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Archive for January, 2016

Pharaoh has just witnessed the authority of Moses’ and Aaron’s God.  Aaron’s staff became a serpent and swallowed the sorcerers’ staffs.  Still, his heart was hardened.  Now, the Lord instructs Moses and Aaron to go back to Pharaoh, remind him of his disobedience, and bring a plague to the land of Egypt.

Moses and Aaron obeyed God.  They turned the water of the Nile River and all of Egypt into blood.  All the fish died.  The Egyptians had no water to drink.  Blood was everywhere.

Somehow, Pharaoh still refused to listen.  The magicians turned water into blood, too.  If they had wanted to show real power, maybe they should have practiced turning blood back into water.  But they could not.  Seven days the blood remained.

The reason?  God is so good that he tells Pharaoh the reason he is turning the water into blood.  God said that, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord.”

God was proving his authority over all the world once again.  Why blood though?

The very sight of blood should be alarming to a creature whose life depends on it.  God is saying, “You are human, Pharaoh; mere flesh and blood.  I am God; listen to me.”  Furthermore, blood is about life – and death – over which God alone has ultimate control.  God is both the giver as well as the taker of life.  Pharaoh did not give these Jews life – God did. Pharaoh did not give himself life – God did.  God shows Pharaoh his power using blood that he might know not only his power and authority, but also his entitlement to all life.  In other words, God made the Jews; give the Jews back to God.  God made you; obey him.

Despite the miracle of this first plaque on Egypt, Pharaoh still did not obey.

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“I’m scared.”

Apparently the fifteenth declaration from a frightened wife while driving ever slower on an icy, snow covered road in a 4×4 is the point at which a young husband’s patience runs completely out.

He floors the truck, does a 180 degree doughnut, and lands us in a ditch – a ditch, mind you, that he immediately proceeds to pull back out of with the kind of great skill and ease that is known only to resourceful, self-made men.

“You tried to kill me!”

“I tried to show you.”

“Show me what?!  How to almost die?!”

“That nothing bad is going to happen even if we slide on the ice.”

“I can’t believe you tried to kill me.”

That was over a decade ago.  I still bring it up when I’m the passenger on snowy days.  He still gets aggravated with me when I tell him I’m scared as he drives 30 miles per hour over thoroughly plowed and salted roads.

“What are you afraid of?!  Nothing is going to happen.”

“I know.  You’re a good driver.  Remember when you tried to kill me, honey?”

Fear.  I struggle with fear.  Sometimes irrational; other times justified; always sinful – rooted in unbelief and distrust.

I sit awake long after midnight wondering.  Why am I afraid?  Why do I fear over fragments of falsehood and figments of my own making?  Why is it so hard to take words and what if’s at face value?  Why can’t I just rest knowing that whatever happens is exactly what God is willing.  Why don’t I trust the truth?

This past weekend we spent an hour on the bunny slope and decided it was time to test our snow legs on the real ski slopes.  After not exiting the lift on cue, my 7 year old picked up her pride and whisked her way straight down without blinking.  On the contrary, on her skis at the top of the summit looking down, my 10 year old looked like I felt in that old truck so long ago.

It was written all over her face in flaring redness and tears.  Fear.  Crippling, feel it from head to feet, fiasco feeding fear.

One hour later, we finally found the base of the mountain.

It’s not that Mia couldn’t ski.  It’s that she was afraid to.  And fear makes little girls like us fail every time.

“If only she knew,” I thought.  If only she knew that she can do this.  She doesn’t trust herself.  She doesn’t trust me.  She doesn’t trust her daddy.  She has no confidence.  She believes she will fail.  She can see no scenario in which she will succeed without severe pain and suffering.  She doesn’t know what I know.  I know she can do it.  I know she’ll be ok.  I know there’s no reason to fear this hill because I know daddy won’t let her veer off the path.  I know I won’t leave her side.  But all she can think is that she will fall.  She will speed out of control; she will land in the trees; she will will be left alone with no way down.  She feels trapped; enslaved to the expectations of others and the situation that lies in front of her.  No amount of encouragement can break through her wall of fear.  She does not believe me no matter what I say.  Her vote has been cast and it is against herself.  Even if I were to pack her up and carry her down the mountain she would still be angry – at herself, her failure, her fear, and her father for plopping her in this predicament.

