Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spicy cheetos by the road

I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will He be favourable no more? Psalm 77:6-7

Sometimes it does feel like God does tarry a very, very long time before addressing my prayers and hopes.  My good prayers, my heartfelt prayers.  And nothing. And the night seems long.

And then. Sometimes there are these smashing breakthroughs which shift paradigms.  

I was thinking today about a Thursday a very long time ago.  I think it was eight years ago that in the late afternoon a kid from the high school sort of staggered into my seventh grade classroom; I was stapling up water poems as I recall.

“You have to pray for me, Mrs. Voelkel.”  

“Um.  Okay.”

So I prayed for him every Thursday, for eight years: May your Spirit sweep over him in love and peace and truth.  For eight years.  

And just about a week ago, he was sitting in some service and this guy walked in. “The Prophet,” whispered his neighbor, “The Prophet is here.” The Prophet walked up to my friend and poked a figurative finger towards him, detailing the errors of his way, and told him to be a man of noble character and examine the Scriptures every day.  

And now he examines the Scriptures every day in love and peace and truth.  And with a great, profound joy.  And beauty.  

Each time I read now I set a timer for 10 minutes. I ask that God removes all the garbage, the filth, the uselessness and noise that permeates my being. I sit and try not to move or think for 10 minutes. I am only allowed to breathe the God, in and out: YAHWEH. And it's not very easy. My mind lashes out. I can feel it squirming in the quiet. Trying to wrap itself around another problem or task to stay active. The poor thing has never learned how to shut up.

"Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10

And sometimes God doesn’t wait eight years. Sometimes he answers before the words are barely out of our mouth. Like with Abraham’s servant.  I remember one of those times, oh yeah, one of those many times, when the truck broke down alongside of a basically abandoned highway in Mexico.  And we had been sitting there, me and the little girls for more than an hour, by the side of the road, waiting for anything to come and help. And we played silly songs and games and were really, really tired and ready to be rescued. And finally five-year-old Nicole announced, “I am going to pray.”  And she prayed.  Because she was hungry, she prayed that we would be rescued by a potato chip truck.  And as we unfolded our hands, and lifted our heads and opened our eyes, what should we see come around the bend but a potato chip truck. True story.  

As I sat on the couch Sunday at Heather and Dustin’s very fun baby shower, holding James and Leona’s Otto, marveling at the passage of time, I told another story to someone.  The story about Heather and Dustin moving back to Tucson from New Orleans.  Sometimes those answers to prayer are not so mundane.  Heather was in screaming pain.  A fungus had eaten its way through her retina and we were hoping that it wouldn’t keep chomping to her brain. She needed three kinds of drops, every hour on the hour.  And Dustin took care of her all day, and I remember sleeping on the floor by the couch and every hour on the hour I would put these burning fire drops in and through the tears Heather would always say, “Thank you,” which pierced my mommy’s heart. Mostly as we stared at her solid white eyeball we were glad that her other eye seemed to be healthy and seeing. 

So Heather and Dustin were reasonably readjusting all of their life plans and he started teaching PE at Wildcat instead of applying to law school, and such is life.  And we were hanging around after church one Sunday, like we always do, and Cindy Alderink asked me, “So have you had the elders pray for Heather?”  I might have rolled my eyes. Really. We are the Voelkels, with the big gun prayer warriors in our blood.  The elders? Really? 

So Cindy gathered together the remaining elders who hadn’t yet taken off for after-church Mexican food, and they pulled out the bottle of anointing oil and encircled Heather and laid hands on her, just like ol’ James tells us to do, and that was that.

And the next morning, Heather Blue Eyes woke up with two perfectly healthy blue eyes, and in fact, her vision was better than it had been before the sickness.  She was well.  Just like that. We all saw it. And now it is a story to remind me, to meditate upon, and to consider.

Slowly, bit by bit, I am understanding that He is not bound by time, that He moves in and out of our tick tock moments like the wind. And if You are Eternal, forever in both directions, time, which weighs so heavily on our minds, our most valuable commodity, is not a consideration.  A thousand years is but a moment.  Really.

