There are different styles of praise and worship music (lyrically speaking). Some songs are simple descriptions of the Creator’s majesty, like Indescribableor Majestic. Others tell of His (Son’s) great redeeming power by His work on the cross, such as Jesus Messiah or Love Song. Then there is my kind of worship lyric, which speaks in first-person of the brokenness that He has transformed, healed, and repaired.
“Whatever You’re Doing (Something Heavenly)”
It’s time for healing time to move on
It’s time to fix what’s been broken too long
Time make right what has been wrong
It’s time to find my way to where I belong
There’s a wave that’s crashing over me
All I can do is surrender
Whatever you’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos somehow there’s peace
It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see
but I’m giving in to something heavenly
Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Reevaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow your will
or just climbing aimlessly over these hills
So show me what it is you want from me
I give everything I surrender…
Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I’ve wanted to say for so many years
Time to to release all my held back tears
Whatever you’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life something heavenly
Whatever you’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but now I can see
This something bigger than me
Larger than life something heavenly
It’s time to face up
Clean this old house
Time breathe in and let everything out
BibleGateway.com’s ‘ Verse of the Day’ today is Psalm 103:17-18. Part of it hit me strangely:
…the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children- with those who keep His covenant and obey His precepts.
What this seemed to be saying was “The Lord’s love and righteousness result from covenant-keeping and precepts-obeying.” Two things struck me. First, this certainly sounds like the keeping and obeying is required – a prerequisite; and second, ‘love and righteousness?’ The actual question I asked myself was, “What exactly are love and righteousness worth? What do they do for me, even if they are from God?”
I’m pretty sure that throughout Christendom there is a constant struggle with – or a lack of understanding of – which comes first, God’s love for only those who fear Him or the awe and reverence that is felt as a result of knowing God’s blessings. I know works don’t come first, right? But those are verbs in the passage, indicating action: fear, keep, obey. The phrasing certainly makes it sound like only those who do these things will get the ‘reward.’ And why can’t we get something really useful to people in this world, like silver and gold, or free food and shelter?
I decided to look further into this, and googled “verses love and righteousness”.
The top returns clearly backed up God’s reputation as always good:
The Rock! His work is perfect. For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.
…Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne.
(He is) righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.
Wait a minute. “Kind in all His deeds??” Then why do bad things happen to good people? “…Why do bad people have it so good? …” (Jeremiah 12:1-4) Is this God not being faithful, righteous, and just? Or can it be that somehow He is acting with love, acting for our good and the plans He has for us – to prosper and not harm us? (Jeremiah 29:11)
It seems very contrary. A kind of divine oxymoron or something. In fact, even God’s response to Jeremiah goes right back to
Then if they (Israel) will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to (other gods), everything will go well for them…
I had to go deeper. Another hit on my search was Isaiah 45:21:
…there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior. There is none except Me.
God’s name is “I Am.” He is. He is what is. Consider this world, at this time. The earth has rivers. It benefits from them, even when they flood – floodplains are the most fertile land. Flooding is what is – and it is good in the long term.
How does that translate to us? If life is a river, there will be floods. We will have trials. God’s people learn to have faith, in spite of the floods. How will I face my troubles? How can I prosper?
I found the beginnings of an answer in Romans 5:3-5, with an additional point God makes (in verse 12:5) right after Jeremiah asks why bad people have it good:
…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] “If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions ] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan?”
Do you know the verse about discipline not being pleasant while it is happening but beneficial in the long run? I think this is similar. The difference is that discipline is the result of something that is done wrong while rejoicing in suffering is a reaction to the storms we will face. We learn from both. We learn how to live; how to stay alive.
Why is that important? I think it has to do with developing hope, something we cannot get up and go on without. And what does God do? He answers that question Himself:
I live in the high and holy places,
But also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
Get them up and on their feet again.
It’s God’s love and righteousness delivered through the Holy Spirit which gives us the ability to continue to live, to push through the troubled times. He gives us hope. And we have to have hope, to make it to that future without troubles which is promised to us, for a time that will come, a time when
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
And death shall be no more.
Neither shall there be mourning,
Nor crying, nor pain anymore,
For the former things have passed away.
