S Is For Savior: Hope For Weary Wanderers Like Me

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” ~ Robert Robinson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You are small, the path is daunting, you were never meant to make your way alone. You need a savior but that savior is not you.

But you can try. You can make yourself moral, you can make yourself rich, you can carve out a life by the grit of your intentions.

You can pretend you are happy. You can portray yourself as wise. You can use other people as bit parts in your story, and write every scene around you. But the curtain will fall, the audience will exit, the lights will go out on your efforts.

Somewhere, in deepest spaces of your heart, is a lost child yearning for home.

Since the first chapter of history, humans have fled from the one place we would be happy. We’ve tripped over roots, been scratched bloody from brambles, stumbled up rocky pathways, hungry and aching for a hand-hold. The one thing we’ve refused to do is the one thing we must do.

Turn around.

And run into the arms of the one who inbreathes us, who designed us and has carved our names on his hand.* To the one who can “save us in every way a person can be saved.”

A Savior-Figure

The quote is Rose describing Jack, the young passenger on the Titanic who froze to death in the North Atlantic so she could be dry and live. Rose was going the wrong way, engaged to a man who would use, but not love her. Pursuing the lifestyle of the glittering, soul-selling rich, she needed to turn around, to find a savior who could restore her true self. Jack, a Christ figure of sorts, became an illustration of Love.

Would we admire Jack, who died for the sake of another, if Jesus hadn’t died for us first? What does true love like? Look at Jesus, our Savior.

In our Alphabet Adagio we have finally reached the New Testament. In the first four books, the Gospels, we watch all the promises of the Old Testament converge. Jesus is God the Son, the true Adam, the true Israel, the true Tabernacle and Temple. He is the new Covenant, the new King, the good Shepherd, and through him we are given new life.

What is it like to be saved?

According to the Gospel writers, Jesus came,

  • To heal and remake what is broken.
  • To seek and to save the lost.
  • To deliver us from sin and judgment.
  • To rescue us from the grip of evil.
  • To restore our relationship with God.
  • To usher in his kingdom, with a new kind of humanity as its ambassadors to the world.

A kingdom where love wins, justice reigns, evil is banished, and every person is invited to come home.

The story is not over. In the chapters ahead, Jesus will make all of God’s dreams come true.

Have you turned around your weary self and run to Jesus, your Savior?

*Isaiah 49:16

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail at the bottom of this website so you don’t have to miss a letter.

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

R Is For Remember

 

Do you love me, do you not? You told me once but I forgot. ~Elena Helms

_chick on rock

Which command is repeated most often in the Old Testament?

  • Not… do good.
  • Not…obey me.
  • Not… stop that!

Instead, two hundred and thirty-two times we encounter the Hebrew word, zakar, “remember.”

Remember:

  • How you were once slaves, and suffered, so don’t work like you are still in chains, don’t abuse others as if you have no scars.
  • How God delivered you from the might of Egypt when nobody else could, so don’t rely on lesser gods when calamity strikes again.
  • God’s wonders, compassion and kindness in the past–he’s the same God at work in your circumstances now.

We can remember because God does not forget:

  • That we are temporary, like flowers fading in the meadow.
  • That his love and faithfulness are all we have to depend on.
  • The unshakable covenant, the promise he has made,

“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)

Don’t Forget To Remember

Amnesia is common among us.  Ancient hurts, recent worries, beguiling lies and propaganda beckon with an HD glow, and we forget. We become disoriented, and circle our hopes around our sanctity, our strength, our successes, in the hopeless task of becoming something we were never meant to be. We gaze into the mirror of our own dazzling delusions and plunge unthinkingly into self-worship or self-disgust.

How we need a bright red dot to tell us “you are here” and an arrow to direct us where we need to be.

And God knows this. The Bible, well-read, is our guide, our story within its story, a road map into the future, a firm foothold when all else fails. Over and over we are told to remember, like this:

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gallI well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:19-26)

Read it again, as if it told your tale. It takes practice to not forget.

 How has amnesia left you spinning lately?

