Thursday, February 27, 2020

Do You Thirst for More? Spiritual Practices, Lent...and My Pursuit of the Almighty

Lent snuck up on me yesterday; but, fortunately I figured it must be close and went online to check the calendar.

Grateful that I'd checked, I readied my heart for the next 40-days of "preparedness."

I truly appreciate celebrating this season.

Not for the "giving up," though sacrifice becomes a "piece" of the preparation for the joyful hope of Resurrection...

Not to prove anything...

Not because I fear anything...

...and, certainly not because someone is forcing it upon me...

It's not a legalistic thing for me.

I make no issue with those who don't participate...

Celebration of Lent is a "me" thing...and, I rather do it according to a mix of traditions (aka: my own way)....

This year it fits perfectly with my pursuit of the Almighty.

Seeking Him.

Watching for Him to explode into my everyday, ordinary world.

I'm adding one specific prayer to my Lenten practices...and one admonition of encouragement from Jesus, as well...

This is a familiar prayer to all of us who are Jesus-followers.

As I read it yesterday morning in my regular reading, I happened to think it's a perfect Lenten-prayer.

My prayer has four parts:
1. Search my heart and show me what you see/know to be true of me.  Why?  Because this:

2.  Show me those things that make me anxious and fearful.  Why?  Because this: 

Basically, according to author, Ed Welch (Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest): 

What I fear the most reveals to me where I trust God the least....

3 Help me locate where I have offended You most... Why? Because this:

That word translated "offended," or sometimes, "grieved," literally means in Hebrew: to fashion an idol.

What am I putting ahead of the Lord God?
Where has my self-love run amok?

4.  Lead me in an way with everlasting value...  Why? Because this:

I want to follow His path for me, and His path alone...for His path is straight and pleasant!

I may have mentioned that there is also one admonishment from Jesus that I've turned into a prayer, as well...

I guess that's for next week...

This is enough to ponder for today.

Pastor Craig Groeschel in his most recent book, Dangerous Prayers, says Psalm 139:23-24 is one of those types of prayers.

"Pray it," he says, "and you will see God revealing things about yourself at some very surprising, and possibly unexpected, times."  

Pray it...and the Lord is sure to show up!

Isn't that what I want?

Yes! No matter how uncomfortable!

I just want to see Him, because I thirst for more of Him!

That is also the purpose behind Lent...

And, you?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"Forced Sabbath" - and my Pursuit of the Almighty

 (from Psalm 62:1)

I Needed the Quiet

I needed the quiet so He drew me aside,
Into the quiet where we could confide.
Away from the bustle, where all the day long
I hurried and worried when active and strong.

I needed the quiet though at first I rebelled
But gently, so gently, my cross He upheld
And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things
Though weakened in body, my spirit took wings
To heights never dreamed of when active and gay
He loved me so greatly, He drew me away.

I needed the quiet. No prison this bed,
But a beautiful valley of blessing instead.
A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide.
I needed the quiet so He drew me aside.
-Alice Hansche Mortenson-

Yesterday, I ran across this little poem I'd gathered up and pasted in a journal years ago... 

It made me stop and smile, for, certainly, it has described my last week and a half.

Whether season-of-the-year, or the sharing of germs at a recent event, or just down-right low immune-systems, both Bay and I got slapped with nasty colds.

I felt mine coming on a week-ago last Monday, and immediately started in on Zicam.

By Tuesday, the battle raged.

By Wednesday, I surrendered to the enemy.

I felt frustrated, to say the least...

It's been years since I've had a full on head-cold.

However, since mid-October, I've had two!

Both knocked me flat, and then stood victoriously on my back, cheering (at least I imagined that little guy from the Mucinex commercial doing just that!).

I "kept at life" through Friday still knocking stuff off my ever-"yelling-at-me"-to-do-list, but by Friday night, I knew I was done-for.

Saturday and Sunday became "forced Sabbaths." 

We both stayed home....

Bay stayed in bed all day.

I found my "home" on the couch, where I usually have my quiet times.

We read.

We watched a movie.

We napped...a lot.

We listened to favorite podcasts.

On Sunday, we watched and learned from some of our favorite preachers...

We read some more.

Listened to worship music.

I started putting a few of the spiritual-disciplines I've been researching into practice.

I even colored!

By Sunday afternoon, I began to turn a corner (at least broke a fever, even though congestion is still my closest friend).

I found myself surprised by God.

I'd just had two wonderfully quiet, spiritually refreshing, Spirit-speaking, retreat days.

Maybe Saturday and Sunday started as "forced Sabbaths," but these two days were just what the GREAT-PHYSICIAN-of-my-heart ordered!

I'd kept company with Jesus.

I'd paid attention and listened to Him, and didn't just spill-forth my ever-increasing-agenda on Him, asking Him to bless it.