Well, like I said, we were able to coax Mia down the mountain inch by inch, eventually.  But I fear (ironic?) that I am still standing on the tippie top of many of my own – the most ridiculous of which has to do with prayer.

Prayer.  So many times prayer seems so tumultuous to me.  The place of goodness and peace is surrounded by a foreboding angst and I stand at the precipice stalling.  I do not enter.

Will my Father fail me?  Surely not.  My false beliefs are frustrating me.  My fear befriends me as my feelings dissuade any attempts at freedom.  I close up; I stay silent; I run away from soundness and I sleep in my unspiritual cell.  Am I really safe here?  How absurd.

Little wonder why the mechanic sometimes floors it in frustration.  My fear is often nothing short of tomfoolery.

I turn on the radio and plug in my phone.  It will not connect to my music.  As I become impatient, the radio broadcasts a sermon.  I plug it in and out a few more times before remembering the few terse words I threw up before leaving.  “Speak to me, Lord.”

I stop the furious plugging and unplugging and I hear Him.  “You asked God to speak to you, didn’t you, Lori?”

The preacher tells me that whoever hears the truth and does not do it is a fool.  Immediately I know.  I know what I must do.  Surely I can pray.  I can be vulnerable without freaking out on myself.  I can fall down in front of Him and know I have nothing to fear.  He will not be surprised by my shortcomings so easily seen on the slippery slope of spoken words.  He will not leave me alone or let me veer off the path of prayer.  I will not have control, but He will.  I will trust Him and we will make it to the bottom of every unsafe situation.  Because He is there, I have nothing to fear.  Because He is in control, I have nothing to fear.  Because He is good, I have nothing to fear.  Because He is trustworthy, I have nothing to fear.  Because He loves me, I have nothing to fear.

 I will stop believing He is trying to kill me.  I will allow Him to show me that He is a much better driver than I am.  I will trust Him.  I will pray for grace to trust him more.  Amen.

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ticket

Talk of the lottery litters the air.  My husband and I even had the “What would we do if we won it all?” conversation again.  Every time it ends the same and I conclude shaking my head saying I don’t think I’d want it.  Maybe that’s why I don’t play…

Don’t get me wrong, it would surely be nice to buy anything we ever wanted and be able to bless other people who are in need.

…Or would it?

The truth is – when I really think about it – I have to admit that I already have everything I ever wanted.  I couldn’t really ask for anything more.  And if I’m not blessing other people in need out of my abundance now, I surely won’t do it then.

What about…a new house?  Everyone wants to build a dream house, right?  I don’t know.  Maybe for a second home.  I like my humble home.  I wouldn’t want to move.  This is where all my memories of being newlyweds, new parents, learners, and lovers are.

Not even…a new car?  My husband bought me the vintage vehicle I always wanted for Valentine’s Day last year.  He bought me a new SUV for our anniversary.  He bought me a street bike just because I wanted one.  Besides, who needs a new car when you’re married to a gearhead?  Not me.  We have lots of cars…or at least pieces of them waiting to be put together.  Our whole life is cars.

I have the best husband in the world, beautiful, healthy children, my mom helping me all the time, full cupboards, more clothing than I’ll ever need, and on and on and on and on.

Smugly satisfied with myself, my internal dialogue assures me that I have mastered the art of contentment.  “I am content,” I think to myself.

…or am I?

Perhaps it much more likely that I am just well fed and clothed.  I want for nothing.  Enter: Holy Spirit.

Forget the lottery.  Fast forward to Sunday morning singing hymns.  The words propel me to a place where I am letting go of the worldly things, sacrificially giving, and giving up what is mine for the good of others in need.  I feel hollow; pretentious; unreal; fake; hypocritical.  In Bible study we read about the early church and their willingness to sell all their possessions – even their own homes – in order to provide for the needs of others.

…and here I am talking about what I could do if I just had more, more, more, more.  Even the “If I won I’d give” argument is silenced and laid bare before a holy God.  If you were good, you would give far more of your greater goods now.  So speaks the voice of conviction.

My husband and I have a disagreement over something I want.  I start to cry.  I quickly direct my anger upward.  Suddenly what God is giving is no longer good enough.  I darken the glory of both the giver and what he gave by dwelling on what he did not.  I question the truth.  I dredge up unbelief.  I dance on the doorstep of despair.  I sing a dirge to my faith.  I grovel in grief over nothing more than my own greed.

