Day Sixty-Nine:  God’s Silence and Day Seventy:  God Encounters (Reflections)

Today, I am sharing the next two days of devotionals because, basically, they don’t need my help.  After reading through Day 69, I didn’t think there was much I had that I could share, or wanted to share.  Sure, I have plenty to say, but I imagine you do too.  So, without further ado, here are the next two days.

DAY 69:  GOD’S SILENCE

READ:  Read the passage, attempting to identify in your own heart and mind with the expressions of the speaker.
JOB 30:15-20  –  “Terrors assault me–my dignity in shreds, salvation up in smoke.”  And now, my life drains out, as suffering seizes and grips me hard.  Night gnaws at my bones; the pain never lets up.  I am tied hand and foot, my neck in a noose.  I twist and turn.  Thrown facedown in the much, I’m a muddy mess, inside and out.  “I shout for help, God, and get nothing, no answer!  I stand to face you in protest, and you give me a blank stare!”
THINK:  Read the passage slowly again – until the words sink into your consciousness, becoming familiar to you and resonating with your present state of mind.  Don’t try to analyze Job’s response or determine its validity.  Simply open yourself to his experience.
PRAY:  What goes on inside you when you hear Job talk about God’s silence?  Perhaps you feel irritated, or maybe you relate because you’ve experienced times when God seemed inaccessible.  Talk to God about your reaction to this passage.  To help clarify your reaction, write about it.  Give yourself permission to be completely open and honest.
LIVE:  Right now, practice resting in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence–whether you’re doing things right or doing nothing at all, whether you feel he’s near or you feel nothing.  If this is especially tough for you to do, pray the prayer “Lord, I believe a little; help me believe more.”

DAY 70:  GOD ENCOUNTERS – On this 7th day, review and reflect on all you have read this week.  Take the time to revel in the ways you’ve encountered God in the past 6 days.

Day Sixty-Eight:  Thirsting for Justice

READ:  Read the passage slowly.

JOB 24:1-10 (Remember!  The text is from The Message bible.)

“But if Judgment Day isn’t hidden from the Almighty, why are we kept in the dark?  There are people out there getting by with murder–stealing and lying and cheating.  They rip off the poor and exploit the unfortunate, Push the helpless into the ditch, bully the weak so that they fear for their lives.  The poor, like stray dogs and cats, scavenge for food in back alleys.  They sort through the garbage of the rich, eke out survival on handouts.  Homeless, they shiver through cold nights on the street; they’ve no place to lay their heads.  Exposed to the weather, wet and frozen, they huddle in makeshift shelters.  Nursing mothers have their babies snatched from them; the infants of the poor are kidnapped and sol.  They go about patched and threadbare; even the hard workers go hungry.”
THINK:  Read the passage again, noting the words or phrases that touch you.  

          (1)  Why do these phrases touch you?

          (2)  What is the heart of God like for these situations?

          Though God stays hidden in order to let human beings be the autonomous beings he created them to be, he delights in bringing justice.  Slowly read aloud Isaiah 1:5 twice:

          My deliverance arrives on the run, my salvation right on time.  I’ll bring justice to the peoples.  Even faraway islands will look to me and take hope in my saving power.

                              Ponder your heart’s response to this.
PRAY:  Ask God to intervene in situations you think are unjust, small or big.  If nothing comes to you, look at a newspaper or watch a newscast.  Then come before God and ask for people to be treated with fairness and goodness and kindness.
LIVE:  While you pray, hold in front of you a symbol of the world’s troubles, perhaps a newspaper or newsmagazine, a globe or map.  Hold it up for God’s light to permeate.
     I recently restarting reading Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado.  This devotional reading made me think of a question that he asks in the first chapter of the book (or rather that was asked to him before he wrote the book). “When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?”  He goes on to say: “We are given a choice…an aooprtunity to make a big difference during a difficult time.  What if we did?  What if we rocked the world with hope?  Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life?  What if we followed the example of the Jerusalem church?”  We need to remember, as Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “We are God’s masterpeice.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us a long ago.”  

     Given that I am alive today and not at any other point in time in history, I have to conclude that I have a purpose TODAY.  That this life is the one God intended for me to live and that I ought to find out – from Him – what He wanted me to be doing with it, and then DO IT.  