I will meditate also upon all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In the stillness You are there

Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto Thee do we give thanks: for that Thy name is near Thy wondrous works declare. Psalm 75: 1

Let me not take myself too seriously.  None of us.  It is a big, big world and really my role in it is quite humble.  

Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.

Yet in the small beauties there is a sweet joy.  He is full of tender mercies and has wrought great things.  Is there not as much to marvel over an unfolding peony in the front doorstep clay pot as in exploding meteorites over Russian steppes?

Let me give thanks to the LORD for His mercy and the wonders He does for His children.

The list is long.  And it steadily whispers truth throughout the day.  And courage.   A gentle yet strong and firm reminder of all things noble and good. 

Let me give thanks to the LORD for His mercy and the wonders He does for His children.

Monday, February 25, 2013

When all the dust had settled

Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king's son. He shall judge Thy people with righteousness. Psalm 71:1

This is the last psalm of David, a plea for wisdom and understanding to the faithful God who had established his kingdom as promised.  And what does this righteous rule look like?  From which an abundance of peace shall flow?  Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.


For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

And while all political powers and systems are full of broken promises and fat envelopes of money and handshakes with sly winks, it is worthy to consider what a man after God’s own heart understood to be his task as king, the purpose and priority, actually, the only bullet point in his job description. 

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

The poor and needy weigh heavy in the heart of our LORD.  Let us be about His business.  

Blessed be the Lord God who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tell me a story, daddy

By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb... 
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come. Psalm 71:6,18

So we had one of those Voelkel dinner things last night, with a blazing, slightly smoking fire, a few lit candles and Pandora in the background.  The food was the regular suspects piled onto chipped plates: ribs, salad from Alan’s garden, asparagus-because-it-was-on-sale-from-Fry’s, and of course the bread.  

Mostly we marveled out of the corner of our collective eyes as Heather and Dustin stroked her very round very dropped beach ball belly and wondered at the little girl kicking inside.  By You I have been upheld from birth.  

Our dinner guests who had of course arrived with several nice Trader Joe’s bottles of wine in hand, told us tales of grandparenting– the joys and the heartaches– the whispered I-love-yous and the out-of-control frenzies– but mostly joys as they consider this generation.

Alan’s hair is grey, and my streaks are filling in.  And his gift to this new grandchild was a rocking chair.  In memory of the armfuls of little girls by the fireplace so many years ago, rocking back and forth, back and forth.  Tell me a story, daddy. Stories woven throughout with beauty and goodness and uncomfortable situations whose resolution required courage and creativity.  

And every late afternoon as the last reaches of sun sifted down into the cushions we would gather freshly bathed from the metal cup and the five-gallon bucket and work our way through the stacks of books by the fireplace.  Little Houses in Big Woods and Long Winters and Five Children and It and of course, there was the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair and The Last Battle.

And then the dinner table.  Wave after wave of students and motorhomed retirees and wandering souls would listen to the stories of a river trip and no food and a fire built just right with the gleaming coals and still no food and then a woman appeared from nowhere.  And stories of trembling prison walls and entire communities gathered round shouting and dancing and long nights on hospital floors and rising rivers and mountain roads and crashing airplanes. 

And the stories that happen now, today, this very afternoon, of beauty and goodness and uncomfortable situations whose resolution required courage and creativity.  Of soccer fields and goals bouncing in from the pole and old ladies remembering and emails from around the world and parking lot conversations and bright green stems poking up out of frozen death.  

O God, do not forsake us,
Until we declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.
O God, who is like You?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Catching snowflakes on my tongue

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink... Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. Psalm 69:21, 24

And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar... Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to.temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Luke 11:4

There have been long chunks of time where I pretty much wallowed in the deep mire of Psalm 69. Waiting for “an acceptable time,” when God would get around to saving me, for the waters had come in unto my soul.  And really it is perfectly reasonable thing to do, when life’s injustices roll over like a flood– to list the wrongs done me, cross my arms and wait for God to step in and do His thing, speedily.  Straighten everything out, that is.  

But Jesus shows me a better way.  While the spit was still dribbling down his cheek, He asked His Father to forgive them.  

