Category Archives: Spiritual Life

“Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus” an interview with the author

One of the most surprising gifts this year in my career was having the opportunity to meet and work with author Lois Tverberg. She has written three books in the “Rabbi Jesus” series and I have the privilege of helping her launch the third book in that series entitled, “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.” Each of these books takes the time to examine Jesus in the context of his Hebrew heritage. Tverberg digs into the Hebrew culture and language to help us modern Western believers try to understand a bit more about the ancient culture of Israel, their ways of thinking, how they thought about God and she teaches us how to bridge the huge cultural gap that exists. This “gap” for a lack of a better word is something that I had not recognized or given much thought to in the past. However, now I am continually challenged to look deeper into the historical and cultural context of both the New and Old Testament. Lois’ books have opened my eyes to see that the scriptures and Jesus teachings are richer, broader and more complex than I ever imagined. Everything is new again!

Below you will find an interview with Lois as she explains her work more fully. If you have ever called yourself a student of the Bible, I implore you to read Tverberg’s books. I think you will come to feel as I have, like I have been standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon all of my life and staring in awe at a pothole. Please, if you do read her books, let me know what you think. I’d love to sit for a cup of coffee and discuss it with you!

An Interview with Lois Tverberg

“Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus”

You’ve written a couple of other books before this one that have similar titles – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. How do they relate to your new book?

Sitting at the Feet was about the Jewish customs that deepen our understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, like the biblical feasts, the Jewish prayers, and the relationship of rabbi and disciple. Walking in the Dust was about the Jewish context of Jesus’ teachings. Many of the things he said make much more sense when you know the conversation that was going on around him. Disciples are supposed to “walk in the ways” of their rabbi and obey his teaching. So I chose some of Jesus’ teachings that are especially practical for our lives and have a Jewish context that sheds light on their meaning.

My newest book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, pulls back a bit and starts by looking at cultural issues that get in the way as we read the Bible in the modern, Western world. Among the things I asked myself as I wrote were, what cultural tools can I give readers to read the Bible more authentically? How does a lack of grasp of Jesus as a Jewish Middle Easterner cause us to misunderstand his words? Ultimately, my goal was to equip the average Christian to read the Bible more like first-century disciple.

In your new book you talk about cultural differences that get in the way of understanding the Bible and suggest that we need to grasp how the Bible “thinks.” What do you mean by that?

I started the book with a story about when my five year old nephew arrived in Iowa from Atlanta for Christmas. He had never seen snow before, so he asked, “What do you do with the snow when you have to mow the lawn?” He couldn’t imagine a reality where people didn’t mow their lawns year round, so he assumed it was universal. In the same way, many of our problems with the Bible come from misunderstanding its cultural reality and projecting our own onto it instead. We need to grasp how the Bible “thinks” – the basic background assumptions that biblical peoples had about life. Often these were very different than ours today. It’s also important that we don’t mix these two worlds together inappropriately, like mixing lawnmowers and snow.

 

You mention an acronym, “WEIRD,” that psychologists coined for the ways that that American culture is unusual compared to the rest of the world. How do you think this comes into play in reading the Bible?

The acronym “WEIRD” stands for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic.” All these traits tend to characterize Europeans and especially Americans. We live in an educated, Western culture that values scientific thought above all else. We are industrialized, so that our world does not revolve around family and clan, but around work and business. We are relatively rich, so that many basic worries are simply not on our radar screens. We live in a democracy and dislike all hierarchy and authority.

I point out that these same characteristics tend to set us apart culturally from the Bible, so that major biblical themes, like farming and kings, simply do not resonate. I explore these and other cultural difficulties that modern readers (especially Americans) have with the Bible.

 

There’s a chapter titled “Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain” where you discuss the difference between Western vs. Eastern thought. How does this influence how we read the Bible?

