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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category


Shopping. Some of us love it. Some of us hate it. And, some of us really don’t think about it at all, we just do it.

The shopping experience is an interesting one, especially if you’re on a budget, and you’re trying to stretch every dollar to the Nth degree. Take clothes shopping, sometimes you just need a shirt, it doesn’t matter what color it is or what style it is, you just need it. So, you go looking through the racks and find one, then another, and another and all of them will fit the bill.

But, sometimes you’re looking for something in particular, aren’t you? You need a black shirt to go with whatever, and it has to be in a certain style because otherwise it won’t match. It’s that kind of shopping that is draining because no matter how hard you look, if you can’t find that particular shirt, then the whole thing has been a wash.

Then there are times when the opposite is true. You think you have a lot of shopping options. But, no matter how hard you look, you always come back to the same item, over and over, and, over and over again, until at last you just give up and buy it.

Sometimes I do a little shopping when I pray, and I would imagine that you do too. We keep going back to God with a question, problem or issue, hoping He’s going to give us a different answer from the one He’s already given us, then are surprised when it’s the same.

I don’t really like leadership positions. I try to avoid them as much as possible, preferring to stay in the Shadowlands, and help out behind the scenes. So, when I was first asked to lead a Bible study group, I wasn’t too keen on the idea.

So, I went to God in prayer and got a resounding ‘yes.’ But, I didn’t like that answer, so I let it lay quietly for a couple of days and went back again half hoping He would give me a different answer. He didn’t. It was still a firm ‘yes.’ So, I left it alone for another couple of days, all the while knowing that soon I would be trying to dodge phone calls from the teaching director who needed to know what I was going to do. Again, I went to Him, prayed about it, and again got the same answer. ‘Yes.”

My shopping did me no good, which isn’t surprising at all. After all, God is God, and He doesn’t change His mind. But we would still like Him to wouldn’t we? We all want a god who is going to behave himself, a god who is going to see we don’t want to do something and allow us to dictate what we will or will not do. We want a god who will let us off the hook.

But, He’s not like that. He loves us too much to allow us free rein, and He wants a relationship with us too much to allow us to go shopping for an answer that will please us, instead of one that’s good for us. In short, there are times when we just have to accept that He is God and He knows what He is doing, and no amount of shopping is going to change that.

“But You are the same and Your years will never end.”

Psalm 102:27

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Do you ever think about the words used by different generations? Sometimes I do.

Blocks

What words roll around your mind when you think about God?
(Photo by Inga Munster Cotton)

Words, words, words, words

There are times when my mind takes flight over the undulating terrain of words throughout time. This is usually when I probably should be writing something for work. And, although the argument can be made that sitting and thinking about words is part of my creative process, in reality it probably has nothing to do with it, but should have a lot to do with it.

Either way, whether those words end up in my stories or not, my mind flies over to them,  before wandering over them slowly. What they sound like. What they look like. What they mean. Who says them. And a whole lot more.

I turn them over in my mind, and they’re  like those little wooden blocks that children make towers to tomorrow out of before they all come crashing down around them, causing squeals of laughter, or tears of frustration and remorse. I guess you can say that I love words, and none so much as the common.

What is fierce?

Today the word ‘fierce’ came to mind. As I turned it over and over, looking for its equivalent in today’s world, ‘sick’ came to mind, along with its predecessors, ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’, along with the almost unforgettable qualifier ‘totally’.

‘Totally fierce’ tumbled around my mind for a while, and with its implications of total abandon, protection and uninhibited passion behind it, I found I really liked the sound of it.

Is fierce bad, or good?

Fierce is an interesting word because it can be either positive or negative, depending on what side of the fence you are standing. I would think most people would look at it in its most basic definition of  being, “Extremely severe or violent; terrible” which sounds pretty bad, but it is also defined as, “Extremely intense or ardent” ( both definitions come from the free dictionary.

No gray area with God

So, I got to thinking that this is exactly how God is. Depending on where you stand with Him, He is either the first or second definition. He’s definitely not anywhere in between. There is no gray area with God. He either seems fierce or extremely severe and terrible if you aren’t in relationship with Him through Jesus/Yeshua, or He is fierce about how He feels for you as someone who knows Him through Jesus/Yeshua.

The fierce I AM

It is very clear throughout scripture that the great I Am is fierce. He isn’t some wishy-washy god who changes on a dime to accommodate some vision of what some man thinks He should be. He is who He is and He cannot be anything else. He is fiercely who He is, which can be a little frightening at times because we don’t ever encounter that with anyone but Him.

The intensity with which He feels, and the lengths He is willing to go to get through to us can be frightening. Then when we are in relationship with Him through His efforts, not our own, the ardent and passionate way He loves us can be frightening in its ferocity.

