Tag Archives: Jesus

Desiring to Know God

I love when several things that I encounter in a day all point to the same truth about God. That’s what happened today.

As part of my devotional reading, while I played ball with the dog, I decided to read a couple of Psalms. I went to my old favorite, Psalm 116, which I’ve written about before. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve read this particular Psalm at least 50 times (probably closer to 100). Yet as I read this morning I saw a truth that I hadn’t seen before in verses 8 and 9, which say:

8For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

 9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

My focus has always been on verse 8, because God did deliver me from death, tears, and stumbling when He showed me the root of my major clinical depression. But this morning I noticed why He delivered me. It wasn’t so I could go about my business and do whatever I please. And it wasn’t so I could work hard to earn His approval. It was so that I could have a relationship with Him, so that I could “walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

Later, after I had showered and dressed for work, I kneeled to pray as is my morning habit. But first I read a one-page devotion from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (I started this devotional this year because I thought it didn’t have dates in it so it wouldn’t matter if I missed a day, but I discovered this morning that the dates are in the footer at the bottom of the page. Oops.)

Anyway, as I read the January 31 entry, I came across this sentence: “Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God.” Ouch. As I prayed, I pondered where I might be doing good works to prove my own holiness. I asked God to help me focus on just knowing Him. I’m finding as that becomes my desire, the work that is before me becomes less of a burden. Instead, it becomes a blessing because I do it in His power and for His glory.

Finally, I was finishing up my children’s lesson for Bible Study Fellowship, reviewing my answers to the week’s questions to decide how to answer the question “What have you learned about God in this week’s study?” The study is about the suffering Christians face. My answer was that, “All of our suffering, comfort, and joy are designed by God to bring us into a closer relationship with Him, like the one He had with Adam and Eve before they sinned.”

This life really is about walking with God in all that we do, whether it be work or leisure, suffering or blessing. When we do it all with God, instead of apart from God, we have the abundant life Jesus promised. John 10:10.

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Coming Clean: A Book Review of Sorts

In case anyone is wondering, I’m still working on my memoir, but it’s no longer going to be titled “My Year of Living Fearlessly.” That was a title that was suggested to me by an editor and I thought it was saleable and what I was supposed to be writing. But after manufacturing a structure to the book that involved five antidotes to fear and submitting a book proposal to said editor as well as several agents, I hit a brick wall with the writing. I think more aptly, I felt like the Holy Spirit prevented me from proceeding with my plan for the book, much as He prevented Paul and Silas from preaching in Asia. Acts 16:6.

I decided that I needed to read some other memoirs to get a better idea of how they are written and what makes good memoir. About the time I had decided this, a friend posted a link on Facebook to Seth Haines’ new memoir Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, which was available on Kindle at the time for only $1.99.

I bought Seth’s memoir primarily to learn the craft of memoir writing in preparation for writing my own. I got so much more out of this wonderful book than I had bargained for. On the surface it is a story about overcoming alcoholism and Seth’s first 90 days of sobriety. But what is below the surface is relevant to anyone who is using some earthly crutch to mask the pain we all inevitably experience in this world and to hide from a God we sometimes aren’t sure knows or cares. I thought I knew all I needed to about forgiveness, but this book opened my eyes to the many ways I still need forgive and let God be in control.

One of my favorite lines in the book is when Seth quotes Buddy Wakefield, a spoken-word poet, who said, “Forgiveness is releasing all hope for a better past.” When writing memoir, one must necessarily face the past and accept it as unchangeable. This is why my new working title (who am I kidding, it’s going to be the final title if I have any say in the matter) is You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday. As I’ve pondered this, and started on my next memoir to read, God is teaching me more and more what that means for today.

I had the pleasure of meeting Seth a year ago at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference and he encouraged me to write exactly the book I’m determined now to write. Having met him, I shouldn’t have been so surprised about the depth and honesty of his writing. If you’re looking for a formulaic answer to your problems or a nice neatly organized, chronological story, you won’t find it here. But you will find the heart of a man who loves God, loves his son and family, and struggles like the rest of us to understand suffering. This book is well worth the price (even if I’d paid full price) and the time it takes to read. From the day I started it I could hardly put it down.

