of barrenness or fruitfulness, reach out and invite a few safe others into what you're experiencing in the name of God. It takes courage to do this, to listen to their story - not to fix or manage - but to understand and know the other. When we offer this kind of knowing to another we validate their existence and help them consider new ways to interpret their struggles, sorrows, habits and joys in the light of God's Kingdom. We will find Jesus in our midst.