Deuteronomy 5:15; Exodus 22:21; 1 Chronicles 16:12; Isaiah 46:9; Psalm 103:13-17; 98:3

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail at the bottom of this page so you won’t miss a letter. 

 Photograph by Melanie Hunt

Q Is For Quiet: When God Doesn’t Answer

God’s silences are actually His answers.

~Oswald Chambers

DSC01366

O God, I’m parched by my tears,

I’ve worn out my fears,

but through these long years,

you’ve been quiet.

I learned something recently about the way I’m wired: a non-response equals rejection. The e-mail not returned, the text message ignored, the smile of greeting never noticed–I wince  at their silent sting.

So when God is quiet, when my prayers lay scattered at my feet, unopened, what am I to think? “He’s angry. I don’t matter. He has better things to do.”

I’m not the first to hear only crickets.

The Hebrew Bible closes with the return of the first exiles to Jerusalem after seventy years in Babylon. The Christian Bible ends with Malachi, the prophesy of a “great and terrible day of the LORD,” still to come.

In either case, the final ink mark seques into  silence–four hundred years of human history with no apparent word from God. While empires rose and fell, generations were born and buried, God’s people were put on hold.

What did they do as they waited? What many of us do today.

In the search for  God’s attention, we

  • Try hard to impress him.
  • Find other gods to supplement him.
  • Escape from life to await  him.
  • Use power to force his hand.

Jesus encountered all four (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots). I wondered if he pondered the prophet Jeremiah’s way.

When God Is Quiet

Jeremiah penned a letter from God to the Babylonian exiles. With the land of promise conquered, the temple destroyed, no heir of David on the throne, every evidence of God’s presence and love was gone. The stifling quiet of a non-answer leads easily to bitter lament. But God has something else in mind for us in the middle of every delay:

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce…multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:5-8

  • Build a garden, nurture life in barren places.
  • Savor the goodness of the moment, instead of peering anxiously ahead.
  • Turn strangers into family, the lonely into kin.
  • Embrace community even when it’s easier to be alone.
  • Work and pray for the good of where you are, instead of where you wish you could be.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. 

In quiet obedience, you may just become God’s answer. 

Have you planted any gardens lately?

 

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail at the bottom of this page so you won’t miss a letter.  

 

P Is For The Perplexing Anger Of God

“Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when it gets cut.”

~ C.S. Lewis

God-wrath

Anger. Wrath. Vengeance. Judgment. Fury.

What do we do with God’s darkest moods?

Do we avoid the Bible’s offending verses? After all, a God with deep passions is embarrassing to indifferent humanity.

Or maybe we see his anger as divine permission to luxuriate in our own cranky moods.

Some of us want nothing to do with the wrath of God and have left him for a gentler version of our making. An invented god is less confusing, but useless in the face of evil.

Consider a God incapable of anger and shudder as the predators have their way. The problem isn’t anger, it’s blindness to what the focus of fury should be.

Anger is uncomfortable. So we douse it with donuts, drink and denial. We defer it and dismiss it, to the detriment of our souls. Like live coals placed in our hands, without a safe receptacle fury will burn us.

The safe receptacle is God. On the cross, all the violence the world had hoarded was poured out on his beloved Son. Christ’s victory means this: Our darkest desires, most vengeful thoughts, every memory of  bitterness and betrayal can be safely entrusted to his care. In exchange for our fury, we are given the power to “overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)

Necessary Anger

Why is God’s anger necessary? Evil is an alien intruder within God’s good Creation. But as Solzhenitsyn reminds us, ”The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” Our every unkind word, selfish action, and unholy thought cruelly slashes God’s  beautiful design. We are defacers and abusers–none of us excepted. So God does what is necessary to pry our bloody fingers from evil’s cunning blade.

And wipes them clean with his tears.

God’s righteous anger is the perplexing evidence of true love.

Have you been confused by God’s anger?

 

 

Consider The Birds

The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. ~Henry Van Dyke

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Consider the birds.

Their talons hold light to the branch, letting go feels natural. They tremble, not with fear but focus,

attentive to an inner voice, to a whisper, weighty with promise,

“Fly!”

