Palm Sunday Musing: Check those expectations

Today is Palm Sunday. It is interesting to think how such a day might play out in this social media age. Tweets with hash tags of #hosanna, #messiahishere, and #downwithRome might be the trending topics. This was a day that was ripe with expectation that soon crashed. People were excited as the felt a great change would soon come. Well, a great change did soon come, just not what was expected. They expected Jesus to come and make a world to their liking, away from the tyranny of the Roman Empire, a world where folks could be content and everything would go swell. God’s way and plan was not what people expected or wanted. This is still true today. There are a lot of post and focus on the varied elements of the kingdom of this world. There is writhing of the hands and gnashing of teeth over decisions of the government that invade the comfort of how we want the world to be. The focus is too much on what we would like rather than touching the hurting, the lost, the dying in this world. We fail to reach out to others with love and offer freedom as we go about finding comfort in our own lives. We praise God for what He can or does do for us. Sometimes, we get angry over things God does not do to make things go our own way. We want what we want and God is good when he complies and when he doesn’t well that is harder to grasp. So, take time today to reflect on your expectations of God. Do you simply shout Hosanna over how you think He might do you good, or are you praising God for His love and making a way for you that may be different then your own expectations. Are you truly willing to submit to the King of Kings or only willing to do so when things line up nicely?

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Resurrecting this Blog

Well it has been nearly a year since I have posted on the blog and prior to not posting there have been many stops and starts.  The complete lack of posting was in part sorting out if posting here was more about me or about following God.  There was a particularly sharp comment posted somewhere that suggested that the posting and blog was about my ego.  This in turn led to silene as I had recognized plenty of comparisons going on in my mind.  However, there have been many thoughst and comments that posting thoughts and such would be appropriate.  At the beginning of the year I did feel God was telling me to return to blogging and posting thoughts, however, I did not immediately do so.  Part of the reason for the disengagement comes from a struggling with balancing sharing my thoughts and views with my profession. As a mental health professional there needs to be some restraint and refinement in focus.  For the purpose of this blog is to give voice about the things God puts on my heart and mind and to share it so that some may touched. The words are sewing seeds and using what God has given me versus sitting back in my own world and doing whatever feels best to me.  I think the problem is that I did get caught up in my world and the concerns there in and got distracted from writing the things God was stirring otherwise.  So, now the goal is to get back to writing and with the intent and focus to reflect back to God.   It is time to speak forth what God spurs in submission and fellowship.  It is time for this blog to be renewaled and hopefully people find a place of peace, depth, and reflection that is challenging of growth.

Musing on Remembrance

Today is a day marked of remembrance of a fateful day when two towers fell in New York city. On this day the memories of the darkness and the evil on man can inflict on another are prime. Remembrance is importance. This blog is not going to reflect on any aspects of that fateful day but rather discuss the ongoing importance of the act of remembrance. It is some God directs us to do and is important to any level of moving ahead and growing. Often we want to forget dark and painful things. Yet, there are important things to bring to attention, primarily the ways God moved.

God directed others over and over to remember. First of all to remember Him and His promises as we can often forget. We can become dull of mind and caught up in varied aspects of life and we can forget. God knows our tendency to forget. He directed Israel on several occasions to set up memorials and altars to remember what God has done. He established festivals in Israel such as Passover that focus on remembering what God has done. These things can be easily forget or even set aside off in some dusty corner of our lives and mind. We need to remember. There is restoration and healing in healthy remembrance. Any healthy remembrance is focused on what God did, is doing, and has promised to do. So take time, reflect and consider what God has done, is doing, and has promised. Look back on that fateful day eleven years ago and look at how God dealt with you then, where are you know, and where are you going. As you remember let God move in your heart and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with and surrender whatever comes to light to him. And when you do, when you remember, then praise God, for whatever has been gives chance for God to reveal Himself and each memory is an opportunity to give God praise and glory. Even in the darkest of memories and time.