God is fiercely in love with you

At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it, when you really realize that you are in relationship with the fierce One who created it all, including you, and that He is fiercely in love with you. There is no way to respond with anything but amazement, awe, and yes, sometimes even a little bit of fierceness ourselves.

“neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:39

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With the holidays hurtling towards us at breakneck speed, I have been thinking quite a bit about focus, about what our focus is and in the process rereading a piece by A. W. Tozer titled, “The Gaze of the Soul” found in his book, “The Pursuit of God”.

In light of these thoughts about focus and our oftentimes random, unfocused way of being – I am constantly amazed at how easily we allow ourselves to be dragged hilly-milly here and there – I am resharing my own thoughts on focus from a long ago written piece.

—————

Focus.

When I first had my son, I remember one bit of parenting advice among many. I don’t even know where it came from, but, it went something like this, what you focus on when parenting is what kind of parent you will become.

At the time, I took it to mean that if I focused on the things that I didn’t like about my own parents parenting then I would repeat those same things. And, if I focused on the things I thought were good about their parenting, along with those things that I thought were important about being a parent, then I would be able to work towards the goal of what I thought a decent parent was.

Focus.

In time, the idea took on a mind of its own to me. I realized that what I focused on is what I became, even if I didn’t like the focus. If my focus was uncontrolled, and, I didn’t make sure my focus was on what I respected or held dear, then I inadvertently walked in a direction that I neither liked nor felt comfortable in because those paths weren’t what I wanted. But, because my focus was not controlled, that was where I went.

We all have this focus problem that ultimately translates into a behavior problem. Even Paul himself wrote the things he wanted to do, he didn’t and the things he didn’t want to do, he did. It’s all about focus. Our hearts may be in the right place, but, if our focus is off, we have a problem.

Focus.

God is very clear about where our focus should be. On Him. All the time. Without ceasing. This isn’t for His good, (after all He is whole in who He is, He doesn’t need us to focus on Him) it is for our good, because He knows how we are. Where our focus is, there we shall merrily go, until we find out we’ve actually gone too far, don’t know where we are and in our wanderings have lost our focus. Again.

“Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha.”

“Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,”

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

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Butterfly effect

Image via Wikipedia

I’m always struck by just how many times people do things and the downstream results of their actions are never at all what they think they will be, if they think about them at all.

It doesn’t matter if our actions are really big and have an immediate effect, or very small and seemingly inconsequential, there always seem to be consequences that we wholly don’t anticipate.

It sort of reminds me of the whole Butterfly Effect where a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world and sets of a chain reaction that ends up being a storm on the other side of the world.

I was reminded of this just recently on of all places, Facebook.

Being a collector of various bits of information, most of it coming from a cornucopia of sources – that because of my background, I deem either reliable or unreliable – I end up with quite a bit of information that I pass on to others who may interested. Usually I do this through a phone call, an email, or if I happen to run into them, I’ll just tell them about it.

Very rarely do I post something on someone else’s wall on Facebook, but, that’s just what I did with an interesting video about the actual effects of fiscal inequality, which according to the data collected are very different in tenor and tone than one might automatically assume.

If you’re interested in taking a look, you can view it here: richard_wilkinson.html

But, it wasn’t the video itself that led me to think about unintended consequences, it was what happen after I posted it on my friend’s page. First another friend saw the post, viewed it and reposted it to her 259 friends. Then a friend of hers saw her post and reposted it to her 193 friends, and I don’t know where it went from there, but you get the picture.

When I posted it I thought one person would view it, but instead 452 other people that I know of saw the posting, and I assume a fraction of those actually took the time to watch it, which was a far greater number of people seeing it than I ever intended. It really gave me a very small-scale view of how something could indeed go viral on the internet and end up affecting millions of people before a day is out.

All this got me thinking about how we live our lives as everyday believers in Christ. How our behavior has unintended, far-reaching and unseen consequences for either good or ill than we will ever know, which is why it’s so important to stay as close to the LORD as possible and live our lives in Him and for Him instead of for ourselves.

“…you should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

1 Thessalonians: 2:12

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My Necktie -- 1/7/5

Image by bjohnson via Flickr

Odd things come up when you’re a two person, mother-son household. Things you don’t even expect to think to know, you find out you don’t know by running into them face first, like tying a tie for instance.

 My son was going to his first cotillion and we were down to the wire with getting him out of the house, when he walked up to me with his tie and asked me to help him with it.

 I looked at the lavender silk tie hanging innocently from his hand, and, I realized I had no idea how to tie a tie and neither did he.

 In preparation for the event I had thought of everything else, I had even bought the tie, but I had not even given a second thought to how it was going to end up around his neck.

 We just looked at each other for split second, both of us realizing about the same time that neither of us knew how to perform the miracle of folds that would turn a slim tailored piece of silk into a passable approximation of a necktie. 