The big “why” is that it’s always darkest before the dawn. Things will get worse before they get better. Before that final glorious time, the most difficult time is coming, and we must be prepared and able to stand throughout.
And we know that for those who love God all things (the good and the bad) work together for (overall) good…
This is a post about being able. Being able to give. I think.
My time today took me all over the Bible, from Chronicles to Psalms to several New Testament books. I have a dozen verses that seemed relevant to what I was discerning – that is, what I was thinking on and hearing from that quiet voice which connects me to the Creator, Spirit, and Savior.
So, I say, “I think I know what this post will be about.”
It’s not just about giving. It’s not about wanting to give. It’s more about realizing what I have been enabled to give. IOW, what I have been given to give. And, yes, it has sadly taken me a long, long while to figure this out. (I’m still not fully convinced I have figured it out!)
Certainly, it’s not money! Lol! I have no money to throw around. I do, however, have confusion about the role finances should play in how I give what I have to give (because, well, I’ve been given it, I have not been sold it to resell like some distributor.)
Did I pay for what I have? Well, I’ve suffered some but despite a calamitous life, I can’t claim any credit for where I am, what I have today. (Responsibility for where I ended up at my worst moments is another matter!)
So, I’m talking about being able to give, about knowing where and what my bountiful gifts and blessings are, and proceeding from there. First and foremost, works don’t come first. I definitely have something to give, yes, but it’s nothing that was my idea or of my doing. That is to say, first I received it and then maybe I developed it a tiny bit. I made it presentable. I dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s because I was taught that much.
But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from you, and from your hand we have been given.
1 Chronicles 29:14 AMP
Maybe a good analogy is the fire brigade – y’know, a line of people passing buckets of water one to the next to get water to where the fire is. I’m like one of those people in the middle. I don’t have any special skills. I didn’t have anything to do with making the water or the buckets. I’m not even sure from where either came. Nor can I see the fire (although maybe I can smell the smoke.) I’m not on the front lines. But I surely do feel that motivating sense of urgency to stand and pass, stand and pass, to keep the buckets moving.
But I do not consider my life as something of value or dear to me, so that I may [with joy] finish my course and the ministry which I receivedfrom the Lord Jesus, to testify faithfully of the good news of God’s [precious, undeserved] grace [which makes us free of the guilt of sin and grants us eternal life.]
Acts 20:24 AMP
Okay, we’re digging into this subject now. First was what Jesus has given in response to the mess we all make (our anti-good-works, if you will). That’s grace, the good news, precious and undeserved. Second, although I feel the urgency, I feel joy, too. I’ve been told – promised – that this fire’s fiery thirst will be quenched. Third, I’ve come to (mostly) accept that my place in the brigade is important but not vital. I’ve been placed in that specific spot for a reason. I’m upstream (to receive from) and downstream (to pass on to) the people I need. They represent my sphere of influence, my family, friends, and contacts.
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 AMP
That ministering I am to do has two parts. One is sharing the good news. The other is about my responsibility for worldly care. One’s more obvious (and easier to do) than the other (but it’s not always the same one! Lol!)
You know personally that these hands ministered to my own needs [working in manual labor] and to [those of] the people who were with me.
Acts 20:34 AMP
There is some work to do. Work that must be done. That only I can do? Perhaps, but only in a small and unique way. My story is just one chapter in God’s story, and it’s relevant to some few that He has chosen. Only He knows. Some of this work has to do with stewardship of whatever amount of material assistance He provides – my physical stuff.
But (verse :33) it’s not about having a desire for silver or gold or fancy clothes.
Let’s go back to Christ Jesus for a moment.
Who gave himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
Galatians 1:4 AMP
I think Jesus just might be the first and last guy in the brigade line. He’s drawing the water and making the first exchange. And He’s the one pouring the water out onto the flames. In being both, He’s giving me every example to follow, receiving the bucket from one person and delivering it to the next. There’s no need to think deeply about what or how to do this. The overall purpose for being in the line is obvious so we all can be joyfully singing as we pass the buckets. (Ya, I like the singing part.)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God…
Ephesians 5:1-2 AMP
What’s the takeaway for this post? Well, I’m down to two verses that could sum it up.