Western thinking is very analytical, theoretical and focused on abstract concepts. It began in Greece in the 5th century AD and has deeply affected European-based cultures. We see it as the essence of mental sophistication and have a hard time imagining that anyone could think any other way. Much of the Bible, however, communicates in a more ancient way. It speaks in concrete images and parables rather than abstract concepts and argumentation. In this chapter, I show that brilliant ideas can be expressed this way too, and to give readers some basic skills to bridge the gap between East and West.

 

Another chapter is called, “Why Jesus Needs those Boring ‘Begats.’” In it you point out that many people wonder why the Bible contains so many meaningless lists of names. What is significant about genealogies, culturally? Why were they included?

In the Bible, family was central. Even if you don’t agree with it on every issue, you have to grasp how it “thinks” in terms of family as the center of reality in order to follow its most basic themes. The growth and relationships of a family were the core of how societies functioned. The main theme of the biblical story is God’s promise to Abraham to give him a great family, and the covenant that God makes with that family, Israel. Every time genealogies are listed it shows how God is fulfilling his promise. Even in the New Testament, whether or not believers in Christ needed to be “sons of Abraham” (Torah-observant Jews, who lived by the family covenant) was a major issue.

How does our perspective change if we read the Bible as a “we” instead of merely as an individual?

Americans are very individualistic, and we tend to focus on the Bible as a series of personal encounters between individuals and God. We also assume that the ultimate audience for Bible reading is “me.” We miss how often the Scriptures focus on the group rather than the individual. When Jesus preaches, he’s almost always addressing a crowd. When Paul tells his audience that they are a temple of God, we hear it as about how “my body is a temple.” But Paul is actually talking about them all together as God’s temple, not to each of them individually. In this chapter I point out many places where things make more sense when you see them in light of their communal implications.

Here’s another example of how “we” is important. People talk about Jesus is “my personal savior” and struggle to find the gospel in the Gospels. That’s because the biblical imagery is actually about Christ saving a group of people. Jesus is the “Christ,” God’s anointed king, who has come to redeem a people to be his kingdom. When we “accept Christ” we are submitting to his kingship and joining his people. The imagery of a “kingdom” is inherently plural, so it passes right by us.

 

You tell about a Christian scholar who theorized that Paul knew his Scriptures by memory. Christian scholars were very skeptical, but Jewish scholars strongly agreed with him. Why was this story important to you?

When I first started hearing about Jesus’ Jewish context, I was skeptical about whether it could be of use to Christians. I was also skeptical of ideas like that Jesus and Paul likely knew their Scriptures (our Old Testament) by heart and expected their listeners to be very familiar with them too. I was told that they would hint to it and drop in little quotes often in their teaching, and these hints were often quite important to grasping the point.

At first, I absolutely didn’t believe this. But as I studied more about traditional Judaism, I discovered that even since the first century, rabbinic sermons have been overloaded with hints, quotes and subtle links to Bible passages. Memorization has been strongly stressed. I laughed when I read about a scholar on Paul’s Jewish context who spoke about this at conferences about twenty or thirty years ago. Christian scholars would all poo-poo him and say, “highly unlikely” or “totally impossible.” The Jewish scholars in his audience, however, would all nod their heads in agreement and say, of course he did!

In the last section of the book I go into more detail about how Jewish teachers studied their Scriptures and alluded to them in preaching. Most importantly, I talk about how some of Jesus’ boldest claims to being the Messiah, the Christ who God sent as Savior, were delivered in this very subtle Jewish way. There are a lot of skeptical scholars who have said that Jesus was just a wandering wise man whose followers exalted to a divine status. But they know nothing about Jesus’ Jewish habit of hinting to his Scriptures, so they miss some of his most powerful statements about being the Son of God.

 

What started your interest in the Jewishness of Jesus? Was there a particular event that piqued your interest?

