#blessed

I really enjoy Bruno Mars’ music.  It’s like if Barry White and Bobby Brown could have a kid, it would be him. It’s fun, fresh, and easily danceable. 24K is one of my favorite songs of his, and I find one of his lines so interesting:

“Got to blame it on Jesus, hashtag blessed.”

I think he captures something many perceive, that when it’s good, when life seems to be on this trajectory upward, where health, wealth and prosperity seem to be clicking on all cylinders, we are blessed and it’s directly from God. I tend to agree too, that those are good things, they really are blessings to have good health, to be prosperous in pursues and not be in poverty.

I have even joked about it on social media, whether it is an extra nugget in my Chick-Fil-A box or no line at a store. But I think we’ve taken the true idea of blessings of God and manipulated them for our own definition and benefit. Then we point them back to God as privileged or better because of that blessing.

But the blessings He bestows on those who believe in Him? Well those are a bit more lasting, eternal than just good health or a pay raise. They are spiritual blessings which move beyond the things of this world and what are defined by this world. Spiritual blessings bring us deeper into relationship with Him, often taking us through a time of pruning and growing, they unify us as believers, and bring Him praise for His compassion and goodness.

Those spiritual blessings He gives us aren’t always what we define as wanting, but He knows it is what we need to be blessed with-encouragement, relief of a burden, wisdom, reliance. It isn’t so much about what we get out of His blessing, but that He gives it willingly to those of us who love Him and call Him Lord. And it goes beyond earthly blessings, to those where He is seated in the throne room. It goes beyond defining them in the way we do in our context of culture or earth.

Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)

Here I Am

“Mom!”

“I’m over here!”

You’ll hear that a lot in grocery stores, shopping malls and the like, especially this time of year. I know I even still yell it on occasion when I’m with my mom someplace. That universal cry of “MOM!” in a crowd and inevitably that mom will know it’s their kid, even at 35. 

In Genesis, Abraham hears God call his name, notonce  but twice. This often means urgency and need for attention. You see, Abraham had a knife lifted above his only son, following in the command of God to sacrifice him. God called to him, not out of a need to know where he was but to gain his attention at this pivotal point. Abraham’s response?

Here I am

It wasn’t as if God didn’t know where he was, searching all over the mountainside He’d guided him to for this event. The response by Abraham gave such distinct clarity to his obedience to God. He was right there, right there where God had called him to be, even when he might have wondered why or even in the hurt of the impending loss of his son. He was very present to the moment of obedience. 

God doesn’t have to search for us, that’s not what he was doing here, and it’s not what we see done throughout Scripture when these responses have been given. In reading I was doing I found that over the course of the Old Testament Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and obviously Abraham all responded with “here I am,” when called by the voice of God. “When used in conversation with God, it’s an obedient response that always seems to have monumental consequences.” Trace the stories of those men from their response and you can tangibly see that presence to God’s call leads to some pretty major events. 

Even in Isaiah 58, as he prophesies, we see even God respond with this exact phrasing of presence in the midst of or hurting, He responds with healing and salvation. We see Him move into that space for us and let us know we are not along in it. But He also desires that response from us when called. He knows where we are, so when He’s calling out to us, it’s for our response of obedience. 

“Here I am,” means I am present to what You have me in and I am willing to accept it with You. It’s not a response of doing it alone or reluctance. It may mean laying aside the dream or desire you are clinging to, much like Abraham had been with his beloved son Isaac. While the Lord God stepped into his obedience and saved him from death, obedience often looks at whatever we’ve  been clinging to as the thing that needs to die, or at the very least lain down in order to have open hands of receiving the better thing He wants to give us-Himself. The cost of it can often be much, but what blessing in obedience we reap is far greater. 

It makes me wonder, and hone in on whether I am making myself available and present to Him. Whether I am responding with “Here I am” or attempting to dodge what I know He is asking of me in the present. When I am available and present to Him, He always is available to me. 