Philippians 2:5-8 talks about how Jesus gave up being divine to become in the likeness of men as a servant, becoming obedient to God’s will even to the point of death – and death on the cross at that. I certainly do not “hope” for a death like that! However, if my journey through these past nine years of recovery and sobriety struggles and the fact of my clay-jar fragility has done anything, it is to leave me ready to live and to, ultimately, leave this earth becauseI have been given belief that this life is not all there is.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasure.
Psalm 100:3 AMP
This is a post about tradition, and the benefits of … if not heeding it, then at the least taking it into all account.
I love acronyms. I use them all the time to help me remember stuff. I’ve heard one for the Bible: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. This is very, very true about that particular book. Trust me on this, as someone who has done life the hardest way – completely on my own and by listening to those who were in the same situation as me: just starting out (aka my friends). But there is something – quite a lot, actually – to be learned from those who have gone before (aka my elders). They got that way by picking up a thing or two. Listen to them.
Now, I’ll keep this general (iow non-faith specific) by stating that in every corner of the world mankind has collected the “wisdom of its ages” into one place, freely available to all. Unfortunately, the primary audience – those who would benefit the most – are the ones most likely to ignore. The question for every culture has always been how to convince the young to trust and adhere to this knowledge. For a long time, describing it as “sacred” was the best answer. But today we live and grow up in a post-spiritual world. The unseen has become unheard.
For youth is ever rebellious, thinking it knows better, wanting its own way, so sure it knows all the “whys” and “hows”. Wisdom, however, comes only with age. (There are a couple of apt sayings: ‘Youth is wasted on the young.” “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”) Youth does not seek to understand the “whys” embedded in traditions but instead steamrolls right over them.
Quite simply, life’s goal(s) have never changed. We each want to live, love, and prosper. What changes are the tools (the technology, the “hows”) available to us. Life is like a game and not like a game, at the same time. It’s not a game because it’s deadly serious. We get one chance to go through it. We don’t get to go back to “go” and collect $200 on the way. It’s like a game because it does have “rules” and we do get a “do-over” of sorts each morning. The challenge is that when we start out, we have no idea what the rules are, and we must take that do-over together with whatever foundation we’ve already built. (What’s the best way to get out of a hole? First, stop digging.)
How is one supposed to discover life’s rules? Quite simply, from those who have been in the game for some time already. From tradition, from others, from examples good and bad. And after these sources, from one’s own experiences and growing wisdom.
We have parents and/or family, those with whom we “belong” in a direct way. We have community, our “village” of those to whom we’re not directly related but who do have good intentions and common values. (“It takes a village to raise a child.”) The church used to be that community. It’s lessening influence (and the world’s attempts to “kill” the Creator), has had a sad effect on society. (But I don’t want to get into all that right now.)
It’s also true that one can follow good ways yet still not “get it,” like the prodigal’s older brother. It’s not better to be entirely prodigal or entirely older brother, but to have a cautious little of both, and to never stop being open to understanding the theory of a thing before putting into practice. It’s better to hear the prodigal story (both sons’ parts) in the first place.
Here’s one of those “there are only two of kinds of people” declarations for you: those who start with/from blind faith (aka trust) and live to see it verified, and those who question everything only to arrive right back where they began because they’ve experienced exactly what they refused to accept. (Funny, though, I’m proud to be one of the latter. I wouldn’t be who I am without having made the journey that way. But sometimes, I wonder if I would’ve been happier believing it the first time.)
The one takeaway for today’s post: Proverbs 1:2-7. Wisdom. Respect for tradition – the way things have been done. Curiosity about why things have been done that way. Willingness to trust those who have gone before to know – maybe not always what to do but certainly what not to do.
And here are some very, very good songs that express some of these ideas.
You may be familiar with the five words that start the chapter, the one whose subtitle (in the AMP translation) is “Self-Denial on Behalf of Others.” Unfortunately, I’m stuck (still) on that first part, the self-denial. How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t do it for myself?
What about when I’mnot strong? I feel this is most of the time, which I guess is understandable given these past nine years of recovery from so many things. Others have been helping me more than I’ve done for them. I think?
