Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Never Fly Solo

For the past several weeks, I have been participating in a small group study at church focusing on prayer as a way to intentionally listening for God in the midst of all the hub-bub in our lives and discerning what He may be telling us.  This six-week study is entitled,  “Listen:  Praying in a Noisy World” by Rueben P. Job; and each session has highlighted a different, and in some cases new to all of us, method of prayer (referred to as a "prayer practice").

This past week’s  prayer practice was to read through the assigned chapter, which includes scripture, quotes from the author and other spiritual writers and a story that ties everything together; and to each day, underline words and phrases from that day’s reading that reminded us of the assurance of God’s love.  Finally, we were encouraged to transcribe those words and phrases onto an index card or stickee note and carry it with us throughout the day.

At the end of the week, I had a collection of seven stickee notes.  Today, while preparing for tonight’s class, I looked at all of the notes and realized they told a story, my story. So, I wrote them down, did a bit of re-arranging and word-smithing, and arrived at the following amazing and personalized affirmation.*  

I Never Fly Solo

I am God’s beloved child and I will live as a child of God.
I never fly solo.
Beloved is the name by which God knows me and the way He relates to me.
Faithful love surrounds me because I trust the Lord.
I am God’s.  God transforms me.
I never fly solo.
I will trust the teaching I have treasured in my heart.
The Lord will guide me continually and He will rescue me.
I never fly solo.
I will transform the world where I am as I focus my mind on God’s knowledge.
Wisdom will be given to me if I ask, but I must chose to listen to God’s voice.
I never fly solo.
I must learn to live each day as an opportunity to make everything new.
I will remember and reflect on God’s love and that I am saved by God’s grace because of my faith.
I never fly solo.
I will move forward in my life as a follower of Christ, listening to His voice saying to me, “I have a gift for you and I can’t wait for you to see it!”
The world of my past is gone.
I never fly solo.

Mrs. B

*Although this was arranged by Mrs. B, all words, phrases and scripture versus (Common English Bible) were derived from “Listen:  Praying in a Noisy World” by Rueben P. Job Copyright 2011.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Love God = Respect

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might
.”  Deuteronomy 6:5

Love God.  Sounds easy enough, especially given the careless way these days the word is tossed out. You know what I’m talking about:  “I just love those shoes!” “I’m loving this weather!” “She’s so easy to love, she’s so adorable!” or, “Love ya, girlfriend!”

Of course, anyone in any sort of meaningful relationship; marriage or partnership; parents (or step-parents) or grandparents; siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins; friends, neighbors and church family; knows that love is not simple.  It requires the opposite of careless.  It can require more, sometimes, than we think we are capable of giving, perhaps even more than we really are capable of giving.

For me, loving God is what I must do in order to be able to truly love others.  Loving God has to come first, because it’s the power I receive from that loving relationship that gives me the strength I need to love others in my daily life.

So what does loving God entail? 

I tend to think of my relationship with God in terms of a parental relationship; for example, what, as a child, was required of me in my relationship with my mother and father (or other parental figures or people in authority such as teachers).  And, like my interactions with these individuals has, my relationship with God evolves over time; deepens and matures with knowledge and understanding.

When I was nine or ten, a friend and I tampered with the US mail.  A neighbor was out of town for several weeks and my friend’s mom was responsible for picking their mail up and putting it into their house.  One day, she sent my friend to do it, and I tagged along.  Full of the logic of a young girl, my friend said, “Let’s open it up, maybe there is a love letter in here somewhere!”  So, right then and there, standing at their mailbox, she tore into the three or four envelopes she was holding, only to discover there was nothing juicy whatsoever; only a bunch of bills.   Sighing, she said, “Oh well!” and thrust the opened mail at me and darted off, leaving me standing there with my mouth open and the evidence of our wrong doing lying limply in my hands. Feeling helpless and certain that this was not a good situation to be in, I decided to throw the mail into the storm drain.  Afterwards, I rushed off after my friend, hoping we’d not be found out.  For the next three weeks, this deed hung over my life and I worried and fretted that I was going to get into big trouble.  Of course, this is what eventually happened.  The neighbor received late notices for bills they had never received.  They asked my friend’s mom if she’d perhaps mislaid some of their mail.  She became suspicious and asked my friend who immediately sang like a canary.  My parents were informed of my role in the mess and, yes, I got into big trouble.  In addition to a (rare) spanking, I was required to go over to the neighbor and apologize.  My parents also decided that I would be grounded for three weeks; and by grounded, this meant that, other than for meals, going to school, and the necessary bathroom runs, I was to stay in my bedroom.  For.  Three.  Weeks.  And my friend?  She was not allowed to go outside to play for one day.

As unfair as that may seem, I wasn’t really that upset about my punishment.  Although I had not actually been the one to open the mail, I had not done the right thing with the evidence.  What I should have done was go directly to my mom and tell her what happened.  Peer pressure, of course, kept me from doing the right thing; I didn’t want my friend to think I was a baby.  Actually, I was relieved that the other shoe had finally dropped and I could sleep without waking up in the middle of the night worrying or look at my mother again without feeling terribly guilty.  Although my three weeks in confinement may have seemed harsh to others, I vaguely recognized then (and certainly know now some 40 years later) that my mom and dad didn’t sentence me without long and deliberating thought and conversation.  They wanted me to learn from this experience so that I would think twice before doing something so foolish again to be sure, but also to remember that I must always go to them in times of trouble and uncertainty.  Truthfully, I believe they were more concerned that I carried that heavy load of guilt for three weeks than they were by what I’d done (or been an accomplice to, at any rate).  This experience taught me a lot about respect; respect for others, respect for authority, and respect for myself.
When I think about my relationship with God, I am reminded of that episode in my life, and the connection of  “love” and “respect”; especially to those in authority.  And who else has the ultimate authority over my life but God?  Loving God means respecting God, and respecting God means offering my presence, trusting Him as I release my burdens and wrongdoings, seeking forgiveness and guidance, and following His instructions; trusting that He has the best intentions for me; that He has my back.

“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.  Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.  When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all of your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

Mrs. B