Musing on Remembering Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday May 27th, 2012, was Pentecost Sunday. Unfortunately, that is a fact that many people in the church were unaware of. In most churches during most years, Pentecost Sunday comes and goes without even a mention.  It seems that by a large, a good portion of the church has simply forgotten Pentecost.  It is a day that should never be forgotten and people need to wake up and remember.  The early church fathers I think would be appalled if they were to find that such an important day is rarely remembered.  We celebrate Jesus birth, we celebrate Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, but we fail to acknowledge God giving us the comforter, the one who empowers us.  The question is why do we forget?

The day of Pentecost falls on the Biblical feast day of Shavout also known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of first fruits. It is a day very important to God, and it is one in which He has moved to give important gifts.  It is not only the day in which the Holy Spirit came to indwell those who have been redeemed, it is also the day he provided the Torah.  God has chosen on this day to give both His instruction and His empowerment. It is a day of sealing and cementing His promises and establishing connection with mankind. 

So the question is why do we forget something so important?  Why is the day not attended to?  One could post many theories but at some level the shift comes from a looking to God’s direction and moving in our own way.  God gave us guidance through Torah and the Holy Spirit, yet we all too often want to go our own way, do our own thing, and determine our relationship with God.  We may grow in knowledge of God and grasp varied orthodox understandings of God, but do we at heart, deep down have a God directed relationship. Others may embrace spiritual experience but the focus is on what feels good, feels powerful, or looks cool but lacks depth or growth.  Do we seek Him for guidance and empowerment or do we ask God to bless us as we go about doing our own thing?  Do we follow God, and surrender to Him or just do what we want to do?  I think in essence, it comes down to that question. Going the way of self or going the way of surrender.

So here is a challenge on this day of remembrance, take time to remember God.  Take time to examine where you have gone your own way versus walking in submission to Him. Let God bring to mind what He asks of you as you move ahead.  Each us will continue to have a choice. Follow God’s ways and surrender to Him. Grow in walking His path and let Him enable each step. The other choice is the way of self. Each of us need to wake up and remember.  For God and His ways have not changed, He has shown and provided a narrow way to walk in and given us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us along the way. So wake up and remember for God is with us, every day.

Musing on Facing Threats and the Care of God

Personally things have been emotionally draining the past week. Emotions have been raw and anxiety has come easily. The reason for the anxiety is related to some current ongoing threats of loss. Things important to me are at risk. It does not really matter what the risks are, but they are there. However, the things that are at immediate threat are the potential loss to the state of Minnesota if politicians do not approve a stadium. The other threat is to our dog’s health and well being. She developed a cancerous skin tumor that most likely is benign. However, it is still a threat and anxiety producing. See, these are things that personally there are deep care and attachment. When what we care about is at risk, our emotions become volatile with anger and anxiety there easily. Questions come about whether these things that are cared for have too much importance or the care has reached the point of idolatry. Yet, idolatry comes when things cared for are things from which we draw life. They become so important that nothing else matters. God created us to love and care. He wired us to develop attachments. God has given us directions to deal with such threats. Psalms 55:22 (ESV) sates “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) states
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” The verses shows a simple step. Turn over what we care about to God and trust him. God will see us through whatever the threat. God does not promise that there will not be loss. God promises to sustain us, and to look out for our welfare regardless of what happens. God simply directs us to present our request to him. Philippians 4:6 (ESV) states “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are directed to ask God about the things we care about but have an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving is important here, because God gave us things to care about. Be it a pet, be it a sport team, be it family or whatever else we care about. God gave us these things. So whether there is loss or the ability to continue to care, we are to be thankful for what God has given and allowed. Loss may or may not happen, yet what God has given is good. Yet, God allows threats and difficulties. Life is an ongoing battle with pain, suffering, and loss constantly lurking. God directs us to stand firm and endure. He asks us to submit to Him, to acknowledge Him, to depend on Him. When we do so, he will sustain us and at the right time, raise us up, not because of anything of our own regard, but because we turn to Him. It is easy to get lost and distracted in the things we care for and we can easily make them more important than God in our life. However, the treats of loss are not related to anything out of proper alignment, rather such times allow us to evaluate and examine where our affections lie and what we look to for life and strength. Even when nothing is out of alignment, God still allows for loss and tests, for it draws us to Him and allows Him to work and show us His love for us, by working as He will in the matters that we care about. This is why God wants us to direct our request to Him and depend on Him, for it gives Him opportunities to demonstrate His love for us. Whatever the results God shows He cares for us. Romans 8:28 (ESV) states “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God does not promise that everything goes according to our will, just that He works it all out for good. The good ultimately comes from God demonstrating His love and care in whatever way he will in the circumstances of life and what we care for. God works when we give him opportunity to do so, and that work is ultimately building us up in His love, whatever may occur. So, in my life there may be loss, or loss may be stayed. Yet, God will be faithful in all. That being said my requests before God is for the football team to remain in Minnesota and for my dog, Bella, to not have her life in jeopardy due to some cancerous skin cells. Yet, whatever happens God will demonstrate His love for me, because He does care for me, far greater than my care for a sports team and a pet.

