Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Are You Looking At the Sky?

View from my basement window after a recent snow storm
At the end of the gospels, Jesus has died, resurrected, and revealed himself to the disciples, and they still don't get it. In Mark 16:9, they ask Jesus if he's going to restore the kingdom. They still seem so short-sighted (much like us!) It seems like they're still thinking he's going to take over the world with military force. They spent three years under Jesus' teaching, watched him suffer and die, then witnessed the resurrected Jesus, and they still can't see past their own little world.

Even after Jesus had ascended into heaven out of sight, they stood there looking intently into the sky. Then two angels came and one asked them, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?"

We are short-sighted too. We can't see past our own little world when God's plan is so much bigger, so much higher, so much deeper, so much broader. Yet all we want is to get our immediate "needs" met. "God, fix my child;" "God bless us!" "God, protect us and keep us safe;" "Lord, make my plans successful;" "God, let us prosper." We pray these shallow, short-sighted prayers when God wants us to look beyond our small worlds and see his bigger plan that involves us and our small frames of reference... and so much more... the spirit realm... eternity past... eternity future. God wants so much more for us than our present comfort. He wants to draw so much more out of me than I am usually willing to give. He knows my potential when I don't.

Lord, open the eyes of my understanding. Help me to see the bigger picture. Help me to be willing to go where you want me to go and say what you want me to say. Help me to stop looking intently to the sky, wondering why my immediate needs (which are not much more than "wants") aren't getting met. Help me to get busy in Your bigger plan and go meet someone else's needs!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Thief Gets It!

I've been reading my Chronological Bible for, I don't know, three or four years now! I've given up on reading the Bible in a year because it becomes just another entry on my to-do list. So, I don't care how long it takes, I'm going to finish this Bible, and I'm going to do my best to be completely present with every passage I read. I'm not rushing through just so I can check it off my list.

I am currently finishing up the gospels, and today's reading included the part in Luke 23 where the thief asks Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom." And it struck me... While the disciples cowared in fear and utter disappointment in their leader and the religious leaders gloated in their apparent success, the thief understood everything Jesus had been trying to teach them for the past three years.

The disciples had spent nearly every waking hour with Jesus for years! He even let them in on some explanations that he didn't give to the crowds. But they still didn't quite get it yet. Their hopes and dreams came crashing down that day, and they had no idea which way to turn.

But in one agonizing afternoon on a cross, next to the Creator of the Universe, the thief got it! He didn't say something like, "If you're really who you say you are..." He wasn't looking for an earthly kingdom like so many of Jesus' followers were. Something told him that there was more... more to this King of the Jews than everyone else was seeing. Something told him that there really was a kingdom and that Jesus would be there soon.

That's so like God... to reveal himself to a thief on a cross, while the rest of us argue about who will sit on his right and his left, clamor to feel more important or successful, or wallow in our failures, or try to get our "needs" met. And he was there all time, waiting for us to get to the end of ourselves so that we could see him.

Lord, help me to "get it."

Reviving My Positivity

About eight years ago, I took the Strength Finders Test. My number one strength was Positivity. I have always been a pretty positive thinker, so it was no surprise. There have been times in my past where my positivity pushed me into denial. Being a Pollyanna is usually easier than dealing with the realities of life that aren't so pleasant. It's easier to just stick my head in the sand until "This, too, shall come to pass."

But those eight years have involved some pretty tough challenges: some visible to those around me, and some just between God and me. My faith has been challenged, even shaken to the core. There were times when it felt like it would be easier to just give it up. In fact, I have grown to strongly dislike the phrase, "This, too, shall come to pass." I'm tired of waiting for things to pass! I want to live now! Maybe I took it a little too literally.

Through the challenges of the past few years, I've tried to become more of a realist. But I have often leaned more toward being a sarcastic cynic. And that can be ugly.

The first Sunday in January, our pastor gave us each a small piece of dissolvable paper. He asked us to write something on that paper that we didn't want to take into 2013 with us, something we were choosing to leave behind, whether it was a sin, a bad habit or whatever. I knew immediately what I wanted to leave in 2012: my negativity. You know, those nagging, complaining thoughts that roll around in your head. Some of those ugly thoughts are about myself. Some are about my family members and coworkers... even my friends. And sometimes, I almost enjoyed dwelling on them, using them to make myself look like a saint and everyone else in my life like lazy, spoiled and ungrateful. God forgive me!

In my attempts to revive my positivity, I am memorizing Philippians 4:8-9 in the Message:
Summing it all up, friends, 
I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on these things: 
true, noble, reputable, 
authentic, compelling, gracious--
the best, not the worst; 
the beautiful, not the ugly; 
things to praise, not things to curse. 
Put into practice what you learned from me, 
what you heard, saw and realized. 
Do that and God, who works all things together, 
will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Wow, to be worked into God's most excellent harmonies! That's what I want to work toward in 2013. I hope that a year's time is long enough for me to put a dent in the number of negative thoughts I choose to allow a parking place in my brain!