Spoiled, Rotten

There’s a story told of when I was a kid, mom had taken my sister and I out to dinner one night. For us, a dinner out was a big deal and especially if it was at Western Sizzlin’, because that meant Jello cubes. One night we go, and fried chicken was apparently ordered for me. I relished in the Jello cubes (and squirted them through my teeth as that is the proper way to eat said Jello). Feasting on everything but the chicken. My leftovers were wrapped up in a napkin and put in the car…then forgotten, as they chicken leg rolled under the seat.

Weeks roll by and a definite smell starts to pervade the black car my mom drove to horrifying levels. After searching high and low, the rotted, spoiled remains of a dinner I chose not to eat was discovered and extracted from the car.

I was thinking on this as I looked at the story of the Israelites this week in Exodus 16. We find them in the desert now complaining to God about their food source. Provision of deliverance wasn’t fulfilling as they journeyed. So God provides food for them, food that they are given detailed instructions on.

(Can we pause and revel in how God was specific to them in how to collect what He provides? It’s such a beautiful picture of detail and His care in us depending upon Him to provide)

Moses is intentional about pointing out that some gather much and other gather a little, but all have what they need. You miss it if you are familiar with the story or skim past it as it seems so minor but so soul-clenching good. What I need looks vastly different to what another needs, yet God provides each according to what He knows is the need. He meets me right where I am to provide-whether camped out in the wilderness or on the mountainside reveling in His teaching.

But it’s when we attempt to store up His provision, as some were prone to do even in Israel that we find our dependence is no longer on Him to provide but ourselves. We cast doubt that He will do as He said, that His promises aren’t good or sure, and that He is not faithful to complete. We question His ability, strength, character….who God is. We put our place above Him to provide for ourselves when that happens. We store up provisions that end up spoiling, because in our own minds we find it easy to pack it up and then let it roll underneath the seat of our lives…where it begins to rot, it festers and spoils. Pride, selfishness, ambition falsely founded lead to the rot. They lead to the trust being broken and provision coming from our own means and not His.

So we come back, we throw out that which has spoiled-cleansing our lives of the doubt and lies that He won’t provide for us in need, the need He knows and the need He meets, not our own definition of need. We wait for a new day, full of new mercies and the manna which He provides for that day. I know I try to jump ahead and point to  tomorrow, next week, next year while He beckons us to this day. Only this day, over and over again. Just. This. Day. It too is a provision for us, that we are given just this day before us.

Let us not spoil tomorrow with the doubts of provision when He has given us the joy of the manna of today.

Thoughts on Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. I think in alot of ways we don’t honor the influence of our fathers in our lives. For some they didn’t have their father’s influence, or even presence, in their lives. As I was posting a photo of my dad and I on Facebook, as were many today, I couldn’t help but think about how he’s influenced me and who I am today.

How my Father saved my father

You see I am as stubborn as a mule, something my mother reminds me that I get from him. Another thing is my smart mouth. There’s also the tenacity to figure out something on my own, whether through trial and error or by seeking out additional knowledge. He is also a wildly independent provider, not seeking to rely upon others but forging ahead himself. He taught me what it meant to work for what you earned, even when you didn’t feel like it, even when it was hard and you really didn’t like it. It had to be done, so go and do it. He was thankful to have daughters, but I was every bit the tomboy I think he needed. We see war movies, talk about bluegrass, and find ways to work in his shop together.

While it wasn’t perfect, and nor is he, I know I am blessed to have a dad whose in my life and I can still call. He can tell with one word that something is wrong. I thought about that today as I called my dad after church-a weekly tradition I have with my parents. Dad always sounds surprised when he answers the house phone, even though they have caller ID. I think for a while I have taken that for granted, that my dad is always there when I call, always answering with his gruff shout of HELLO!

