No I’m not dead. This was my sermon title today.
Here is the quote everyone will probably take home with them. 🙂
“The peace of God is better than pot, in case you were wondering.” JE Lillie
No I’m not dead. This was my sermon title today.
Here is the quote everyone will probably take home with them. 🙂
“The peace of God is better than pot, in case you were wondering.” JE Lillie
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Anyone who wonders about the work of the shepherd needs to read “thefisherlady’s” comment to me in my post “23 Pt. 9.” Her story is so poignant in light of our current discussion.
As I was meditating on verse 4 a few weeks back, Holy Spirit began to speak to me about His rod and His staff which comfort me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I could never say I didn’t fear evil if it weren’t for His rod and His staff. Without them all my positive thinking and focus on the greener pastures would still be obscured by the ever-presence of evil about me. After all it’s not the green pastures that defeat evil. It is the Lord with His rod and His staff that chases my boogeymen away. If all I had were green pastures before me and no God with me in the present circumstance I would still be afraid, because there would be a very real chance of never making it to the pastures no matter how green they may be.
Yet the Lord has assured me that because of His rod and His staff “no weapon formed against me will prosper” Isa. 54:17! He can and will defeat every evil force arrayed against me!
Oh! But it’s even better than that! His rod and His staff are not just for the predators lurking in the dark. His rod and His staff are fashioned to keep me on the path when I lose sight of it in life’s gloom. I am prone to wandering, especially in those moments when life goes a little catywhompus. If I had to depend on my own ability to keep myself on the straight and narrow I would certainly despair. The green pastures would forever be out of reach and I would be lost. But I have a Shepherd who has both Rod and Staff to guide me back onto the path when I take a step away from the Way. Oh surely that is a great comfort! Neither enemies without or within shall keep me from reaching the green pastures. For the Shepherd has made it His job to get me through!
Liza Minnelli once said “Man plans and God laughs.”
It feels that way sometimes doesn’t it? We set our plans in order. We write down our vision statements, set our long-term and short-term goals, only to have them seemingly slip through our fingertips because of some unforeseen life-change.
It’s in those moments we can say with Solomon, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. ” Prov. 16:9
So often those steps are not anything like what we planned. Truth be told, as much as we want to say, “It’s always better than we planned!”, in the moment it sure doesn’t seem that way to us!
Change generally brings with it a reordering of our goals. In the midst of change some goals remain untouched; some are altered in time-frame, scope, or purpose; And some just evaporate altogether like a brook in August.
When life change comes our way we are forced to see that life is not really about the finish line. It’s about the journey. We make a mistake when we make faith about “gettin’ to Heaven” or about “gettin’ to” anything. You see, Christianity does not come with an end in mind; It’s supposed to be an unending journey with Jesus; So it is the pathway that matters most. When we focus on the moment by moment walking, the temporal finish lines promise to take care of themselves.
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The LORD works out everything for his own ends–even the wicked for a day of disaster.” Proverbs 16:4,5 NIV
So maybe you’re in the midst of a goal-destroying life change just now. Hold on, I know with your limited vision you cannot see how it’s all going to work out. With what you understand, I know it’s almost impossible to see how this could possibly be right. Give God time to reorder your goals. Trust Him that the goals which should remain will. Trust Him to show you what goals need to be altered. Trust Him to take away the goals that never should have been yours in the first place. Trust Him to make it all right!
Yesterday I wrote, “celebration is a necessity not an option.” That may not seem like much of a lesson to you. But I grew up in a family where the protestant work ethic was king and most celebration was considered frivolous. I highly doubt we would have attended “moxie day”.
If the truth is told, we probably would have worked “moxie day”. Dad would have cooked for the crowds; Mom would have driven the moxiemobile; My sister and I would have been dressed up in costumes throwing cans of moxie at the cheering crowds.
I guess there is nothing wrong with that. I love to work and to serve. In fact, growing up as I did I learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. The satisfaction from a job well done has proven to be one of life’s greatest joys. But admittedly it has made me a little unbalanced when it comes to life and work.
So last weekend I learned that celebration is not an option for me it is a necessity. But I learned something beyond that. I was reminded that not only is celebration necessary, so is rest.
Here in the nation of 24/7 we generally make light of rest. We say things like: “No rest for the weary!”; “I’ll rest when I’m dead!”; or one of my personal favorites “Time to coffee up and get back to it!”
Yet for a culture that really doesn’t value rest we certainly have a lot terms for it: chilling out, kicking back, retirement, vacation, holiday, respite, nap-snacking, long-weekending, beaching it, hittin’ the hay, taking a break, taking a breather, pacing ourselves,mental health day, sick day… sabbath…. Oh wait! that’s right we don’t actually use the word sabbath in our country anymore do we? Do you find it odd that the biblical word for rest is the only word we don’t use for taking a break?
Now don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of retirement…and I really like the concept of vacation. Should the church suddenly decide to take away my 28 days I would be really….really….REALLY sad. 😥 Still I have to admit, I really don’t see “vacation” in the Bible. I like it. I just don’t see it.
I do see sabbath as a concept everywhere in the Bible. I don’t see it in our culture. I like vacation. I like retirement. But they cannot replace sabbath.