Spirit, strengthen me.  Do not let me yield to temptation.  Deliver me from this evil.  The thick black mud of unforgiveness.  And before I will praise the name of God with a song, let me leave my gift there in front of the altar and first go and be reconciled to my brother; then come and offer my gifts.  Reconciled, washed away snow-on-the-Catalina-mountains clean with the blood of Calvary.  Nary a hint of memory.  Never to recite again.  

And as much as I appreciate the rhythms and disciplines of life, this newfound joy comes from the release, dropping the burdens that I was hauling, the great weight pressing down every footstep, at the cross.  

And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.  Jude 1:22

Love is not a to do list

God is love.  His actions pour heart of who He is.  His character.  

That is what sets Christianity apart from the rest of the religions who understand that there is a powerful awesome god who creates and causes and even moves in the hearts of man.  He is to be honored and feared and glorified and we might beg favors, but he is not love.

For God so loved the world that He sent His son.  

Tevye, the man who stands with his feet planted and questions God in Fiddler on the Roof knows this.  And asks his wife a question, “Do you love me?”

Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

But do you love me?

Paul understands this.  

What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others. What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive?
I would gain nothing, unless I loved others.

Love is not earned.  We are not loved because we are kind or creative or beautiful or gentle, in spite of what society tells us.

Love is the character of the lover.

Flailing yellowish wax-covered eyes-squeezed-shut bloody-wrinkled creatures are thrust into our weak-with-weary-pain arms and we love.  

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. 

Holy Spirit.  Create in me a new heart.  And renew a right spirit within me.  You.  

And the fruit of the Spirit is love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

If it ain't one thing, it's another

For Thou, O God, hast proved us: Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Psalm 66:10

It is never easy.  Life.

This psalm is full of such images of being tromped on the head and tangled up in nets and affliction upon our loins, which sounds dreadful.  And sometimes when we make lists, such as community group prayer requests, or New York Times headlines, or late-at-night to do lists, life seems pretty bleak. The fire is hot.  I am pretty much aware from the aluminum foundry in the Dominican Republic refuge camp how much firewood it takes to lift impurities out of the simmering crucible.

But that is not where we are to dwell, on these lists.  I was trying to wrap my brain around an awkward relative clause, that may or may not be a poor translation, but it did get me thinking: O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.

Cameron and I had a conversation yesterday, at a long table of friends and family outside of a quasi-Mexican fast food shop after church.  The sun was shining, the breeze was lightly tossing, and it was lovely.  But the talk was serious, as it is wont to be with Mr. Cameron, as we discussed how early life decisions shape our trajectory in life.  Can we ever shake those stories that we have told ourselves over and over, deep grooves in our way of thinking?  Those shimmering images of happily-ever-after archetypes that leave me always longing for something else just over the horizon?  

Cameron had been given instructions to change his thinking about a particularly, hmmm, dreaded person in his life.  Someone who fell smack dab on the other side of the line in just about every imaginable quadrant.  And taking control of those thoughts and choosing to see this person as a child of God and choosing to invite him into his life rather than cross to the other side of the road shifted the pretty bleak lists that were strung out in his mind. And somewhere along the way, they became friends.  The lines were erased.  Or faded into the background in the light of Truth.   

Alan and I watched the same movie last night, sort of huddled in his office in front of his big screen computer, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It was about a bunch of well, they were basically our age Brits, who decided to toss aside a frugall retirement for brochure promises of a luxurious Indian mansion.  So we wallowed in the vibrant sounds and almost smells of rich spices and at the end we both sighed.  Me with When can I pack my bags, and Alan relieved that now having so enjoyed the vista, we didn’t need to actually make the trip.  

Somewhere in the movie a snitty woman asked why are the people were smiling when obviously things were a little crowded and smelly, and the rather pat answer was something about they were grateful for another day of life.  But yes, as Alan carefully tamps the soil around the new seedlings in his gardens, whether they be in the backyard or on one of the mentor soccer teams, he looks for fresh growth, gives thanks for the simple things like sun and compost and water, and smiles.  