     Given that I am a Christian, one can conclude that I claim to have given my life over to following Jesus Christ.  What should that look like?  Well, Jesus had no place to lay his head or no home to call his own and no job at which he worked to make money, yet the Bible never mentions that he ever went hungry, had no place to sleep, or ever had to worry about providing for himself.  That’s a pretty radical way to live.  Then, he went and called 12 other men to follow him into that same kind of life.  Granted, things didn’t quite work out the way they all had hoped with one of those 12, but 12 were called nonetheless.  He didn’t just call single men, either.  He called people who had families and jobs and responsibilities and told them to drop everything and follow him.  And THEY DID!  That means that they were signing on for the same kind of worldly-uncertain existence that Jesus was living – the kind of existence that simply is not prudent for a family man.  Jesus didn’t even promise that their families would be taken care of.  Yet, he still called them and they still went.   

     And what did they do?  They went around reaching out to the most marginalized people of the area, healing the sick, comforting the hurting, touching the untouchable, basically talking to the most over-looked, most-ostracized people in the land.  Because Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.  Because the people who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick and hurting.

     What should that mean for us today?  How can we take a cue from Jesus and reach out the marginalized, the ostracized, and the left-behind?  What if we all really practiced what we preach and live like we believed that everything we have came from Our Father above and that He gave it to us in order to allow us to use it to bless others, knowing that Our Father never runs out of provisions, that He cares about even the sparrows and He always makes sure they have plenty to eat, and that He cares about us even more than the sparrows?  What if we prayed, Like Jabez did, that God would bless us so that we could be a blessing to others, and then, we went out and blessed others?  What if we prayed that God would show us where He has already blessed us and then that He would show us how he watned us to use those blessings to bless others?  What if we stopped being Dead Seas and started being canals through which all of God’s blessings could flow rather than stock up, and then stagnate and die?  Would there be 1.75 billion poor people or 1 billion hungry people in the world?  

     What if we were honest with ourselves and stopped calling what we’re doing “being prudent” and started calling it what it is:  afraid that God won’t take care of us?  And then, once we were honest with oursevles, how about we try living life as if we were going to take God at His Word, trusting that He meant it when He said He would take care of us, that He loved us, and that we really can live a life in which we FEAR NOT?!  How different would our lives look then, I wonder.
          Dear Heavenly Father, You are so good to us.  We could never thank you enough for all the blessings you have given us, and I know that we will never know how much we truly have to thank you for, this side of heaven.  But Lord, today, I want to thank you that I have never once been hungry or homeless or had to worry about where my next meal or full night’s sleep was going to come from.  I have never really been sick.  I have always had clean water to drink.  I have never had to scrounge around in a trash heap for my food or for things to sell to provide food for my family.  I have never been enslaved or even had to worry about it.  I have never had to contemplate selling my body in order to have money to feed my family.  Worse yet, I have never had to contemplate selling one of my children in order to provide a better life for one of the other children.  I have never had to worry about whether or not I would be stoned for praising you.  I have always had a Bible (or more than one) and I have never had to fear for my life for carrying it.  In so many ways, I have never had to fear for anything.  So, forgive me Lord, for when I doubt you and for thinking that you might forget about me.  And forgive me Lord, for those times when I have taken your blessings for granted, thinking that they might run out or that they were not enough, for I have never had to worry about not having enough.  

          Lord, having had such a small taste of what it can be like to wonder about tomorrow, help me remember to always be grateful for what I have.  Show me where I can be a blessing to those who do not have as much as me, and help me to bless them in such a way that they do not feel as though they are being pitied.  Help me to remember that pity is terribly condescending and that it feels horrible.  Help me to remember that a funnel has no say-so on what gets passed through it, and it has no hold on or claim to what passes through it.  It’s only job is to funnel.  Help me, Lord, to be a good funnel, trusting that I will get what you have planned for me to get, when you have planned for me to get it.  Not earlier or later, but right on time.  No more and no less, but always enough.  For you are the Creator of the Universe and I am an image-bearer.  You loved me from before the foundations of the Earth, and I can trust you to provide for all my needs, according to your riches in glory.   Help me, Lord, to remember this when you call me to let go of more of the blessings than I feel comfortable releasing.

All these things I pray, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  

I’m back.  Again.

