Monday, April 13, 2015

The 40 Day Journey - A Look Back

It has been 9 days since the last day of my 40 Day Journey. On Ash Wednesday, I committed to spending 1 hour every day listening to God. Not filling the hour with my voice, but listening for His. And He did not disappoint.

I also blogged about that hour each day (with the exception of day 18...). The process for blogging was that "working out" what He had said earlier in the day. It was more of a dialogue, a Q and A. He used those moments to allow those seeds to take root.  I reread a few of the posts and was reminded of the very personal way He revealed His heart to mine.

In order to accomplish this goal many things had to be given up, one of them being sleep. I love sleeping. I need sleep. I don't function fully without 8 hours of it daily. During those 40 days I think I averaged 5 hours a night.  Some of you would do anything for 5 hours, I know. But this girl needs more!

I was really looking forward to completing this journey and then getting some of those things back I missed. I finally started getting 8 hours of sleep at night, I watched 4 movies last week, I spent hours on Facebook, I did all our laundry in one day, I made muffins. And not one thing satisfied. The spot that had been fed by the Lord remained empty. I had "tasted and seen" that the Lord was good. Everything else that I tried to fill the emptiness inside was like a piece of plastic wrapped processed cheese. Completely not fulfilling. Disappointing. Leaving me hungry.

Now how to figure out how live beyond The Journey. My verse this year is Jeremiah 33:3,

"Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and might things, which you do not know."

So I will continue to call to Him and wait for His answer. There is that word again that comes up often in my life. Wait. How can we hear His voice if we just call to Him but then quickly go to the work of trying to get the answer ourselves? Wait.

As my favorite Psalm says, "Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

So I guess this Journey is not over. This is not the end. Maybe it was the beginning...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The 40 Day Journey - Day 40 (Saturday)

Yesterday was my last day of this journey. It was a full day with little rest. I was able to sneak my hour in before midnight. It was definitely bitter sweet. I know I cannot keep this pace, many things had to be given up for these last 40 days. But I believe these may have been the most meaningful 40 days I have experienced.

I think I will blog next week about the lessons learned along they way. Today, I need to reflect on what God said to me on Day 40.

I couldn't separate that Day 40 ended on the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. What do I do with Day 40? And what do you do with the Saturday after Jesus was crucified? Just days before, the crowds were singing "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"

There was great anticipation and joy. There was great hope and singing. Salvation from the oppressive Roman government was finally here. Freedom was within reach. However, the end of the week brought something different. "Crucify Him!" the crowds now shouted. And that is what happened. Instead of getting their own way, instead of temporary happiness, the crowds were left with their hope dead on a cross.

Then Saturday came. The crowds had thinned. Jesus' body lay dead in the tomb. What do you do with this Saturday? If you were there, you did not know true freedom was a day away. You did not know hope was about to be born. You felt abandoned. You felt empty.

Today, we do know the end of the story. Today, we have freedom and hope in Christ. This is the good news of the Bible. All of the Old Testament, now fulfilled in Christ.

These 40 days have been dedicated to hearing God's voice, and He has been faithful, generous in fact. He has loved me the same every day. The days I had doubts, the days I had questions, the days I was almost too tired to hear His voice.

On this last day, He assured me that if I ever face a "Saturday", like the one 2000 years ago, if I don't hear His voice, when I can't see His face, when it seems hope is lost, when I feel abandoned. He will still be loving me. Death could not keep Him from me. I am never bad enough or good enough that He would forsake me.

The great news is there was a day after "Saturday". There was Resurrection Sunday. And for those that believe, when we place our hope in Him, we are made alive forever. No turning back. We have a constant companion. We are not ruled by our sin, we are not under the curse. We are free. We are in a forever relationship with our Father in heaven. I am by Beloveds and He is mine. His banner over me is love. Jesus, He loves me. He is for me. These things I know.

When I called to Him, He answered me and He told me great and mighty things which I did not know. Even on a Saturday.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The 40 Day Journey - Day 39 (How to Pray)

I am on staff at our church and one of the many things I love is the constant encouragement to pray. Our Pastor has led the way in living a life of prayer. With Easter weekend coming up we all were challenged to pray daily and specifically. Today is Good Friday and while my purpose in my hour each of these 40 days has been to hear God's voice, today I really wanted to spend this time praying.

I asked God how I should pray for our church services and the people that will be visiting as well as our church family. I had a busy day and it was a little difficult focusing as quickly as I would have liked. I was raised in a traditional church where we recited the Lord's Prayer often. I found myself reciting this...which I haven't done in years. It brought back fond memories.