So, I googled, “Verses when I’m not strong,” and re-examined what I thought I knew about it. Of course, Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:31 came up in the search results. These are well-known and written about a lot. The one that really spoke to me today was
“My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” …
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
When I have lost my strength and my endurance is gone, what do I need to do? I must be reminded to remember to look toward the source of everything and more. He is my source. He is strongest and most powerful when I am weakest and unable to help even myself.
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.
Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant…
Sometimes only a prayer can tell what I’m feeling inside. Here’s mine:
Heavenly Father, Almighty Creator God, Master Designer and Crafter of the universe – and more! I like to pretend and play at “knowing” you. I try to sound and look confident in all that I have “learned” about the world and your heaven. I want to be seen as “strong.” And some days, I am assured, I can feel re-assured. But, really, sadly more often that not, I am merely trying to believe; trying not to doubt what you say and show to me. (Yes, yes! I am sure that you have messages and give blessings to me.) When I get to thinking Icanand Iam able, then, without question, I have forgotten again this very lesson. And naturally, I run smack into the wall of human impossibility. James 4:15: Instead, I ought to center myself and every effort on your control of the attempt and the outcome. Everything and more! When I forget, I run and hide, hoping to escape the inevitability of your promises. Always, everything – and more – comes back to, returns to, You. This is Your story. Your rules. You have all control, all power. I have one thing: the choice to believe, to trust, to make this prayer by the moment, and twice as often when I doubt. The choice to hope, to rest in Yourgoodintent. Because that is the real question, isn’t it? Not, “Is there a Creator or not?” But, “Do I believe the Creator loves me, loves us, as He says He does?” When this is what I’m sure of (and not the things I do), then I can ‘release all my held back tears,’ and let You, God, carry me through whatever I face. Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Acting Naturally” for me is, unfortunately, completely contrary to being God’s man. What to do? What to do? Well, “to do” is the key…
“Doing” for me is not – or is no longer – something that comes naturally. I like to sit, to think, to write, to watch, to rest in the sun (like our grown-old dog, Poochie – that’s him above, going for a walk). I’ve written before about my struggles with following up planning with doing. This morning, I’m contemplating this in a new way. (See? Just pondering…) But I’d like to think that writing this post is, in fact, completing a process. (After all, “to be” a writer is my goal – it is what I want “to be doing.”)
Certainly, I can speculate about why I tend toward inactivity. For most of 2015-2016, I was hospitalized or in physical rehabilitation from severe health conditions. I can see, too, a family history, perhaps because my parents grew up during the depression and their parents’ way of not spending was just not doing. (I do have to point out, however, that this led to frequently getting together with extended family, which is and has been a good thing.) Then, there are those stories about me being tied to a tree or kept on one of those kid-leashes. (I shudder at the thought – what could more effectively Pavlovianly limit a person’s desire to go and do?)
The virtue that I think defines the follow-through I’m missing is diligence. So, to start this morning’s topic, I searched BibleGateway.com for it in the AMP translation. The first hit was
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flow the springs of life.
At first glance, this didn’t seem of help to me in becoming active. On further thought, though, this watching over my heart is an action at the root of my issue. To me, it infers not closing my eyes to God’s standard, which is not my own, which takes a big effort to follow. (My major addiction, sex, is a perfect example. Keeping to God’s standard for human sexuality continues to be a huge unnatural thing for me, but that’s another post.)
Further down the list of search returns were these verses:
You have ordained your precepts,
That we should follow them
With [careful] diligence.
The lazy man does not catch and roast his prey,
But the precious possession of a [wise] man is diligence,
[Because he recognizes opportunities and seizes them.]
Now, these get to the heart of the matter! My preference is for the lazy river, but life and growth happen more consistently in the rapids. The noun, precept, is defined as “a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.” It derives from the Latin words prae + capere, “before” and “take,” which were combined to form praecipere, meaning “warn, instruct.” If there is anything that should alert us addicts especially, it is a “warning.” (The trouble I find is that I always want to know “why?” and then I feel obligated to put it to the test, guaranteeing my learning it the hard way.)
This is one of those “easier said than done” things, summed up nicely in Ephesians 5:15-17:
Therefore see that you walk carefully [living with honor, purpose, and courage, shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], Making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil.
