This Week's Focus

Investigate my life, O God
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Psalm 139:23-24

Saturday, May 29, 2010

day 29: I remembered

The moment it happened I wanted to run yelling and screaming the reality of it: God melts!!!

It was a big small moment.

Frustration was overtaking me. Trying to take care of something, be responsible, follow through, etc. It wasn't working out and I felt that familiar feeling of overwhelmed, helpless, weak.

But then I remembered.

When I focus on my trial, it is big and God is small; I feel weak, powerless, consumed by it. Instead, focus on God. Who He is. What He has done and is doing and will do. God is big. Bigger than my struggles.

And it was as if God touched His giant laser beam directly on me and instantaneously melted the frustration and weakness. Who He is consumed me, replaced me, overtook me, and His power replaced all my feelings with peace. The battle is His. I am His. He is driving my ship. I trust Him.

My intimacy with God is so intense right now. So real. His presence is my reality. He is a safe, true filter through which to experience this strange, sometimes painful world. I don't have to run, I don't have to hide, I found Him - right here, right inside, beside.

My melted heart sings - Hallelujah!

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

day 28: sitting

I am just sitting with God today. In a quiet place in my soul. Life is still going on around me. My arms are moving, my legs carry me forward, my voice speaks. But inside I am sitting. Sitting with God. Sitting with His Words. His teaching. His love. Reflecting on how much He has shown me this month. About himself. About myself. About others. I am sitting with a hunger that is deep to continue this connection and intimacy.

Be still...

I read a commentary on Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God." Interestingly, the original Hebrew word used here, "still," has many meanings, one of which in this context actually commands us to "be weak." The commentator said, "This command — “be still” — forces us to think on two things: that we are finite, and that God is infinite. That being the case, we need to drop our hands, go limp, relax, and “chill out.” Christian people ought to “come, behold the works of Jehovah,” (v. 8) that we may enjoy a calm confidence in him who gave us his Son.

He continues: "Spiritual serenity, the psalmist admits, ought to be cultivated in spite of the shaking mountains and agitated waters (vv. 2-3; i.e., figures for the difficulties we face in life). This spiritual calm, that God commands, does not come from a lack of troubles; it derives from a steady, deep reflection on the ways God has intervened in history on behalf of his people (cf. Romans 15:4).

"So as your world crumbles around you, the call from Scripture is: don’t flinch in faith in God. Stand still — not because of a self-made confidence, not because you are the most composed person in the face of disaster, not because “you’ve seen it all.” Be still because of what you know about God.

It is “God’s past” that provides calm for “our future.” Know that he is God! Know it, not merely intellectually, but practically, spiritually, and emotionally. He is your God. He is the ruler of kingdoms of this earth and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe."

This is the beauty of what reading Psalm 139 has done for me. I began this journey thinking God was going to show me how valuable I was by telling me how great I am. Instead, He has shown me how inextricably tied my value is to Him. I am only because of Him. What GLORY to know.

And to sit with.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 26-27: linked

This month has been a reprieve. I've let all other concerns, hurts, problems, challenges diminish and God crescendo. Feels luxurious. I don't want it to end. But God showed me this week that this precious time has been a link from one time to the next in my life. All of what He has been doing and continues to do in me with this Psalm's message is preparing me for the next thing. And old things.

When I focus on my battles, then they are big and God is small. I feel weak,helpless, overwhelmed. What He has shown me over the past few weeks is that I need to focus on Him, who He is, what He does and trust in Him. My God is much bigger than my trials. I want to live in His power, and can.

Shouldn't I despise those who resist you?

In these last verses, it is as if David's battles sneak into his own struggle to remember who God is. He lets us see that he, too, has hurts, battles, conflicts, trials. For immediately after he pours out himself, he asks God to search him and show him where he is off in his heart.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you...

No. No I should not despise those who resist God. What if He despised me every time I resisted!? I surrender in some areas; I resist in others. It's easy to see when someone close to me is resisting God because their actions are hurtful to me. It's always so clear what they should change, what they should do differently. Not so easy to look in the mirror and do the same. But when I resist, God is patient, faithful, wise, loving. May those qualities in Him grow in, and out, of me.

In the trial of my life that has resurfaced this week, one thing is different. And it is not the other person involved. It is me. God has brought me one step closer to wholeness by accepting my repentant heart and allowing it then to absorb the truth about how valuable I am because of who He is, and sever the toxic cord of codependency that has bound me to misery and worthlessness.

I am freer in Him, despite the link between my past and my future. It does not bind me captive; He frees me to live healthier in this present moment. But I have to remain connected - linked - to Him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 24-25: sleeping in

Verses 9 and 18 have been echoing in my head. They each reference morning:

If I ride the wings of the morning... Let me rise in the morning and live always with you!

For the past 4 mornings now, I have been wide awake at exactly 5:50. I'm not, not, not a morning person. I love the beauty and solitude of it when I do get up early, but sleep is much more alluring.

The last time this happened (and I obeyed/got up), the Holy Spirit thrust me into a new level of prayer and experience with God that was incredible and life-altering. I knew it was Him because every day I awoke at exactly the same time. I know exactly when it happened because I journaled it: March 7, 2007. It lasted 3 days.