I was reminded of this truth as I rested along the rocky coastline of Maine last weekend. God showed me I was there to rest, not to do, to listen not to speak.
My brother-in-law spoke to his pastor about me before I went. Cliff told him who I was but also told him I was there to rest not to minister. I really appreciated that.
We were built to work…just not all the time. Our lives require rhythm. We were meant to live according to a theme: work… then rest…work…then rest. Six…then one…six… then one.
I’m not religious about sabbath but I am beginning to realize that the pattern cannot be done away with without consequences. The sabbath routine might stand up to some stretching, but only so far before our lives begin to short-circuit. We cannot go 351 days of work then 14 days off and hope to remain healthy.
We also cannot replace rest with celebration. I discovered as I lounged at Cliff and Andrea’s that I needed to recuperate far more than I needed to celebrate. I needed sabbath more than I needed “Moxie Day”.
I came away from the weekend feeling I was going to change some of my vacationing routines.
I am going to break my vacation up into sabbaths for rest. I think I am going to take a few days more frequently rather than a lot of days all at once.
Tell me how do you view sabbath?
I am always surprised by how God grants me exactly what I need, when I need it. Recently I needed inspiration. Here’s my story:
On the 3rd of July I left Massachusetts to go Down East. For those of you not from New England, that means I went to Maine. How that ends up being down and East to anybody other than Canadians I have no idea… but there you have it.
I began feeling a push in my spirit to visit my northern brothers a few months ago. So when my brother-in-law invited me up, I decided it was time to go. I wasn’t really sure about the why. But I did plenty of praying about it on my journey up, and as usual the Spirit answered full measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing!
My Brother-in-law Cliff and his wife Andrea live on a tree farm in the little town of Waldosboro.
As you travel north along the coast, the sandy beaches of York and Ogunquit give way to the rocky ocean outcrops Maine is so famous for. Here in the bays of Camden, Waldosboro, and Wiscasset the great ship building industry of Maine was born early in our nation’s history. This is where I travelled too…though when I started I didn’t really know why.
Holy Spirit began to show me almost as soon as I left that this was going to be a weekend of refreshing for my heart and a time of inspiration for my mind.
As I started out, God told me to take my time. Then He proceeded to make sure I would obey His command by sticking me in a traffic jam for three hours! 😎 When my arrival time came and went and I hadn’t even reached the Maine border I called Cliff and told him I would be along as soon as I could leave the NH parking lot.
Through it all I felt so much peace. I prayed and God was my driving companion. He shared His thoughts and I descended deeper into His presence even as He and I had a heart to heart that evidently was long overdue.
I’m so thankful that God always knows what we need and when we need it. As a Maniac for a weekend I learned so much and I have much to share with you all!
See you tomorrow!
I am a teetotaler. I have never been drunk in my life. Dad did make me go into a bar the week I got engaged because he thought I needed the experience at least once before I tied the knot. I had a Coke.
Truthfully, I never saw the point of sitting on a stool pouring my sorrows into a glass. If I were the drinking kind that’s what I’d be doing. I’m just that addictive sort, you know. It’s good I found Jesus before I had the chance to try the other side.
While I may never feel the need to toss one back, I do have to admit I am a garden lush. That is to say, I may not drink my sorrows away but when I am out of sorts there is nothing like ripping out a few kudzu vines or digging root holes to calm myself down. In fact for those of you who read my last post, I have to say it’s often the first step to getting out of my pajamas.
Sometimes just the scent of the garden can take away the heebie-jeebies of life. Sitting down and drinking in the fragrance draws me closer to the Creator and the peace He has left with me.
Then, too, there is the satisfaction of knowing you have coaxed beauty out of the earth. I think something in man was made for that. When Adam was created his role was to tend the garden and to walk with God in its shade.
I do not know if Adam had stressors or not. But I am willing to bet that if he did, he did not turn to the fruit of the vine to send them packing away. I’m quite sure the sound of God’s voice above the sweet rushing waters was enough to calm even his greatest agitation. Maybe what we need today is not more “watering holes” or pharmacies. Maybe what we need to set us right is more gardens where we can pray!
Where do you take your stress? What do you do to find relief?
You have heard about my sarcasm bone, but have you met my alternate personality? I call him Judgy and every once in a while when my ire is up he comes out.
For most of my life I was unaware of his existence. I really thought I was a sweet person. Then I started writing.
I have come to know this Judgy character pretty well as I have reread my drafts. You may think my wit is a little biting in print…but you should see the things I don’t publish!
The pieces that don’t make the cut have titles like “Sorry or Just Plain Sad” or the piece I was working on today “Until It Happens To You”. I got the blog finished. Then I proof read it and said “Oh surely not!” I trashed it realizing Judgy had struck again.
It’s not that I totally disagree with him, mind you. Sometimes Judgy makes good points; It’s the way he makes them that leaves a little bit to be desired. Just an aside, anytime you read a blog and things around you begin to spontaneously combust, it’s probably not a good thing.