Therefore, do not be foolish or thoughtless, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is (ME: and not your own will).
Walking carefully and grasping firmly are both very conscious actions. In them, we are advised to be more than normally aware, to check and recheck ourselves, to not be habitual and thoughtless, to not forget because my mind is wandering. (This may be what is meant by “staying in the moment?”)
There’s a fear here: to always be choosing, deciding? Every second of every minute of every hour of every day?! Not only does it sound impossible to do, the very attempt sounds absolutely exhausting. “No rest for the weary?” What a burden it seems!
So I searched on “peace rest.” The answer that was given is the whole point to faith and belief in Christ:
Come to me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].
Life in this world is not easy. It was never meant to be easy or thoughtless. As a follower of Christ, I am constantly tempted by the world’s “easy way,” and, when the effort of following becomes too much, Christ is my refuge. By focusing on him and not on the weight of the world, I can “do this.”
First, we walk, then we run. Then we soar on wings like eagles.
If life is a river, Christ is my kayak but I’m in the rapids, tipping over.
Flowing water always takes the easiest path. So do I. So do I. Sometimes this means calm, serene, quiet drifting across a gently sloping lazy landscape… so pretty. Other times raging whitewater, steep inclines, big rocks, Niagara Falls even. And slowly I turn.
I’m in one of those latter sections on my life’s stream. So much is going on, inside and out. There’s the direction through this torrent I want to go, then there’s the current – God taking me his own way. In a word, change. Life is transitioning from peaceful to … something else. I have no idea what lies on the other side of this busy, fast-paced stretch. I just know I’m really being challenged to hang on right now, and I’m already soaked.
Where to start? Well, I like routine. Same same. For a long time, at least two years, I’ve been able to stick to it. Morning has been journaling, reading, and coffee, or dialysis. (Actually, AM quiet time has been consistent since recovery began in 2008.) Then there was always napping, as I recovered from various surgeries in 2015. Most nights were early to bed. Very predictable.
Unfortunately, my family’s financial ship was sinking. So recently, I began looking for some way, every way, to make extra. Work-from-home online gigs. Selling my stuff. Renegotiating the wireless and cable. Coupons.
I think there’s hope, though. I’ve started driving with Uber and Lyft in the mornings of non-dialysis days. I catch the going-to-work commuters or airport runs. I stay away from the drunken weekend nights. But this has overturned my typical day.
There’s been just as much turmoil spiritually and emotionally. My theme, James 1:8, swings on. Lord, help my unbelief. For the past year or so, I’ve been physically recovered enough to have energy but, without things to do, boredom and idleness and isolation have led to temptation. Old habits have stealthily slipped in. I question my qualifications for worship and words. And I ponder whether God or “reality” is a metaphor for the other. (This sounds complicated, but it’s really just continuing doubt caused by my own “logic.”)
What to do? What to think? Well, for starters, take my own advice. I’ve been through rough waters before – they (eventually) led me to faith. Now, I have to start over.
To navigate change, I need to accept and acknowledge God’s over-riding will on my plans. I can’t go where the river don’t flow. I need a new schedule. Rather than operating on whim, I have to prepare and get organized more than ever.
Prepare your work outside;
Get everything ready for yourself in the field,
And after that build your house.
Who builds a tower without first counting the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Spiritually, with my faith at a low ebb, I’m desperately repeating to myself James 4:13-15:
(Today, tomorrow we’ll go here and there, and do this and that…)
Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen in your life tomorrow.
[What is secure in your life?]
Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and we will do this or that.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 are helping, too:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make straight your paths.
I pray for the ability to “be still and know” (Psalm 46:10). What I need is not to be prepared for the unexpected (if that could be so, it wouldn’t be unexpected.) I need to be prepared to encounter the unexpected, resting in the knowledge and acceptance that God has my good in mind. Relearn, relearn.
Plan, now do.
Commit, then complete.
Faith, with action.
Patient, yet urgent.
The urgency is the ominousness of James 4:17 – and this is the one thing I hope you, the reader, take away from this post.
So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it
(ME: or knows what is wrong to do and still does it),
to him it is sin.
Here are a couple of songs that feel appropriate to me: