Tag: guidance (page 1 of 2)

I remember You were with me

Five Minute Friday Last week, I made my first jump into the pool of Five Minute Friday. And swimming in its waters of freedom worked some writing muscles that had begun to atrophy.

 

I tend to be performance-oriented. I worry too much about what people (including anyone reading my words) will think of me. I want to inspire, I don’t want to offend, I want to be sensitive, I don’t want to oversimplify, I want to write like those I admire most, I don’t want you to know how afraid I am that what I post in this space just isn’t any good.

 

The idea of writing for five minutes and posting whatever comes of that time is frightening, and that’s exactly why I need it. There’s no time for editing or polishing or making sure that things were said “just-so.” It’s writing bare, and that is medicine for my writer’s soul.

 

I hope it is good for your soul, too. Whether you write or not, may something inspire you to peel away a layer of perfectionism somewhere in your life.

 

This week’s prompt: REMEMBER

 

When I struggle to know which path to take, I forget.

 

I forget about how You have been present with me through it all. How I am on this path to begin with because You led me here. You brought me to a place that would blow the mind of the me of 20 years ago.

 

That girl who was depressed from all the turmoil in her home life, combined with the waves of drama that are part of being an adolescent girl. The girl who, without anyone telling her how to read the Bible, opened it up every night and read a Psalm, somehow feeling the comfort of its words.

 

I remember how You were with me.

 

I remember how even as I took paths leading me wrong, You held my hand over the rough terrain, so I could find my way to a better way.

 

I remember Your grace. I remember the way my life could have been, if not for Your presence with me in so many times and places.

 

And so as I face difficult decisions now, I face them with gratitude that I have the opportunity to be here at all. On a path where I am making decisions about how to move forward, instead of how to escape from the mangled tree roots tying my feet to the ground.

 

I remember that no matter which path I take, I am walking forward. And that, my Lord, is because of Your grace and love and presence in my life.

path

Lead Me Up Your Mountain

 

CactiIt was warmer than I anticipated. The temperature was mild, but the sun blazes hot in the desert.

 

Still, the hike through the canyon was striking. The cacti stretched their arms towards the sun, and let their needles glow in its light, The boulders radiated their red warmth and showed off their quartz sparkle.

 

Then there was the stream. My eyes were drawn to the juxtaposition of a cool bubbling brook streaming through this arid land. It danced over rocks and meandered its way in and out of our path as it led us up the mountainside.

 

As I looked around at this scorched terrain with a creek as its middle, I remembered teddy bear cactusPsalm 42. I thought about how those who are parched with desert thirst desperately search for water.

 

And I wondered if the yearning for water isn’t just about quenching our thirst, but about the way water can lead us to someplace new.

 

Enter now Psalm 43, which is really just the conclusion of Psalm 42. It even repeats the verse used twice in Psalm 42,

 

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in god,
For I will yet praise him,
desert streamMy Savior and my God. –Psalm 43:5

 

But there is a difference between the two Psalms. While in Psalm 42, the psalmist declares his thirst and laments of his plight, in Psalm 43, he asks God to direct his path to someplace new.

 

Send me your light and your faithful care,
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
To the place where you dwell. – Psalm 43:3

 

What good would it be if God quenched our thirst for just a moment, but kept us in that same arid place? The psalmist asks for more than that: he asks God to lead him up his sacred mountain.

 

stream up the mountainA mountain gives us perspective. We see the magnificence of rocky trails and dry places that along the way, felt only difficult and frustrating. We see pathways of future journeys, and find direction about where we might go next. Mostly, though, we see how vast the world is and how tiny we are in comparison.

 

God’s presence gives us that same kind of perspective. The psalmist knows it, and he prays for God to lead him there.

 

Then, like a desert wanderer daydreaming about a refreshing oasis, the psalmist pictures himself in that place.

 

Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God. – Psalm 43:4 (ESV)

 

He calls God his exceeding joy. Not just his Prayer-Answerer or his Happiness-Giver, but his Exceeding Joy.

 

What is amazing is that he calls God this name while still thirsting for him. While still feeling abandoned, the psalmist calls God his Exceeding Joy.

 

The psalmist has faith that this time in the desert is only part of his journey. That God will send his light and care to guide him to someplace new.

 

Perhaps those are the two most important things to know when we are in those desert times in our faith journey: that God is there, even when we don’t feel him, and that this part of arid path will not last forever.

 

When we appreciate those two realities, we can pray with faith. We can lift up prayers of lament, confident that God will not abandon us, and prayers for help, confident that God will one day lead us out.

 

One day, God’s loving care will lead us up His holy mountain, and we will be amazed by the view.

desert mountain view

walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.



Are you linking up? Grab the code for my Walk Through the Psalms button:

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Please Talk about the Bible

 

I have noticed a trend that is bothering me.

 

Too many people feel uncomfortable talking about the Bible.

 

The great tools available to help us interpret the Scriptures have somehow become trappings that are stifling our voices.

 

We go to churches with gifted, dynamic, and intelligent speakers. (Or, if we don’t, we listen to podcasts of churches that do.) We read articles and books and blogs by writers who have advanced degrees in biblical history and languages. We interact with professional pastors who are paid to read the Scriptures.