The double blessing is that I also learned something about how to write great memoir, which was my goal in the first place. I learned that great memoir happens when the author writes for themselves and for purposes of their own growth and understanding of their circumstances. If you try to write what you think others want to read or what you think a publisher will buy, you’ll never write great memoir. If you try to impose some formula—like five antidotes to fear—then you won’t help yourself or resonate with your potential readers.

Seth wrote this “journal” for himself, and in the process shared honestly with us in a way that resonates deep in the soul. I hope and pray I can do the same.

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Impatience with God’s Timing

Do you ever just want to say “I don’t care”? Not an “I don’t care” that’s apathetic, but an “I don’t care” laced with anger and frustration.

The serenity prayer starts “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” I don’t want serenity and acceptance; I want change. I want God to step up to the plate and fix the things I can’t.

(So I’m typing this on my phone and autocorrect changed God to Food in that last sentence, which is ironic because I tend to use food to avoid the pain, too, and that is something He has given me the power to change.)

My response to my desire for God to fix everything NOW is to impatiently say “I don’t care” in an attempt to mask the pain.

I feel a bit like the Psalmist who often asked “How long, O Lord?” I guess I’m in good company in my impatience with God’s timing. Even the saints under the altar in Revelation 6 cried out to God, wanting to know “How long?” They were told to wait; I am told to wait. In the process of waiting, I’m learning God’s timing is perfect even if I don’t understand it.

Some things never change, or so it seems from my limited point of view. I believe God has a plan, is working in His timing, and will answer my prayers for change. And so like the father of the possessed boy in Mark ch. 9, I exclaim “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (NIV).

The waiting, I think, is most challenging when you see a glimmer of hope, a sliver of change when a crisis brings someone to the end of their rope. But then the crisis is diverted and you see the change wasn’t all that you thought it was. Or at least it doesn’t seem so on the outside. That’s when I have to remember that God sees the heart; I’m looking only at external factors.

So the next time you hear me say,  “I don’t care,” don’t believe it. I care much too deeply and am simply feeling impatient. Perhaps you could remind me that means it’s time to pray and trust.

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I See God

I’m going to pretend that this rain
in the lane
Heralds the arrival of spring
when birds sing
As through this long winter I trod
I see God
The robin finds worms in rain-soaked sod
More death and winter the nightly news portends
Yet new life and spring my dear Christ forfends
In the lane when birds sing I see God

___________________

Just had to write a second Ovillejo for dVerse Poets Pub.

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One Shone Brighter

“Gazing at a sky filled with stars,”
Wrote the Magi in his memoirs
“One shone brighter than the rest.
So onward towards that star we pressed.”

He never says how many they were,
Those magi travelling with gold and myrrh
But their destination he makes quite clear
Was to greet the new King who would soon appear

The brightest star that rose in the east
Would guide them to One deserving a feast
But instead was born in a simple barn stall
And one day years later would die for us all

“By the time we arrived the Child was but two,
And already we could tell He was holy and true.”
I read this man’s memoir and gazed up at the sky
Looking for the star that led the Magi

All I could see in that vast expanse
Was the truth that it didn’t happen by chance
The Creator of each and every star
Led the Magi who came from afar

___________________________

At dVerse Poets Pub today Toni is calling for poem about the stars. Since it is so close to Christmas, of course I thought of the star that led the Magi to the baby Jesus.

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Rejoice!

Revel in the joy of Christ who
Empowers us bid sin adieu
Jesus born so He might die
Once for all our souls to buy
Incarnation a great mystery
Calling all throughout history
Ever more to rejoice, rejoice

_____________________________

I wrote this for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night, and also to promote my new poetry book, Rejoice! Rejoice! Poems for the Holidays, available now on Amazon.com in print and on Kindle. This poem isn’t in the book, because, well, I just wrote it. But maybe I’ll add it to the next edition.

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The Red Horse and His Rider

When the Lamb opens the second seal
The red horse and his rider will go out
With power to take the peace of this world
That the end is then nigh there is no doubt

But will the rider find any peace on this earth
Where mothers kill their children and nations war
Despite our songs of peace in a post-hippie culture
We daily venture closer to hatred’s door

They say “let’s coexist” though we are in disagreement
Even so the so-called peaceful want their peace by force
Requiring agreement with them on fundamental issues
Never realizing the need for repentance and remorse

Peace without God is what mankind desires
But such a thing is only temporary
Though we must live in peace as far as we are able
Of mere men promising salvation we must be wary

Amidst the strife and turmoil of this life
The only true peace is that which Jesus gave
The rider on his fiery red horse is surely coming
But can’t take peace from those the Lamb died to save

__________________________

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub this week is brought to us by Bjorn. He’s calling for us to write about peace in a way that is not trite and doesn’t rely on platitudes. The night before reading the prompt, I spent the evening teaching Revelation 6 to fourth graders, so my mind immediately went to the image of the second horseman of the apocalypse. I didn’t have time to write yesterday because I wanted to read the haibuns from Monday first, but as it turned out this one needed overnight to percolate anyway.

