Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunday Selah

The dog already straining eagerly on the leash, I held him back long enough for me to pull the front door closed behind me and make it safely down the front steps before giving him the go ahead to run to the top of the driveway to fetch the morning newspaper, dragging me along behind. But when my feet hit the grass I stopped a minute longer, held spellbound by the splendor in the sky. The rising sun had painted the thin cloud cover a glorious shade of pink, breathtaking in its beauty. Suddenly I was as eager as the dog to get to the road for a less obstructed view and raced alongside him, not wanting to miss a moment of the surprisingly beautiful sunrise. Once there I simply stood and stared, soaking in the sight for so long that even the dog got bored, having sniffed every rock and blade of grass within a leash-length of where I stood; so long that the heavy Sunday paper finally broke through the thin plastic sleeve encasing it and spilled all over the gravel at my feet. The spell likewise broken, I bent to pick up the scattered sections and headed back to the house, a satisfied smile on my face and incredible peace in my heart. There’s simply no better way to start a day.

There’s a word for a moment like that. I find it sprinkled all through the book of Psalms in my Bible. Every couple of verses or so it’s there in italics, perhaps to give it emphasis. Selah. Somewhere I read that it means, “Pause. Think about Me.” I printed the word and it’s definition inside the front cover of my journal the last couple of years to remind me what my morning devotional time is all about. It’s those moments (illustrated by my first actions with the dog this morning) in which I pull the door closed on the events of the day before and prepare to step safely into the new dawn - I hold the hounds at bay for a moment and look up to God for love, comfort, companionship, guidance, direction, or any combination thereof. Delighted with the glimpse I get there, I run in His direction for a better view, a fuller understanding of what He might have to show me, soaking in His glory while time stops still until my heart is so filled with peace that nothing I might face that day can possibly take it away. Now I simply won’t start my day any other way.

Of course, not every sunrise is as spectacular as the one I saw today. Some days there are no puffs of vapor in the sky to be lit up with the approaching rays. The sun simply comes up over the horizon, (we are grateful!) and we go on with our day. On other mornings the clouds hang so thick and low that we never catch a glimpse of the golden orb rising or setting, and we just go on in the knowledge that it’s up there somewhere whether we can see it or not, doing its job out of our view. And likewise not always are my morning devotional times filled with mind-blowing revelation or an overwhelming sense of the nearness of God. Many are the days I drink my coffee, read my Bible and speak to Him the words that have gathered in my heart without hearing a response write-worthy of the open journal pages before me. But even on those occasions when my troubles hang so darkly around me that God is hard to see, I am comforted by my conviction that He’s still actively working on my behalf to bless and prosper me in all areas of my life and in every moment of my day. The important thing is that I’ve stopped the ever-ticking time clock long enough to look in His direction.

Selah. Pause, and think about Me.

What’s important on a daily basis is perhaps equally so on a weekly one. We are instructed in the Bible to set apart one day as holy unto God, a day to cease from our regular activities and worship Him. And yet sometimes we find that difficult to do. Our lives are so pressure-packed that taking the time to gather with other believers in unity of purpose seems impossible. We mistakenly think we need those hours to accomplish all that needs to be done, and as we give in to that deception, we lose so much more than we gain in that time we should have set aside; we lose the peace of God’s presence and the power that is found in an ongoing relationship with Him. We simply need our Sunday Selahs to refocus our minds and thoughts, to reset our priorities and to connect with the like-minded individuals God has deliberately placed around us to encourage and inspire us.

But there’s another reason the Sunday Selah is important to God. When I had made it back to the house this morning, set the dog free of the leash and dumped the disheveled paper on the kitchen table, the first thing I did was grab my phone and wonder who else might be awake, so anxious was I to share the experience with somebody. While browsing on facebook a little while later I saw that a coworker had likewise seen the sunrise on her way in for an early shift and had posted a picture and a word about how the sight made going in to a difficult work situation a little more bearable. I smiled as I read the cyber stream of conversation that was quickly developing about the event.

I’ve seen the same thing happen when people make time for God on a Sunday morning and are impacted dramatically by a word in the pastor’s message, a song in the worship service or a simple thought expressed in a video or drama presentation. Sometimes just sitting in the presence of God affects them so deeply that we read all about it in facebook posts later in the day and hear it in conversations around us all the following week. The resultant chatter must surely make God smile, as word gets out that He has a whole lot to offer, both in this life and the next, if we’ll simply stop our running long enough to take a look.

Selah. Pause, and think about Me. And then go tell somebody about what you see.

“…And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2 AMP)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Nice" Thoughts

I carefully wrapped the ornament in Christmas paper and slipped it into the gift bag I was filling with surprises for my sister. This particular decoration was actually just the word “nice” spelled out in heavy silver metal letters. I smiled at the thought that even without checking it twice I knew on which side of Santa’s list her name could be found!

And there it would be in good company, surrounded by a lot of other people who bless my life on a regular basis. There’s my teenage bagger friend who hails my arrival at work each day and hugs me when I leave. What about the girl working the drive-thru window at McDonald’s, who told me as she handed me my sausage biscuit and peppermint mocha that she looks for me each Sunday morning? Face after face popped in my mind that morning as I sat wrapping Christmas presents, my smile growing broader and my heart growing larger by the thought of all the gifts I’m given each day by people, many of whom don’t know my name yet love on me just the same. If I couldn’t do much else, I could at least let them know that their lives make a positive difference in mine, and I am grateful. I vowed in that moment to go back to the store where I found it, buy up every such ornament they had, and then start handing them out left and right, as fast as I could, in response.

