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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The consequence of full surrender…


He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life


The consequence of full surrender…

 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD.  Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”  

       2 Chronicles 20:18-20 (NIV)



Today I’ve just got to shout and praise the Lord.  It’s more of what I did yesterday, after learning the consequences of full surrender.  It’s what Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah did after the battle, which by the way, they did not fight, because they cried out to the Lord in their distress and then began to praise Him.  They did nothing, and the consequence of their full surrender…
So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing[d] and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah[e] to this day.
Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies.  They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lyres and trumpets  2 Chronicles 20:25-28 (NIV)

Let’s go back to yesterday morning. After Monday and Tuesday and my sad little blog, I wasn’t nearly through sinking to my depths.  My grandmother is 92 but frail.   Providing primary care to her as only my mother would is nearly killing her (Mommy, herself recently  recovered from stroke).  Our children have an unending list of needs and desires, and my husband carrys more stress than is healthy.  It’s just life, but when it blows up everywhere at once, I’m lost for a refuge.  We were walking the dog yesterday morning, my husband and I, and that’s usually a safe place.  He was giving me advice and guidance, the kind of things that men, particularly mine, are very good at doing, when I started to cry.  Done. I’d hit the wall. I pulled myself together, bit my tongue to avoid starting a fight (that’s what you do after 18 years of marriage, and I’m proud of it), and kept walking.

After dropping him at the train station, I channeled both King Jehoshaphat and Scarlett O’Hara. I’d cried out to the Lord in my distress, then deliberately postponed thinking about, or doing anything about anything, not necessarily until tomorrow, but at least until later.  I bought coffee.  I drove home.   I planned to take a run.  I went to the park and ran.  I had a lovely, leisurely breakfast with my children.  I took a shower.  I washed my hair.  I twisted and braided my dreads, its own exercise in focus and patience, because I have a lot of long hair.  I made some phone calls, gathering information to move my circumstances forward, but stopped trying to make things happen.  I folded laundry. I relished in full surrender.

How’d my day end? In victory.  I spoke to Mommy, who finally begins to sound rested.  My brother was visiting, taking some of the slack.  Things came back into order, big and small, not because I did anything, but because I didn't while God did. I cannot say that all my enemies have been vanquished yet, and cannot report finding treasure and many days of plunder, but I found rest for my soul, refreshment for my spirit, and the joy of watching the Master move when I got out of the way.  With me in surrender, He had space so I could see His Hands.  I know He doesn’t need me out of the way, but a) that’s how He wants it, and b) when you stop running like a crazy person, you appreciate the beauty of a sunrise because you fully surrender in order to see it unfold. 

Lord, I’m asking that it not take me so long next time to fully surrender.   I am thankful to have seen Your Hands move when mine were finally still.  I am thankful for Your Love as I know You’re always there and I’m always in the way; I don’t mean to be...I am thankful as always for the reminder that God is Good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The weathermen were wrong…


He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life


The weathermen were wrong…


You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.

             2 Chronicles 20:15 (NIV)


Thank God, it didn’t rain Saturday.  It was supposed to rain Saturday….at least that was the weather report.  It stormed Friday, after raining most of week.  The weather, cold, thundering and lightning, threatening hail, was a metaphor for the way I felt-beaten down by things entirely beyond my control.  It felt like bits and pieces were falling down and falling apart in sequence; nothing going right. I wasn’t being pursued by armies exactly, but I was weary, worn, and sad.

In 2 Chronicles, Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were on the brink of war; about to be crushed by not one but three nations.  Jehoshaphat’s solution as leader of the nation was to throw up his hands and confess that they were in deep dip.  In verse 9, he says…”if calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress…” Tell me about it.

I’ve been crying out. I’ve been crying.  I’m weary, weak, and worn down.  I don’t want to be sad, I don’t want to feel defeated, but I’m stumbling and almost out. I don’t give up, but I’m nearly ready to….So let me tell you about Saturday.

The great thing about weather forecasts as a metaphor for faith, is that while the report may say “rain,” bad weather might not be in God’s plan.  Let me tell you about Saturday.

The sun shone.  Family arrived as planned, my teenager in tow.  We spent the entire day outside, laughing, visiting with people we hadn’t seen in years, enjoying the music of kids playing jazz, the greats playing jazz, enjoying God’s creation. I was not defeated.  There were friends all around to bear me up.  The sun warmed me.  The love of my friends cheered me.  My godsons hugged me, kissed me, and held my hands.  My problems were not solved, not immediately, but I did have this Word….”You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”

Do not be discouraged…who could be on a day like Saturday? 

You will not have to fight this battle…it’s not your job to solve your Problems because you can’t, and God can. 

Go out to face them tomorrow…because He’s not beside me, He’s out front. 
So, while I’m still in the midst of it all, I’m not fighting, so I cannot lose.  He is with me, and I will take that knowledge with me as I go…providing further evidence that God is Good.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caring for the cavalry…

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life


Caring for the cavalry…

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

                  1Thessalonians 5:11-13 (NIV)


When the cavalry rides in, do you say “thanks”, or “what took you so long”? Are you grateful? Do you pay it forward??  When was the last time you committed a deliberate act of kindness for someone you love? Do you say thank you, or do thank you?