And read with a certain running start, today's psalm says that.  The voice of His praise is that which holds our soul in life, that which holds our feet sturdy on the slippery, sliding slope of life.  Nicole understands this, and literally, when all else fails, she cranks up the iPod and lifts her voice in praise and her arms in dance, and then perspective locks into place. Her feet plant on solid ground.  Rock.  The centurion understood this, the guy who told Jesus, "Say the word."  He is sovereign.  May His name be praised with joy and honesty in my voice.     May I give thanks for the simple things like sun and compost and water, and smile.  

May the voice of His praise hold my soul in life.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Without even a memory of the stain

O Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. Psalm 65:2-3

I totally get Romans 7: For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.   I long to be wise and full-of-faith and grace, and stuff just bubbles up and out.  Flesh wins, my soul loses.  

However I am forgiven.  Purge is about as strong an action verb as there is.  And its root word is “pure.”  And if He who hearest it all, knows every single black and selfish thought can see me as pure, surely who am I to hold even the tiniest grudge against my brother, ungrateful servant that I am.  

And forgive us our debts, just as we also forgive our debtors.

Purged.  pure.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The clean sharp light of His love breaks through

Both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow.  Psalm 64:6-7

What really lies within?
Deep, deep, down below the tangle of emotions and memories and circumstances there lies a beating heart, hidden from all.  Even I only have occasional glimpses within, moments of intuition and clarity, and then a thick curtain falls back into place, shutting out the light.  I turn away.  

But there is One who hunts relentlessly.  He does not faint or grow weary.  He has left the ninety-and-nine to chase me down.  And because He Knows– He who knit me together in my mother’s womb– He can draw back the Bow of Love and take careful aim, careful to do no harm, but enough to pierce the dark recesses and call out His love.

And all men shall know, and shall declare the work of God. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

But my flesh is so weak

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.  Psalm 62:1-2

At first I thought it was a little awkward to say that my flesh longs for Him, my God.  I get the soul part, the spiritual child-of-God in me, longing for oneness, but flesh is such an awkward, raw sort of word. Literally.

No one ever really used the flesh-colored crayon in our Crayola box of 64.  It remained pointy and unbroken.  Awkward.

But now I get it.  All the humanness parts of me that will never find comfort and settledness no matter what.  All the parts that just, just is going to be the qualifying word I imagine for this whole section, just wants everyone to be happy and get along, just wants to kiss the boo boo and make it all better, just wants to curl up by the fire and read a good book.  But life is not like that.

Perhaps my soul soars over the snow-covered Catalinas upward and outward, following close behind Him, but my flesh is restless.  Seeking and squirming.  

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, but for my flesh, this is not my home.  A thirst cannot be quenched where there is no water.  I must look elsewhere.  

His lovingkindness is better than life.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

He's not a soda pop machine

God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy.  Psalm 61:11-12

Sometimes the voice of God is loud and clear and requires obedience, Immediate without excuse.  And sometimes, it is not.  Sometimes, you kind of scrunch forward and squint, and think did I really hear that?

So on Sunday I was praying for the trumpet-loud clarity.  To hear God’s voice and know it was Him, mostly for Nicole, because she is at the wait moment of her life: 
My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
But also for me, because I am sitting next to her, waiting as well.  

And so I prayed and fasted three times and saw His power with yellow-flag clarity, whipping in the Wind.  Twice.  

And once, once. 
My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

I am still waiting.  For Him alone.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bouncing and jolting along through life

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.

I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the cover of thy wings. Selah.  Psalm 61: 2-4

My heart is so full of joy at His faithfulness.  He is indeed a shelter for me and a strong tower in times of doubt or dismay; when my heart is overwhelmed.  

I think I have written of this before, but it is such a strong vivid moment.  I had gone to a wedding of a good friend way oh way up in a tiniest of villages in the Sierra Madre.  He was one of those drug-dealer-turned-evangelist sorts, who wandered from village to village with a fire burning in his belly.  

We had sent, I wonder why “hapless” always sort of describe our college students who came and did internships with us, perhaps because, they, like we had been, were so far out of their elements of strength and ability.  We had sent a Wheaton intern named Bruce with him once, on one of his journeys down the deep gorges and up to the highest of heights, and all of us realized that it probably wasn’t that much fun to travel with apostle Paul either, and no wonder John Mark came back.  