I'd heard His sweet soft voice.

My body rested, but my soul came alive!

"And, my spirit took wings!"
(just like the poem told me it would...)


Why wait for a cold, or a sickness, to force some Sabbath-days-with-Jesus?

Two days of Sabbath and I'm already looking at my calendar for when I might be able to take two more! 

It's a radical thing - right?

But it's a God-like-thing!

Sabbath can look many will be different for each of us...

but, it's purpose is to set-apart time to REST, RESTORE, RENEW, REMEMBER...

I'm learning the more I pursue Him, He's pursuing me to an even greater extent... 

I turn - He's already there...

And, He's just the sweetest companion...

P.S. And, this morning I'm on my way to a new event (with Bay - we're speaking at a marriage conference) - recharged, spirit-ready, and...feeling more like myself!

My heart is overly-filled with gratitude for my Sabbath!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Surprised by God....Many Years Later (Contemplation & Pursuit)

"For we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is not seen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18)."

This picture has hung in my home for 10-15 years (I've lost track, it feels like it has always been in this spot). 

It was a gift from a artist, who captures his sermons in pictures; 

and, it fits our African-themed decor.

I've loved this picture...and, I've always focused on the lion: powerful, strong, majestic, a true King-of-the-Beasts. 

Side note: Sometimes it makes me "homesick" for Kenya.

There's a story behind that picture on my wall, and it's a bit embarrassing. 

So, I won't tell you that my husband may, or may not, have mocked me when I unveiled my recent revelation to him...

But first....

The more I pursue the Lord, the more I realize that to Pursue the Almighty means I must learn to pay attention.

That's never been my forte.

But, He's closer than I think...

...and, loves to show up in the smallest of places.

He's in the miniscule.

He's in the ordinary.

He's in the every day.

(look closely...there's a little something to be seen here, too)

Yet, to see Him means I need to slow down...

...and, set aside time to sit in sacred places for contemplation and for savoring the little-minutes of life.

GK Chesterton made this comment:  

"The greatest of all illusions is the illusion of familiarity."

(Yep! Sure is... You'll understand why this is true in a minute....)

Contemplation is an "awakening" of sorts.

It means that I can learn to be more alert to seeing the presence of God IN ALL THINGS, by experiencing events in my life "to the full. "

After all, Jesus said..."I have come to give you the full (John 10:10)!"

But, I am a busy woman.

It's not in my nature to be contemplative.

I like the feeling of doing, and accomplishing.

It feels unproductive: the being, and the reflecting....

"Doing," checking off the boxes, is what counts.

According to author, Adele Calhoun,

"Contemplation invites us [into the present] with a heart alive to what might happen."

It's an invitation to see Jesus...

...and in seeing Him, be changed more into His likeness.

It's an invitation to perceive something new.

It's also an invitation to catch a glimpse of eternity.

(Colorado sunset photo credit: Gail Fray)

If the Almighty is going to explode into my present, there must be less doing, then placing more value on what is NOT SEEN, but begging to be...

Back to my picture at the top of this blog (here's another perspective)....and, the illusion of familiarity....

As I said, it's been in my home a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggg time.

Long enough, I should have noticed, but didn't.

As Bay and I stood chatting this morning, and with coffee in hand, I happened a glance over.

It was something about the way the sun light was shining on it that caught my attention.

FOR THE FIRST TIME (yes, seriously), I noticed a face in the clouds.

Then, I noted the arms outstretched.

Right there above the lion, wasn't just sky, but a picture of Jesus...

...and right there, on Jesus' chest was another lion.

This isn't a blog about the messages that picture preaches (but preach, I hope it will to everyone who visits our home)...

This is a blog about contemplation.

That little work of art gracing our home is an exclamation mark to the why-mindfulness-is-important. 

It's important to see the unseen; and, in seeing, hear the message; and, in so doing, KNOW HIM MORE!

Take time. Look more. See more. Learn more. He's in oh-so-very-many-ordinary-places.

He's coming on the clouds, kings and kingdoms will bow down
And every chain will break, as broken hearts declare His praise
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He's roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him...


Want to test your contemplative-skills? How good are you at "savoring" moments? Here's a sure way to grade yourself: Grab an M & M, any color works. Place it on your tongue. Leave it be. Don't remove it. Just "savor" it...enjoy the test, the texture. Experience that M & M. How long can you leave it there without being tempted to just chew, in order to end the experiment? Now, when it's all dissolved...what did you learn about your ability to be mindful and be present in the moment...

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Super Bowl Half-Time, The Ten Commandments, and Pursuit of the Almighty

In pursuit of the Almighty...

You didn't notice.

But, I did....the day after I posted my blog last Thursday.

As I walked through the Ten Commandments I'd researched last week, I discovered I left out number two.