I was raised in a devout Christian home. I’m not Jewish and my overall interest is in understanding the reality of Jesus and the Bible, rather than Judaism per se. A little over twenty years ago I signed up for a seminar on ancient Israel and the Jewish culture of the Bible at my church, thinking it would be just some dry historical information. But all of a sudden Bible stories that were foggy and confusing became clear and deeply relevant to my life. I started hearing the words of Scripture through the ears of its ancient listeners, and it made all the difference in the world.

My background was originally in the sciences, and I have a Ph. D. in biology. I was teaching as a college biology professor and my background in research compelled me to dig deeper. Over the years I’ve traveled to Israel several times to experience the land and history in person and to study the language and the culture. Every time I come home I’m newly inspired, because in the past few decades scholars and archaeologists have unearthed enormous amounts of information that clarifies the Bible’s stories, particularly the Jewish setting of Jesus.

 

Why do you think that so many Christians are unaware of their Jewish heritage?

All of the disciples were Jewish, and the New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews. But within only a couple centuries Gentiles became the majority in the church, and many were hostile to its Jewish origins. Even in Romans Paul warned the Gentiles not to be arrogant toward the Jews, but his words went unheeded. One reason was that early Christians needed to establish their identity as a new movement, and they defended their faith by focusing on their differences with Judaism.

Through the ages there has been occasional interest by Christians in understanding their Jewish roots, but for much of its history the church has struggled with anti-Semitism. And Jews who had felt the persecution of Christians were understandably less than interested in helping them understand the roots of their faith. It’s only been in the last century that Christians have become avidly interested in the topic. One reason for this is because we mingle so much more. Jews and Christians now have relative freedom to discuss their beliefs, and both groups are curious about how the other reads their common Scriptures.

Click the picture below for a link to purchase “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.”

Christmas = The gift of Redemption

In one week we will celebrate Christmas, the greatest gift of love a parent could ever offer a child, redemption. Redemption doesn’t seem like much if you don’t feel the weight of the need. But there are moments, when we know we’ve screwed up and we wish we could go back and change the past…in those moments redemption is all we can hope for.

Stripped of our bravado, our private choices revealed and highlighted, our secrets being exposed to the light…

in those moments, REDEMPTION is the most beautiful gift of all.

It is a gift that is undeserved.

It is a gift that is wanted but unexpected.

It is a gift full of love…a love that surrounds you and accepts you and won’t shun you or turn you away. It is a gift that assures that you will never be alone, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

re·demp·tion

noun
  1.   The action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil.
             “God’s plans for his redemption of the world.”
saving, freeing from sin, absolution
             2. The action of gaining or regaining something in exchange   for payment or clearing a debt.
It is the gift of Christmas. God loving us so much that he came down from heaven in the form of a child. Leaving all of His glory and the perfection of heaven to save us from the mess we had created here on earth. He knew everything we had done, he had heard every hateful speech we had uttered, he saw every shameful act we had participated in and yet he loved us. He saw us for what we were and still his heart was full of forgiveness because we were His and he longed to redeem us and pick us up and save us. He couldn’t turn his back on us and give us what we deserved…he was our Father.
Today my bedroom looks like an Amazon warehouse. I still have shopping to do and none of my wrapping is done. It is so easy for me to get so distracted by the “things” of Christmas. To overlook and ignore the “why” of what we are celebrating.
Today I feel my Savior, my Father, lifting my head from sin and shame. He whispers, “I love you and nothing will ever change that.
And I believe Him.

Does this hurt? Being real with God.

My son Wesley plays Jr. league tackle football. This year he moved up to the Varsity level and is playing with the big boys. He has always been the largest kid on any sports team he has ever played on until now.

Puberty has a way of leveling the playing field when boys turn 13.

After his first game he came home with more bruises and scratches than I’ve ever observed before. On his shoulders, shins, elbows and hands.

There is something about big bruises that tempts others to poke at them and ask, “Does this hurt?”

Why is that?

It’s a fun game if you are the poker…if you are the one being poked…it just hurts.

Lately, it feels like life frequently pushes on the bruises of my heart and asks,

“Does this hurt? Here? Here? How about here?”