 This was a new experience for my son, coming to me and my not knowing how to do something. I could see his tension level rise as we looked at one another as my mind began to frantically think of solutions to the problem. As I went through all the possible men who could have helped if there was enough time, the realization that there was not enough time even if I got in touch with any of them made the situation even more weighty.

 The prime suspect of tie tying is actually my dad who lives over 1,500 miles away. Even if we had the time to call, he may or may not  have remembered how to do what so easily came to him not too long ago. He even showed my son how to tie a tie less than a year earlier, but the details were promptly forgotten by my then ‘tween son. And, of course, I didn’t pay attention either.

 So, after a moment of frantic thinking, I did what any mother would do in such a situation, I turned to YouTube for the solution to our problem.

 And, after a moment or two of searching I found a short video that showed us the basics of tie tying, and, we were able to get the job done without too much fuss about how big or small the knot was.

 How many times does that happen in life? We don’t even know we don’t know something we need to know, until we’re faced with it point-blank. It’s at those times that we realize that even if we don’t know how to do something, we do need to know where to go for the answers and solutions to our problem, and why it’s so important to not only know where to go, but to be able to search through it effectively as well.

 The reason why I was able to find the right video quickly is because I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube. In the same way, any of us who turn to the Word of God to find answers to our problems, need to spend a lot of time in the Bible when we aren’t in need, so we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, quickly find answers to our questions when we are.

 “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”

Psalm 119:16

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Lightning strikes during the eruption of the G...

Image via Wikipedia

Every once in a while you see photographs that really make you sit up and take notice of the enormity of the natural forces in this world we live in.

We’ve seen a lot of these images in recent months, tsunamis, tornados, floods, you name a natural disaster, and chances are we’ve all seen some sort of photograph of it somewhere.

But, the images, usually awash in a mixture of multi-layered grays, blacks and whites, don’t convey the out-of-control intensity of the moment when these things hit. It’s like looking at a black and white photograph then comparing it to a color photograph of the same event. The color one is going to stand out far and above the black and white, if only because it catches our eye more, is less flat, looks more like real life, and, maybe, we can relate to these because they do look more like we see the world in all its colorful intensity.

The photographs from the volcanic eruption of Chili’s Puyehue Volcano, and the ash plume it spewed run through and perforated with lightning bolts like something out of a Sci-Fi movie are just those types of photographs. Unlike the muted grays of recent natural disaster photographs, they show vibrant colorful image’s that accurately portray the intensity of the event.

National Geographic’s cut line on their photographs of the event hits the nail on the head, “In a scene no human could have witnessed, an apocalyptic agglommeration of lightning bolts illuminates an ash cloud above Chile’s Puyehue volcano (map) on Sunday.”

You can view the photographs here:

http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=USRTR2NCS0#a=1

It struck me as I looked in amazement at the photographs, thinking how similar they were to many of the photo’s of deep space, that many times we view the Lord in the flat black, white and gray that we see many of these photo’s in. And, because of this, although we get a sense of His intensity and enormity, our view of Him lacks the vibrancy and intensity and impact of the reality of seeing Him in color.

“Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

Ezekiel 1:26-28

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Smile 2

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes it take the smallest thing to make your heart smile.

Earlier this week, I was waiting in the foyer of my church for my son’s jr. high youth group to finish up.  Awana and a couple of Bible study groups are held on the same night. So, at the end of the night it’s not unusual for a small contingent of parents to be waiting in the foyer until all the groups are out.

When we saw the Awana kids file into the sanctuary for their closing, we all knew the wait was almost over. It had been silly string night, and because of this the little guys were all dressed up in Western wear. You could see they had a root-tooting good time shooting their teachers with Silly String until their teachers looked more like Cousin It from the Addams Family than anything else by the time it was all over.

So, we were waiting, making small talk, chit chatting, and waiting some more, when all of a sudden someone said, “the cubbies are singing, Oh, Happy Day.” At those words, all of the parents mobilized and rushed into the sanctuary to see the cubbies singing their hearts out on the stage complete with the song’s hand motions and cowboy hats perched precariously on their heads.

And, everyone else got in on the action too. Even if they didn’t know the hand motions, it’s hard to mess up the words, “Oh, happy day” was repeated with enough regularity to make anyone feel like they could join in.

In the few minutes those little cubbies sang that praise song to the Lord, and everyone else joined in, there was no one within earshot who didn’t have a smile on their face.

Take a listen to the song yourself.

After the song was over all the parents filed out to the foyer to wait some more, and even though we were in the same situation we were in before, you could just see that everyone was just a little more joyful.

It’s amazing what happens to your day when you look at the Lord and realize what He’s done for you because of His immense love for you. No matter where you are, what you’re doing or what you have to contend with, you can say, ‘it’s a happy day because You, Lord, are with me.’

“And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!'”

Nehemiah 8:10

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