Friday, April 19, 2013
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
Bombings, terrorism, violent crime, shooting rampages, natural disasters, civil war, innocent victims...
The mantra of "We're gonna get back up!" can begin to sound hollow and empty.
The answer isn't resignation, but surely there must be a greater source of strength than "the indomitable American spirit?"
It can seem like we're walking through the valley of the shadow of death and trying to cheer ourselves (and others) back to the mountaintop. The resilience and potential resolve of the human spirit is amazing. We all need encouragement.
But sometimes you don't need a cheerleader but "one called alongside to help."
That is one of the meanings of the Holy Spirit's name. He actually gives help, peace, strength, hope...
It is in the place of desperation where we can "fear no evil" not because we are super-positive, but because "God is with us."
An ever-present help in trouble.
The Psalms can become our songs. We can learn to sing in every situation. Sometimes lamenting. Sometimes celebrating. Just reading them, singing them, it puts words and expression to our struggle. It opens the door for God's presence to comfort and strengthen.
One guy shared about being shaken up by the economy and the stress of it all. He wondered about how to provide for his family. He plunged deeper into despair and self-destructive behavior. He was asking "WHY GOD? Why did you let me get into this mess?"
Reaching the end of his rope something changed. Perspective changes when you can't pull yourself up and don't have the strength to hold on.
He found the ever-present help in trouble.
Learning to quit searching for more resolve, more internal strength, more happy thoughts. How exhausting when everything around us is being shaken.
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe..." Hebrews 12:28
An ever-present help in trouble.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
How can we make Good Friday and Easter something special?
Depth of gratitude flows from connecting with an experience and its meaning…
One mom I know makes birthdays special by reminding her kids of how excited she was on the day of their birth (leaving out certain painful parts).
Connecting with the suffering of Jesus only sweetens the celebration of His resurrection!
A powerful way of connecting is to IMAGINE WHERE THE PERSON WAS AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING. And because most of us tend to process in terms of a schedule or calendar, imagine what it would be like to set reminders on your phone at each important hour.
12:00-6:00 AM --Arrest, taken several places, condemned and mistreated by religious leaders
6:00-8:30 AM — Pilate, Herod, Pilate again, beating and scourging
8:30 AM — Final sentencing by Pilate
9:00 AM — Crucifixion
11:30 AM — Thief on the cross
12:00 PM — 3 hours to go
3:00 PM — Final words of Jesus and His death
Example of more in-depth reflection…
8:30-9:00 AM-- I remember at this time You were being led to Golgotha
- It must have been a cool, crisp morning, sun shining brightly, birds singing...
- You had been beaten and scourged to the point of death (remember “the Passion”), your body was so torn up and beaten beyond recognition
- You were alone carrying the cross, your closest friends had denied and abandoned you
- The procession was led by one who proclaimed the nature of the crime (which was written on a white, wooden board) "hail King of the Jews" which would have angered many of the people
- A group of people were following you, mourning and lamenting. Jesus, you turned and said “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children…” (Luke 22:27-29)
- They enlisted the help of a foreigner, Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross the rest of the way, probably because you had collapsed under its weight. I can only imagine you looking in his eyes with gratitude, marking him forever as your friend
- Some of the people who had shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” a week before had just shouted “Crucify Him!" Some were looking on with disgust, some with hate, some with confusion, some were weeping
- As you neared the place you would be crucified, you were probably remembering the verses about the Passover Lamb, how you were carrying the sin of the world and bearing our punishment
Prayer & Worship
I can only imagine the painful, nearly ½ mile walk, to the place you were crucified…
Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice, for enduring the rejection, the physical and verbal assaults, the spiritual weight of our sin...
And I can only imagine what it was like to see faces of people who worshipped you who had turned on you and rejected your love...
Isaiah 53:7-8 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
And finally, here is a great resource by Josh Byers. View it larger or print it out as a reference here: http://joshbyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The-Passion-Week-Poster.jpg
Thursday, March 21, 2013
"If you would like to complete a brief survey at the end of your call (after waiting 10 minutes and not being helped) please push the pound key now"
"We're appreciate the opportunity to serve you! We're emailing to ask you to please click on this link and take 10 minutes to complete the online satisfaction survey?"
"If you go to the website on the bottom of your receipt and complete the questionnaire you will be eligible for $100k in prizes..."
"Yes, I know someone in our office told you it could happen, but no, we can't pick up that item in your trash until next week. Is there anything else I can help you with :-)?"
So I'm thinking at the end of the day-- what am I missing? (no, at the moment I didn't think of these as "opportunities for patience")
1) It seems like the appearance of being helpful has taken the place of being helpful.
2) Time is so valuable, and if I'm going to survive I have to say "no" a lot more often.
3) Engagement person to person re: real life is at the top of the hierarchy of needs.
Imagine hanging out with Jesus when He said:
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. John 15:5-8 Message Version
It isn't real hard to spot a branch that isn't connected to the Vine. If it snaps when you bend it, chances are it needs to be reconnected. Sometimes I begin to hear the "snap, crackle and pop" in my own life.
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:3-5 Message
This is the quest we are on at Smoky Hill Vineyard, for something beyond the appearance of being helpful! And I'm so thankful to be on the journey together!