My answer, “Yes, it hurts! Stop! Please?!”

I assure you that my life is NOT in a full fledged fall out right now. I have been in much tougher places, facing much more dire circumstances…

In fact, the truth is my life is amazing. New and exciting challenges are popping up everywhere.

The blessings are numerous.

And yet, the losses are too. New challenges don’t erase old hurts no matter how much we want them to.

I have a way of minimizing hurt and trying to pack it into a box and put it on a shelf labeled LOSS.

I don’t readily embrace loss. Who does?

Sometimes that works…

Sometimes I can just move on and pick myself up and dust myself off.

But often, that strategy fails. And I have to stop. I’m forced to grieve which I don’t like.

I have to…feel and pray.

And be angry.

And ask, “Why?”

I’m reading a book written by Lois Tverberg entitled, “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus.” She talks about the “Jewish tradition of boldness toward God.”

She observes that “difficult questions for God may show a stronger faith than our own pious attempts to suppress all doubt.” This quote has rattled around in my brain lately.

I think many times I do bend over backwards to make “pious attempts to suppress all doubt.” I suppress and suppress but eventually the doubt leaks out. The problem with leaking doubt is that it will slowly fill my heart and thoughts without my realizing what is happening. Leaky doubt turns to bitterness.

Bitterness smells, it on you and you can’t get away…the smell fills up a room till you can’t help but breathe it in…it must be washed off.

I’ve been wondering about the boldness Tverberg speaks of and if it is a healthier way to conduct oneself?

See, assess, be real with God.

How would my prayer life change if instead of telling God the reasons why he must be allowing something I don’t like, I choose to talk to him about the struggle of my heart. Instead of hiding my feelings from him and myself, I choose to face them with his strength?

“It takes more faith to ask than it takes to fear the asking… Many of us Christians are so used to pious, solemn reverence toward God that we blush to hear someone addressing him…and yet behind this habit is the assumption that God is our loving Father, whom we can approach without trepidation or timidity.” Tverberg says on pages 123-124.

Do I approach the Father with such assurance?

Have I approached the Father with my hurt?

One more quote from Tverberg,

“The issue of prayer is not prayer. The issue of prayer is God. How you pray reveals what you believe about God.” page 125

I don’t think we are ever too old to out grown our need to preform a health check on our faith and examine if our current thoughts and beliefs are in line with what is Truth. The devil whispers so many lies in my ears and so many times I think I unconsciously agree with the lies…eventually those lies grow and bore tiny holes into my shield of faith and leave me vulnerable to attack.

Jeremiah 2:11-12 My people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

In the midst of the hurt I have been experiencing,

Have I exchanged Glory for a broken cistern that cannot hold water?

Jeremiah 6:16 Stand in the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and your will find rest for your souls.

 

Most days I wake up in the morning with a song in my mind, a lyric on repeat that plays until I’ve learned what the Father is trying to teach me. This song by Tauren Wells called “Hills and Valleys” is playing this morning. “The Father who gives and takes away, every joy and every pain…through it all He will remain over it all. In the valley I only will lift my eyes.”

God is good, that is Truth.

Nothing can or will change that…forever and ever Amen.

“Walking in the Dust of Rabbi” Jesus by Lois Tverberg published by Zondervan Copyright 2012  is available on Amazon. Use this link to order a copy for yourself.

https://tinyurl.com/yavjba4q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell me when…

Doug and I went to out for dinner this past weekend to celebrate his birthday. I spent some time alone at our table and rather than whip out my phone and check Facebook or my email, I took those few moments to look around and observe the people sitting near me.

I watched two interactions that looked similar. A lady at the table to my right had ordered a salad and the waiter had come over to offer her fresh ground pepper. I watched as he slowly sprinkled the spice over her plate and quite quickly saw her hold up her hand and smile saying, “Thank you, that’s enough.”