Biblical Holy Day Musing: Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)- Sorrow turns to Joy.

Tonight is the start of one of the final fall festival in the Jewish calendar. Sadly, as with most of the Biblical festivals we know very little about this day and the experience of the Holiday, yet it is one that will be part of the experience to come (See Zechariah 14:6). This festival is not just a day but an 8 day party. This festival does not involve fasting or sacrifices. This involves celebration. It is not a somber time, it is a time to celebrate. Now, admittedly this writer does not have much understanding of the rituals, traditions, or symbolism of the days of this festival but in reading about the Holiday the concept of embracing Joy and Happiness in this time is central.

There is a distinct flow to the fall festivals. It starts with the alarm, the call, the trumpet, the awakening of Rosh Hashanah and the ushering in of the new. It is followed by ten days focus on change and repentance. Then comes Yom Kippor, the day of Atonement, or At-one-ment; it is the day of cleansing, of sacrifice and ultimately of judgment. It is a solemn day. Then five days later it is party time. Note that during the days preceding Sukkot there is much focus on change, self, and being right with God. In that there is much sorrow. When truly engaging in recognizing areas of change and then stepping into them, it is not easy. Leaving old ways for the unknown new is tough. There is grief involved in leaving the old behind, in turning to follow what God leads without knowing how it will play out. Yet, starting tonight and for the next eight days, God designated a party. So what is that about?

Well, one thing I have learned about the day in learning about the events of this upcoming week is the booths/tabernacles/shelters/tents. Hand-crafted shelters are made and lived in or at least meals taken in the temporary shelters. The imagery really points to the temporariness of the things of this life and even that, which is of our own hands. We live in dwell in the temporary but there is something greater: God and His love. Everything that God offers pales to what we depend on. It is in recognizing the fragility of self and own works and the greatness and fullness of what God gives. It is taking focus off of own life, pain, and sorrow and embracing joy, letting the feeling swell because of the goodness of God who has given all beyond measure. Such consideration turns sorrow into Joy. The changes lead to what God will do when the focus leaves self and turns to God. In such action does sorrow turn to Joy, in this does mourning become dancing, as recognition is given that God brings that which is beyond measure and lasts.

The whole focus is that beyond our circumstance to what God provides. He provides refuge and strength. We change not of own accord but obedience empowered by the Holy Spirit through obedience in faith. The little bit of reading about this celebration points to demonstrating the whole submission of self to God in faith. It points to complete surrender of self in every aspect and direction of life. In such surrender is sorrow turned to Joy. For the focus is on God and His Glory. It is a focus on the great things He has done. It is a time to PARTY.