I feel Him calling me, inviting me to something again, but I have been stubborn and sleeping in.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 23: alive

Friday was a beautiful day.

Reflecting on it later I am able to see, again, how, by clinging to God as a branch desperate for connection to the vine for life-giving sap, I am experiencing fruit growing out of my life, which is His.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Some bicyclists found a terribly injured owl by the side of the road near us. We happened to be at a little neighborhood store and overheard this news and asked if we could go see it. Important note: I am not historically an animal person. At all.

There in a small, mucky ditch lay a magnificent curved brown-and-white spotted head with breath-taking, huge, brown, round eyes looking up at us out of tall, green grass. His sharp yellow beak stood out from his face; his wings were spread sadly and unevenly out from his body which was indistiguishable as it disappeared into the ditch.

When we approached he clicked loudly to let us know he felt threatened so we kept our distance, all of us feeling horribly powerless to help him in his obvious pain and fear.

After several calls, we ended up with the right place where animals are voluntarily rehabilitated. The woman on the phone instructed us to put the owl in a box and she would meet us after she got off work. So we got 3 pairs of gloves and a cardboard box and went to help the poor guy.

I was scared to death. Owls have dangerous claws and strong beaks. As the adult I felt that I should "take charge" because my children might be in danger, but that voice that I am learning to trust pressed upon me that my daughter had a gift with animals. She is gentle, patient and intuitive about what they need and how to be safe. So, I encouraged her, supported her, told her that I knew she had that gift and gave her the gloves.

It was beautiful to watch her. It was the kind of beauty that is what we see when a soul lives as God designed it, called it, purposed it. The owl was scared, but my daughter handled it perfectly. This large, powerful animal allowed my daughter to soothe it with her hand on her head, cradle it's wings in her small hands, pick it up and place it in the box. And then let her caress its beak and let drops of water fall into its open mouth. Exquisite.

She has talked for the past year of wanting to be a vet with a "rehabilitationist" specialty...we met an "animal rehabilitationist" that day. Only God can make those appointments and create those opportunities. And open a mother's eyes to see value in a gift that she normally overlooks, minimizes, scoffs. And trust Him and allow a child to stretch it's wings. To live. Thus God giving living fruit of His Spirit at just the right moment in a child's life.

And in setting her free, I am more alive, too. Fulfilling my own purpose. And hopefully the owl will live as well.

...and the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 22: counting grains of sand

My daughter and I tried to count grains of sand today in order to grasp how many thoughts God has about us.

It was tedious and painful. We measured 1/4 teaspoon sand, spilled it onto a plate, and used a toothpick. We had to employ a magnifying glass to see each grain, and make sure a light was shining on our work. The grains are quite beautiful and we were struck at how different and multi-colored each one is.

Ultimately we had to estimate. We counted a hundred grains which took up 1 square centimeter of space. Spreading out the rest of the grains, we loosely estimated more than 10,000 grains in 1/4 teaspoon of sand! Then imagined the sand on the beach ... utterly mind-blowing.

We took a few minutes to try to capture our own thoughts and count them. Also quite difficult because we had no definition of a "thought." So we looked up the definition:

thought: that which one thinks; a single act of thinking; idea; notion; consideration; care; regard; contemplation; anticipation; expectation.

Looking at the millions of grains of sand in my hand. Holding the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe has more ideas, considerations, regard, contemplations, anticipations about me. About every one of us. Each thought as beautiful and unique as a single grain of sand. It is utterly incomprehensible, and yet as equally awe-filling and worth-imparting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 21, cont'd: tuning in

When my daughter is in her horseback riding lesson indoors during rain, there is chaos. A bunch of kids on horses going different directions and doing different things in the arena, rain hitting the metal roof, multiple instructors barking out orders. I watched tonight and struggled to keep my eye on my daughter and my ear tuned to her trainer's voice. And it struck me how amazing it is that each child knows it's instructor's voice and follows the guidance.

My sheep recognize my voice... I know them, and they follow me.

I've read this psalm so many times now I feel an intimate familiarity with the words. They have a certain feel, a particular voice, a consistent message. They offer comfort and soothe the soul. They point a specific direction. Their celebration is certain. Predictable. Knowable.

This intimacy has shed light on another voice. It has made distinguishable to me another message that contradicts the consistency of the psalm. It tries to convince me that I am not valuable. It whispers doubt. It leads me to darkness.

Several friends have stopped me in the past couple of weeks when I have spoken the words of this "voice." The lies that don't get caught in the filter and seep into my being and out my mouth.

My pastor reminded me recently of the movie, A Beautiful Mind, about a Nobel Laureate in economics who had schizophrenia and heard voices. At the end of the movie, and in his real life, he said that the voices never went away, he just learned to distinguish the real ones and ignore the imaginary ones.

By reading this psalm over and over again, and drinking it's meaning and message into my being, I have learned more distinctly my Shepherd's voice. I am growing in my ability to recognize a fake. Because of what God is doing in this journey with Psalm 139, I can now better tune in to His voice and tune out the false ones.