Almost at the same time, a gentleman just beyond her was having parmesan cheese freshly grated over his pasta. He too was allowed to tell the waitress when she had given him “enough.” He smiled and watched her turn and turn and turn the crank on the cheese grater and laughed with the whole table when he finally held up his and and said, “thats enough.” His dinner guests were commenting loudly how they were afraid he was never going to stop, that he may have taken all of the cheese.

Both of these interactions were almost the same, and yet they weren’t at all. I’m curious why pepper and cheese get special treatment at restaurants, why are those the two items that are important enough for personal service? A little or a lot? It sort of depends on what is in the grater.

Have you ever felt like you were looking up at God saying, “That’s enough, thank you?” The pepper of life falling down on you and you are quick to say, “no more.” Or, have you ever looked at your life and had it feel like God was grating Parm all over your days and you didn’t want to ever say, “Stop.”

I’m not sure where this analogy goes but it makes me chuckle. Doug and I discussed at dinner how blessed we were, “beyond measure” is how the Bible puts it. I could sit here and list all the amazing blessings I have been gifted with; a complete A-Z list with footnotes included. I’m overwhelmed when I drink in all that God has given me. The “cheese” of life is gooey and melted and makes me feel a little guilty because He has given me so much.

And yet, at the same table where Doug and I discussed how richly blessed we are, we shed tears. It’s was such a strange juxtaposition. We miss Dad, we know Emily is going away to college soon, there are prayers we’ve prayed for years that still feel unanswered. It’s the pepper of life.

King David wrote about pepper and cheese, maybe he didn’t know it but he did. Not every psalm but many start with praise and adoration. He gives voice to the many blessings of God. Then for some reason David also includes what he is struggling with and talks about the people or circumstances that plague him and cause his heart to ache. He then ends with an affirmation of who God is and testifies that God will never change.

Our lives can overflow with blessings and our hearts can ache all at the same time. Laughing through tears isn’t abnormal, in fact, it’s the most real any of us can be.

I encourage you to open up the Psalms today and see for yourself what King David has written. You may find a voice for the unspoken words of your heart. Laugh with Jesus about the blessings he has given you but also let him see your tears and allow him to speak to your pain, to your fear, to your longings.

Pepper and cheese may not be the deepest thing I’ve ever written about but I hope it does make you think…and maybe laugh a bit too.

PS. Happy Birthday Doug!

 

 

 

Time Out

When my kids were toddlers they spent a fair amount of daylight in a time out chair. Some of them were more familiar with the phrase, “Ok, time out!” than others, believe me.

Using “time outs” was a great tool for me to establish order to my home, give each of us a quiet minute to collect our sanity and distract my child from whatever it was that warranted the consequence in the first place.

Sometimes, I would put them in time out and when I came back to “free” them, they had fallen asleep. Most of the time, I knew that what they really needed was a nap but they would have never believed me. They were tired, they were worn out and sometimes I think it was when they were learning new skills that they needed more sleep than what they could gain from a normal routine.

The image of a “time out chair” hit me as I looked at the last date of my last blog post, December 28. It’s been a long time. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I really have. It’s not even that I had nothing to say even, its just that I wasn’t able to write or speak or pray. I’ve been in “time out” and I believe God placed me there.

Why? 

As I look back, I see so many reasons.

This past year has been filled with so much. Much to be thankful for, much to mourn, much to be exhausted by, much waiting, much processing, much longing…much.

My relationship with my children never changed when I put them in time out. Although they might have been spitting mad at me, I always knew they still loved me and I always still loved them. As they grew older they adopted the silent treatment as a way to communicate their displeasure with my parenting…even through that, my love was never questioned.

I’m so relieved that I can say the same of God and so much more. Even though I’ve chosen silence, He has chosen relationship. Even though I’ve chosen anger, He has offered joy. Even when I’ve chosen to be ungrateful, He has continued to give me more than I need. And when I’ve cried, even if I didn’t invite Him in to comfort me, I know that He never left.