 

We listen and read and study and learn. And, then, after all that absorbing, we feel inadequate.

 

Who am I to talk about the Bible? I don’t know Hebrew or Greek. I am not a trained minister. I am not a gifted theologian. It is not my role.

 

talk about the BibleYes. It is your role. Talking about the Bible is the role of each of us who have a copy of it in our hands.

 

Studying, speaking, and writing about the Bible is not a job best left for the experts.

 

Just to be clear, I believe in the work of biblical experts.

 

I count it a privilege to read the works of theologians and scholars that can deepen my understanding of its words. The Bible is not simple. It is a complicated text entrenched in culture and history. Professionals can shed light on the nuances and difficulties that we didn’t hear about in Sunday School or memory verse drills.

 

But I also believe in the Holy Spirit.

 

The Word of God is alive and active. When we read it, if we allow Him to, God uses the verses to change us. The Bible feeds our souls, convicts us of our sins, inspires us to live differently, and reminds of God’s redemption story.

 

When that happens to you, I want to hear about it. It keeps me accountable to reading the Bible, too. Not because someone is telling me to, but because I am inspired by hearing someone else’s story of why the words of the Scripture matter.

 

That’s not to say that every time we read the Bible there are lightning bolts and fuzzy feelings and rainbows in the sky. Sometimes we walk away frustrated or confused. We wonder why in the world God put that verse or that story in with the rest of the text.

 

When that happens to you, I want to hear about it. It shows me I am not alone in my frustrations. It allows us to wrestle with the Scriptures together instead of question alone. It reminds me that it is okay if I don’t have all the answers and cannot bring everything to a nice and tidy conclusion.

 

When you read the Bible, I want to hear about it.

 

I want to be reminded that the living Holy Spirit weaves these living Words into the living body of His Church. I want to appreciate that reading the Bible is not always about being accurate to the text, but also about being accessible to its power.  I want to be encouraged to keep on reading when I feel like giving up.

 

Talking about the Bible is not the job of professional pastors, it is the work of the God’s people. So please, tell me what you are reading in the Scriptures. You are my pastor, too.

Evaluations, Decision-Making, and Answered Prayer

My son starts kindergarten in a few weeks. {Insert big gulp here.}

I can’t believe I’m old enough to have a kindergartner. The passage of time seriously freaks me out. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was braiding my friend’s hair on the bus as we rode to a cross-country meet? Now, suddenly, I’ve been married 12 years and have two kids, one of whom is about to be in elementary school. This is full-fledged adulthood people.

As we embark on this big transition, there have been several steps to get him, and us, ready for his first day of school.

He had a kindergarten camp where he spent a week of mornings at his new school. He created art projects and made friends and got used to hearing Spanish from his teacher. (He will be going to a Spanish immersion school.)

He had a school bus safety event, where we around a few blocks in a school bus. He heard the bus driver talk about choosing where to sit and keeping voices low and getting off at his stop and telling the driver if he had a tummy ache.

He had an early childhood screening, where I took him to a community center. I answered questions about how he learns and someone checked his height and a teacher asked him questions about what word rhymes with cat.

After each of these preparations, I was told something important: my son is ready for kindergarten.

It’s comforting to hear. To know that other people think my son is ready affirms our decision to send him. To know more about what is coming strengthens his confidence to go.

Don’t you wish more of life was like this?

What if, before we took a new job, we had this kind of preparation? A week-long camp where we did the job at 1/3 time and got an introduction to what it would be like. A driver who took us around and talked about what to expect at each corner. An evaluation that gave us a non-biased opinion on whether our brains and bodies were ready for the new things we would learn and experience.

It would make decision-making a whole lot easier.

Our longing for the kind of confirmation and guidance we got as children sometimes paralyzes us as adults.

When we face big decisions, it’s often how we pray. We ask God to show us the way to go. To prove to us that the next step we are going to take is the right one. To confirm that we aren’t going to screw things up by trying this new thing. To let us know whether our we are ready for what will come our way.

And then we sit. Stuck. Halted until God tells us exactly what to do.

The problem is, God is usually not that specific. God doesn’t treat us like kindergartners, He treats us like adults.

Because really, what would our lives look like if answered prayers for guidance looked like kindergarten evaluations? Wouldn’t we slowly loose our abilities to make decisions, even over simple things? Wouldn’t we begin to question whether God was stifling us by not showing us multiple options? Wouldn’t we begin to think of God more as an Administrator than a Creator or a Lover?

God loves us too much to take the adventure out of the life He created for us.

I think of the adventure God gave the Israelites as He led them out of Egypt and into the desert. He didn’t evaluate their readiness or show them how everything would work out. He didn’t even give them a map.

God gave the Israelites a pillar. By day, a cloud that shielded them from the harsh heat of the desert sun. By night, a fire that protected them from the cold and frightening darkness. Day and night, a beacon that showed them God’s direction. A comfort that showed them God’s presence.

When we pray for God to guide our life decisions, I think this picture is in line with how He often answers. He doesn’t tell us each step, but He leads us in a direction. He doesn’t protect us from everything, but He shields us from some of the harshest realities. And in the midst of the decision and wherever life takes us afterwards, God shows us His presence.

God is our pillar.

How have you seen God answer prayers for guidance in your life?

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