Consider the birds, because they’ve never known self-doubt. Humans alone bear that burden, the glory and gut-wrenching pain of self-consciousness.

We are skilled at wing-clipping, you and I.

We tether our hopes. We duct tape our dreams to memories of failure. We notice that others fly straighter, higher, with grander wing spans, a more melodious cry, so we fold our modest efforts beneath our breast and refuse to step into the air.

But  birds don’t fret their variety, nor wish to exchange gifts with each other. Large birds croak unbecomingly, but sing anyway. Small birds fly in spurts, but fly anyway. Flashy plumage or homely feathers, they share the same bug-berry fare.

Consider the birds. They simply are what they were created to be, every single day.

And You?

Whom were you designed to be, when not compared to those around you? How could the world be less dark and broken because you are here? What will we know about the loving-kindness of God when you are finally willing to fly? Is there a God-planted yearning you’ve avoided? A calling you’ve forgotten to heed? What would happen if you unfolded your wings… stepped off your safe perch…and….?

I might fail.

What’s so bad about failure?

I’d make a fool of myself.

Then why not be a fool?

Others would think less of me.

Who are these “others” that you have made them your god?

What The Birds Know:

The air is not empty.

If you dare to spread your wings, to loosen your grip, and step into God’s beautiful will, you will never fly alone.

_cranes and swans

“Consider the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27

I would love it if you would share any whispers you are hearing. I promise to pray for the courage to obey!

Thank you, Melanie Hunt, for the digital window into creation your photography offers us. We are blessed.

O Is For One And Only

We humans believe numbers mean something. For God, it is precisely numbers that mean nothing, nothing at all. ~ Soren Kierkegaard

number one

Only one number matters. Who wears it matters more.

We are designed to live for an audience of One but we long for the love of the many.

This is Holy Week, when we remember the cruelty and incomprehension of the numbering crowd. Jesus, alone on the cross, bears the weight of our fickle longing for more.

We have, from the start, broken the first commandment of the one God who knows what we need. But “no other gods before me” has become “every other god before you” for us, his wild and wandering children. Do we still worship other gods in our sanitary age? We do–we worship the god of numbers.

Drawn by the power of numbers,  we submit to  the whims of the herd:

  • What everyone is doing
  • What everyone is watching
  • What everyone is buying
  • What everyone is believing
  • What everyone is fearing
  • What everyone is applauding,

We will applaud the same.

How much are you paid? How many adore you? How great is the evidence of your charismatic success?

Numbers dazzle us. Numbers pressure us. We crave the impressive approval of numbers, when we were made for an audience of One.

One King

Josiah was only eight years old when he climbed onto the throne of Judah. His hell-bent father and grandfather had crowded the countryside with altars, sacred poles, carved images of the sun, the moon, the constellations, and “all the host of heaven.” The bloody and brutal fruit of importing the gods of other nations? Child sacrifice, temple prostitution, and soothsayers whispering secrets in the night.

The Old Testament reads like a tragedy–God’s people dancing to a dark and demanding audience of gods, exchanged for the blessing of One.

But Josiah was different, a king who remembered who is King.

Josiah pulled down the altars, demolished the shrines, beat the idols and images into powder wherever he found them. He did away with mediums, wizards, priests of Baal. But most important, he blew the dust off a forgotten book and called a nation to turn back to its Author, to return to an audience to One.

“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might…nor did any like him arise after him.”  (2 Kings 23:25).

One person, with a single intention, embracing whole-heartedly one unconquerable love–what can God accomplish through a person who lives every day for his applause alone?

Whose applause and approval are you dying for?

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail above so you won’t miss a letter.   

N Is For Nobody Cares

One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody. ~ Mother Teresa

IMG_2166

Nobody cares, nobody notices.

Their eyes were fixed on grander schemes  while you labored in the back, while you gave until your heart ached with unrequited effort.

You were the one moving mountains by grit alone, but no one glanced your way. You were faithful and true, and credit is due. But the cheers still echo for someone else, not you.

Nobody noticed.