Time outs kind of suck if I’m honest. I wrote that sentence many times but couldn’t find a more eloquent way of saying it, sorry. But I needed this time out, I’m at least mature enough to see that ….it took me 6 months so don’t even bother being impressed. I’m not even sure this time out is done yet?

Maybe this is my time to “think about why I’m here?” I used to use that line on my kids too.

I think I may be ready to come back? I think.

I woke up this morning with this line on repeat in my heart, “The evidence is all around, that the Spirit of the Lord is here.”  repeat, repeat, repeat.

He will lift up my head. That is a promise.

Psalm 3

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

 It’s with tears falling down my cheeks that I share this song with you. My heart is so full and so raw. This song seems to speak truth more than my words right now.
https://youtu.be/IR-7O57IQUA Elevation Worship, “Here as in Heaven”

Lessons from the edge of the ocean

I spent the first two weeks of December on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico’s beautiful water. Each night I watched the sun change the colors of the sky into something unique and different every night at 5:45pm as it melted into the horizon. If you’ve seen it once, you’ll never want to miss seeing it again. There was never a repeat of the same colors or the same sounds, each day was completely different from the day before. The condo we stayed in was only hundreds of feet away from the the water’s edge, the only thing separating my bedroom from the ocean was fine, soft, powdery white sand.

The noise of the ocean is a constant. There were days when the surf was minimal and the waters were calm but the sound was still persistent. The days when the waves were tall and angry the volume would be turned up 10x! The ceaselessness of the ocean’s call amazed me, it just never stopped. That may seem like a ridiculous statement but for a girl who grew up in the midwest, I kept waiting for the ocean to “turn off.”

The first few days we were there the sky was clear, the sun was warm and the breezes were gentle. The water looked like a lake, calm, clear and soft. After 5 days of the same, suddenly the ocean turned into an angry companion.

The skies turned gray, the waves roared and stood up 6 feet in the air. It looked and felt like a completely different body of water. It was hard and frothy and filled with energy and warning. I’d sit for hours looking at the different colors and wondering about how so much change could occur seemingly overnight. My position hadn’t changed and yet my view was 100% altered.

And then, the fog rolled in. Thicker than any autumn midwest fog I had ever seen, this fog appeared out of nowhere and completely clouded my vision. It was even hard to breathe the air, it was so thick. From my position on the balcony where I just moments ago had been able to see where the water met the horizon, I suddenly couldn’t even see where the water met the sand. I was surrounded on all sides and felt like I was blind.

The one constant was the rhythm of the ocean, a pounding that never ceased. Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was there just beyond my sight. A sustained and staccato crash that assured me it was still there.

As I sat and pondered the mystery of the ocean, I heard God’s voice of compassion and reassurance. “I am like the ocean,” he spoke to my soul. I am constant, I am continual, I am powerful, I am beautiful.

I Am.

Nothing will separate my love from your soul. Nothing. You may choose to leave but when you return I will still be here. You can not predict what I will look like, sound like, feel like or how I will behave but you can be certain that I am fixed, I am eternal.

I Am.

 

I could tell you so much more about the ocean. I could write about the multitude of colors I saw, more than I’ve ever experienced in my life. I could go on and on about the diversity and life that I experienced just along the shoreline and how my imagination ran wild as I contemplated what was under the dark waters. I could describe the endless mixture of birds I observed and their unique personalities.

Or the mixture of shells and sea sponges, rocks and sea grass that collected on the shoreline. The creativity that surrounded me on my little patch of sand was endless and overwhelming and humbling.

And I found myself asking,

 

Who is this King of Glory? 

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

I am small.

That is ok.

The Lord Almighty-he is the King of glory. He is the creator.

And He calls to us just like the ocean.

I Am.

Seeking God Day 30

haldenWe took the kids to Cedar Point this summer for a quick family get away. The first day we were there the humidity was a solid 80% and the temp was an oppressive 98 degrees. Even though we wanted to be having a great time, it was nearly impossible. There is just no way to love what you are doing when you are so uncomfortable.