I thought about that today as I made that call because I knew a friend couldn’t call his dad today. I thought about all those Father’s Days my mom couldn’t call her dad because he passed twenty-plus years ago. I thought about my own dad who couldn’t drive out to see my grandfather, the second year without him on Father’s Day. Today I grieved a bit for my friend who lost his dad just a month ago, for my mom who lost her dad and my dad who lost his dad just two years ago…and I started thanking God I still have my dad this side of heaven. It’s pretty selfish to think that, but it’s also incredibly gratifying to not take those moments for granted…even when I get frustrated or irritated with his stubbornness or lectures on buying quality leg spindles for a table we are reconstructing.

I am grateful for the fathers who are present and influencing. The dads of friends who have been around and been a guiding force in their lives, as well as my own. I am so very thankful for my friends who are dads now, getting to see them raise up the next generation and do so very well at it. Most of all I am thankful for the time I have with my dad, knowing that he lives on in me in so many ways and yet I can still call him when I need him most.

A Prayerful New Year

“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.”

Ephesians 1:18,19 (ESV)

It’s 2015. How crazy is that? Where are the hover boards now? My Back to the Future II humor for those that get it.

I have had the verse above sitting on my desk where I write for the last six weeks or so and continue to ruminate on it. As this new year begins, which for some may be a continuation of things from last year or  even a completely new beginning, I pray this over us all.

That our hearts may be enlightened. I don’t think we I ask for that nearly enough. In fact I think I like to reject having my heart enlightened much of the time, better to occupy myself with my own thoughts rather than God’s or others. (am I right?!) But that changes as I begin praying that the eyes of my heart, of your hearts, are enlightened in this new year. That we would be more focused on learning and pursuing other things rather than our own self interests.

Why?

Well so that we can find the hope which we have been called to by Him. He beckons us with a hope that shouts, whispers, empathizes, encourages, and dreams. He plans with His hope, this hope that nudges at us at times, while at others it down right lands in our laps with such fervor and surprise. It’s an individualized and central hope, both and the same. It’s a hope only you could recognize when your heart is open and knowledgeable to His call.

What for?

That our hearts would see and know and understand the riches of our inheritance. Inheritance as we are becoming what He has called us to, a saintly priesthood. Loving brothers and sisters in Christ. The church. All of the above. We have an eternal inheritance, that came at the promise to Abraham and continues today in each of those sanctified in Him. It is fulfilled in our work, in what we do as to God. While we do not work to be sanctified or to obtain this inheritance, as it’s freely given by Him, we continue on in pursuing that call of hope knowing there are riches of saintly inheritance for us in Him.

But how?

Through His incomparably great power. Not through anything we strive for, nor through others. No, our hearts get wise to what He has called us to and the inheritance that awaits not by our own means but through His strength and might. We are a weak people, not meant to accomplish anything of our doing. That power rests and reigns in Him. We believe in that, we hope in that, and we allow it to fill us to accomplish the work He has given us to do. Not that we may be idle or use it for dubious means, but that He may receive the glory.

After all, we are merely clay pots to be filled by the One Who created us in His image. Knowing that we have time ahead as we start a new year to be filled with His power to grow in wisdom of our hearts and truly hear the hope called out to us? That’s some pretty joy-filled things to see on January 1. It’s a daunting prayer to pray over this year, but why not this year? Why not today? Why not this moment?

May your hearts be enlightened to know the hope He has called you, the riches of His inheritance for you and His great power for you as you believe in Him this year.

Chin Up, Buttercup.

For a while now I have walked with my chin down. Head lowered and focused on my feet.

Was it in reverence to God? No.

Was it because I am too clumsy for my own good? Not quite.

It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that I realized just long I had been walking around with my chin down. Why was it difficult for me to look ahead instead of down? Because in the moment, I was dwelling on taking the next step. Just that next step. I had focused for far too long on the things I had done, or didn’t do. How I had screwed up or been blind to red flags.

It was like a splash of cold water on my face.

The realization that swept over me as I saw myself with my chin down.