Friday, December 18, 2009

I Make Well-Being and Create Woe

My life gushes to the brim full of blessings. I am loved, I am befriended, I am educated, employed, valued, I am rich enough that I own my car and have my own room, I have things like an iPod and a smart phone. I have friends that would give me the shirt off their backs, and I know they're not going anywhere. As for my family ... well: the stuff of legends. My life is the sweetest of fare, but don't try to get me to admit that just any day. I can be stubbornly negative about my circumstances when I focus all the time on what I've got still to achieve.

There have been days, however, when I have tasted blood. Even for whining weakling like myself, there have been wounds worthy of a tear or few shed. I've been battered and bruised -- sometimes it's a byproduct of my own misjudgments; other times it's been a legitimate betrayal of trust. Sometimes it's just senseless, wasteful, undeserved injury. Times when turnabout was very unfair play. And I know I'm not alone. We all draw this card from time to time.

Wednesday morning I read a Word from my God and I was startled at what He said: "I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things." Subconsciously I want to protect Him from His own proclamation. "Nah, God, you're not all that bad..." It takes me a moment or two to realize this isn't my pal talking, needing my encouragement and asking my help to let go of their self-berating. God is not apologizing. He doesn't need me to help Him feel better about Himself.

God, did You make my woe? Was that You?

Have you ever been in a situation where you're complaining to some trusted friend about something that really annoyed you or ticked you off, and you don't know who caused it so you're just blabbing away about how much it bothered you, and then all of the sudden! -- Your (crazy) trusted friend decides to say, "I did that. And the reason why is ..." And suddenly the beloved's logic makes sense and you realize all along you'd been embarrassingly self-absorbed in your moment of annoyance? You backpedal and tell your friend why you really don't mind that much and you totally understand where they were coming from anyway... [Or has that only happened to me??]

Reading this passage from Isaiah's book was a little like that moment. I wanted to suddenly justify all God's actions, but He wasn't asking me to. He's not embarrassed. He has a logic. He has a purpose. He's in control of it all because he created it all. By God, nothing is wasted. Not one tear, not a sigh, not one crushing blow or suffocated heart trying to keep beating through the letdown. Ultimately, expect justice. For your enemies and yourself, pray mercy.

When you cry and beat your chest and feel angry, depressed, confused: please know that God isn't trying to lie to you. He hasn't pretended to be something He's not. He's been honest at every turn. He is in control of your circumstances, and mine. He's responsible for all those Kodak moments you love, and yet He's still conducting the orchestra through the tragedies. He's a friend and lover with a logic that we can't yet defend, because His ways are beyond our understanding. If you need to scream at Him, scream. He can take it and see you through it. He won't try to explain any more than He already has, but He might reveal a bit more of his heart when you're ready to see it.

HIS longing is for creativity ... justice ... salvation ... life!

Is 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25

I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this.

For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday: Humility (as told by John the Baptist)

Prayer this morning centers around a request for the Lord to enlighten me by His Word. In the reading for today, Psalm 25's refrain: "Teach me your ways, O Lord." I am reminded that the Lord's ways are compassion and kindness, and that He shows sinners His ways. Humility before enlightenment.

The Baptist was joyful because he was humble. In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue. Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. John knew he had an important role which he played aggressively, with authority and confidence. The humble man does not sheepishly look down on himself. Actually, he does not look at himself at all. He looks away from himself to the Lord.

Most human beings, at one time or another, battle a nagging sense [of] inadequacy. Pride is sin’s approach to dealing with this. Proud people are preoccupied with self, seeing all others as competitors. The proud have to perpetually exalt themselves over others in hope that this will provide a sense of worth and inner peace. Of course, it doesn’t. Human history has proven that point time and time again. Even the pagan Greek storytellers knew that hubris or pride was the root of tragedy. Pride always comes before the fall, as it did in the Garden of Eden.

Humility brings freedom from this frantic bondage. Trying at every turn to affirm, exalt, and protect oneself is an exhausting enterprise. Receiving one’s dignity and self-worth as a gift from God relieves us from this stressful burden. Freed from the blinding compulsion to dominate, we can recognize the presence of God and feel a sense of satisfaction when others recognize that God is God and honor him as such. We can even be free to recognize godliness in someone else and rejoice when others notice and honor this person.
(Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Have a beautiful Monday. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Make Your Music (with me?)

I love this time of year. I LOVE that I walked into my home tonight and it smelled of freshly baked bread (waiting for the cooling to be done so I can tear into it..). I LOVE that today is my nephew and godson's first birthday, and that I can pray for his life to be blessed with the same richness that his life has brought to mine and others'. I love that I'm going home soon ... that Courtney is coming home too ... I love that we use red and gold and bells and greenery and spices and sweets to remind us of the beauty and sweet abundance of life when the winter encroaches and threatens to steal our joy with its long darks and heavy frosts.

I get a huge kick out of new beginnings, so I love New Year's, and the fact that it coincides with the mark of my birth date. The rub with New Years and other beginnings is that the flip side marks an ending of something. The theme of the past couple of weeks in my mind has been waiting, counting days down, watching them pass. I counted up the things I felt grateful for, and immediately started counting down til the moment I would see my family again. We're all counting up and counting down, saying hello and goodbye, staying in certain holding patterns, landing and taking flight.

At this time in my life I am beginning to wonder if I have ever really opened up my heart to God. Have I ever spent an extended period of time meditating on His purposes and His sovereignty? Have I really laid myself open before Him to accept the fact that His way for ME is the only way for ME? Have I ever really contemplated and meditated on what that means? It is finally dawning on me that maybe the realization of a true heart openness to God takes time, counting days upon days of small moments of meditation, and asking simple questions such as, "What can I do for You today?" "Where do You want me today?" "Who did you create me to love today?"

I have spent so many days closing in on my SELF. What do I want to do? What am I going to do next? How can I stop myself from feeling lonely or bored or left out or purposeless? It's always been one day of scrambling through to the next day. I'm not here to say anything pretty or clever, but just to tell you all and let you hold me accountable -- I'm looking to open up and stop striving. Just rest, meditate, and listen. It might take me months or years. Eventually I know I will understand better what it means to be a servant of God, and instrument. Instruments make beautiful sounds but they deflect all the glory onto the musician. That's what I need to be -- an instrument.