When the sun finally went down so did the heat and humidity. It was such a welcome relief. Instead of focusing on how miserable I was, I could start enjoying the rides. I’m disappointed at how distracted I am when I’m uncomfortable.  It doesn’t take much change my focus or deter my progress.

The last ride of the night was a roller coaster. It was close to midnight and incredibly dark as we stood in line waiting for our turn. When we finally made it to the front of the line and loaded into the cars my heart was pounding. I made sure that the harness was securely locked; pulling on it two and three times. My feet dangled off the ground and I waited for the ride to begin. The attendant signaled, the coaster hissed and my stomach suddenly was stuck to the back of my seat…away we went. The darkness added to my excitement and my terror. There was no way to know when we would go right or left. I couldn’t see when the dips were coming and had no idea when we were headed upside down until we were already in a full blown twist.

Sometimes following God’s plan for my life feels much the same. Terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Not knowing where the next twist or turn is. Continuing to check the harness to make sure it’s secure.

We sang this song in church today, the lyrics of the chorus go like this:

Where you go I’ll go

Where you stay I’ll stay

When you move I’ll move

I will follow You.

Complete surrender, that is what this song is talking about. Riding a God’s roller coaster in the dark, checking the harness but surrendering to His will.

Do I trust Him? Can I lift my open hands to Him and say, “Your will Lord.”

Or,

Will I continue to hold back? Will I continue to try to wrestle for power?

The sentence, “Yes, Lord” can feel like we are abandoning control. It is really. But instead of being terrified, if we trust God, it can be freeing. Allowing us to close our eyes and enjoy the wild coaster ride He has planned.

Being surprised by God is breathtaking!

Do you dare?

And here is the most amazing thing…

Luke 12:7 says:

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

As risky as trusting God seems, he values you. Every hair on your head is numbered, you may want to be afraid but you don’t have to be.

Do you dare believe that God loves you as much as he says he does?

It’s going to be a wild and holy ride.

 

 

 

Seeking God Day 29

haldenJesus, Jesus precious Jesus how I proved him more and more. Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus, O for grace to trust him more.

We live in a country that is just a few days away from a national election; I don’t have to tell you that. The candidates? Less than desirable from any angle. How does loving and trusting Jesus influence who you vote for?

My Facebook feed is filled with stories about one group of Christians judging another group of fellow Christians. They disagree. Each side believes they are right, each side believes the other is deplorable. How do you love and trust Jesus in this environment? How do you know when you are on the “right” side? Is there a “right” side? If you question it, does that make you less spiritual? Does that make you a heretic?

What happens when we disagree? Are we as the body of Christ allowed to disagree and still be followers of Christ? I ask this with all sincerity because when I read one side’s or the others literature and rhetoric I’m led to believe that there is no room for middle ground. There is no tolerance for confusion or questioning or dialog. There is simply right and wrong.

I don’t want this post to be about any issue in particular but rather I want all of us to wrestle with what it means to seek God in this world full of differing opinions, worldview and choices. Seeking God conveys that we don’t know God fully, that there is still more to discover, that we may only know or understand a small piece of what is happening around us. Seeking God means that we don’t know it all. It’s a belief that we fully expect that He can and will reveal more to us about Himself, His love, His mercy and His grace.

We must be people of conviction but I also think there is danger in being too convinced of our convictions. The danger with unwavering conviction is that it is a fertile soil for pride to grow. Unwavering conviction does not leave much room for humility or learning but it does pave a wide road for self-importance.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

This may certainly expose a flaw in my character but the above statement is one of the only things that I believe with unwavering conviction. God loves me. God loves you. He gave his life for both of us. We only need to believe.

This world is extremely confusing to me. I am positive that I don’t understand all of what God wants or demands or expects of me and my neighbors. There are days that everything seems black and white but honestly, the older I get the more I question if a black and white world is just too simple. As soon as I type that, I wonder if a world full of gray answers is also too easy.

