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Shalom

What I’ve discovered is that shalom arrives when I stop searching.  I spend time striving, struggling, even surrendering what I value most in search of solace, sanctuary and…

I started writing this post July 8, 2010. That’s as far as I got and I’m not sure why I stopped.  I wonder what else I had to say.  I wonder if I thought I’d arrived at answer of some sort or was still mulling through the questions.  Apparently I was really into alliteration that day.

I must have honestly thought I’d found shalom or shalom found me or something.  I don’t know if I stopped searching because I was fatigued or bored or had given up.   And what expression of shalom had I encountered?  Was I experiencing harmony between myself and God? Did I wake up on July 8, 2010 with a new-found sense of overall wholeness and peace?  Was there some sort of metaphorical hello and goodbye going on in my life?

According to Facebook, Scott Burnham had just introduced me to calorie free whipped peanut spread.  That was funny as hell but I don’t think it had a whole lot to do with shalom.  My nephew Conlin was born shortly before that.  Could be that his birth allowed some sort of peace to cover over my family for a time.  The most exciting news in the country at the time was LeBron James’ hour-long televised announcement that he was signing with the Miami Heat.  That definitely would not have been shalom provoking.

I do know that I’d like to find that shalom I apparently had once discovered.  I’m honestly not searching too hard for it unless doing paperwork for my job, watching Orange is the New Black or playing Candy Crush counts.  But I would like to find it.

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The web of a spider possesses a mysterious intricacy.  Did the tiny creature precisely plan each interwoven angle, or did the web’s delicate features appear as passively as those which parents pass on to their newly born child?

Have you ever stumbled head on into a spider’s web?  Maybe on a hiking trail or in the corner of a not so recently cleaned attic.  Sometimes we notice the web and stare briefly in wonderment, but my experience has been that more often than not, I stumble into spider webs accidentally.  My arms flail and I shudder violently as if I’d been demonically possessed.  And if the spider is nearby, I kill it.  I assign no significance to the masterpiece or its creator.

(more…)

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Joshua 3:5

Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.

What if I really believed that?  I mean daily, really believed that God was going to do something great in and through me…and I believed it adamantly enough to be different, to try to make myself holy, to set myself apart from the status quo.   Who would I be?  How would I live?

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For some, Psalm 89 is just like any other psalm of lament, but for me it is something special. I seem to experience God in the two distinct ways presented here. At times I know God’s promises by heart and cling to them joyfully with trust. But at other times, the promises are gone. I see nothing but darkness. I’m bitter and don’t know how I’ll make it much longer.

You see, I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, a mental illness some may be more familiar with in terms of manic-depression. I know one extreme or the other, rarely the middle ground. And I certainly haven’t figured out the “Blessed be God forever and always! Yes. Oh, yes!” part yet.

But a favorite professor challenged me to befriend my illness, to accept it. He urged me to grieve the losses that are a part of my illness, but in the same breath he challenged me to discover the new life my illness brings. Not that a loss can ever be completely filled by something new, but for every time something is lost, room is made for some sort of gain.

Whoa. Befriend. Accept. New life.

So that’s the journey I am on now, seeking ways to befriend and accept not just my Bipolar but also other areas of stress and anxiety in my life, and trying to discover new life in places where I had assumed only death could reside.

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See below for Parts I-III.

Here’s the hard part.

Dear God,

You promised all this stuff.  You didn’t follow through.  You didn’t even show up.  How long are we supposed to put up with this.

Blessed be God forever and always! Yes, oh yes!

love,

Your people.

Blessed be God forever and always! Yes, oh yes!  That’s The Message. Some versions say:

Praise be to the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen. (NIV)

Blessed be the LORD forevermore!
Amen and Amen. (NKJV)

Our LORD, we praise you forever. Amen and amen. (CEV)

No matter how you say, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Really there’s only one way it makes sense.

Acceptance.

I believe that the people of God could openly and honestly complain because they knew God’s promises, but even more than that, I believe they could complain because they had befriended and accepted their position in life, their place as God’s children.  If they hadn’t arrived at a place of acceptance, the complaining would have done no good at all.  It just would have fueled the fire.

I believe verse 52 is the key to this entire passage, if not all of scripture.  Accepting who we are as God’s children means that we trust that we can trust God.  It means that we accept God’s timing.  It means we believe he wants to hear from us and interact with us.  It means we believe we were created by and for the purpose of glorifying one who is worthy to be praised forever and always. Yes, oh yes.

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Parts I & II are below…

If the first thing to notice is that the people of God knew God’s promises, the second thing to notice is that they had a relationship so intimate and marked by trust that they could complain to God honestly.  They were able to go right back to God, toss his promises in his face and say, what the hell is going on here?  Where the f@ck are you?

And God could take it.  He never struck them down for dialoging with him, only for worshipping other Gods.   Which begs the question, what becomes of our complaints to God if we never openly and honestly complain?  Do they not in their own way become false gods?  We feed them, attend to them, sacrifice to them, and let them rule our lives.

So not only is it okay to be honest with God, we should.

But we can’t unless we first know God’s promises.

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For Part I see below.

My reflections on this particular Psalm will come in four parts, these last three should be rather brief.

For today, what must be said is that David or the psalmist, representing the voice of God’s people knew the promises the Lord had made by heart.  They had internalized them.  They lived and breathed by the very word of God.  So when life didn’t quite work out, they recounted promise after promise that God had made…promise after promise that they had waited to see fulfilled…promise after promise they seemed to see forgotten.

What matters first is not that they complained openly about God’s apparent failure to fulfill his end of the deal.  What matters first and foremost is that the people of God knew the promises.  They were in their hearts and minds and souls and literally even affixed to their foreheads and forearms.  They posted God’s promise at the threshold of their homes and recited them several times daily.  They weren’t the AWANA memory verse champs.  They KNEW God’s promises and they lived expectantly in light of them.

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