Thursday, August 31, 2017

Benefits of a Silent Brain

My fingers have been lightly drumming the keyboard for almost 30 minutes.
I begin typing, delete, stop, drum some more.
It's not in time to any music.
It's not because there are distractions to bother me.
It's not because I'm annoyed with interruptions.
All those have happened to cause this response before, but not this morning.
The fact is that it is eerily quiet this morning.
I'm not a fan of quiet.
Hence, the drumming of the keys.
I tend to drum in the process of waiting for something, just to fill silent moments... if, by wiggling my fingers across the little letters in some rhythmic fashion will get me what I'm waiting for much quicker...

Or, maybe there's a subconscious thought that by doing something with my hands, somehow, in some miraculous way, something profound will appear on a screen where there's nothing but white and a small, blinking black cursor.
I know better.

So, as I've sat here, I've pondered the past week.
All the different ways that the Lord has spoken through His Word about random issues.
My journal documents many such truths.
Yet, there's nothing in there to document what has really been the One Thing I have wrestled with God over the most.

It's as if I write that One Thing down, then there's no going back.
The blogosphere world will now know this truth about me; and, do I really want to put it out there?
Do I want to serve this on the table as a slice of bread for us to indulge in together?
I fear I might choke.

I reckon the issue is an old-age issue, as opposed to an age-old one.
I see a lot of those occurring, so I hear myself often thinking, "Yep, I'm showing symptomatic signs of aging."
I know this, because since January I have been reading books, studying Scriptures on what that transition will be like, and what is my purpose in the midst of it all. I fancy myself something of an expert on "ziqna and seba" (old age and gray hairs).
But, what no book has mentioned...
What no one I've talked with has brought up...
What has caused me the this:

My mind has shut down.
I used to never have a quiet moment up there in my head.
My thoughts ran rampant.
I needed my journal to corral thoughts like wild horses.
But, over the last few months, it's been like the morning: eerily quiet.
There were probably a kazillion times I would pray for a quiet mind.
Yet, the truth is that because my mind was so full, it wasn't difficult to put the pieces together for things like blogs, or books, or retreat messages.
Now, it's like I've walked out to the car to start the engine and the battery is dead.
And, just like when the car won't start, I have to resort to jump start the engine, I do the same for my brain.
Good, brisk walks help jump start the brain-motor and get 'er going.
BUT, HONESTLY? It's a little bit frightening, because this is so new to me, and a fairly recent occurrence.

So, of course, I've talked with the Lord about it.
Presented the issue in light of the Word, because I think God speaks in different ways to all issues we face.
So far, He has whispered a few ideas for me to reflect on as I walk this new and different road.

1) He has always declared, "Be still....and know that I am God." Being still doesn't just mean "body."  To be still is a condition of the heart and mind. I've mastered the body part, sometimes the soul part, but until now, never the mind. What if this new condition means my knowledge of God increases exponentially?

2) As we know, the Lord speaks in a "still, soft voice."  God has always spoken in whispers so gentle, I must listen with an undistracted mind. What if the fact my mind has shut down allows me to hear the God-whispers more often?

3) "In quietness and trust will be your strength." That word quiet means to be idle, to have an undisturbed mind, an attitude of rest. Again, it's not just body... Just because I am sitting doesn't mean I have accomplished "quietness." So another question: What if this new "undisturbed, uncluttered mind" means for me my strength, fortitude, "grit" for life also increases exponentially?

4) "A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace..." If what I want to define my life at the end of my life is "godly character" then I must sow wisely with an attitude of peace. I camped out on this passage a little bit longer than the others. The brother of my Lord Jesus, James, is writing about wisdom (James 3:13-18). He's defining for us what a wise believer looks like in the world. He's separating earthly wisdom from heavenly wisdom. They are quite different. The key is that the wise among us start with a mind that is still, quiet, uncluttered, undisturbed, and at rest. What if, God has allowed my mind to shut down for the purpose of sowing His wisdom within me?

I may not like the quiet...but if the results of the silence I'm experiencing lead to hearing the voice of God, knowledge, strength and wisdom, I'm all in!  And...maybe, just maybe, I should have sought it sooner.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Did We Do God Justice Due This Week in Celebration?

This has been an event-filled week.

As the earth spun quietly, moving from night to day, in it's normal order, just as the Lord created it to do...Bay and I gathered with a group of believers in a little brown church, in rural America, to celebrate a historic moment celebrating 90 years as a church body...

(Bay's Uncle John, Grandpa Fred's oldest son, in front of the Burton Church)

Bay's grandpa had been a missionary at that church in her conception...

The day Bay's Grandpa Fred had passed away, unbeknownst to him (because he was away at a church camp), Bay had surrendered his life to ministry.

(All of Fred's children, still living, along with spouses, were in attendance!)

When his mama picked him up from camp, and told him the news of his grandpa's passing from earth to heaven, Bay had said (he doesn't remember, but his mom tells us regularly), "Well, I guess I'll just have to take over for Grandpa!"

The baton had been passed from Fred Barnes to Fred Bayard.