God reminds me constantly how full my life is by filling it with people who show me love, bring me joy, asking very little in return.  How could I not act, regularly, unexpectedly, to give back to those who give so much to me?

Abundance is defined as “an extremely plentiful or oversufficient quantity or supply.” That describes the generosity of my friends, the unfailing support of my family, and the unending love of a Patient and All Wise God.  My cavalry, my friends and family, have never failed to rescue me, by God’s Grace. Now it’s my turn.

I pledge to hold you in the highest regard, in love, because…

I promise to encourage you and fill you up, because…

I acknowledge you all because I couldn’t be me without you.  And taking a moment to be thankful, to express my gratitude in visible, tangible, meaningful ways, reminds me again of the bounty that fills my life, providing again another reminder that God is Good.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And in rides the cavalry…


He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life


And in rides the cavalry…

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—he’ll carry your load.  He'll never let good people topple into ruin. 

Psalm 55:22

(The Message)


Lately I’ve been in need of rescue, where usually I am the one riding in to the rescue…Thankfully, God always has my ram in the bush.  Sometimes, you don’t even realize you need a rescue until it’s offered. 
Picture it…me diligently, prudently, thriftily planning to get my teenager down to her southern godparents for a brief end-of-summer getaway.  It’s a boon for her godmother, who gets extra help with the boys, it’s a boon for her--a maiden voyage in independence,  getting to go away without us, it’s a boon for me--a few quiet days for unaccompanied by any children during the day, a win-win-win.  Everybody’s happy, right?

We’ve had more than our share of automotive breakdowns this summer, so I’m looking at train fares because I’m not trusting my car on the road.  I’ve already exhausted my annual allotment of AAA tows, and it’s not even Fall.  I’m making lemonade, as I usually try to do, when in rides the cavalry…

Asking questions about how our girl is getting to the District for a few days, I mention to my BFF that I’m looking at train fares, when she laughs and says she really has an extra day she can take off for a road trip.  I wouldn’t have asked, but as my little sister says, (a la Uncle Robert), you know it’s a blessing when it’s so beyond any solution you could arrive at by yourself.  We’re road tripping to drop-off “the package” this Wednesday. 

Who would expect something like this? Who’d have the nerve to ask? All I can do is thank God for putting the right people into my life; people who have become my family; people for whom I would do whatever was necessary…

So, one of my daughter’s godmother’s is taking her for four days of a little tough love (poor girl doesn’t even know that part yet), and her other godmother’s bailing me out when I really need it, just because she’s wonderful.  I am blessed.  So richly blessed, in fact, that I don’t even mind that not only am I not riding in as part of the cavalry, the cavalry’s in to rescue me again, and I couldn’t be happier.  Thank God for the cavalry.  Thank You, God, that You send the cavalry, leading it in to my rescue and carrying my load away.  The entire load...all my burdens.  Even the ones I thought I could shoulder.  And that, yes, you guessed it, it today’s evidence that God is Good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Enough…


He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

Enough…

 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. 

Matthew 6:31-34

I didn’t win $220 million in the lottery today. It was a beautiful morning.  I awakened early to walk the dog, and what a glorious walk it was.  The grass and the skies were verdant, lush, cool.  I walked past several houses for sale, which I imagine I could’ve bought had I won $220 million dollars in the lottery.  The dog and I wandered for nearly 3 miles this morning, and the abundance we encountered stunned me into smiling silence.  There is so much in my world. 

What would I do if I owned a mansion? Stress more about keeping it clean, filling it with stuff, stressing because the stuff didn’t stay organized, stay clean, stay current? Do I need more space for more stuff?  The better question is what do I need? Wikipedia defines need as “Requir[ing] (something) because it is essential:” So, I don’t need a bigger house, thought I might think I want one.  The lesson learned this morning—while I may desire plenty, I have enough.

Why does the concept of enough get such a bad rap? Have we become so enmeshed in the culture of excess that meeting our needs is insufficient? Last weekend, we went to Costco.  I like Costco; it helps us meet our needs at a fair price.  I have learned not to fill my basket with stuff simply because it’s available at a great price; I purchase what I need, or at least I thought so.  The strawberries and the blueberries we purchased at Costco Sunday, have already gone bad, forcing me to toss them out.  I thought I’d bought just enough, but my lure into excess cost me more than I needed to spend.  Does popular culture lead us into temptation? Do we even know what we need? 

The essential needs of human beings, according to the Human Scale Development school, are broadly defined as “few, finite and classifiable.”  Honestly, we desire plenty, but in most cases, we have more than enough.  I have enough. I have more than enough, since my laundry can sit several days before we have nothing to wear.  I have enough, since there is always a choice of what to eat or what to cook.  I celebrate enough.  My needs are met.  Rather than spending any more time stressing about plenty, I celebrate enough.  I give thanks for needs met, bountifully.  And again I embrace my abundant life, providing today’s evidence that God is Good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lost Monday…


He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

Lost Monday…

 

 “Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us;
He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds.
 After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us,
  that we may live in His presence.  Let us acknowledge the LORD;
   let us press on to acknowledge Him.
As surely as the sun rises,  He will appear;
He will come to us like the winter rains,
   like the spring rains that water the earth.”

