Miscellany that Bewilder Me

Midnight.

Last night, my ten year old son said he wanted to stay up until midnight — insisting that he had to do it. — But why? I asked slightly bewildered.

“If I do, I will have not cracked my knuckles for a whole day!” he told me in all seriousness.  He has a nervous habit.  It makes him self-conscious but I had no idea how much.  He came up with this promise to himself.  I reassured him that he could “not crack his knuckles in his sleep and that would still count.”

But it strikes me and stays with me today.  That little self-improvement goal seemed so simple to me and yet it was such a challenge for him as he made a promise to himself and kept it.  It made me wonder how many times I promise God something and don’t do it.  Does he, like a mother feel admiration for me that I even try?  Or is he disappointed when I fail?

Blessings & Curses.

I wonder.  Does God withhold blessings from us if there was something that God has wanted us to learn and we knew it full well but resisted.  Or ignored God?  Pretend we don’t hear, like child who acts like they can’t hear their mother calling from the next room.

Sermons are like that sometimes.  Most of the time not offending seems to be the order of the day and sermons become nothing more than a gentle reminder.  Not exactly optional, but full of choices and options … How many of those softball sermons have I ignored or just not allowed them to change me?  Or when they challenge do I consider it “optional?”

Yes I do that.  I ignore God regularly.  Stubbornly.  Foolishly, knowing fully that God has my best interest in mind and yet I can’t gather up the willpower to obey.  To stop cracking my (spiritual) knuckles.

What?  You don’t?  I don’t believe you.

And do we miss out on blessings, on a level of happiness or contentment because certain challenges from God seem too hard? Not that serious.  Life goes on.

Of that we can be sure.

Floodgate of Social Media.

I cannot seem to deal lately with the torrent of information coming into my life through the media.  A friend, who is a Scientist at the university, said he thought perhaps evolutionarily (is that the right way to say that? what is the word I’m searching for?) we are not capable of taking it all in.  Our minds and hearts just can’t absorb it.

Some days I feel my heart cracking open reading about suffering in Japan and Christ Church,NZ, ongoing efforts in Haiti and areas of Africa, our nearly decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cholera outbreak in Ghana, ethnic minority Christians facing religious persecution in Vietnam, unrest in Yemen promoting Somali refugees to flee there, political unrest in Nigeria, drought in Niger, measles epidemic in Kenya, even AIDS being still the number one killer was brought up on the Colbert Report last night.  Can’t even escape the pain in humor.

We cannot get away from it.  How would God have us respond?  It’s too much.  I cannot bear it.  I need to know what God would have us do to respond.

Justice.

My understanding of the gospel is becoming enriched by the truth of a recent sermon series at Blackhawk on Justice.  And reading Timothy Keller’s book, Generous Justice.  God’s justice is not a distraction from the gospel but a centering on its fullness.  Whenever anyone argued with Amy Carmichael that the gospel was only a proclamation and didn’t include acts of mercy and social justice, she emphatically said to her critics:  “God didn’t make you all mouth.”   Ha.  I love that.

And Bishop J.C. Boyle, a nineteenth-century British evangelical, said:  “Let the diligence of Christ be an example to all Christians… Like Him, let us labor to do good in our day and generation, and to leave the world a better world than we found it….Let us awake to a sense of our individual responsibility.”

My Church & Women: The ongoing Crusade.

I’ve decided to acknowledge to myself that I am on a crusade.  It may be small.  It may be ineffective.  But I am.  In my reading this week I read that if you truly disagree with the premises of your church on women in ministry or ordination of women you will eventually leave that church.  People just do.  For the most part churches don’t change — especially those connected to a denomination.   People give up.  Lose hope.  And leave.

While that was devastating on one level, because I love my church dearly.  It also made me accept the truth that I am on a crusade to change it.

One can’t simply learn the truth and sit on it.

Truth not only changes how we see ourselves, it changes what we do and how we live.

Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church.

What I know.  Jesus loved women.  He consistently reinforced human equity.  He mobilized and recruited and listened to and even hang out with those who were on the margins.  He valued women and they served with him and spoke for him, gave witness faithfully in the Bible, which seems to me to be a story of redemption for marginal people.   And there are leaders in my church who do too.  They believe, they agree, they are willing to concede.  But moving a church is as I’ve said like moving the Titanic.  It won’t happen any time soon.   I will be the quiet, prayerful voice of change.

More on this in the future, but for now…

Authorities at my church have decided to phase out the Bibles that are on hand every week, calling it a Bible Revolution. They want people to use their own personal Bible.  Yay.  The best thing that will come of this, besides the obvious, is that they won’t be tied to the New International Version any longer and can perhaps use an inclusive translation like the New Revised Standard Version that speaks to women as well as men.  That one uses language that is more welcoming to women.

Halle — fricken — lujah!

“Is the gospel truly good news for women who live in entrenched patriarchal cultures?” — Carolyn Custis James

The Titanic didn’t move this week, but the iceberg it is stuck in melted a little.  Viva La Revolution!

Winter seems to be lingering here in the Midwest.  I dug out an old poem from October, 2009.

WINTER COMES

Winter is uninvited, yet it always comes.

