Monday, March 21, 2011

How Long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

"How Long O Lord? Will you forget me forever?" Can we really pray God? The truth is, sometimes I don't know what else to pray. I've been reflecting on Psalm 13 because it's been particularly relevant to me. How do we view suffering in our life, how to we endure hardship?

Once again I've been struggling with a weak and hurting voice. It started three years ago and was fairly extreme. No talking for at all for four months, plus another eight months of slow recovery. While my voice has never fully recovered, it's generally been pretty functionable for the last two years. But still, it hasn't fully recovered.

This winter something triggered it again and sent it back down into the dumps. For months now I spend hours each day doing the things that are supposed to make it better: stretching, humming, warming up my voice, eating healthy, drinking lots of water, exercising, using a humidifier, getting good sleep, taking long vocal breaks. But still it seems to get no better (or maybe a little better one day and then worse again the next).

I want to shout, I want to cry out to God: HOW LONG, O LORD? HOW LONG? When I first lost my voice the Lord used it to redirect my life; I had been building my life on the wrong things, and losing my voice helped me regain proper focus and learn how to trust and how to let go. But I don't get that sense from Him I am doing things grossly wrong. That's not why he's letting this happen. So why then? I am try to do everything right, and instead I'm met with hardship and suffering.

Welcome to the Christian life, right?

God has a purpose. If I've learned anything in my life, I've learned that God is in control ESPECIALLY when it seems like He's not. King David, when he wrote this Psalm was on the run for his life. For what? For doing good. He cried out to God because it didn't make sense? How long should he be rewarded evil for good? But in the end, David became an even better king than Saul because he learned sympathy, he learned to trust God and not himself. Suffering made him a better man and a better king. If we meet only success for our good efforts, we are likely to become like Saul and think we've always earned our success.

It's still ok to admit that suffering is hard, and to ask God to show himself when we can't see him. But let's also pray: "I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation." Never has God failed me yet, and I know that ultimately I will not be forgotten or rewarded evil for good, because Christ was ultimately ignored, and rewarded the ultimate evil for doing the ultimate good. My heart will rejoice once again.

Psa 13:1-6
(1) To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
(2) How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
(3) Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
(4) lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
(5) But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
(6) I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Preparing for Pruning

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been more and more convicted that I need to be posting more regularly.

Today's thought came from soemthing a student prayed out at our last Prayer Meeting from John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. (2) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Pruning. Fun to do when you're the pruner, not as fun when your the pruned. So why does God prune us? At my parents house we have some apple trees. Most of the trees we prune regularly. One was simply too big and complicated to prune. Over the last 15 years I've watched the difference between these trees has become more and more remarkable. The pruned trees havn't grown taller or broader, but their branches are thicker, stronger, more healthy. The other tree has grown much bigger, with branches shooting out everywehre into a tangled mess. But the biggest difference is the fruit.

In the spring time when everything is growing, a gardener prunes so that the energy being sent to the dozens of new branches, instead gets sent to the roots and the fruits. A sacrifice of one kind of more visible growth, for a better, though less immediately measurable growth.

Sometimes our lives feel cut off: doors close, we get sick, whatever. In these times I believe God is trying to remind us that branching off in every possible direction is not the best way to grow. He doesn't care so much about the quantity of our fruit, but the quality. God prunes us when we are trying to do more with our lives (and in our ministry) than God would have us do. When he prunes us, this is an invitation to invest that extra time or energy into our roots, into prayer, into our relationship with God. As our roots grow, the fruit we bear becomes juicier, plumper, more delicious. Yum.

Be prepared for pruning, and meet disappointment with investment in those roots. The harvest is just around the corner.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reinventing Advent

Advent, like any season, tradition or practice, has the potential to become routine. Either that or it gets ignored. Just because it can be observed poorly, doesn't negate the potential for good Advent can have if the spirit of the season is personally embraced.

Can you sum up the point of Advent in your own words?

Being a student makes celebrating any special Church season difficult. Taking extra time for silence, for stillness, and for focusing on the Lord is difficult during the stress of finals. Still I would encourage you to make an effort to spend more time with the Lord in the busyness of the season. It's possible, and even more than that it's worth it.

Observing Advent doesn't look the same for everyone. Can you come up with creative ways to embrace the spirit of the season given your own unique circumstances? If college students can't find stillness, they can certainly find time to engage discussion. We aren't so much reinventing Advent as rediscovering it.

If you are from a Church or tradition that doesn't observe Advent, engage in dialogue with those who do to find out why they do, what they think it means, what scripture passages they read, and how their lives are different during this season. Express your own thoughts about why your Church doesn't observe the season.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back to the Basics- Enjoying God

Our lives often seem to be in a fog or haze. It's hard to make sense of what's going on, or to see much more than what is close by. Even in our Christian lives it's so easy to lose sight of the big picture as we succumb to the slavery of the small details of life. What even is the big picture?

My reformed tradition summarizes--in the Westminster Confession of Faith--the 'chief end of man' is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That always seemed like a strange word to use. We are supposed to enjoy God? Maybe serve, pray to, or imitate, sure, but enjoy? Really?

Well, yes.

Christians can easily fall into the trap of serving God without enjoying God. I do. The Christian challenge to grow in faith and holiness, when approached in the wrong way, can become a burden that steals away joy rather than giving more joy (as it's supposed to do). Even though we grow as God's servants, we never lose our place as his beloved children.

Does your service to God often come before your relationship with God?

For those who have ceased to enjoy God (in prayer, worship, or service), God is calling us back. He's calling us to remember that abundant and unconditional love that drew us to him in the first place. Even as God calls us to serve him he calls us ever more to enjoy him. This is fundamental.

1Ti 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is it worth it?

This month we are starting a series on Ecumenism. Ecumenism is the word we use to describe the fact that we have Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians in UCO and yet we as a group aren't Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox (although I hope that we are orthodox). For all that will be talked about and discussed this month I want to put the challenge back to YOU and ask YOU a question: is it worth it? I hope that this is a question everyone in UCO gets a chance to take seriously during their time here. Is our ecumenism worth it?

We can talk about what it is, what happened to cause the problems, why it's possible, how to do it, why is it hard, and why it matters. And we will. But none of that information can make the decision for you. Is it worth it? Hopefully the information will help you make a good decision, but it is nevertheless a personal decision each one of us have to make. Going along for the ride won't cut it for very long.

This month I want to challenge you to ask yourself: do I believe this choice toward unity is worth all the difficulties it raises? And if it is worth it, how far are you willing to go to fight for it?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting Started

Hi. If you're reading this you've made it to the 'inner circle' and will now learn the lesser passwords of UCO. Okay, maybe not, but hopefully you'll find food for thought.

As Mission Leader I find my mind constantly full of ideas and thoughts which I want to communicate (some of which probably have no need of being communicated), but this is at least one way to get set these imprisoned thoughts free. Don't expect anything grand or deep or revolutionary, but you can expect some occasional fun things. Like a link to one of my favorite music videos.

My thought for today? Two very powerful words. Words that will change your life if you say them regularly. what are they? "Let's pray." Prayer is going to be a contastant theme for us in UCO, why? because prayer is our means of drawing close to God and inviting God into the areas of our lives. God has the power to change things. When you find yourself talking about a challenging situation, difficult relationship, our even about a friend who is going through a hard time, make a difference. Rather than letting an abundance of helpless words get you into a state of fruitless pity, say these two simple words: let's pray. Then actually pray. Invite God to be God of the situation and to change the very things that were being complained about. And beleive me, He will.

PS Sorry about the music video.