So here is a challenge. Each day for the next 8 days take time to focus on what God is done. Celebrate. When you feel sadness, pain, or anxiety, take time to praise God. Something stressful happens praise God. Make concerted effort to bring your mind, heart, soul, and strength to focus on what God has done and celebrate. This is a time for Joy, let Joy envelope you to the core. May the Holy Spirit feel you with Joy beyond measure as you set aside all that burdens and turn all to God; for His ways are not our ways, and He always delivers what He promises. Beyond measure! So rejoice. Party! For God is Good and His Love Endures Forever!

#wcaacc: Prepartion thoughts- The Basics

The basics, two simple words that are often spoken with
disdain. We do not like thinking about the basics. Yet everything has a
foundation. There is no success for moving ahead without a focus on the
foundation.  It is the basics that serve
as the starting point.  It is easy to
lose track of basics and get too caught up in the subtle details that add to
the complexity. It always comes back to the basics.

For me today is a day of re-establishing the basics. Today
is a day to be grounded in who God is, who he made me to be, and how He wants
me to touch others. In this post want to just touch on a basic thought
regarding God, myself, and others.

The essential element here regarding the Basics of God is He
is my King and He is the creator. It is He who I serve.  I entered His Kingdom through the gate He
provided, Jesus. It is through Jesus that God is with me every day. It is by
accepting what God did and giving up of my self that enables me to be a member
of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom is not of this world. At the basic level though I
serve God because what He did to set me free from my own selfish ways.

Regarding myself, it comes down to who God created me to
be.  At the heart, God made me one who is
able to touch others and help them be restored to what God created them to be.
My words, actions, and deeds are directed at building up into wholeness. The
only true wholeness is found in right relationship to the creator.  Now there is still work to be done in my life
to be more in line with who God created me to be. I have sins, hurts, fears,
and failures that keep more from being wholly at peace. Straying from God’s path
or embracing that which distracts happens all too easy.  At the basic level, as a Man of God, a member
of His Kingdom. He calls me to walk in ways bringing Him honor through engaging
in trusting and obeying . He calls me to worship in spirit and truth. He calls
me to work out my salvation and be awake and alert as walk in endurance the
path before me.  That path involves
bringing others to His peace.  At the
basic core I am a man who honors God and walks a path that brings others to
peace.

Finally, my thought go to the basics about others.
Everywhere there are people hurting. Each person has areas that they are not
whole.  We all need walking in greater
surrender. Each person around us needs a touch of God’s love. We all live in the
twisted and fallen world with the consequences of sin. We all have been hurt
and all hurt others.  We live in a twist,
broken, and fallen world.  Everyone needs
love.  Each of us also readily fall prey
to pride, unbelief, and selfishness.  We
each readily embrace the lust of flesh, lust of eyes, and pride of life.  And sadly, at the basic level, most will be
unwilling to surrender to God. Most will stay locked in darkness. Yet, even
with that fact, our encounters with others need to treat them as someone that is
redeemable. Someone that can be found. For each of us has no idea what word or
deed will impact another to set them free toward the path of wholeness. It is
God who knows the end, our responsibility is to love others. Everyone needs a
touch of God’s love. Our walk each day needs to be centered on that thought.
How is what I am doing demonstrating love.

In closing, take time to think, remember, and reflect on the
basics.  What is God in your life and who
is He. What does He want you to know and remember today. Then think about who
God created you to be.  Are you walking
the path or strayed. What is getting in the way?  Are you too caught up in examining the areas
of depth that forget to stay true to the basics?   After those thoughts then take time to think
about your interactions with others.  Am
I filled with anger and upset with others who wrong me?  Am I focused on the pain cause by others that
I forget the good?  Am I loving others in
word and deed. Am I interacting with others with love and truth?   Take time to reflect on those questions or
any other that God brings to mind. Or just simply ask God to show you what
basics you need to review and renew awareness of in your life.  Taking time to do so will in turn bring you
perspective that will bring you in align with God’s path of wholeness in your
life. Take these steps, and then rejoice and celebrate for in this is the way
of God’s peace.