So Judgy has to go. He must be assimilated and his more vitriolic qualities must be done away with. I want to speak the truth but with love alone. I suppose he’s not just going to keel over dead tomorrow though. So if everyone once in a while Judgy pops out please accept my apology in advance!
If you had an alternate personality what would it be called?
“I’ve got to do a bunch of stuff today God and it’s really gettin’ to me!”
“What have you got to do son?”
“I’ve got to go to prayer. I’ve got to call like 20 people. I’ve got to finish the editing project my friend sent me. I’ve got to water the gardens. I’ve got to walk the dogs. I’ve got to write to a list of missionaries a mile long. I’ve got to prepare youth group lessons and blogs and I have all this studying You said I had to do.”
” Do you like studying son?”
“Yes God I do.”
“Do you like preparing lessons and writing blogs son?”
“It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world.”
“Son, do you like writing letters to missionaries?”
“I love your missionaries God. Praying for them and encouraging them is very rewarding.”
” I thought you loved gardening and the dogs. That’s why I gave them to you.”
“Oh I do love them God.”
“And prayer don’t you love praying?”
“I do God. It’s like my breath!”
“Then you haven’t got to do these things, J. You get to do them.”
“You’re right God but there’s so many things on my list. I feel like I can never get all the things done today no matter how much I like them!”
“Then stop living as if it all has to get done today. Live like forever is yours son, because it is.”
Last week we started this discussion about gardening. The question I raised was:How hard should we work to change the landscape around us to fit into the mold of what current opinion says is beautiful?
I am in the minority I think. I really like the moss most other lawners and gardeners work so hard to get rid of. I even think that in certain respects crab grass is kind of cool. Now I work hard at my gardens. I mow. I prune. I move things around. But I really do try to think out of the box when it comes to subduing the world around me.
You may remember how originally I planned to get rid of all this stuff: It looked really gangly and gross when I moved in. I fought with it and took up a whole day in March trying to make it leave our lawn. I am really glad it was stubborn enough to stick it out until spring. Had I succeeded I never would have seen the spring landscape I now enjoy so much from my coffee table under the shade trees. Come on admit it it’s quite a picture!
I’ll admit I like the wild look. There’s something intrinsically godly about it. I’ll also admit I am too lazy or too busy to fight with the lawn to make it line up in straight rows. I don’t know but I’ve never met a garden that wanted to grow square. The world is round and everything I have ever planted seems to grow in a circle or a curve. It’s we humans that insist everything be stuck in a box!
Have you ever noticed that the more you insist on boxing things in, the more you insist on everything coming out exactly as you planned, the less it does so? Case in point: I bought dirt for my garden boxes. I even asked the “expert” at the counter how much I needed. He told me. I bought the amount he recommended. He lied!
I filled my boxes and had enough dirt left to fill another garden. Now I was wrankled. A part of me wanted to call the guy tell him to come get his dirt and give me a refund. Another part told me I should move the dirt across the lawn and cover the grass clippings with it. The achy broken part of me won. The part that says “Embrace your inner moss” took over and I built this
Muddy says it looks weird. Most of our neighbors are probably wondering what the heck I am building. But at the moment I was sick of fighting with the dirt so I decided to embrace what I had and make the best of it.
Those of you who read my post regularly know by now that I am not really talking about moss or dirt or gardens at all. I’m talking about an attitude.
Life often hands us what looks like junk…trash…or moss. The beautiful thing about life is we get to decide what to do with the junk/trash/moss we are handed. I’m not saying we should always keep it. But sometimes I think we have to find a way of living with our moss. We have to find a way of making our “moss” into a blessing. What can we pull out of it? What can we turn it into that will benefit?
As I close I just want to remind you that sometimes those things we think our greatest bane can become our greatest blessings if we only choose to embrace them for what they can bring.
“what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise” (Laura Story, Blessings)
Think me not unkind and rude,
That I walk alone in grove and glen;
I go to the god of the wood
To fetch his word to men.
Tax not my sloth that I
Fold my arms beside the brook;
Each cloud that floated in the sky
Writes a letter in my book.
Chide me not, laborious band,
For the idle flowers I brought;
Every aster in my hand
Goes home loaded with a thought.
There was never mystery,
But ’tis figured in the flowers,
Was never secret history,
But birds tell it in the bowers.
One harvest from thy field
Homeward brought the oxen strong;
A second crop thine acres yield,
Which I gather in a song.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am learning that my peace in the storm of life is determined in large part by the voice I choose to listen too.
In this storm God has been singing a sweet song in my ear almost continually. He sings against the darkness of my soul. He takes my breath away with beauty that reminds me that all of life is not dark.
He has made my feet to tread in pleasant places. But I must step out my front door to hear His song. He sings in the key of green, and red, and pink. His voice smells like roses and lilacs.
I hear Him singing from the high heavens and even from the dark dirt of the forest floor. His voice emanates from the grasses and swells from the branches of the trees.
So many have wondered how I can hold myself at peace in the storm. It’s because most times I don’t hear the rain. I hear Him and He tells me it will be all right.
He tells me like this
When I hear the beauty of his song with my eyes, the dark voices that ravage my mind slip for at least a season into the abyss which spawned them.
How do you hear the song of God?