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An Unexplainable Feeling

The current prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is to write poetry as a vehicle for emotion, which is pretty much what most poetry is anyway. When I read the prompt, I immediately knew the emotion I wanted to write about, but wasn’t sure how I wanted to write about it. And I’ve spent most of the last two days making cookies and deviled eggs, avoiding the emotion I’m struggling with. Then, with 3 hours left to post, I realized what I wanted to write. So here is my haibun for the prompt.

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Our vet says it’s for the best and will make him feel much better. And the veterinary ophthalmologist didn’t say it was the only option, but she did suggest it was the best for him. I try to tell myself it’s no big deal. As I said to both vets and several other people I’ve talked to about it, it’s not like I’ve never had a one-eyed dog before. Bette lost an eye when she was only 7 weeks old, and she lived to be the best 18-year-old Cocker Spaniel there ever was. So why do I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach now that we’ve made the appointment? Why am I second guessing whether maybe, just maybe, having to have drops in his eye several times a day for the rest of his life might be better than having that eye removed? He can’t see out of it anyway; hasn’t for years with that cataract.

Perhaps it’s the regret that we didn’t have the cataract removed years ago, which might have prevented glaucoma now. But as my cousin Noryce says, you can’t go back to Tuesday, or when Roman was only 3 and first showed signs of the cataract. You can’t go back, you can only move forward, even if that means doing something you’d rather not do when you know it’s in the best interest of someone, or some dog, else. But still I’m sad—that’s not really the right word, I don’t even know what the right word is—I’m angry that I can’t go back and do it all again, avoid this inevitable, remaining option. I love my little dog, and I’ll love him just as much, if not more, when he only has one eye. Maybe that’s the crux of what I’m feeling—love and empathy. I’ll hold onto that and to the faith that God loves him, too. He is, after all, named after one of the books of God’s Holy Word.

Turning a blind eye
to the pain and suffering
is not an option

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What We Deserve

We think we all deserve God’s love
All good gifts that come from above
A good God wouldn’t send folks to hell
And therefore the story we tell saves all with love

Except, of course, men like Hitler
Terrorists and Jeffrey Dahmer
They don’t deserve to see heaven
Don’t belong with the eleven we are so sure

But just where do we draw the line
What is your fate and what is mine
We all deserve God’s holy wrath
Because we’ve followed our own path and think we’re fine

We must be repentant sinners
When the truth of God’s mercy blurs
Vision of the Lamb who was slain
And how He took all mankind’s pain troubled heart stirs

Not one of us deserves God’s grace
Praise to Jesus who took our place
He saw our need and came to save
His life for us He freely gave, we must embrace

* * * * *

As is typical for me, when I learn a new poetry form I can’t write just one. The idea for this poem was originally going to be an essay, but this morning this Florette started forming in my mind, so I finished writing it while I ate my breakfast and decided to post it in time to share for Meeting at the Bar at dVerse Poets Pub.

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Before the Throne

If I could stand before the throne
Turn an ear to His trumpet blown
Blinded by His countenance bright
Finding in His majestic Light I’m fully known

Amazed by lovely seraphim
And flying, singing cherubim
Though they themselves are quite sublime
Each spends every moment of time worshipping Him

By contrast my paltry worship
Is hindered by my ego trip
May a vision of God’s throne room
Cause praise like a sweet perfume rise from my lips

Lord, make me see Your majesty
So I’ll worship, You are worthy
Great Creator, Lamb who was slain
Forever and ever You reign, You are holy

Holy, holy, holy are You
You are righteous, that much is true
Remind me daily of Your grace
Help me seek Your beautiful face each day anew

* * * * *

For the Meeting the Bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is brought to is today by Gayle, who offered a form lesson on the Florette. It’s a cool form I just had to try.

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