Discouragement is a tricky companion. The fickle crowd is its best friend. The illusion that nobody cares can make us blind to the smile of recognition by the only One who matters.

 “I alone am left…”

Elijah, according to the book of James, was “a man just like us.” Appointed by God to call his people back to faith, he is cold-shouldered at every turn. Baal is the impotent but beguiling god du jour, and the evil queen Jezebel kills God’s prophets just for fun.

Elijah is a prophet.

God, in his “show-not-tell” way sends no rain for three years–as in, who really controls the life-giving storms? In a dramatic showdown on Mt. Carmel, 450 prophets of Baal, in desperate frenzy of self-mutilation, call on their silent rain-god and lose the contest to Elijah’s calm prayer.

God answers that prayer with drenching, joy-giving rain. Like Rocky, fists lifted in triumph at the top of the stairs, Elijah runs all the way to the palace to share his victory. The King and Queen are unfazed. Hardened hearts will not see God no matter how dramatic his entrance. A price is now on Elijah’s head.

Have you been there? You did everything right, you stayed true to God, and now you are worse off than before.

Deeply discouraged, Elijah runs to the wilderness and feeds on despair:

  • God let me down
  • God’s people let me down
  • I am all alone, nobody cares.

Ah, Elijah, the story isn’t over yet, don’t you see? If life seems to have no happy endings, it’s because the ending has not yet arrived. God assures Elijah there is work to be done, and there will always be a faithful remnant, just the right number of burden-sharers who refuse to bow to Baal.

Read 1 Kings 19 and you’ll find God’s simple solution whenever discouragement hits:

  • Nourishing food and rest.
  • Time in creation, just you and God.
  • Quiet reassurance and a the reminder to keep moving in the direction he has in mind.

It may seem nobody cares, but the story is not over. And God owns the pages ahead.

Is there someone who feels alone and needs your encouragement today?

 

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail above so you won’t miss a letter.     

Time And Time Again

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. ~C.S. Lewis

_Ducklings

I once believed time was linear.

That time, like an untamed river, rushed onward, too intent on reaching some far off ocean to wait while I gathered my courage.

I thought I had one chance to step in. Just one.   And every evening, under time’s steady flow, I must wash my hands with either gratitude or grief–the good and the regrettable both swirling down the drain together. Gone.

You can’t go back. You’ve made your choice. Others are waiting for their turn.

Time Again

But I’ve learned time does more than roll on. She also puddles, circles , eddies and leaps according to the will of a God not bound by her. With a dip of his finger come second chances, sweet reunions, rebirth and redemption to redirect the tide.

God broods, he hovers over our moments and memories, reminding, restoring, making all things new. And by his mercy, the past is reoriented, the future is reassured  and the present is weighted with  grace even as the seconds tick away.

What do you regret? What wound is unhealed? At what age did you resign with a tired shrug and turn in the keys to your dreams?  Who were you meant to be, but you lost the design? Who were you made to love, but you forgot?

It’s not too late, it’s not too early, the moment’s right to reconcile the time.

Start small. Start simple. Start now.

  • Say, thank you.
  • Say, I’m sorry.
  • Say, I’m ready to turn around.

Give God a smile and say, yes, one heartbeat moment at a time.

And ponder this poem…

Until Then

There comes a point of no return

when, without fanfare, cunning

time capsizes and we turn

into what all along we were becoming.

.

Until then, though—

.

until the verdict of what will be

waves down death

to finish off this business of destiny—

.

every thought, every twitch of muscle, breath,

blink of eye, every nod is another

grain on the scale, precisely dropping space

by space, imperceptible in pace,

down toward one finale or the other.

~ By Jeff Reed, a pastor, poet and wise connoisseur of time.

 

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

 

M Is For Wisdom, Muddled

“The greatest good is wisdom.” St. Augustine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wisdom. In her presence only the foolish are confident. And the wise admit we are fools. 

In our Alphabet Adagio, we’ve reached the book of Proverbs. A voice calls,

“Happy are those who find wisdom and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue more than gold. She is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire can compare with her” (Prov 3: 13-15).

Do you thirst for wisdom above all?