I don’t have the answers. I only have a lot of questions. I would love to tell you how to live but honestly, I don’t know if you should listen to me, actually I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t. Together we are better off as explorers. Seekers doing our best to help each other understand God, His word and His love more.

I’m so glad I learned to trust thee, 
precious Jesus, Savior, friend; 
and I know that thou art with me, 
wilt be with me to the end. 

Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus by Trinity Worship

Seeking God Day 27

haldenI sat talking with a young mom today and even though I was a complete stranger she left no detail out as she shared her story. She and her husband had 3 kids under 4. He was in school. She was working part time at a job where she started at 3am so that she could spend the rest of the day taking care of the kids. He was gone, a lot. This was their plan but it was so hard. When he finally came home she wasn’t sure if she should run to the bathroom to spend some time alone, flee with her girlfriends for some adult time or say yes to her husband’s request to spend some time together. Nothing was easy. Marriage, parenting, budgeting, surviving, it all seemed impossible.

As I listened, I realized that I had forgotten. I forgot how it was when we were newly married and the kids were small. I like to call those days the “pressure cooker” days. Doug and I were both physically exhausted. We were trying hard to fill the roles of mom and dad, husband and wife. It was all new.

I can’t believe I forgot. I look around now at our family and everyone has grown so much. There aren’t any primary colored toys on the ground. There are no sippy cups growing mold in my van. No one sleeps in a crib and I’m the first one up now days. Life is still hard but it’s different. Way more busy and yet a lot less harried at the same time. I have the luxury of sitting here at my computer, to think and write and contemplate life. 10 years ago that never happened.

As I saw the exhaustion and longing in her eyes, I realized a truth that I don’t want to forget. Nothing stays the same. Whatever you are dealing with right now it will pass. Now, I realize this isn’t new or ground breaking Solomon wrote about this in Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

 

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest. 

Everything that we go through, the pain, the struggle, the joy, the confusion it’s all a season. Being single, being married, raising young children, caring for aging parents, tight budgets, cold weather…you name it. Wherever you are, you will not stay there. You are not stuck there forever. Things will change, seasons always do. God promises that they will.

Being knee deep in today often blinds our ability to see the bigger picture. God always has a bigger picture. Sometimes we are allowed to see it, other times He asks us to just trust Him.

It’s not easy.

Today will pass, tomorrow will come.

In the end God is always in control and He promises to give us what we need to move forward. He will never leave, no matter what season you are in. He is there.

 

Seeking God Day 26

haldenI sit in the front row of the balcony, the lights in the house go down and the lights on the stage come up. My son, walks out on stage with his saxophone and the world around me fades away. I only have eyes for him and nothing else matters. I can’t decide if I want to close my eyes and listen to the music he is playing or keep them open so I can watch. I’m in love.

Each one of my children can command my undivided attention like that. It doesn’t matter if they are on the ball field, in a pool, on a stage or simply playing with their friends. I love to watch them. I love to see them being them. It is a joy to see how they grow and become more of who they were created to be. They have no idea how I feel. How could they?

There is a verse in the book of Zephaniah that speaks of God’s love for us this way:

Zephaniah 3:17

 

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

The song that is playing in my head on repeat is call Amazed. The lyrics are taken from this verse in Zephaniah,

You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound

Have you ever imagined God dancing over you? Could you ever believe that He takes great delight in you? In You!

Even when we don’t know, don’t see, don’t hear Him, He is still there watching. I’m sure that he watches you the way I watch my own children, except more. God is more. His love is more for you and for me than mine could ever be for my own children.

He has gifted you. He has plans for you. He has a purpose for your life.

Philippians 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

He is faithful.

Today as you seek God, examine how big you believe His love for you to be. And when you think you understand, think again. Ask God to awe you with the depth of His love for you.

Be amazed.

And then smile because You are His!

 

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