Anyways, he got married to a sweet schoolteacher in one of these villages, and I flew in to bake the wedding cake, and the plane crashed and so I hate flying, and there were many other adventures of baking a cake for two hundred except it turned into 600 on a wood stove, and amazing freshly ground corn tortillas and carne asada, and healings and songs by blazing campfires under blazing stars and as were getting a ride standing up in the back of a pickup truck to the train station because now there was thankfully no small plane to go zooming up and down the crazy air currents through the mountain passes, we sang this song: Torre Fuerte es el Nombre del Señor.  

And as we bounced and jolted along under the tall tall pine trees under the bright blue mountain sky, light shone down all around us and an indescribable joy swelled up in our throats.  Nos dieron escalofríos por todo el cuerpo even although the sun was shining brightly.  A moment framed forever in my heart.

This has been an amazing week of very clear, very precise answers to prayer.  His Spirit at work powerfully. But why am I so amazed?  W hy do I stand here looking into the sky? He has indeed been a shelter for me.  He is my strong tower.  I will trust in the cover of His wings.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

I thirst

Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment. Psalm 60:3

There is a sort of driving drizzle outside, and Alan and I read the paper together in front of fire before he heads out to take kids to a soccer game and I go do my thing at Hillenbrand Pool.  That newspaper is packed with hard things from the slaughter of Nigerian polio vaccination workers to the bleak details of life in Honduras and Guatemala that are driving unprecedented numbers of immigrants to attempt crossing into the United States.

The folks at CHIRPA, Community Home Repair Project of Arizona, see hard things: vets suffering from post-traumatic-stress syndrome living in a school bus flat out in the middle of no where, Brain-surgery patients who can’t manage the three-inch step up to their trailer front door.  Speaking of trailers, who know their floors had such a propensity of rotting out, and leaving their occupants walking from beam to beam over an open sewage pit into where the broken pipes empty.  

They gathered together for their annual meeting in the main room of a small Mennonite church on the southeast side of Tucson.  It was a mixed crowd of older salt-of-the-earth white-haired sorts with crinkles of experience around their eyes and well-worn hands misshapen by arthritis but still with a lilt of joy to their step.  Mingled amongst them were the hipster save-the-world types, giving up a year of community service for mankind.  And looping them together was a warmth and love and delight in all things good.  Dustin comes home every day happy.  

And so we have three options when faced with the hard things in life, represented so succinctly by Jesus as a traveler attacked by robbers and left for dead by the side of the road.  We can pull our robes around us more tightly, withdraw in disgust and smugly blame him for poor choices made, we can pretend that we have much more important tasks requiring our immediate urgent attention, or we can stop and kneel down before Jesus in our midst.  While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Back to Kate and Monday’s conversation.  Obedience equals joy.  

Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that shall tread down our enemies.  Psalm 60:11-12

Friday, February 8, 2013

Who has seen the wind?

Unto Thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my Defense, and the God of my mercy.  Psalm 59:17

David has very few kind words about his enemies, they belch out with their mouths and they make a noise like a dog, and he tells God that Thou shalt laugh at them.

And I do not want to pat weakly to one side his problems, because he truly battled real live flesh-and-blood men with swords in their lips, but I do not. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

When we lived at the ranch in Mexico, Food for the Hungry sent down a sort of hapless man named Steve who was supposed to try and manage Alan and his freewheeling ways, and it was a pretty awkward fit   But on some levels, upon reflection, he was a sincere sort of guy who actually didn’t complain too much when Alan housed him in a half-underground bunker at the front of the school with a burlap cot and perhaps a crate or two for his belongings.  And his roommates, whether they be college volunteers or Mexican well-diggers marveled every morning.  Because Steve, before he ducked out the door, would put on the full armor of God, invisible but very real.  The would stand by his bed, repeating these words of courage as he methodically went through the motions of fastening a belt about his waist.

Stand firm therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the Evil One; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

And really and truly these are indeed my weapons as I go out today, not to battle the early-morning Speedway traffic or surly PC computers moaning about doing graphic design, but as I battle the demons of fear, or unbelief or selfishness and catch the flaming lies of the Evil One, I do well to gird my loins with truth and be ready with the gospel of peace.   