Solomon’s Wish

King Solomon breathed one prayer as he began his reign in Israel. God, pleased, and perhaps pleasantly surprised, responded,

“I give you a wise and discerning mind, no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you.” 1 Kings 3:12-13.

From that moment, Solomon, as ordinary and dysfunctional as any of us, was transformed. Words poured from his mouth with such exquisite precision, we quote them still today. He solved the unsolvable, constructed the un-constructible, and ushered in the golden age of Israel’s history. The temple Solomon built for God was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Politics, engineering, law, science, literature–there seemed to be no arena where this king did not excel.

Except the arena off-stage, lights off, crowd dispersed, when no one else was looking.

Solomon consumed wives like potato chips, exchanging their gods for his own. His son, and successor, Rehoboam, openly rejected wisdom and stupidly played the fool.  (1 Kings 12) The briefly glorious nation slid into civil war.

Yet, Solomon’s name is attached to three stanzas of wisdom’s song found in Old Testament pages:

  • Song of Solomon: A poetic ideal of relationship.
  • Proverbs: A practical roadmap for beautiful living–the small choices that make all the difference.
  • Ecclesiastes: A cry of despair for a system, badly broken–when you obey every proverb and your world crashes anyway.

A tension filled triad, and the Bible doesn’t deny it. It’s a dance I know all too well. Like Solomon, I dream of what should be, strive for what’s hoped for, and stagger in bitterness at sometimes-earned pain. And get up to try again. More often than not, wisdom dissolves in a muddle, until I remember to lean on the One who gave wisdom her name.

[Colossians 2:2-3]

Is wisdom the gift you would ask for first?

 In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail above so you won’t miss a letter. 

 Dear Readers,IMG_2891

Please excuse my long pauses in our adagio–I am studying Hebrew this year toward completing my Masters in Theology and the language is tricky, time-consuming…and the print tiny! Thank you for your patience as I soak in this ancient wisdom.

Photograph of owls by Melanie Hunt

 

 

L Is For Lament: Stumbling Uncensored To God

“When people listen to you cry and lament, and look at you with love, it’s like they are holding the baby of you.” ~ Anne Lamott

sad puppy

Before my aging coffeemaker has sighed its morning offering, I have already sung a lament or two.

Not for me a cheery whistle and sports page to start the day!

All is not right and I can’t forget it, not with the news as close as my i-Phone. Not with the cruelty, stupidity, incompetence, the arrogance of the “have’s” and the abuse of the “have-nots,” fresh-printed and tossed on my driveway, still warm.

I’m always caught by surprise, as if I were the world’s author and my words move off the page when I’m not looking. So, with my morning shower, it begins.

But I’m not very good at lament. I become what I despise somewhere in the middle.

Psalms of Lament

It’s amazing they are in the Bible at all, the poems, the songs, the prophet’s choking cries. With blunt, sometimes blood-thirsty honesty, they grab God by the collar and refuse to let him go.

Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked….I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears…How long, O LORD: Will you forget me forever?….Do not put me to shame, O LORD, for I call on you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go dumbfounded to Sheol…Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them…In your faithfulness put an end to them.*

Is God really okay with unfiltered fury, with tear-choked thoughts only our pillows can hear?

Yes. Oh, yes. Let me introduce you to the One who will not flinch.

The psalmists and prophets complain without fear. In their verses we watch wide-eyed as predators pounce, close friends betray, enemies mock, sufferings loom, vengeance demanded when God seems suspiciously silent.

But what good is lament, when each day brings new material?  This is the surprise–these psalms are for worship, safe enough to chant them in the most sacred of places.

They serve as a template for healing, they guide our slipping feet to more  dependable ground. God leans forward, attentively listening until every complaint is exhausted, and then whispers hope when we think there is none.

When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping’, your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:17-19).

The psalms of lament give voice to early morning angst too risky to share, and lead to an embrace too wonderful to miss.  

*Psalms 3, 6, 13, 31, 35, 54

Have you prayed the psalms of lament?

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail above so you won’t miss a letter. Next: M is for Wisdom, Muddled.