I lost my journal

Well, I’ve lost my journal.  It’s the one I took with me to Israel.  I bought it thinking I’d have a ton of stuff to write about while I was there, but it turns out I only used about ten or fifteen pages.  I just didn’t have the time I thought I’d have.  For future reference for my next big adventure, whatever that ends up being, I think I’ll just bring something small with me to jot down notes and save the big writing for when I get home.  We were on the move so much that I didn’t have time to really stop and write anything coherent and by the time we got back to the hotel and showered and had dinner, all I wanted to do was fall into the bed and sleep.

Anyhow, for a while after I got back, I didn’t write anything in this journal because it felt sacred somehow.  Even though I’d written so little in it, I didn’t feel like anything I experienced here at home was worthy enough to be included in a journal that had been to Israel and back.

But I finally did let go of that notion a few months ago and started writing in it.  And although it’s temporarily misplaced,  I’m sure it will turn up eventually…at least I hope so, but for now, I don’t know where else to look.  I’ve checked all around my house, my car, the few places I’ve been that I would have taken it with me, but to no avail.

I remember a time a few years ago that the same thing happened with my Bible.  It went missing for about a week or two and I’d looked everywhere in the world I could think of and couldn’t find it anywhere.  I finally gave up, my heart broken, because that Bible had years of notes and highlights and how do you replace all that?

I decided maybe this was God’s way of saying that I needed a fresh start, so I gave in and went out and bought a new Bible.  Not long after, I ended up finding my old Bible in the laundry basket underneath all the socks that needed matching.  How it got there, I don’t know, but I fully blame my husband since he cleans like a whirlwind without giving much thought to where he puts things when he’s “putting things away.”

Right now, I have a giant laundry pile in the corner of my bedroom that needs folding.  It’s been there a week or so…okay so probably more on the “or so” side than the “a week” side.  I’m hoping maybe I’ll find my journal there whenever I get around to the pile, although I really doubt it.  I’m thinking the laundry has been there longer than the journal’s been missing, as sad as that is to admit.  (I just hate laundry.  I’d rather load and unload the dishwasher 20 times than fold and put away a load of laundry.)

I’ve been reading Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans and she talks in one part about how this guy once told her that after searching around different churches, he realized that because the Spirit lives within us, any place can be a sanctuary.  In a way it made me think of my missing journal.

I was waiting for something holy or sacred to write in that journal.  I was expecting it to have to be something big and important to be worthy to fill those pages.  But what I didn’t consider is that the day-to-day can be just a sacred as Sunday morning church.  Because ultimately nothing that I or anyone else does makes us holy.  It is the Spirit of God living on the inside of us that does that.  God’s holiness is what makes moments and spaces sacred.  And because He goes with me wherever I go, I can find sacred moments and spaces most anywhere at most anytime.  I just have to, as Rachel says, “Pay attention.”

In the meantime, I’ll get a notebook to jot my thoughts in, but I have hope that eventually I’ll find the missing journal and continue to fill it with the big and small sacred things.

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Searching……….

I’m sitting here this morning drinking my coffee.  Billie Eilish is playing on Spotify and the dogs are getting settled in for their first morning nap.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rachel Held Evans.  She was a writer and speaker in the Christian community and she recently passed away at 37 years old.  I really was only vaguely familiar with her writings…honestly, I was just familiar enough with her to decide I didn’t really care to hear much of what she had to say.  Depending on which direction you lean, she could be quite controversial.  She was very outspoken in the areas of racism and feminism, as well as a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community.

And I had no doubt that she and I would not see eye to eye on anything.  Ever.

I decided though to start reading one of Rachel’s book this week called Searching for Sunday.  I bought it a while back around the time that I first left my church, but for whatever reason, I never did read it.  Actually, I’d completely forgotten I had it until I went online to buy it and realized I already owned it.

What’s funny is that this morning, upon scrolling Facebook, it showed me a status that I’d posted five years ago today.  It went like this:

You can call me conservative, close-minded, or backwards.  You can call me intolerant, lame, or stupid.  Call me whatever you want…it makes no difference.  The only thing that matters is that HE calls me daughter, and really He’s the only One I’m living to please.

Boy.  I knew then what I believed and why I believed it and I didn’t have a whole lot of space in my brain for anything else.  (insert strong fist pound on table here)

Five years later, I’d like to think that I’ve changed and grown.  I know in some ways, I have.  I’d also like to think that I’m still so sure of myself, but the reality is that I’m not.

Honestly, my first reaction sometimes is still to bristle at things that go against those beliefs I’ve always held dear.  That thing in me that wants to stand up and fight for what’s right is most certainly still there.  I still have very little tolerance for the misuse of God’s word and for allowing “feelings” to trump what I know to be truth.  But over time,  I’ve also come to realize that sometimes there can be a bit of a gray area where truth is concerned because it’s very easy to confuse God’s truth with my own.

As I’ve been reading Rachel’s book, I’m realizing that she and I weren’t so different in our thought processes.  It made me a little sad that I hadn’t picked her book up sooner.  But then, maybe if I’d read it sooner, before I’d started my own “search for Sunday,” then I likely wouldn’t have heard what she had to say.  Timing is everything I guess.  And while I don’t necessarily I agree with her in every aspect, I have seen a new perspective…a kinder one.  Toward others and towards myself.

I’ve been in a processing mode for the last few years.  Going back and forth between a soft and a hard heart, between anger and sadness, between listening and being closed off.  Trying to be more loving, more welcoming, more willing to hear, but not knowing exactly how to go about that without what I felt was a betrayal to myself and what I knew to be right and true.  Blanket accusations made me angry, but then I’ve realized that I’ve gotten pretty cynical with my own accusatory glares.

So here I’ve landed.  Wrestling somewhere between trying to stay the course while also getting over myself.  It’s been a good and awful trip getting here.  And I know there’s more road to be traveled.

On a side note, we left our church again.  I mean, I guess you could call it that.  I don’t know that I was ever completely convinced we were supposed to go back when we did.  We went there because it seemed like the natural place to go because it’s the place we left to begin with, but deep down it just didn’t feel like home anymore.  We aren’t really going anywhere right now, although we do watch different churches online here and there, but none I’d call home.

Right now church for me looks like conversations with a dear friend waiting in the carpool line or at the coffee shop.  Or Thursday night Bible study with some of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known.  Or laughing with my out-of-town sister-friend at the salon while she gets her hair done during a quick visit home.  Or poking through my little garden in the backyard in wonder at the beginnings of things growing in the sun.  God’s in all those places.

And right now, I’m trying to put aside all my own notions and just listen to Him.  And be more honest with myself.  And make some space for different perspectives.

And so my own search for Sunday continues…

********************

How about you?  Are you feeling out of place or a little off center?  Are there things you’re seeing differently or completely new right now?

 

Also, if you have a moment, say a prayer for Rachel’s family.  Her death was sudden and she leaves behind a husband and two children and many others who loved her dearly.

Monday morning blah-dy blah

Lord, y’all.  Last week was spring break and let me tell ya.  It was super nice to not have to be anywhere at the crack of dawn.  That already makes the day more calm.  Of course, I had double the work though with my doctor and another doctor because I was covering for one of the other girls.  Yes, I actually do have a job in case you didn’t know that.  I am a medical transcriptionist and I type for an ENT doctor.  So it’s mucus and ear wax and tonsils all the live long day.  Been doing that for about ten years now.

In addition to being a work-at-home transcriptionist, I am also a habitual procrastinator with “throw in the towel” tendencies.  I have great ideas, but that’s usually all they end up being.  What I mean is that I often put things off because either I don’t have the time to concentrate enough to finish the whole thing at once or else the task seems beyond overwhelming, so I will eventually very likely give up on the thing completely.  It’s like, the moment has passed and whatever I had in my head has just kinda fizzled.

This is the case with a lot of current events.  I’ll see something on the news or online and immediately start to write about it in my head.  But then by the time I actually sit down at the computer, the media (and the attention of the public) is already on something new.  Of course, I guess in reality that might not be such a bad thing.  I have a big mouth and big opinions and so maybe that’s God’s way of keeping me from spouting off and saying something stupid or offending someone (which isn’t really hard to do anymore).  Unfortunately, sometimes I find a work-around and throw an angry or frustrated thought up on Facebook.  That’s ended badly more than once.

I’m planning though on trying a new creativity tactic.  On this last episode of Jane the Virgin…P.S. if you don’t watch that show, you should.  It is stinking hilarious and one of my favorites!  Anyhow, in this last episode, Jane immediately wrote her thoughts down right when a thing happened.  She wrote on scrap paper, napkins, or whatever she had, but she wrote in the moment right in the middle of feeling what she was feeling.  Maybe I should give that a go for a few days and see what happens.  Maybe I’d have more things to write about that way.  (I also have the attention span of a gnat and the memory of….of a…….I don’t know.  Whatever thing has a short memory.   I probably should be on medication.  Maybe I’d actually get something done.)

Anyway.  That’s all I’ve got for today.  At least for now.  And obviously my brain is all over the place.  I just re-read what I wrote and sheesh.  If you’ve read this far, then good on you.  You probably got further than I would have if I weren’t the one typing.  But I’m hoping to get in a habit of writing more, so in the meantime, please forgive my nonsense drivel.

Happy Monday!

J

Who will we choose?

I watched a message yesterday by Amir Tsarfati about Jesus and the Passover.  It was so good y’all!  I’m including the link for it because I hope you’ll go watch it too.

One of the things Amir mentioned has been tumbling around in my head since yesterday. It came from this bit of scripture about Jesus’ trial before he was crucified:

Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.  At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas.  So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.  While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.  “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.  “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”  – Matthew 27:15-22

I’m not sure I ever really thought a whole lot about it before that Barabbas’ name was actually Jesus Barabbas.  (Jesus was a fairly common Hebrew name.)  It’s why when Pilate asked the people who to release, he had to specify between which Jesus…Jesus Barabbas or Jesus, who is called the Christ.  (Depending on what version of scripture you’re reading, it may say Jesus Barabbas or just Barabbas.  Some leave the Jesus off, I guess to be less confusing.)

But what Amir said, that I don’t know that I’ve ever  realized before, is the meaning of Barabbas is “son of the father.”  In Hebrew, “bar” means “son” and “abba” means “father.”  So Jesus Barabbas was Jesus, son of the father.  And this gave me pause.  Son of the father?

I looked up a little about Barabbas because honestly I couldn’t remember what his crimes were, and what I found was that he was said to be a murder.  A taker of life.

The people chose one who takes life over one who gives it.

And why?  Because it made them feel better.  Because that other Jesus was too controversial.  He was too uncomfortable.  He did things weird and different from what they’d become accustomed to.  He said things that didn’t line up with their manmade assumptions about God.  He didn’t follow their rules.  He couldn’t be coerced or forced into their mold of godliness.

So they picked Jesus, son of the father over Jesus, Son of God the Father because it felt better.  And yet even though they chose wrong and Jesus Barabbas ran free, Jesus the Christ went to the cross anyway.

Do you see it?  The Father of Lies gave the people a counterfeit son hoping that when it came time to decide, they’d pick the one that makes them feel better.  And they did.  And Jesus went to the cross anyway.  He didn’t have to.  But he did.

Lord, how many times in a day do I pick the thing that makes me feel better?  The thing that doesn’t cause me to have to change much.  The thing that seems right in my own eyes (Prov. 21:2).  I shudder to think.

But the breathtaking part is that even when I choose wrong, the cross was still for me.  The sacrifice Jesus made there is still for me.  Even knowing we would choose wrong so many times, Jesus went to the cross anyway.   And even when we royally mess up, even when we think that we’ve totally blown it, the cross is still for us.

The cross is for all who choose it.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Jesus overcame death on the cross and rose from the grave.  He did all that so that we didn’t have to.  He offers life to all who will receive it, and none of us deserve it.

We all choose wrong sometimes.  Some of us, most of the time, Lord help me.  We pick the counterfeit because it feels good or fits into our box better.  But thanks be to God for his grace, because in all our wrong choosing, Jesus still paid it all for us.

The Giver of Life still chose us.


 

Be sure to go and watch Amir’s message!

 

 

When there’s no conclusion

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is finding an end.  In school, you learn to write proper stories with an introduction, a body, and a nice clean conclusion that ties it all in a nice bow.  Except for that in real life, sometimes there’s not a nice conclusion.  Sometimes there’s no conclusion at all.  Things just happen and tomorrow comes and nothing changes and the problem doesn’t get solved.  Sometimes there’s just another day of the same.

We don’t like having to fill in the blanks.  Like those movies that end sometimes and you’re staring at the end credits with all these questions still lingering.  Or the TV shows that end a season with a cliffhanger so your heart’s in your throat and then you find out the show has been cancelled and it’s like, but what happens now???  Is disaster averted?  Does your favorite couple get married?  Is the villain of the story eventually stopped?  HOW DOES IT ALL END?

Life feels like that a lot.  Like I keep waiting for things to get tied up in a nice neat bow, and then tomorrow comes and nothing’s solved.  The problems from yesterday have followed me into today and tomorrow’s not looking too good either.  I hesitate to write and have a big wall in my mind sometimes because the reality is, for the most part I have no conclusions yet for many of the things I could write about.  You want to be encouraging and say, this is what’s going on with me, or this is something that’s been bothering me, or whatever, but I’m still feeling pretty crappy about it and I have no encouragement to offer anyone, least of all myself.  I mean, really.  Who wants to hear about your heartaches when you don’t have the “and this is how I overcame it all” ending?

But then I guess, we’re all in those places somewhere in our lives.  We’ve all got things we’re walking through, fires we’re standing right smack in the middle of and there’s no good ending yet and no moral of the story with which to encourage anyone else.

Sometimes life just momentarily sucks and there’s no good reason and no good ending.

So what do we do when we find ourselves in places like that?

Well, if I knew that, I’ve have my conclusion then, now wouldn’t I?

J

Knowing your roots

I co-led a class this morning on the Biblical Feasts.  This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about because it’s usually not taught in depth in church and is a great way to help Christians connect deeper with the Jewish roots of their faith.  After all, Jesus was Jewish, and he kept the feasts just like any good Jew would do.

Christianity was founded on Christ, but before Christianity was Christianity, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah come to fulfill God’s plan.  Now I realize we tend to think that the Jews don’t recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and while that’s probably true generally, it’s also true that there’s a considerable number of believing Jews out there.  It’s also true that the first followers of Jesus were Jewish.  But then we can tend to forget that.

And that’s no surprise.  For a long time now, the Church has made efforts to separate itself from the Jews.  We learned this morning that early on as far back as 325 AD during the Council of Nicea, the church was already trying to break any connection with Judaism and by the time the Council concluded, we no longer had a Passover in relation to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but instead celebrated what we know as Easter (which interestingly enough sounds a lot the name of the Roman goddess of spring).

As time has gone on, more and more, the Jews who were believers in Christ were required to renounce their roots.  We even saw this morning when at one point, Jews were required not only to renounce their heritage, but to eat pork in front of witnesses in order to prove they were Christian enough.  Can you imagine?

You find anti-semitism staining the history of the Church to the point that even Hitler himself used Martin Luther’s sentiments again the Jews to justify the horrors of the Holocaust.  And here we are in 2019 and we still see anti-Semitism around the world.

Don Finto says this in his book Your People Shall Be My People,

None of Jesus’ hearers could have imagined what would transpire over the next years: that Gentiles would take control of the books of Moses and the Prophets – so much so that the Bible, God’s inspired Word, would be appropriated by Gentiles for themselves to the extent that it is now known primarily as a Gentile book; that this Man in whom they now believed, this Messiah, this Christ, would become so “Gentilized” that even His own people would fail to recognize Him as one of their own; that millions of Jews in the twentieth century would be killed at the hands of those who gave lip service to their Messiah.”

A Gentilized Jesus.

No wonder we don’t hear too much taught in the Western church about the Jewishness of Jesus.  Because going back centuries, there’s been an under current that says the Jews rejected and killed Jesus and God’s done with them.  It’s usually referred to as replacement theology…where the Church has replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people.

But a word of caution…the Bible speaks about a time of the Jews being blinded so that the Gentiles could be brought into the family of God.  Romans 11:25-26 says this:

For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, 

“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion.  He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

 

In other words, Christian, don’t go being haughty about your place in the family tree of God.  Don’t forget, we – the Gentiles – were grafted into the vine and we have no business boasting against the branches (Romans 11:18).

Now I’m not saying all this to say that the Church is bad.  Only that at this point, the Church is just ignorant and that’s a shame.  When you see God’s plan of redemption being hinted at all the way back to even in the way he laid out these times of remembering for the Jews (Leviticus 23), it can only deepen your faith.

And rather than separating from God’s chosen people, we should be praying for them and for Israel and finding ways to connect.  God’s not done with the Jewish people.  Not by a long shot.

I’d also encourage you to spend some time looking into the Jewish roots of your faith.  You’ll understand the Bible in ways you never have before and the teachings of Jesus will take on even deeper meaning.

J

It’s all tragic

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about the state of this world, but almost as soon as I posted it, I took it back down. I was frustrated and a little angry when I wrote it.

Then I reread it yesterday and reposted it, and then took it down again. I know, I’m indecisive. But mostly it’s because I meant, and still mean, every single thing I said, but I realize that I needed to communicate it better. So let’s try this one last time.

We are all aware by now of the massacre in New Zealand. 49 people are dead and it’s horrific. The idea that even a place of worship isn’t safe is quite unsettling to us as Americans (although not really all that uncommon in other places around the world). Among the wounded and the dead are very young children. It’s appalling. There are 49 lives that are gone from this world and for that WE MUST MOURN.

Once the media started covering this with fervor, all of a sudden all these articles pop up everywhere on Facebook saying, but wait look! Look at all these Christians that were massacred in Nigeria and there’s hardly any coverage about it! The world isn’t allowed to mourn for Muslims without equally mourning Christians. We must equally divide our outrage. But Christians being killed in Nigeria isn’t new. This conflict is and has been ongoing.

Incidentally, with a little research, I’m finding that the conflict in Nigeria is just as much about fighting over land between herders and farmers as is it about religion. (Also, I read an article saying that sometime in February, there were around 131 Fulani (Muslims) herdsmen killed by Adara (Christian) farmers in retaliation of an earlier dispute.) Fact is, there’s been conflict between Muslims/Christians/herdsmen/farmers for decades. People have been dying in Nigeria for decades. And because of that, WE MUST MOURN.

Not that long ago, Jewish worshippers in Pennsylvania were murdered in their synagogue. Not that long ago, over 100 were either wounded or killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Not that long ago, there were multiple active shooter situations in our schools. Not that long ago, people were killed because of the color of their skin.

Do you see what I’m saying? It’s not about one-upping. It’s not about my tragedy being worse than yours. These are all equally awful. These lives are all gone. And for that WE MUST MOURN.

It’s so easy to just hit forward or share…sometimes without even reading an article. I’ve been guilty of it myself. Of letting myself be outraged by comparison when in reality, there is something awful happening in this world on a minute by minute basis. We let the media decide for us about what’s most important at the moment and we act all befuddled that one thing gets coverage and another thing doesn’t. But the attention span of the American public is equal to that of a gnat and if you wait five minutes, you’ll have a brand new thing to be upset about. It’s like riding on a roller coaster. One minute you’re up in the air and the very next next flying down heading for the next climb. And frankly I’m tired of the ride.


Not just from, but to

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament here lately, mostly because of prepping for my trip to Israel.  (I still can’t even believe I get to type that ya’ll!)  I just finished up watching a series about the Feasts of Israel and I’m currently reading a book by Daniel Juster called “Jewish Roots.”

I was reading last night before bed and in this bit, Dr. Juster was giving kind of an overview of the Feasts.  At one point he was talking about the Passover, which is a time of remembering when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  (That whole saga plays out in the first twelve or so chapters of Exodus.)

Have you ever noticed though that the freeing of the Israelites from slavery was kind of a two-part thing?

See, it wasn’t just that God was trying to get his people free from years and years of being held in bondage in a foreign land.  I mean, that part was important for sure and God sent all kinds of crazy plagues to see that it happened.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  God wasn’t just trying to lead them out of slavery.  He was also trying to lead the to the Promised Land.

It wasn’t enough for God that His people would be set free from their bondage.  He wanted them free AND He wanted them living in a place of abundance.

So after all the plagues, the Pharaoh tells the Israelites to get the heck out of Egypt and so off they go, but then the Pharaoh changes his mind and gives chase after them (Ex. 14:5).  And this is the part where God splits the Red Sea and sends His people across the dry land to safety, closing the waters over the Egyptian army in pursuit behind them.

But even after watching God send all those plagues to free them and then watching Him part the Red Sea to save them, the Israelites still complain, they still don’t fully trust in God, they still don’t believe He will provide for them.  And so they wind up wandering around the desert for the next 40 years instead of entering the Promised Land right away.

I’m wondering if you’re picking up on a pattern here in your own life like I’m picking up on one in mine?

I’ve heard the word repent also has a two part meaning.  That it’s not just the idea of turning from sin, but also then turning to God.  To turn your face from the thing that keeps you tied down, and turn it toward the God who moves heaven and earth to free you.  God doesn’t just want us free from our sin, but He wants us living like we’re free.  You’ve probably heard it put like this before – even though Jesus broke the bonds of sin, we’re still carrying the chains around like we own them.

Yes Lord, and my arms are exhausted from the weight.

Jesus didn’t come to free us from sin just so we could schlep around in the desert.  He came to set us free so that we could live free.

Do you really believe you’re free?  I can’t say I’ve honestly believed it.  I’ve stood on the edge of the Red Sea a hundred times.  I’ve seen the enemy approaching and instead of walking away on the dry land, I let satan carry me right back into bondage even though God has already carved my path to freedom right there in front of me.  I just don’t believe it.  I don’t trust in His provision.  I don’t step out in faith onto the dry land.

Nope.  I just follow the Pharaoh right back to Egypt even though the truth is that the Pharaoh doesn’t own me anymore.

I’ve got to start living like I’m free.  Like I believe that I am no longer satan’s property, but that I belong to God.  Maybe you’re right there with me too?

And look, it’s still going to be a process.  Even if the Israelites hadn’t been stubborn, they still would have had to travel the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land…it just would have probably been a lot shorter and a lot easier.

The same holds true for us.  When we decide to leave our Egypts and follow the Messiah, we are free.  John 8:36 says it this way:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

There’s no question about it.  You.  Are.  Free.

But that doesn’t mean the enemy isn’t going to come after you.  Of course, he is.  And that doesn’t mean that you’re going to follow Jesus today and be the perfect Christian after that.  The enemy will still always give chase and sanctification is still a process.

But we’ve got to stop…I’ve got to stop…letting my doubts and my fears lead me back to Egypt.  We’ve got to…I’ve got to…fix my eyes on Jesus and follow Him to freedom.  His blood paid for that freedom.  And it’s yours and it’s mine to receive.

Receive it, soul.  Receive it and own it.  You don’t belong to the enemy anymore.

Can oohs be holy?

During one of the songs last night at church, there was a part where there was no words…just oohs.  You know those parts?  Where it’s just a lot of aah-ing or ooh-ing during what would otherwise be an instrumental part of the song?

While I love those parts of the song when I’m in the car, I’ve often felt they were a little awkward in corporate worship because they just didn’t say anything.  Sometimes when leading worship during one of those parts, I’d look out at the congregation and sometimes think, this feels a little weird.  I mean, were just singing a bunch of oohs.

And sure, those parts sound really pretty, but are they necessary?  We’re supposed to be offering up worship, but we aren’t even saying anything.  Does God appreciate our oohs as much as our words?

So I’m standing there last night ooh-ing along with the worship leaders and the rest of the congregation and that’s when it hit me.

You won’t always have the words.

I had to just let that settle for a second.

Because there will be seasons of hardship when words fail.   And I thought at that moment about times in my life so difficult that I’ve been at a complete loss as to how or what to pray.  I thought of situations I’ve seen my friends walk through that were so hard, so gut-wrenching that I didn’t even know how to pray on their behalf.

And in the middle of that part of the song that was without words, I was reminded of this verse:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

~ Romans 8:26

There will be those moments where all I can get out of my mouth is an “ooh” or “aah.”  We’ve all had them.  Life happens and we are left feeling confused and hurt, angry and frustrated, or frightened and alone.  Sometimes your brain just can’t get it together.  And when we land in that spot, the Holy Spirit steps in and prays the words on our behalf.

And you know, there’s even a flip side to that coin.  I’ve found myself in moments where I have been so stunned at God’s love and His mercy that I can’t think of anything that even comes close to saying how wonderful and beautiful He is.  All I can do is stand there and “aah.”  I bet you’ve had those moments, too.

So then…can oohs be holy?  Yep.  I’m thinking absolutely they can.  🙂

 

God’s still working on your puzzle

I have a friend who for a few years has been coming over on Tuesday nights.  It started out mostly because her cable was out and there was a TV show that we both watched, so she just came to my house to watch it with me and the routine stuck.  During the times when the show was on a break, we started putting puzzles together and well, that routine pretty much stuck too.  So now we watch shows and put puzzles together every Tuesday night.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time that my table didn’t have a puzzle on it.

We usually do 1000 piece puzzles and in all this time, we’ve gotten pretty good at putting them together.  We have often finished a whole puzzle in one night with the TV going in the background.  We always start by sorting through to find the outside edges.   Then once they are all together, we sort the inside pieces – by color or by what they are – and then we start working on the inside.  Sometimes the sorting is easy because the pieces are distinct enough to know which section of the puzzle they probably go, but other times when there are a lot of similar colors, it’s a lot harder to tell.

But even when a piece is obviously part of the house or the dog or whatever’s in the picture, you still don’t know exactly where to put it until there are some other pieces in place around where it goes.  You have a general idea, but not an exact one.

Our walk with God is so much like this.  We try to sort out situations we find ourselves in and sometimes we kinda have an idea of where God’s going with the thing.  We can see about where all of it fits in.  Other times, we haven’t got a clue…we know it has purpose and fits in somewhere, but where is so unclear.  It’s not unusual to end up having to wait for God to put a few more pieces in place before we can get a clear picture of where He’s going.

And in our waiting, it’s not hard to get distracted by glancing around at other people’s lives.  We see all the pieces of their puzzle seeming to fall right into place and here we are with all these piles of pieces and no idea where to put them.  It’s easy to get discouraged when we focus on what God is doing in everybody else’s life and forget to pay attention to what’s happening in ours.  We get envious and covet what someone else has instead of being patient and waiting for our own picture to become clear.

And I mean, let’s just be honest.  Waiting stinks.  It’s hard, especially when the thing we are waiting for is something that’s a deep desire of our heart.  But when God is in charge of our timeline, we can find rest while we wait.  We can trust His timing even when we can’t understand it.

We can be fully assured that all the pieces of our puzzle will come together and make something beautiful.

Lamentations 3:22-24 says this:

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.”

Our God is merciful and good.  He loves with un unending love that is so hard for us in our finite minds to grasp.  And He is faithful…remember that.  Even when you don’t see anything falling into place, remember that He’s still at the table. He hasn’t given up on you and left.  He’s still there sorting all your pieces and He’s still working to put together something beautiful for you.

He’s a master at putting your puzzle together.  And He won’t quit until it’s completed.

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion

until the day of Christ Jesus.”  ~ Philippians 1:6