I will be away from my blog for an indefinite time.
Peace & Shalom, my friends.
Friday, June 12, 2009
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble, (and) grant you your heart’s desire and prosper all your plans. Excerpted from Psalm 20
What is your heart’s desire? What are your plans? Are you expecting the Lord to answer you in the day of trouble?
I am not sure people know what their “heart’s desire” is. There is a lot of wishful thinking, of course. Most of us wish we would win the lottery. Some people wish it so much, in fact; they even go to the trouble of actually buying lottery tickets.
I, on the other hand, want to win the lottery, but refuse to buy lottery tickets as I consider that a form of voluntary taxation – and I don’t pay taxes the law doesn’t require me to pay. So I make my wishes known that I want to win the lottery, but I don’t hold my breath thinking it likely to happen in my lifetime.
While wishing can be kind of a fun exercise, and dreaming of what one would do with all that cash pouring down from heaven (or Sacramento) can have kind of an inebriating effect on the psyche, the fact remains that wishful thinking has no legs; has no muscle; and has no substance. It is a vapor that rises up like a fog, obscures your view for a bit, but then dissipates when things get warm.
While God created us with the capacity to dream and to wish, I believe it is God’s primary intention to know in what direction you have pointed your heart. When you draw up your last will and testament, for instance, you make as clear as possible how you want your estate distributed, and to whom. The courts see your desire, not as a vague wish, but as “direction”. The court’s job is to honor your intentions by interpreting your instructions as accurately as possible.
When we pray, we are invited to be clear, not in order to compel God to honor our requests (after all, God is God, and we are not), but rather so we can bring our hearts and minds into conformity with God’s will. The Lord’s prayer, as we pray it, is for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. The assumption of the psalmist is that our heart’s desire and our plans would conform to the will of God for us and for our neighbor. To do that, we have to have some idea of what God is like, and of what God desires for us.
Jesus speaks to that in the Gospel of Mark where he says the kingdom of heaven is as if a person scatters seed and mysteriously it sprouts up and produces grain for the harvest (see Mark 4:26ff). The question I need to ask is this: what are you planting for God’s sake? What kind of seed are you scattering? After all, what you plant is what you get.
So many people reap strife in life because that is what they plant. They sow seeds of negativity and discord and wonder why they find themselves reaping disappointment and failure. That’s not to say that disappointments and failures don’t happen to good or pleasant people. Anyone who has been around the block a time or two knows that athletes can have heart attacks, non-smokers can get cancer, and hard workers can lose their jobs.
The point is not that bad things won’t happen to good people, nor is there a guarantee that bad people won’t prosper and enjoy the benefits of their dog-eat-dog lifestyle. We simply have to trust God that justice will out in the end, and know that all people will surely stand before their maker some day and give account for their stewardship. The Bible tells us: “God will not be mocked”.
But for us, we must hear the good news that what we plant, God will raise up. What have you planted? What are you planting? For that matter, what has God planted in you? After all, the kingdom of God is IN you (says Jesus in another place). God has planted goodness and wholeness and healthy seeds in you. With patience, we wait to see what will spring up from out of the earth, and from out of this, our valley.
What God sees is his heart’s desire; his children; and his kingdom. Amen.
Note: Photo Credit embedded in Photo Name
Friday, June 5, 2009
Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born from above, that one is unable to see the kingdom of God. – Jesus
Born Again; Born Afresh; Born from Above; each of these is a good way to read John 3:3. They aren’t exactly synonymous, but each helps us understand what Jesus is saying.
Most of us appreciate it when we get a fresh start – a “do-over.” You know what it’s like. You’re playing a game of checkers or chess, and you discover you just made a bone-headed move. If that wasn’t bad enough, you took your hands off of your piece so that it is now your opponent’s turn. With weepy eyes you turn to the other player and you plead your case: “I made a mistake. May I have a do-over?” The decision to let you make a different move lies with your adversary; it is completely out of your hands. All you can do is wait, and hope for permission.
When the do-over is granted, you feel a sense of great joy and relief, and you make a wiser move. It may only postpone your eventual defeat, and that’s OK; but if it leads to victory, it might seem hollow; after all, it was gained by a suspension of the rules, and not entirely by the cunning and skill with which you played the game. But that’s OK, too. It is the grace which is sweet, not the victory.
It is nice having the option of starting over, especially when things are bad. It is pleasant knowing that no matter how bleak yesterday may have been, at least this is a new day, and perhaps things will be different. With so many people out of work and pounding the pavement looking for jobs, it can be very discouraging to go out day after day high on hope, and to return home night after night with a sense of rejection-ad-nauseum.
Our sense of self-worth is so caught up in our ability to earn our way in life, that when things are bleak, and when we are down and out, we feel broken and sub-human. We feel worthless and hopeless, and we wonder if we will ever see the light of day again.
It is to the broken-hearted that Jesus is speaking when he refers to new birth or to being born from above; and we make a mistake if we think he is talking about something we must do in order to “make this happen.”
Unless your biology is different from mine in some truly significant manner, being born isn’t something for which we can claim any responsibility.
We were conceived and carried by others, and when the time was right, the waters broke and we were delivered into this world. We did not choose our parents; we did not choose our doctors or mid-wives; and we did not even choose to live. Living was in our DNA, and for that we can do no more or less than to give thanks to God.
Our value as human beings, for Jesus, lies not in our ability to do things, but lies in the source of our being. It is God who created us; it is God who redeems us; it is God who sustains us; and it is God who values us beyond compare. “Higher than the angels” is how God sees us, according to the psalmist. We are crowned with glory and honor.
This isn’t a picture of losers and low-lifes. This is a picture of God’s royal children – those to whom God has given birth. This is a very maternal image of God, by the way. Yes, God is our Father, our Abba, but God is also our Mother (Em, in Hebrew). Like Dorothy, we call for Aunty Em when we are in crisis, and it is God who answers and who ultimately brings us home.
So, if you want to see the kingdom of God, you need only look around you, for God is the source of all that exists. God sits “enthroned as King forever; The Lord shall give strength to his people; the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace” (Psalm 29:10f). If times are tough, don’t worry; be happy (as the song says).
And those for whom times are good: take care of your brothers and sisters in this, our world. After all, this world’s not really ours; it is God’s. Our actions and our attitudes need to reflect the grace of a God who allows us do-overs so that we can make things right. That’s far sweeter than victory; that’s love. Peace.
Note: Photo Credit embedded in Photo Name