~Hosea 6

Everything that slows us down and forces patience,

everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help...
~May Sarton

 

I just outlasted my most recent migraine.  This is no bid for sympathy; it is what it is, I manage, and in the scheme of things, headaches are minor.  I did, in the course of surviving this headache, however, lose a day.  I lost Monday. 

Now for some, the loss of a day, particularly a Monday, might not seem such a bad thing.  Mondays get a bad rap. It wasn’t Monday that caused my migraine, and I make no particular connection between the two, except that one occurred on the other.  Despite it all, I am thankful for God’s unending Grace, and the assurance during my suffering, the of the following:

·         My headache would not last forever,
·         Should my headache linger, I would learn to manage,
·         Never do I suffer alone; I will be restored; He abides with me.

My headache is gone, and for restoration and healing, I overflow with gratitude.  Forced to be still, I contemplate and take action upon things I ordinarily do not make time for…mopping the bathroom floor (I was down there after all), disinfecting the toilet (if you’ve got to be smelling it, it might as well be hospital fresh), putting saltines on the grocery list. Forced to be still…

Even in the midst of a headache, there is a call for restoration.  “Come, let us return to the Lord.”  Are you always where you should be in relation to Him? Have you ever found yourself, under really unusual circumstances, considering your relationship to God?

I didn’t lose a day; I spent it, albeit unplanned, being still.  It’s all about perspective.  I gave the day over to quietness, forced to be still, even though it wasn’t my idea.  Can it be that there is worship found in a migraine?

If that is so, I have yet another cause for praise, for I am consecrated to worship in the midst of my pain.  For “as surely as the sun rises, He will appear.” And so, even in times of suffering and pain, I live an abundant life.  Further evidence that God is good.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Not random…

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

Not random…

 

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

Your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in

Your book before one of them came to be.

 


Psalms 139:15-16


I was in the kitchen this morning, playing good steward to my home and family.  There is grace and elegance even in the little things;  I desire a rich portion of that grace.  I’d been multi-tasking, as usual, preparing to make breakfast, washing dishes, when I noticed….a spoon, precariously balanced on the edge of a teacup, rocking gently back and forth as a steady stream of water fell from the faucet into its bowl.  It did not topple, it danced.  I called to my son, knowing he would take pleasure in the scene.  I stopped what I was doing, appreciating the quiet space of a thing not anticipated, and I smiled.  It was a quiet moment, stillness, even.  He didn’t make it before the precarious structure gave way, the spoon clattered into the sink, and the moment passed.  As I explained what I‘d wanted him to see, I almost referenced the randomness of the occurrence, dishes tossed into the sink, the position of the faucet, the force of the stream…but before I spoke I realized, not random.  There is no randomness in God.  All the days (and their related adventures) for me were written by Him before anyone of them ever came to be.  It was not random.

My itinerant preacher and original muse and I were due to meet for tea today.  She sent a mildly cryptic email Monday saying “Let’s have tea so we can talk.” Knowing that I had a child to deposit around the corner from her office at 10 am made a morning cup seem the perfect way to begin the day ( I know tea time is between 3 and 5 pm, but I’m no Brit).  Though we hadn’t confirmed, I called her office this morning to let her know my plan.  There was no answer.  I left a similar message on her mobile, and rather than consider the possibility that my plan might require revision, I headed out.  At the same time, apparently….she was intending to call me to reschedule, overwhelmed by the obligations of her day.  She never made the call, or sent the text, and as she was rounding the corner to her office, she saw me patiently waiting outside.  So much for her plans….our meeting today was not random.

She said “tea,” so I headed for Starbucks, right around the corner.  She’s a Dunkin’ Donuts girl, apparently.  We walked, chatting, catching up as we are more often virtual than actually hanging out.  We order, and pay, and then she and my son decide they need a snack with their beverages.  I’ve already rounded the corner of the store to pick up when I noticed….she’s talking with and bringing over someone she’s apparently just met, who will spend the next 90 minutes talking to and ministering to us both.  He was a writer and photographer with a copy of his book, who when he departed left her with a prayer, the Shema.  According to Wikipedia,
Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.
Apparently, even tea at Starbucks is not random.  “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before….”

Before.  As in before we scheme and plan.  As in before we rant and rave.  As in before we dream and hope and occasionally fail.  We were His Beloved before we were.  It was never random. 

So when it’s all feeling downhill, late, lost, scary, disconnected; there was always a plan.  He foretold our successes before we were woven together.  There is neither randomness nor failure in Him.  He’s got it. So exhale…because your life, like mine, is filled to overflowing with abundance.  And once again, just in time, we have further evidence that God is Good.  

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