No matter how long  I postpone trying on last year’s coats, hats and gloves,

even still winter comes.  If I leave the hose out until it’s frozen stiff, snaking through the yard,

still winter comes.  The pots and the plants they crack and curl from the cold.  Winter, comes.

Winter comes in the cold,

dark mornings heralding sad thoughts and memories.

I lost my father to the winter.  I discovered, accepted and revealed a family’s ancient addiction.

I miscarried.  I fell down.  I fell apart.  Always winter comes.

Winter means waking early with darkness bringing in the day.

Though I try to overcome, the anxious thoughts settle in.

Remember the cold. Remember, remember.  I am always falling, in winter.

Good things are lost, so do not hold too tight

to what you desire most.  You will lose them to winter.

Love hurts more in winter, dries up and becomes need.

Love becomes memory. I am falling.  In winter.

And at the moment when the winter once again threatens to overcome, I end my slumber.

On that icy morning I wake early. Snuggle in.

Sipping coffee, by the fire.   And I think of Spring.

As you, I am thinking of spring!

Feeling grateful during the season of Lent, as I process how much God has done to redeem me from the pit where my life was.  I must never forget.  Ever.  I cannot.  Reading Henri Nouwen and he speaks to this:

“In our lives there are moments when we realize that, even if we may have done everything to destroy ourselves, we have never lost our true identity as beloved daughters or sons. That identity is never taken away. And that moment of realization is a very, very important moment.

“But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life…” (Deut. 4)

MH

————————————————————–

Comments on Luke 8:1-3, from J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Luke (1860)

From Wikipedia:

Amy Wilson Carmichael was a Protestant Christian missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for 55 years without furlough and wrote many books about the missionary work there.  While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary. She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”
Carmichael’s work also extended to the printed page. She was a prolific writer, producing thirty-five published books including Things as They Are: Mission Work in Southern India (1903), His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said (1951), If (1953), Edges of His Ways (1955) and God’s Missionary (1957).  In 1931, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. She died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription “Amma”, which means mother in the Tamil.  Her biography quotes her as saying: “One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”

Waiting? I don’t think so.

Waiting.   We hardly know what to do with waiting in our culture.

Waiting on things makes me frustrated and sometimes even angry.  I want doctors to be on time, fast food lines to be, well, fast, children to be efficient, packages in the mail to be on schedule — all of it irks me.  I cannot stand to wait.  I do wait.  I will wait.  I am learning but American culture seems to feed the beast of impatience.

Do I then bring this attitude to my time with God?  Do I have a low-level contempt despite all that He has done for me?  I am all too often anxious and uncertain — querulous within.  Doubting that He will speak, even though He has proven himself in the past.  How dare I feel impatient with God, when I cannot some days slow down enough to breathe Him in?

I waited patiently for the LORD;

And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,

out of the miry clay,

And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

Psalm 40.1-2 NASB

What does it mean to know that God is willing by the Holy Spirit to speak to you?  Would you cease striving so hard to know this and that and open up your soul to God to work?

Andrew Murray, in Waiting on God said:

Would God that we might get some right conception of what the influence would be of a life given, not in thought, or imagination, or effort, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, wholly to waiting upon God.”1

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God.

Zephaniah 1.7 NIV

Our waiting cannot be a ‘means to an end.’  But when you come before God and realize that all you want is His presence, then perhaps the spirit of knowing will come.  It will be nothing you have experienced before, where time slows and you are stunned, awed by the moment of being so full of Him.

” …humble the soul into a holy stillness, making way for God to speak and reveal Himself.

“Let everyone who would learn the art of waiting on God remember the lesson: ‘Take heed, and be quiet;’ ‘It is good that a man quietly wait.’ Take time to be separate from all friends and all duties, all cares and all joys; time to be still and quiet before God.

“Take time not only to secure stillness from man and the world, but from self and its energy. Let the Word and prayer be very precious; but remember, even these may hinder the quiet waiting. The activity of the mind in studying the Word, or giving expression to its thoughts in prayer, the activities of the heart, with its desires and hopes and fears, may so engage us that we do not come to the still waiting on the All-Glorious One; our whole being is not prostrate in silence before Him.

“Though at first it may appear difficult to know how thus quietly to wait, with the activities of mind and heart for a time subdued, every effort after it will be rewarded; we shall find that it grows upon us, and the little season of silent worship will bring a peace and a rest that give a blessing not only in prayer, but all the day.”1

Waiting.  Our mind & spirit in everyday life are constantly, impatiently even angrily waiting for God to work.

He only asks for “a quiet reverence, an abiding watching.”

“‘It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Yes, it is good. The quietness is the confession of our impotence, that with all our willing and running, with all our thinking and praying, it will not be done: we must receive it from God. It is the confession of our trust that our God will in His time come to our help—the quiet resting in Him alone. It is the confession of our desire to sink into our nothingness, and to let Him work and reveal Himself.”1

If you knew that God

through the power of the Holy Spirit would meet you, would be waiting for you, would go against the world and wake in the dark of the night to be with Him.  I have seen that a whole new life will come.

MHH

1 Murray, Andrew.  Waiting on God.