Unfortunately, I waited too long. December is synonymous with busyness, and it was a week or two before I could get back to that particular place of business. When I did finally walk through the door, it was to find that they had sold out of that particular item. They still had other word ornaments for sale, but somehow “chuckle”, “frosty” and “hoho” just didn’t say what I wanted to convey.

The opportunity to bless those people that way was lost, but a lesson remained. Much like Christmas, we, too, are only here for a season and likewise have a limited time in which to express to others what we feel in our hearts. Many times they are words of blessing, but occasionally it’s a word of correction or direction that they need to hear. It’s important then that we choose our words carefully and see that the opportunity to speak them isn’t lost in the shuffle or sold out to the busyness of life.

My idea of gifting people with a word ornament was not an original idea. So many Christmases ago, God gave us not just any word, but the Word…the only One that could truly make a difference in our lives…one Who was born to be hung on a tree for our sins, that through His actions we might all get safely Home. And now He looks to us to give that Word away to all who will receive it.

Our time here will pass but our words will last. Say what you need to say. Do it today.

“But I would strengthen and encourage you with [the words of] my mouth, and the consolation of my lips would soothe your suffering.”
(Job 16:5 AMP)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Glow Gone

The little lapel pin lay nestled in a small basket filled with more of the same, tiny metal circles that bore messages spelled out in groupings of individual words, much like the Magnetic Poetry fridge game I’ve seen for sale in stores but haven’t ever been brave enough to buy and try. Deep down I’m afraid I might not be smart enough to put the words I’m given together in a meaningful way, and who needs that kind of negative input, especially during the holidays? But as I stirred those button-sized beacons with my fingers, one truly captivated me; a picture of a radiating red heart, on top of which was the lone word “glow”.

It summed up completely the instruction I’d been hearing from God repeatedly since Thanksgiving weekend, so I grabbed it and dumped it on the counter with the rest of my fantastic finds as I tried to make my way out of the store. I considered it the best buck I’d spent all season.

Later I dug it out of the bag and set it on the windowsill over the kitchen sink, likely the place in the house I visit the most, where surely each viewing would remind me how I was to live that day. It took some time to position it correctly, tilted upward at just the right angle for the message to be visible and readable on a round object that had a tendency to roll away. When I finally had it just so, I smiled, checked to make sure the kitchen was ready for the big Christmas dinner my sons were to cook with their friends that afternoon, and headed out the door to work.

It was probably a good thing I wasn’t there to witness the meal preparation itself, but I’ve been around my sons and their friends long enough to picture the event pretty accurately. Yet somehow in all the dishtowel whacking, back slapping, elbow jabbing and food flinging, a glorious feast was prepared and served up with style. By the time I had returned home the guests had moved to the living room for what sounded like a hilarious gift exchange, so I sat at the deserted table and surveyed the damage as I downed a plate of ham and mashed potatoes. Knowing they’d object if I started the clean-up, I added my own plate and fork to the pile in the sink and told myself I’d finish what they didn’t get done in the morning, and prepared to go to bed. Lifting my eyes for one last look at my little pin, I stared in horror at the now-empty spot it had occupied on the sill.

At some point in the boisterous preparations that afternoon, it must’ve been knocked off it’s precarious perch into the sink below. Quickly I dug through the plates piled in front of me, feeling with my fingers around the pots and pans piled nearby and even sticking my hand into the muck of the garbage disposal, hoping I could rescue it before the whirling blades did their duty the next time it was turned on. All to no avail; the little treasure had simply disappeared. I consoled myself with the thoughts that it might yet reappear and that its message remained even in its absence, and went on to bed.

Perhaps the scenario hit home because the same thing had happened to me spiritually just the night before. Determined to make this last month of the year the spiritual season it was meant to be instead of just a mad dash to the December 25th finish line, I had set some goals before me to guide my behavior each day. I looked at them regularly and accomplished them as best I could, and found this Christmas season to be much more satisfying than previous ones as a result. But just the night before I had allowed myself to get caught up in the rat race once more, and soon weariness, unrealistic expectations and self-pity overtook and passed me, leaving my joy and hope stumbling along somewhere in the dust behind them. My behavior modeled my resultant mood and I was anything but the spiritual light I had hoped to be. I did look for what I’d lost, feeling around the corners of the events of the day that had knocked me off track, even reaching deep into the muck of the pressure-filled moments into which my mood had fallen,, but its presence eluded me and I headed off to bed that night feeling like a failure instead of a dedicated follower of Christ.

The good news is that I got my “glow” back. The morning after the boys’ party I went to the sink and turned on the tap to get the morning coffee flowing, and there, lying next to the bottle of dish soap, was my little pin! It was in such an obvious spot that I surely had looked there a million times the night of its disappearance, and yet there it lay, waiting for me to simply pick it up and put it back in its spot once more.

Similarly the brightness of my mood returned as well. God’s Word promises that His mercies are new every morning, that the events of the day before can be forgiven and forgotten while only the lessons learned from them remain. What He whispered to me that morning was that He chooses perseverance over perfection, that He is actually more pleased when I pick up the day’s grace that He lays before me to give it a go once more than if I’d done everything right the first time. Perhaps that’s because He knows that perfection is impossible, but resurgent effort is often a sacrificial choice on our parts that pleases Him greatly.

I think back to that basket of pins in the store that morning, and realize that there were dozens of messages available to choose from. And likewise in life we are bombarded by attitudes and anthems that we sometimes pick up and wear for awhile before discarding when the newness wears off. Perhaps God is looking for some consistency from us; urging us to make our choice based on what we hear in His voice and then pin it on daily until it simply becomes a part of who we are and what we’re all about. That’s a resolution for a new life rather than just a new year, and it doesn‘t get any “happier“ than that!

“Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness…” (Colossians 3:16 AMP)

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