I apologize that it’s been so long since I’ve posted.  Sometimes, life just gets ahead of me and my discipline falters.  I wish I could say that, while I was away, I had been diligent about working through this devotional and only remiss in not typing it up or sharing it.  But, I have not.  I have been studying though, don’t get me wrong; but, I have been working on getting in touch with who I am – in the Lord – again.  I had lost sight of that over the course of the last few years.  God has allowed our family to get into a place where our absolute faith in Him is essential to doing this walk right.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It ought to be absolutely essential, regardless.  However, we – my husband and I – had been going along for quite a while thinking we were certain we knew what God’s plan was and WE were making it work.  We had consulted with Him, and decided that He had, in fact, signed off on our plan, that He was on board with it, so we took off.

Then, life went sideways.  Or, rather, we were obedient to God, told Him “Your Will be done,” and it was, and it did not look like we had planned.  That was fine.  He only changed one part of it.  There were certain parts of it that I was sure He had not changed.  I could feel it.  However, instead of turning to Him solely for direction, I kept turning to friends whose lives seemed to have worked out just fine.  That’s when things starting getting difficult.  Funny, isn’t it, how we go to God for the plan but then, when it doesn’t work out the way we think, we start looking for folks with skin on so that we can work a more familiar plan?!

The problem was:  I had made a vow to God to do this life the way that He wanted me to.  And only God knows how that is supposed to look.  God has prepared good works for me to do, and is preparing me for those good works.  Yet, I kept turning to people to see if I could figure out that plan.  I could tell them everything that was on my mind, but only God knows the real song of my heart.  So, whenever I would start to try to lead, I would feel frustrated.  Whenever I would get upset that I couldn’t explain my situtaion with any words other than “God just won’t allow me to do that” and I would get a blank stare, I would get frustrated.  

Finally, I just got tired of trying to please God and man.  So, I threw up my hands, and cried out to God:  “I will not do this anymore!  I will not continue to spin my gears trying to make people understand something that I cannot understand myself.  All I have is the truth of my situation:  that You have tied my hands.  That answer is not enough for all the people I keep giving it to.  I cannot help that.  I know it to be true but I have a choice here:  I can keep trying to please man, or I can please You and let man shake out where he will.  One way has always gotten me to where I supposed to be and in perfect peace; the other way has always left me frustrated because I cannot please everyone all the time, regardless of how much I want to.  One way offers me all the space I need to be exactly who You have created me to be; the other way insists that I bottle up a part of myself because ALL OF ME is not quite safe enough for this particular person.  One way has the Creator of the entire Universe in complete control; the other way has one part of creation (me) constantly trying to snag part of that control out of the Creator’s hands thinking she could do things better.”

When I come to the end of my life, and I stand before the throne, all I am going to have to offer is my yes or no answer to whether or not I did the will of God in my life.  Any turning to the side, and I will have to say no.  There have been plenty of those times.  But never in my past, have I ever arrested control of my life back from God and had it turn out well.  

This time, I tried.  Several times.  And every time, God said NO!  My mother has always said that I am extremely teachable.  But I just kept getting denied.  For 2 years.  It might not be the complete truth to say that I tried everything I could think of to change my situation.  But everything I did try came back as a flop.  And  when I would share my feelings about what was happening – “I’ve tried many different things and, everytime, it’s like God has smacked my hand and told me ‘I’ve got this.'” –  I would get blank stares, or questions like “What does that mean?”, coupled with statements about how odd my situation is and what they would or would not do in my situation, or what they felt I ought to be doing, since I – apparently – wasn’t doing anything.  Tell me:  what’s a girl to do when she finds out that doing the will of God is not good enough?  Eventually she starts to question EVERYTHING.  I talked to everyone I know about the situation.  The majority of people told me: do something.  A few people told me:  you obeyed God and this is where it got you; He will continue to get you through it.  Do what you think He’s telling you and the rest of us have to get on board.

So, instead of continually spinning my wheels, I decided to ACTUALLY let God drive.  He has been doing a fine job.  I would like to say that my situation looks different than it did before.  In some aspects, it does but, in most, it does not.  Even so, I have a sense of peace now that I haven’t had in about 4 years.  As the saying goes, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.  I know that the God I serve is already there, preparing the way for me.  Everything I encounter there I will be suited for because of everything I have already gone through, and because I let God work IN ME in the meanwhile.  I don’t know how the future is going to look, and my peace does not hang on knowing.  God’s got this, and I will trust Him to carry me through it.
Leter today, Day Sixty-Eight:  Thirsting for Justice.

Love, Patty