Thursday, August 25, 2011

Run to Him....

My dog, Clair, loves to chew on things.  If she doesn't have enough toys she will start looking in my office trash can for empty water bottles.  The water bottles happen to be one of her favorite things to chew and I might add one of the most annoying because of the  crinkly noise the plastic makes as she mauls it...annoying to me and anyone else who happens to be in the same room when she is attacking a plastic water bottle...but I think the noise is, for her, a reward for a bottle well chewed!

Every once in awhile Clair will find something, as do most young dogs not quite out of the puppy stage, that she should not be chewing on.  Usually, when she has something in her mouth, I will tell her to show it to me.  At that point she will hunch down over the object as she drops it between her two front paws, ready to snatch it up quickly in case I attempt to take it from her.  Interestingly enough she rarely runs at this point and I am able to retrieve whatever it is she has chosen to turn into a chew toy.  

This morning as I was sitting in my office reading, I noticed that I had not heard any noise from her in awhile so I decided to go find her and see what she was up to...you know the rule...if they are too quiet, they must be into something;  same rule that we think of with children.  I know...dogs are definitely not children but, strangely enough, there are times when I think Clair has striking similarities to a toddler.  Anyway, as I went to check it out I found her on my bed with something in her mouth.  I asked her to show me what she had and she did her usual quick drop between her paws, but then immediately grabbed it back up and ran with it in her mouth, as she leapt off the bed, out the door, and into the other room as fast as she could go.  It was a Halls cough drop.  She must have loved what she had and decided that this time she was going to get what she wanted and the best way to do that was to leave my presence. 

Suddenly, a thought hit me!  Isn’t this what I do…what we all do...at times?  When we know we are coveting something we shouldn’t have…when we are craving after things that are not in God’s will for us...we run from God.  We get far away from His presence so that we can feel good about this new thing, or selfish choice, and not feel His displeasure. 

Jonah did this too.  Remember him, the guy who spent three days in the belly of a big fish because he chose to run from God instead of doing what He knew God wanted of Him?  I remember doing an in depth study, an inductive study, on the book of Jonah and even though I had read that story many times before...new truths just jumped out at me.   Not only did Jonah run, but he ran in the opposite direction from where God had wanted him to go.  He was willfully disobeying God.   I had written in my notes, "I can't imagine running from God...but I guess not doing what He clearly tells me to do in His word is the same as running from God."  When Job was still on the ship and trouble came, he knew the trouble had come to them because he was running away from God... yet he didn't choose at that point to run back to God.  Instead, he chose to be thrown overboard...at which time the great big fish swallowed him.  WOW! Talk about stubbornly going your own way!  Now I would think at this point he would have immediately called out to God, saying I will go and do whatever you say...but no, he stayed in the belly of that fish for three days, and three nights!!!  Yuck and gross!!  Can you imagine? Yet, how many times do we choose to wallow in our own self-pity because of the circumstances that our own selfish choices have brought about in our lives. How long before we repent and turn back to God? 

The most amazing thing about Jonah's story is that when he finally cried out to God...as he was entrenched in bile,  seaweed wrapped around his head, growing faint almost to the point of death...he looked  toward the LORD's Temple and acknowledged that salvation comes from the LORD...God heard him!  God heard his prayers and rescued Jonah from the pit of despair!!  Not only did God hear him but He still allowed Jonah to be His instrument, His prophet. When Jonah ran from God's presence, he was willfully disobeying God; obedience moved him back into God's presence. 

Time and time again through the Bible, we see God's people turn away from Him as they choose to go their own way, leading them away from the presence of God; first in the Garden of Eden, then through the sacrifices, the Tabernacle, and the Temple.  

Finally,  God sends prophets to instruct and warn His people,  that even though the Temple will be destroyed,  there is  One who is coming ,who will set all things right...the Messiah.  One of the first names given to this Messiah was Emmanuel, God with us!!  Jesus came, God in the flesh, to dwell among us and to offer Himself as the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice for our sins.  His death, burial and resurrection give us  a hope and a future and provide  a way for us back into relationship with God, the Father.  

When he ascended to Heaven He didn't leave us to continue on in this harsh, sin ridden world alone.  We now have the Holy Spirit...His presence in our lives!  Time and time again, we see God establishing His presence among His people. His love never fails...even when we do!  The book of Jonah and all of God's Word teaches us that compassion and grace and His active presence in our lives are not given based on  what we deserve, but they are based on our responsive steps in the right direction.  I am amazed and in awe of how loving and forgiving God is to us all!!