And I totally realize that those old principalities and spiritual wickedness might seem pretty mundane compared to David’s belchers lying in wait for his soul, but I do not battle alone, and am so very much aware of the broad sweep of the Spirit reaching across the Tucson valley, across the country to lakeside Chicago and the newsrooms of New York City, and east over the oceans to the tents of Sudan, south to vibrant Guatemala City west to a five-star hotel in Shanghai, and north to an orchestra pit in Stockholm.  Every day I wield the Word of God in prayer and supplication.  And He is faithful.

But I will sing of Thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been our defense and refuge in the day of our trouble.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

As a snail which melteth

Do you mighty people talk
only to oppose justice? 
    Don’t you ever judge fairly?
You are always planning evil,
    and you are brutal.
You have done wrong and lied
    from the day you were born.
Your words spread poison
    like the bite of a cobra
    that refuses to listen
    to the snake charmer. Psalm 58:4-7

This is David’s cry for justice (set to the tune of “Don’t Destroy”?). A cry that echos even more loudly today simply because we are so much more aware of the broken helplessness of the weak and humble.  And yet our hearts are hard and we bumble through our daily business untouched beyond momentary pangs that are quickly assuaged through distraction.

Dear LORD I long to engage.  Look to me. I want to be a wall builder, to stand in the gap.  Show me the place where I can plant my feet and do battle against the lies that oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

Dear LORD let me be sensitive to Your voice and calling and step into the fray for Your honor and glory.  Amen.

the gurgle of the stovetop expresso pot

 My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.
Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. Psalm 57:7-8

The heart can be fixed even while one’s mind scoots all over the place like so many proverbial herded cats.  And certainly the heart can be willing with the body protesting every inch of the way.  And yet I myself will awake early.

It is yet one more thing I do not understand, but He meets me here every morning.  Gentle yet unwavering, the light on my path is lifted high for yet one more doy.

And tucking my list of prayers into my bosom every morning comforts me as well.   He reminds me that what we see is not the end of the road, that He is at work to will His good purpose, and the list of names is a reminder of His faithfulness.

For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. The billowing sunrises. 

Awake up, oh my heart, awake,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Every day they wrest my words

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book? Psalm 56:8

He knows my wanderings.  My tears.  I am known. 

I skyped with Marco last night and he is hitting a wall smack in the face higher and harder that he has ever tried to climb before.  And God is there with him in Shanghai even in the midst of a job too crazy and too much loneliness and yes, he made Jincheng smile happily with a Chinese greeting.  And his tears are in His bottle. He is known.  

And Cate curled up with me on the couch in front of the fire and swirled a glass of red wine and told me stories.  And she has done some serious wandering since she wandered out of my seventh grade English class and Tom Sawyer and prepositional phrases and winning her public policy debate.  And her tears are in His bottle.  She is known.

And really Alan and I should get serious and sort through some of the books that are covered in very thick dust on our shelves and squished in on top and behind and there is a row of bent spiral notebooks with years and years of prayers marching across the pages, through shopping lists and little girl drawings and dead bug parts.  And my tears are in His bottle.  I am known.  

And I do not understand how the LORD of the universe manages all of His bottles dangling through the millennial, but I also do not understand how He made my hand to curl up and flex and wiggle and I can see it right in front of my face.  

And I know that the Psalmist speaks out our darkest cries, that echo back and forth through the hearts of man and are recorded in His book.    

Mickie and I were commiserating, huddled on the pool deck this morning.  We are old.  We have done this before.  We know what is good.  But every single morning, it is takes all we can muster to drop the fuzzy-lined parkas and jump into the pool.  Every single morning, And every single morning I push out of the pool, heart pounding, full of the joy of life.  

Cate looked me in the eye last night, and said, “I don’t get it.  But I know one thing, obedience equals joy.  Obedience equals joy.”

When I cry unto Thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.
In God will I praise His word: in the Lord will I praise His word.
In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto Thee.

This I know; for God is for me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Firm footing even if life wobbles

Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Part of the whole idea of righteous, or rightness, is having a clear perspective on Truth.  And by definition, the righteous know in their hearts that they cannot do life alone, on their own strength.  

