Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Choosing the better part.........

Our kitten is a kleptomaniac.  She's a bit of a selective thief, but if something's little and shiny, look out. Coins, hairpins, pens, crochet needles, even a small Allen wrench.  All of these items cannot be safely left on tables in our house.  She'll peep over the edge from the corner of her eye for a bit, then a tiny paw flashes up like lightening and the shiny thing is gone.

She knows that we don't want her to.  She's usually pretty good about doing what she's told, but the appeal of the shiny is just too much.  She's easily distracted by the lure of shiny things away from pleasing her masters.

How often do we wander away, distracted from our Master?  How often do we start to spend time with Him, to pray, with good intentions only to be distracted by something we remember to do?  Or some shiny, glittery, attractive 'thing' that is easier to focus on than being intentional with Him?

Photo credit: Rachel Bates
I love corporate worship.  I love the atmosphere and the fellowship.  I also love that it's a place that unless we rudely walk out, we have to stay.  It gives us time to dial down to a place of peace.  To focus.  And if we don't get past what we're doing that day, how our outfit looks, what the scale read this morning, the worries of the week ahead; if we don't get past all the distractions, then we've missed the point---connection with Him.

Corporate worship can make it easier to connect on some level with our Master, but how much more do we need that in our own place of quiet.  To touch Him.  And to feel His touch in return.

We've missed out otherwise.

"Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here."
-Ex. 33:15

Moses frequently doubted himself, but he had seen the power of God.  He had seen the burning bush, the river turned into blood, the parting of the Red Sea.  He had already talked to God, "as one speaks to a friend" (Ex. 33: 11)  He knew enough about his Master to know that there was no point continuing on the journey to Canaan if God didn't go with him.

"Every time we pray our horizon is altered, out attitude to things is altered, not sometimes but every time, and the amazing thing is that we don't pray more."
                        -Oswald Chambers

We need intimate time with God.  We need our perspectives altered through prayer, through reflection on Who He is.  We need the encouragement and wisdom that can only come from Him.

We've missed out otherwise.  And we're the ones that pay the price.

Let's not let the shiny distract us from what is truly valuable today.  Our Omnipresent One is always there---but our own worlds shift when we take the time and effort to connect with Him.  And we leave unquestionably, beautifully altered by His Presence.  Every single time.

Photo credit: Rachel Bates

Sunday, July 13, 2014

We're not all right.......

I often see a little girl walking to the shops in my area.  She's one of those ragamuffin kids who is out and about a bit too much on her own, old enough to care what she looks like, but not sure what to do about it; with the overall impression of some neglect in her world.  She walks with confidence, but if you look into her eyes for whatever the reason may be, she's just not all right.  Not obviously call Child Services time, but her world is somehow not what it 'should' be.

We all see people repeatedly in our day-to-days:  friends, neighbors, workmates, shopkeepers, bankers, cashiers, or whatever that we have some level of acquaintanceship with.  People that we expect to behave in certain ways--and we're slightly offended if they don't.  People who usually smile politely, but occasionally the veneer cracks and we think, "What's up with her/him today?" As if 'not OK' is abnormal.

And then there are our own hearts.  Hearts that after living for a while on this planet, if we stop and sit still for a bit, we know are damaged, chipped, never to be quite the same.

In reality we're not OK.  'Not truly OK' is more normal that not.  I think it's far better to just assume that everyone isn't 'all right.'

I've read some mind blowing abuse statistics lately.  Things like 1 in 6 women in the US are survivors of attempted or completed rape, 1 in 3 women in New Zealand experience physical or sexual violence from partners in their lifetimes.  The majority of sexual violence in both countries is usually by people known to the victim. Men and boys suffer abuse as well.  Almost everyone is touched by something; substance abuse, depression, strained or broken marriages, divorce.  Disease, desperate loneliness, despair.  Stress over jobs and providing for families, mental illness.  And the list goes on.

Behind the smiles we're not all right.

But what do we expect?  We're aliens living in a hostile environment.  Gasping for air, acid on our skin.  Fish out of water.  Death in our nostrils and decay in our bones.  This world is only a flawed picture of the true home that we long for.

"For this world is not our home;
we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come."  (Heb. 13:14)

The point of being here isn't to be all right.  The point is to realize that without Him, that we are NOT.  This world is full of sin and suffering and stuff that doesn't really satisfy.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  (2 Cor. 4:18)

We're already living our eternal lives.  We're already on the road that will lead us right into the after-life, only a single breath away.  Where everything WILL be all right.  Forever.

This life is just the precursor, the breath before the sentence, the silence before the music begins.  The time where we get to make decisions as to where our lives will lead; where we will go, whom we will serve, and what is really important along the way.

Life feels like it stretches on forever, like we have unlimited time to do, to become, to LIVE.  It's only in the light of eternity that things snap into focus.  Where things make sense.  Where, like childbirth, the pain is less because of the joy to come.

"Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  That means that a continual looking forward to the eternal would is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next."  -C.S. Lewis

We're not all right.  And that's OK.  And because of that we should be extending a whole lot more grace to those around us who are not all right as well.

And in looking at forever in the context of the present, we know where our help comes from, "From the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." (Ps. 121:2)  **Deep sigh!**  So the very best way to walk through the 'not all right' is to open up our hearts in trust and say:

I'm an empty page
I'm an open book
Write Your story on my heart
Come on and make Your mark

Author of my hope
Maker of the stars
Let me be Your work of art
Won't You write Your story on my heart

Because our eternal life has already started.  This is just the beginning and the BEST is yet to come!

All photos today by the very talaneted Sarah Faith Hodges