If Life Is A River… There Will Be Floods

If Life Is A River… There Will Be Floods

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.
(NIV)

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.
Deuteronomy 32:4

…Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne.
Psalm 97:2

(He is) righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.
Psalm 145:17

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…
Jeremiah 12:14-17

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.
:3-5

[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?”
12:5

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.
Isaiah 57:15-21

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.
Revelation 21:4

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…
Romans 8:28

This Is Not Your Father’s “Adulting”

This Is Not Your Father’s “Adulting”

This is a post about tradition, and the benefits of … if not heeding it, then at the least taking it into all account.

64034B60-A4E5-43A8-A338-8F509E98A266-5198-000005BEE76EB9DAI 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.

terrifiedFor 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.

img_3295We 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.

Dear Younger Me by MercyMe (YouTube). Buy it here (from my affiliate link).

Listen by Josh Wilson. Buy it here.

“All I have to do is Act Naturally” NOT

“All I have to do is Act Naturally” NOT

“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). Featured Image -- 14820I’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. kid-leashI 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

Proverbs 4:23
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:

IMG_3765Psalm 119:4
You have ordained your precepts,
That we should follow them
With [careful] diligence.

Proverbs 12:27
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:

 

IMG_3763
me, about to mow for the first time in years!

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?”)

effortThere’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].
Matthew 11:28

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.”

img_3337IMG_3741
First, we walk, then we run. Then we soar on wings like eagles.

Here’s a great song that expresses my feelings today. It’s Worn by Tenth Avenue North.
Buy the digital download here..