Thursday, October 18, 2012

Praying in the Desert

What's the deal with Jesus going out to the desert to pray? What significance did the desert have for Him and what does it mean for me as a follower of Christ? The Bible describes, based on what translation you prefer, Jesus withdrawing himself to "the wilderness," "lonely places," "desolate places," or "deserted places" to pray.  Note it says "deserted places" not "desserted places"....but I have prayed at the Cheesecake Factory, "Thank you Almighty God for this enormous menu filled with every kind of cheesecake imaginable. Please bless me with a chocolatey delight and a decaf. Amen."

Each one of those translations holds some mystery and I hope some answers as I study God's Word, the life of Christ, and look for ways to live my own life. Why did Jesus feel so compelled to go out to these lonely places to pray? Was it to escape the busyness of his daily life that consisted of teaching and serving others to no end? Did he isolate himself to take away distractions or to find refuge? Is this proof that Jesus was an introvert and needed to be alone to recharge? Did he just want a private conversation now and then with his Papa? Don't we all? And yet for so many of us when life gets too busy...our conversations with God, our allotted time to connect with Him seems to quickly work its way down our To Do list. Allotted God Time?

Whatever the reason, I'm stuck with the idea that Jesus went to the the desert to pray. When you hear the word desert what do you picture? Death Valley? For me it's this place of drought, oppressive heat in the day, and bitter cold at night. It's a landscape filled with dangerous animals such as snakes and scorpions. Howling coyotes. Windstorms. The desert is parched and unwelcoming. It provides little shelter or nourishment. Yet here is where Jesus went when He wanted to center in on his relationship with God. Some people claim to love the desert. I would argue it is the air-conditioned, laying by the pool, irrigated golf course version of the desert they are thinking about.

The Bible never mentions Jesus finding an oasis in which to pray. It speaks of lonely places and mountainsides. Mountainsides in sandals. Not only did he find reconnection with his Father in dry and dusty places, sometimes he had to climb a mountain to get to that "right spot" where He would sit and listen. This doesn't seem like my ideal environment to pray and commune with God. I like comfort.

Where do I go when I want to hear from God? This is where conviction hits me big time. When I'm not at church or Bible study and I just want to speak with God, to connect with him, to study the Word, I want an oasis. I want the perfect sanctuary: I want to lay on my bed with a cup of hot coffee, to be cozy in my robe and slippers, I want the house to be quiet, I want a full tummy, and most importantly an empty schedule. I want.

Perhaps it's my desire to be free of distraction, to hold comfort in high esteem, and my uncanny ability to find valid reason after reason for not creating Allotted God Time that most often leads me to my own desert - my spiritual wasteland. What if I decided that praying in the wilderness, in the middle of the noise and danger was the exact right place to speak to God? What if I decided that no matter how little nourishment was provided for me, I wouldn't withhold my praise? What if the desert was my everyday life and I found refuge in God right in the midst of it all?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Know I Am Loved By The King...

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
  • During my best moments I feel God the Father speaking to me His affirmation and encouragement, "Go Daughter, you know what to do, I've taught you, and I'm right here with you." 
  • Some of my worst moments come when I feel stuck not knowing what in the world Jesus wants me to do next. Not hearing clear directions from Christ is lonely and at times downright frightening.
  • Many times I listen to the Holy Spirit, try to act accordantly, and the results are often less than "successful" by the world's standards. What's up with that Lord? Who am I doing this for?
As I ponder those three ways I experience God, I'm working through a Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent. Beth Moore said a couple of things in the intro video that have stuck with me. She reminded us, "We ain't stayin' here." She asked us to, "Come hungry."

The truth is, as real and as hard as our issues are in the present...we ain't stayin' here. If we choose to move on with God...we will. As much as I want to go to the next place with God, it's amazing how wrapped up I become in my everyday earthly troubles. Especially at certain times of the month...ugggh. TMI. If I play the comparison game (which we shouldn't-but I really need to in order to make this point) I know that the things that weigh heavy on my heart might seem inconsequential to the next person. Our passions, pasts, and present problems vary. Just as God asks us not to create a hierarchy of sins, so must we refrain from hiding our "unimportant" prayer requests. It all matters. Finding a safe place to share our hurts, disappointments, and suffering is crucial to our life in the body of Christ.

We can also in essence shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot. Taking that next step with God might make us painfully vulnerable. Staying where we are, although not ideal, is strangely more comfortable. Stepping up leaves us exposed and requires that we let God conform us more and more to the image of Christ. Christ who suffered.

Moving on.... when I first heard Beth Moore say, "come hungry" tears welled up in my eyes. It was an instantaneous reaction in the depth my soul. Perhaps you and I are so exhausted by the everyday earthly troubles that we can't even venture to think about what it means to "come hungry." Making it through takes precedence over praise. We focus on the daily not the Deliverer. I'm imagining a person with their eyes and nose just barely above the surface and underneath the murky water their arms and legs are flailing wildly just to keep them afloat. They might be starving, but the energy that it would take to paddle to shore, sit down, and eat is simply overwhelming.

So how do we "come hungry?" How can we offer one another a meal in the middle of a muddy swamp? How do we assure one another that we "ain't stayin' here" without sounding trite? How do we speak hope to one another and remember that no matter what we hear, whatever the results, we are dearly loved?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Home Therapy

I'm wired to find contentment in accomplishment. On the best days of my life accomplishment has been defined by giving birth, figuring out how to speak to a child in Honduras in shabby almost non-existent Spanish, and trying to reconcile the deep emotional chasm I experienced laughing with my 13-year-old daughter as we wound the back streets of a Filipino village on a "tricycle" only to be dropped off at our first home visit. Just steps from the tricycle we entered poverty like I'd never experienced before. In my life filled with so many gifts, my best days have included every day of directing Twin Rocks Girls Camp and driving hundreds of miles per day on our family's "real road trip" in 2007. The kids and Alan have decided that our trip by van to Colorado Springs this summer does not qualify as a "road trip" but only a "destination trip." I dare not argue. What matters to me and what my patterns show is that children, family, and relationships are always at the heart of my best days.

Of course checking off the daily "to do" list brings a sense of accomplishment as well. Today that list included four loads of laundry, a stack of ironing, and tackling the file of last year's school papers. All-in-all a good day...but not nearly as exciting as a Compassion sponsor tour or a new baby. Exciting - no...Therapeutic - yes. My amazingly flexible work schedule allows for days when I need to simply be: h o m e. Perhaps it's the "stay-at-home" mom in me that needs these respites. Days where the kids are off at school and the house is quiet. I know that someday soon, ok in 6 years, the house will always be quiet. There won't be a 2:45pm deadline till the whirlwind (aka: youngest daughter) blows through the door. But that is a whole other post...when I'm feeling even more wistful than I am today. Even for this bonafide extravert, I breathe deep the stillness of the house and the freedom to get things done without distraction.

If I look even deeper into the need for "home therapy" I come up with one word and it's not so pretty and peaceful: Control. I battle everyday with a desire to do it all well. I simply cannot. At home I attack the pile of ironing and I win. I clear off the desk and I win. At least for today. For a few hours. Mini-victories. These things in the quiet I can control. Of course there are other things that have been left undone today. And these nag at me. I tell satan to knock it off and try to focus on the positive. Come On...this is therapy for goodness sake.