Greed.  I am painfully greedy.  As he begins to open my eyes to the exceeding selfishness I so often exhibit I am alarmed; panic-stricken; confused.  Could I really be so deceived?  How could I not see that the fault for my foolish frustration lay in my very own lap?

Idols.  Does my “contentment” come from idols or does it come from God?  I fear.  I fear fiercely because I cannot answer faithfully.  The revelation of my folly is weighty.  I feel lost in the deepness of my fault.  My erring heart bows its head in shame and I confess.  I apologize.  I ask forgiveness.

My father is faithful to forgive.  Still, I fear.  Fear gives way to more fear and I wonder how I might overcome the ubiquitous malignancy of myself.  No lottery winnings could buy what I truly need.  After a stubborn hiatus, I pray.

Morning breaks and the wisdom of God falls fitted into my fisted hands.  He opens them.  It is free.  I am free; forgiven; fearless; full of faith.  No more deceived by my former feelings or the condemnation of my enemy…at least for today.  The prayers of God’s people prevail and he saves me from myself once again.

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father's daughter

Every year for the last five my New Year’s resolution has been the same.  The goal is to pray more.

Prayer, being the mysterious discipline that it is, has been quite a struggle for me throughout the latter part of my Christian life.

When I first became a Christian, prayer was easy.  That was more than 18 years ago, though.  I was graduating high school with the world spread out in front of me.  I was hopeful.  I talked to God about everything all the time —with no fear or inclination that things might not work out just the way they were supposed to.  It’s no surprise that at some point, somewhere along the way, I got discouraged.  Blame it on my faulty theology I suppose.  I stopped believing that my voice much mattered in the grand scheme of things.  Children are to be seen and not heard, right?

 Instead of praying, I buried myself in finding out just what God was saying; what he was like; what he wanted; who he was.  In other words, correcting my poor theology, especially on what prayer was and was not.  I read and studied the Bible far more than I prayed.  I believe it was because I desperately needed to know what to pray for, or, what prayer even was.  Communion as well as communication with God was realized almost solely through the study of him and his word.  Aside from sending up a few half-hearted thank yous and the needs of others, fervent prayer had largely taken a backseat in my spiritual life.

I often think about why prayer is so difficult for me.  I read several books on prayer.  I used to think it was because I wasn’t any good at prayer.  I studied and wrote on the Psalms extensively for over a year hoping it would help me understand.   (Go figure…more study, still no increase in prayer…)  I learned that it isn’t because I’m a below average pray-er as far as technique.  More likely, being the analytically wired idealist that I am, my need for understanding overrides my will to simply obey.  In short, flawed human logic overrides faith in the unfathomable.  I am a sinner even in seeking God…and I am often unbalanced.  I do what is easy for me, rather than doing what is best for me.  I am lazy.  I lack faith and discipline and I struggle with unbelief.  Those are some of the real reasons I don’t pray nearly enough.

Nevertheless, even if we are faithless, he remains faithful.  The Lord showed up in the labor room a couple weeks ago.  Our newest addition, Sonny Faye, was born on December 18, 2015.

Like all babies do, she was crying loudly upon entrance to this world.  As the nurses tidied her up, her father walked over to see her.  Then, something happened that made time stand still.  It was one of those moments that etches itself into your memory and you know you will not ever forget it.  As he began to speak to her, she became immediately silent.  Daddy’s calm, familiar voice broke through the barriers of an unfamiliar, cold, fearful place and she listened intently to that which she foreknew.  Daddy’s voice called her attention and in an instant, a squirming, flailing baby girl was comforted.  Without a doubt, she is her father’s daughter.

She is me.

In the fearful, the cold, the unfamiliar trenches of this world, I squirm and squeal.  I thrash and flail not knowing or trusting my harsh surroundings.  When I pray years upon end without seeing change and I have run out of words, out of faith, and out of pleas, I found a way to hear daddy.  My father speaks through his word.  Little wonder why an immature baby in the faith like me pines so intensely over his words.  My father’s words comfort; they calm; they make an infantile daughter cease from flailing in fear.

Perhaps I do not speak to God as oft as I should.  I do not.  I hope to do better this year than last.  What I do know is that when my father speaks to me, I hear him loud and clear.  I am my father’s daughter.

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