This weekend, Bay stood behind the same pulpit.

It felt like a big deal...

The "moon," in a sense, passed in front of the "sun" for a moment in time on Sunday morning...

And, the celebration in worship was nothing short of MOVING!!!!


On Monday, the moon, in reality, did pass in front of the sun.

The last time this happened was June 8, 1918.

So, this was a BIG DEAL!

We were traveling, and while we saw the earth grow hazy, and glanced up to see the moon moving in front of the sun, we were not in its direct path.

However, thanks to NASA, I watched the movie.

I saw the pictures.

The world began to show little crescent moon shadows on the ground.

It appeared the sun was setting...and then, boom, in the middle of the day it turned to darkness.

Friends, who stood poised for the moment, posted later, even the birds seemed confused, and everything went totally quiet.

I was spellbound by a video...I'm sure everyone and everything on the ground in its path had to have been, as well.


As I watched, my mind traveled to a passage in Mark. I've copied the words from Mark 15:33-39...

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw these things, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Truly, this man was the Son of God!

Sunday was a grand day of worship.

Monday should have been, as well.

That morning (the 21st), I had read Psalm 81. Asaph, one of King David's choir directors, had penned these words:

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new the full moon... 

Asaph goes on to remember God's works on the behalf of the people, basically instructing that when the moon makes its grand showing, all should celebrate with awe, wonder, and loud worship, what the Lord has done for His children.

What grander moment in history to remember God's works on our behalf?

What a perfect time to remember that this man, Jesus, truly was the Son of God!

Throngs traveled miles to see this phenomenon eclipse (#solareclipse2017).

And, I many of us celebrated the Lord in worship that was nothing short of MOVING?

What an opportunity-missed!

...and I was one.

Oh, that we never miss opportunities to point to the Son, who moved Himself in the path of the Sun, on a hill so far away, to lay down His life on our behalf...EVER AGAIN!

That is a phenomenon worthy of the kind of celebration Asaph talked of...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Thoughts on Injustice and Evil

I have wrestled this week to find words.

Words that express the sadness my heart feels.

Words that adequately portray the righteous anger I feel for the evil intentions that exist in our world (not just our American corner, truly I mean, THE WORLD).

Intentions that bring divisiveness, hatred, and injustice to the forefront of our lives - Every! Single! One! of Us!

Each time I pick up a story from an online news outlet, I'm appalled by it all.

I've even found it hard to pray, because, while I know what I want, I don't really know how to explain it to the Lord.

Thankfully, The Lord God knows the depth and the full extent of my heart, and He hears what I want to say, when I can't find words to say it.

I do know this...

...What I want is for the Lord to bring healing to hard-hearts birthed out of past pain and tremendous hurts.

...What I want is for LOVE to prevail over hatred.

...What I want is for Jesus to give us all color-blind-eyes!

I am still confident God is Love; and, since, words have eluded me, I've rested on a simple prayer of Asaph (Ps 74:22):

"Arise, O God, defend Your cause..."

I've been cheering on Asaph, who found his words before the Lord Almighty, when it comes to injustice of all varieties, on all sides...

"Have regard (pay attention) to Your covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence."

"Let not the downtrodden be turned back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name."

"Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, 
which goes up continually!"

As I read Asaph's cry to the Lord, I don't see God's answers in response.

The Lord seems silent from His sanctuary.

That's the thing...we tend to have this thought that not speaking out against something must mean we are for something.

The real story is that with God, nothing is something.

He has a greater cause in mind.

A cause, also born out of pain and hurt.

A cause that began years ago in a Garden and culminated on a Hill shaped like a skull.

A cause, of which, the goal is that no man should perish, but all come to know the healing power of LOVE crucified.

The fact is that one day, He will arise and defend His cause.

The fact is that one day, Love will prevail; justice will come with equity; and we will all be color-blind.

Until then, I cannot do much about the evil in the world, but I can determine how I will order my own private world.

"My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." 
(James 2:1)

Here, then, are my marching orders from the Lord of Hosts.

So, my resolve is this:
Oh, my soul march on in strength (Judges 5:21).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How, Why, and When to Make Tear Soup

Over the last couple of days I've been making Tear Soup.
(if you haven't read this delightful, intuitive children's book, you may want to make Tear Soup yourself one day...)

It takes all measures of pots for Tear Soup...the type of pot one needs depends on the heart-ache.
Tear Soup is perfect for all kinds of losses.

Grief comes in many sizes.
Mine is just a small pot.
It's not a more-than-I-think-I-can-bear pot.
It's just a small little hurting-heart pot.

I think I've figured out the why behind the need to pull out my Tear Soup recipe.
It springs back to missionary days.
There are just simply too many good-byes in a missionary's life.
Too many losses to count - relationally and otherwise.
So, when little losses spring up now, they trigger a very real, quick, and hard soul-pain.