After I finished saying it, I remembered hearing that the prayer I had just prayed wasn't actually the "Lord's" prayer, but the prayer for the disciples. The actual Lord's prayer for us is in John 17. I decided to use that as my prayer for this weekend. I really encourage you to read through it now. Some things of course quickly stood out (this is one way God speaks to us).

Verse 3 says, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

I stopped there and prayed that this verse would be true for every person attending our church this weekend. This is all that matters, not if they fit in, or if they give money, or if they ever come back again. What matters is that they may know the only true God and His son Jesus.

Verse 20 says, "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word."

Jesus Himself prayed for future generations, for us! He wasn't asking these things just for His current disciples, but for those that would believe through their testimony. And that is one way eternal life is revealed, through our testimonies through the generations. It is God who draws men to Himself, but He uses our words. I prayed we would be bold and would not shy away from speaking truth.

The last one verse 21, "that they may all be one; even as You Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."

I prayed that our oneness, our love for one another at our church would show the unity of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The reason? That the ones visiting, that our community, that the world may believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

My hour quickly ended, but I was so grateful that God directed me to John 17, the Lord's prayer for us. The Lord's prayer for the church, The Lord's prayer for our community.

If you ever wonder how to pray, ask God and He will show you, and the best part? You can use His very own words to pray for others.

I couldn't help but notice, the very next scene. Judas' betrayal. Jesus knew what was about to happen. There are many things He could have done, many people that could have been healed, sermons that could have  been preached. But He chose to pray, for His followers and for us.  Life is messy, and difficult, and confusing. There will always be something on our to do list. Let us remember Christ's example and choose to spend time in prayer.

The first verse in John 17 said that Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You." May we lift our eyes to heaven and behold His glory. Then may we pray as Jesus prayed, love as Jesus loved, and live as Jesus lived.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The 40 Day Journey - Day 38 (Show Up)

When I began this Journey over 5 weeks ago I really had no idea where God would lead. I really did think I would spend more time looking at the Easter Story. I am not complaining, it has been amazing. Today though, I really wanted to spend some time reading what took place around the time of the greatest of all miracles. I asked God to show me something I hadn't noticed before. And He did.

I read the gospel accounts, starting with Jesus' trial and going through to His resurrection. What I noticed this time, were all the unlikely heroes.

Peter - Oh how I love Peter! After Jesus is arrested, Peter denies Christ three times! This is the same guy that walked on water to Jesus! Oh passionate Peter.

Simon of Cyrene -  Traveled 900 miles to Jerusalem, taking weeks, most likely for the Passover. He had two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Matthew and Mark say he was "pressed into service, to bear the cross of Christ". This man just had come to Jerusalem from the country and these soldiers placed Christ's cross on his back to carry the rest of the way.

Joseph of Arimathea - John says he was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews. He asked Pilate if he might take away the body of Jesus after His death. And that is what he did.
Nicodemus - Remember him? He is the one that came to Jesus by night (for fear). He was with Joseph. He had linen wrappings and spices as was the custom for burial.

Thomas - Poor Thomas was MIA when Jesus came and stood in the midst of His disciples. His buddies told him they saw Jesus (after His death), he said, "Unless I see it for myself, I will not believe". And he does end up seeing for himself and believing.

For some reason these men caught my attention. There is nothing special or outstanding about any of these men. Yet each one has an important role in this story. One denies Christ, one is tired, one is a secret follower, another has not been courageous, and the last one doubts. Not likely champions for Christ.

And that is probably why I love these guys so much. Just regular guys, they had jobs, they had families, they worried about their futures. Yet God brought them into His story. The greatest story ever.

What did they have in common? Why were they chosen? I really don't know, but I wonder if it is because they "showed up". I think we get these lofty ideas in our heads of how our lives should look, what grand thing we can do for Jesus. We must not be important in God's story if our names are not in lights. We aren't pastors or missionaries or worship know not a lot of time in the spotlight.

Yet that is not how God works. He sees a prostitute like Rahab, or a murderer like Moses or a persecutor of the church like Paul. He sees you. He sees me. And He beckons us into His story. Into His family. Our job is to show up.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The 40 Day Journey - Day 37 (Anxiety)

The story of Mary and Martha used to really bother me. I always identified with Martha. In Luke 10 Martha welcomes Jesus and his disciples into her house. She quickly goes to the kitchen to prepare food for her many guests. Her sister Mary however, stays with Jesus in the other room. She was seated at His feet listening to His Word. Martha of course is totally frustrated with her sister. All of these people are in their home and Mary sits down?

Yesterday, I couldn't seem to focus on any one thing. I had been gone for three days and my to do list was rather long. I dashed about trying to accomplish a little of everything. A little house cleaning, a little grocery shopping, a little work, a little serving, a little playing. I could feel my heart becoming anxious. The day ended at 11pm and I had not had my hour with God yet. I almost gave in to the temptation to skip it, until I realized I did in fact have a whole hour before the day was over. I knew I needed to hear from the Lord, especially with the condition of my heart.