Aren't you glad that we have the stories of the lives of those who have gone before us written in the Word of God that show us how much God loves us and to what great lengths He will go to make sure we are in a right relationship with Him!!   So... as the saying goes, "if you don't feel close to God...guess who moved."  I, for one, want so very much to be moving in the right direction...in obedience towards my heavenly Father!! 

I am so thankful that He gives me these glimpses from time to time, these "sacred echoes", as Margaret Feinberg calls them...as reminders of God's desire for me and my desire for God.  Sometimes the glimpses come from a deeper reading of His Word...and sometimes...well sometimes they come in the form of a chocolate brown lab, named Clair. 







Saturday, August 6, 2011

Let's put this in perspective...

I have been on a Sabbatical for the whole month of July...well...technically I was supposed to be.  We took a week to go out of town and play and rest…See feet/selfie to the right.

The rest of the time has been a stay cation.  Now, as I understand a stay cation is supposed to be a vacation that you spend at home...relaxing, reading, maybe doing a few projects around the house…you get the picture.

 However, as a minister's wife in a relatively small (around 19,000) town, a stay cation doesn't quite work the way I had envisioned.  As it turns out;  everyone knows where you live, knows you are home and knows you are available if needed.   I will say that our church family was wonderful in honoring our sabbatical and other than a couple of emergencies, most left us to ourselves, to relax and restore.  I think my biggest problem was...well...ME!  Being home it was hard not to think in terms of what needed to be done...get those women signed up for the Women of Faith Conference, work on the nursery volunteer list and make sure the nursery was staffed during the month of July...and then there was my Tuesday morning Bible study group which I still led of course since I was in town, after all. And of course...there was the house.  It is incredibly hard to truly relax and read for hours when there is housework to be done!  Vacuuming and laundry and dishes...not that I actually got a lot of housework accomplished...just the guilt of knowing it needed to be done seemed to block my ability to enjoy myself.  I was, indeed,  my own worst enemy.


There is one thing that happened  to put so much of this in perspective...one incredibly sad and yet amazingly wonderful occurrence.  My friend, Joni, unexpectantly went home to be with the Lord.  Joni is the reason I even had a summer bible study to begin with.  Normally,  we just take a break for the summer with our women's bible study groups.  She really wanted to be in a study group because she felt she would learn more than if she just read the bible and studied on her own.  She was so hungry to learn more about God and His word that she didn't want to wait until we started back in the fall to begin.  How could I say no to that?  So I found the 90 Day study.  It sounded perfect...we would follow a reading plan to read through the entire bible in 90 days, while meeting weekly for discussion.

My beautiful friend, Joni...you are missed by so many!

Joni loved this study and her enthusiasm for the Word was contagious to the whole group!  She had shared with us that for years she went to church and did volunteer work and church work and thought that was what made her a Christian.  In her pursuit of God, she had also tried so many things that were not at all what someone would think of as "Christian", even being a wiccan for a time. Joni's approach to this search for God, as her approach to life, was one of over the top, infectious enthusiasm.  However, she shared that only in the past year or so had she really been a Christian...that she discovered the work was already done...not anything she did, but what Christ had done in dying on the cross to take her sins away, and to restore her relationship to God.  Since then she has been hungry to know Him more, to grow in her relationship with Him. She finally knew that being a christian was about relationship and not religion.  Now she didn't want to waste any more time!!  She hated missing even one week of Bible study...and then the unexpected happened.

It didn't make much sense;  I mean she was on dialysis. She  had recently gotten home from the hospital from an infection and then went in for one more day of dialysis, which seemed to tire her more than usual.  She went home, went to bed and never woke up.  Wow! How can you explain that?  Finally she has found her path to God...she is on a good path in her journey.  Her family is all the world to her, besides her new found relationship with Christ and she loves her church...even her health problems appeared to be manageable. So why would this happen?

 I'm not sure we will ever truly know this side of heaven. I like to think that Joni's desire to know the Lord was so strong that He just took her on home rather than have her endure the pain and trials she had yet to suffer in her time with her illness on this earth. But, really...I just don't know.  One thing I do know..Joni is now walking...no...dancing with the Lord!!  No more canes, no more dialysis, no more tears!  All her questions can now be answered by the King of kings and Lord of lords!!  She is now among the great cloud of witnesses waiting for her friends and loved ones to join her in due time. Let's not disappoint her!!!