A most important commandment from our Lord God.


#2. Do not make for yourself any graven image. 

No idols in the form of anything!

You shall not pay homage to them...honor anything/anyone other than the Lord Your God.

You shall not worship them, or give them praise.

You shall not serve them....or celebrate them.

God is jealous.

Not a sinful kind of jealous (for our God, who is holy, cannot sin!).

His jealousy is a perfect "zealous-for-you" kind of love!

This commandment is all about the magnitude of His love; and, He doesn't want us to settle for something that promises one thing and delivers us, well.............NOTHING!

The Lord is cautioning us against SEDUCTION.

#2 is about protection.

He refuses to let us participate with anything that attracts with an intent to lure us away, beguile, or manipulate in order to control, but in the end delivers entrapment, pain, destruction, shame, and possible death (and He will go to great lengths to help us remain FAITHFUL)...

The Lord God hates anything that seduces us away from our dear Lord Almighty and His ways.

The world may try to attract our attention, and the enemy, who knows our weaknesses, may use the  same tactics he used on Adam and Eve. 

The Apostle John describes those tactics well;

The thing is, Jesus-follower, when we break Commandment #2, we are also breaking 

Commandment #7: You shall not commit adultery.


In this case it's spiritual adultery (see James 4:4):

A mere few chapters following the reading of the stone tablets inscribed by God's finger, the Israelites do just this.

They commit spiritual adultery.

They allow themselves to be seduced by a golden calf.

It undoubtedly looked just like this one in the picture above and below- as seen in the National Israeli Museum (the only difference is that theirs was covered in gold).

You can't tell it from the picture, but I could have easily held that golden calf in the palm of my hand. 

In the middle of the wilderness, the Israelites had Aaron craft this little bull to be an earthly representation of the "gods who brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 32:3)."

Ostensibly, it was to celebrate and worship.

More likely it was an opportunity to indulge the flesh in immorality (while the "cats away..."). 

This (immorality) was the "real god" of the stiff-necked people God gave Moses to lead, for we read, "they sat down to eat, drink, and got up to indulge in revelry (Ex. 24:6)."

Their worship mixed a little Egyptian-religion into a pot, along with a cupful or two of pagan Canaanite worship, then stirred it all up with a spoonful of authentic reverence for Yahweh, let it stew for a bit.........and, it was entirely unacceptable to the Lord. 

As I studied, I discovered that the Hebrew word translated "indulge in revelry" always had a sexual connotation, frequently accompanied by immoral orgies and seductive-mixed-dancing (Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, pg 142). 

The Lord was so angry at them, He told Moses - 
"Go, for your people, have corrupted themselves. Leave me alone, that my anger may burn hot against them, and I may destroy them (Exodus 24:7, 9)."

Seduction that leaves us paying homage to the ways of the world...the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life... still leave the Lord's anger burning...

The Lord God has not changed His character over the years!

He remains steadfastly the same.

Something had to be done...

...So, God quenched His anger in a sacrificial offering...

...and, God did not destroy them!

The Exodus is where I've been reading....and, researching...being reminded that

Exodus is a foreshadowing of the cross to come.

As I study, I'm pondering (here it comes)...

...Especially after last Sunday's Super Bowl Half-Time performance.

The entire show sent my mind back to an Israelite wilderness camp, where men and women "indulged in revelry" and the Lord's children were seduced away from the One-True-God who brought them out of slavery.

Others who got a glimpse of half-time, turned off the TV, and walked away, did so because, like me, they saw the enemy's tactics on display, and felt the heart of God within us breaking...particularly, since we live in a prevalent season of exploitation of women and the devastation of sex-trafficking.

But, the eyes of many Jesus-followers (and, this isn't about folks who don't claim to follow Jesus) looked at the screen as a display of female empowerment, of cultural celebration, and of justice...


To these, the rest of us, appear "narrow-minded, prejudicial, judgmental and privileged."

I know.

These were words I read, not directed at me personally (at least I don't think so), but to believers in general...

And, I realized this week,

Dear Followers of Jesus,

We need to know the TRUTH,



so that we will not get trapped,


showing a form of godliness, but denying its power.

We need Truth so that we not live according to the passions of the flesh,

and be led astray, breaking God's heart...


So, that, just as God intended when He wrote down His basic laws,

we, His children, live set-apart-lives-of-love (NOT LEGALISM), that lead others to a God of greater-love, because they see something different from the world in us...

...a love that reaches across boundaries to those who, because of brokenness, find themselves enslaved by a culture that sees this type of seduction as EMPOWERMENT..

...and, ultimately, are pointed to the God willing to pursue the set us FREE!

For a much better-said blogpost on this topic, connect to the following link: A Woman's Take on the Super Bowl Halftime Show and Human Dignity