I asked God to show me what was going on in my heart today, what had I missed? The word anxious just settled in and I realized I had let anxiety rule my day, not the Lord. I had so many tasks today that I had let my mind focus (or try to focus) on those things.

The story of Mary and Martha quickly came to mind so I read that story once again. I could once again identify with Martha as I wanted to complain to God, "Lord, do You not care?" He was gentle in His reminder to me, "Nancy, Nancy, you are worried and bothered about so many things." I just wanted to say, "Um, yes, there are many things to be worried and bothered about!"

The point of this story though is not that Martha was wrong to be cooking. Later on in fact right before Jesus enters Jerusalem on the donkey, Martha is cooking dinner for Jesus while Mary anoints Jesus' feet. There is no complaining or rebuking.

What God reminded me was that Martha was "worried (anxious) and bothered by many things". Her attention was on herself, on her to do list, on what Mary wasn't doing. I am sure her thoughts were many as her mind raced.

Do your thoughts ever get the better of you? You've created a whole scenario in your head, mostly none of which is accurate? I can feel the anxiety rising in Martha as she becomes blinded to what was the good part of her day.

One reason this story bothered me was because I thought the message was serving and working hard are not important. And that should have bothered me because that is not true! The message is that Martha was worried and bothered. She had a choice. On that day, when Jesus was in her home, the better part would have been to sit at His feet.

Today I pushed aside the "good part" of my day. The many things that have been troubling me and my long to do list were like an eye chart I was straining to see. I lost focus on the one thing that was truly important, my hour with God. Now, I don't do this year round. This is a 40 day journey, I am asking God to speak to me as I commit to listening to Him for a focused hour each day these 40 days.

After these 40 days are over, my "one thing" that is necessary will change. What is your one thing that brings you into the Lord's presence, that is necessary today? If you are anxious and bothered, start with Jesus and listen to His Word. You may have a very busy day, and that is okay, as long as Jesus is your focus and your first love.

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end but it is the road. Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The 40 Day Journey - Day 36 (the sparrow)

This was our last morning in Bellingham. I was able to sneak my hour with God in first thing. I grabbed my Bible, my blanket, and my coffee. I sat down and waited to hear from God.

After yesterday's post, I was ready for some encouragement today.

I sat waiting alone in front of these large windows in the front of the A frame cabin, with a view of the beach. On either side of the windows are two towering trees. It was almost like God's creation was the feature film of the day.

Loud seagulls, majestic eagles, and a freeway for blue herons was my entertainment for the morning. I was so enjoying the moment and my heart was filled with gratitude. My introvert personality was thriving in this moment. How did God know this is exactly what I needed? I find great refreshment in getting away from the "every dayness" and enjoying a different view on life.
This is the top of one of the two towering trees!

Sunday I was given a gift by a friend. She placed it in my hand as I was scurrying to check on a classroom. I looked down at the gift and then up to her. "Is this from you?" No. She was just the messenger. Since I was working, I dropped it off in my office, it would have to wait. After church I remembered it sitting in my drawer. I went up and opened it. How did God know?

I have no idea who gave it, but it was exactly what I needed. Jehovah Jireh, my Provider knew exactly what I needed and He supplied it. Generously. Just like the needed break I was enjoying this morning.

As I watched these large birds flying above the water, I was reminded of Matthew 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father."

If God can keep His eye on a sparrow (it is not easy!), how much more would He keep His eye on us. And if He sees (El Roi), how much more would He want to care for us. For our every need. And even for our every "not" need.

On the way to Bellingham we were able to take the Express Lanes through downtown Seattle. The kids noticed several homeless people living in the bushes on either side of the freeway. I loved that they were not judgmental, just curious. I often wonder about the lives of those living on the street. How does God show His great love for them?

I thought about the contrast between these ones living literally with nothing but the shirts on their backs and the lifestyles of Seattle icons Bill Gates and Howard Schultz. It doesn't make sense to me that there would be such a chasm between these people that God has created. It made me think of the grand difference between the eagle and the small unnoticed bird.

The similarity is that God loves each one. The grand, the overlooked, the upright, the downtrodden, the rich, the poor, the healthy, and the sick. His eye is on each of us. Psalms 17:8 says,

"Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Thy wings..."

We our precious to and protected by the Lord. No matter our circumstances. No matter our home. This will remain a mystery to me, His overwhelming goodness to each one of His children.

Today my heart is full. Jesus loves me this I know. He has shown me in small and big ways. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.