And thus, they cast away.  They cast the complications that only One understands, they cast the disappointments, because only One knows the final outcome, They cast the sense of rejection and the wrongs done to them and the broken pieces because only One is love.  

And I will not be shaken or moved.  Because He shall sustain me. And the Spirit is alive and at work on this planet earth. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Come on in the door is unlocked

 I will freely sacrifice unto Thee: I will praise Thy name, O Lord; for it is good. Psalm 54:6

One could poke and pry at the idea of a good name on many levels, but one level is the, “Hey you can trust that guy, no matter what.  Doesn’t even really need a firm grandpa-handshake, his name is good.”

And while it is straight up right to praise His name, because it is good, there is another side to the story.  The freely sacrifice bit, because His shovel is a lot bigger than my teaspoon.  And last night I was reminded of His promise of It shall be given to you, heaping and overflowing into your lap.

So I started daydreaming yesterday, as I leaned into the computer screen mid-afternoon, almost to sort of prop myself up.  All those Spelling Bees and Math Olympics and Creative Writings and the Administrators and Board program and straightening up the head of accredited schools email list so that I could send out some advertising helps before the end of the day started to fuzz a bit and I started fondling my little daydream.  Of an afternoon nap.  Thinking through how I was going to fit it in with Grandpa and not having any food in the house for dinner and wanting to visit with Jack and Mary Anne because I had been out of town for four days accrediting a school and then, well, last night was penciled in the gathering together of so many very cool devotionals into some sort of cohesiveness and then pop the February 1 PDF off to the church secretary after one more editing read through after swimming this morning.  That was the plan.  

And Gio had taught Jinsheng how to make a fire the day before which is very important, so Jinsheng built his first fire in a fireplace ever and I sliced all of my food in the house, which happened to be a spaghetti squash, in half, dashed it with olive oil and set it in the oven and slid so very deep into the sofa cushions. Down, down, and out.  

Bam, bam, bam on the knocker.  Like no one ever knocks.  

Go away.

Bam, bam.  

And there at the door was my very invited dinner guest and his friend and two bottles of wine, one red and one white because he didn’t know what I was serving and neither did I, and a box of chocolate bon bons, fresh from overseeing the entire western half of South Sudan village health initiatives, here for three days in Tucson.  

And somehow there were a few more snippets of beets to chop and there is always an onion or two and what a lovely evening it was, with visions of early morning rides across the flat expanses and tales of base camp treks in Napal and who is your favorite soccer player and whatever-happened-to questions and perfect popcorn and Alan reading White With Two Sugars (Please) to a poet readying himself for Machu Picchu and of course there was the Voice of God in the corn fields of the Dominican Republic and Giovanni bringing in more firewood to stoke the fire and bringing out the tea basket and Igor’s teapot, and yes, His name is Good.  

Somewhere in the late evening, before it swung into early morning, He swept in with eagle’s wings and lifted me past the other side of weariness.  

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, 
Bear you on the breath of dawn, 
Make you to shine like the sun, 
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

And all of the seven hours of stories, even the one of celebrating Christmas Day with an off-the-charts case of malaria that required a intramuscular quinine treatment in Nairobi or the handfuls-of-Castor-beans story, and certainly the Danielito the wood chopper story, are reminders that no gift is really a sacrifice because His name is good: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

I will praise Thy name, O Lord.

The breeze pushes back the heavy drapes

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. Psalm 53:1

I breathe the air of unbelief.  It is a constant companion tangling up my every footstep.  Lingering like the stale cigarette smoke of yesterday’s hotel room.  And much like in my hotel room, I have to stand up and open up the little-bit-sticking window and let in the fresh wind of the Spirit, even if it sends a chill down my spine, to chase away the fog of doubt or distraction or fear.   

Because truly, truly if I lived in belief I would live in joy, for He is with me.

I would live in mercy and lovingkindness, because He is merciful.

I would live in peace, for the LORD is my Shepherd.  

But that is not the case.  I lose my footing and slip into unbelief, the world wherein I am king and I battle the demons of the murky darkness of untruth, into the abominable region of self.  

There is only one who is called good.  He knew without the shadow of doubt that He was about His Father’s business.  

I believe.  Help my unbelief.