We just ended some chaotic, fun-filled, wonderful and yes, sometimes frustrating moments (we are a normal family, after all), with most of our favorite people here at Camp Papa and Nana.
At our house, it's either feast or famine, since the majority of the family lives so far away.
Now, as with most things in life, the dynamics are changing in a big way.
New jobs.
New locations.
New life-situations.
Grand-treasures are growing up, getting involved in sports and other activities, doing life.
The reality of less and less together-time is becoming more and more evident.
We often heard ourselves thinking, and sometimes voicing aloud, that this precious time could be: "our last big hurrah for many years..."

So, the loss of together-times has lodged right here:

Many things go in my Tear Soup.
Several cups of salty, leaky liquid (this perfect blend is found only springing up from one's heart through one's eyes).
A huge handful of patience.
A pinch of self-care.
Plenty of long walks.
Stir in heaping tablespoons of brisk house-cleaning.
A number of teaspoons of Jesus-music from Pandora.
Occasional snack-size bites of comfort food (yes, I indulge for a few days with an occasional "anti-depressant in a chocolate bar").

Palm-sized portions of journaling...and...
Add, great BIG, CHUNKY pieces of memories, especially photos.

But, the one ingredient I cannot do without, and it is a must for us all, is to toss in tasty morsels of the Bread of Life which form the chewy goodness of dumplings on top:


Here are a few of the dumplings that fill and satisfy my achy soul:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up (Ps 68:19)!

Awesome is God from His sanctuary; the God of Israel - He is the one who gives power and strength to His people (Ps 68:35)!

Weeping tarries for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5b)!

The Lord Himself will hide me in the shelter of His wings in the day of my troubles; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock (Ps 27:5)!

Your steadfast love is before my eyes; and I walk in Your faithfulness (Ps 26:3)!

Those who look to the Lord God will be cheerful (their faces radiant)...(Ps 34:5)!

The Lord is especially near to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps 34:18).

A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench... (Is 42:3).


So, why do I tell you this? Because making Tear Soup is a good thing; it's a healthy activity. On the heels of last week's blog, David the King showed us that sometimes doing HARD is done in community. Sharing a bowl of Tear Soup with the right people is a heart-healing balm to the soul. Adding the right ingredients is essential. Sometimes it takes a long time to simmer before it's ready. The one thing I do know, a canned product will NEVER suffice. Another thing I know is that everyone's ingredients will look a little different: that's what makes Tear Soup unique to each of us. But, at some time in our life, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. US. needs to make a pot. This is just to encourage you to do so.

O my soul, why be so gloomy and discouraged? Trust in God! I shall again praise him for his wondrous help; he will make me smile again, for he is my God (Ps 43:5, TLB)!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing for the Soul's Sake

King David was keen on the state of his soul.
He paid constant heed…
Stayed sharp and alert…
Knew and understood exactly where he stood in mind, in will, and in his emotions.
In fact, he talked to his soul as if conversing with a dear friend.
He’s often found in Scripture, especially in the poems he wrote, asking his soul questions.
One of my favorites is this one: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why in such despair?”
Then, after asking, he gives himself answers…
Sometimes, commands!

The more I study the songs he wrote…
The more I pay attention to the words of his poetry…
The more I realize I don’t do the same.
My soul and I aren’t very good friends.
We seldom talk;
And, I rarely ask questions; let alone give my heart commands!

Without research to back me up, I don’t think I’m alone here.
After all there isn’t much that isn’t “common to man.”
If one of us has issues in an area, probably it follows suit that many of us do, as well.
Yet, the one thing I glean from David’s song writing is that the man could talk himself through some pretty difficult situations.
King David had a way of bringing difficulty and peace together in one heart.
I love that he has left a legacy of showing me the how-it-is-done. 

The one commonality I see in many of David’s Psalms is found in the titles he sets before the actual writing.
It’s not unusual for him to say things like: For the choirmaster. A Miktam of David. Sometimes following those words are situations “when he fled from Saul in the cave.” Sometimes, there’s a byline, like this: “for instruction.”

As I was reading two or three of these types of psalms this week, it struck me, that David’s soul-talk, often turned to public singing. 
He wasn’t shy about his problems.
He wasn’t private about the drama and whirlwind of his soul’s oft condition.
As he talked his way out of the here-and-now-HARD to a place of there-and-then-PEACE, he wrote the whole process down for others to sing along with him.
It was as if he realized that there would be other here-and-now-HARD places…
And, when he found himself there again, he would need to hear these songs of remembrance. 
When his mind whirled with the drama,
or shut down in fear,
or began to doubt the goodness of God in the land of the living…
David knew he needed the very words he had once penned to walk him through the valley, once more.

So, David wrote songs for recall -
Because who knew what tomorrow might bring?
* More enemies?
* More chaos?
* More uncertainty?
* More betrayal?
* More storms?
*More potential unbelief?
He knew he would need to cling to the HOPE of the promises…
The visions of the there-and-then-to-come.
The words out of his past that had once comforted him to take him through the present.

Then he could rest with certainty in the Therefore:

My heart is steadfast O God.
My heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.


King David led the way for worship, not just for the Lord’s sake, but for his soul’s sake.

May I learn to do likewise.