The God Who Hears Our Cries

I love the psalms! When I have a time that I just can't seem to connect to God, and it feels like my prayers just bounce against the ceiling and back down, I read the psalms aloud as my prayer, and I feel the wall dissolve and His arms of love embrace me! So it is no surprise that the experience is not unique to me, and that the psalms are central to the daily prayers of so many Christians through the centuries and across the globe, as they are also central to the prayers of the Jews.

Just imagine the training in intimacy with God that David got as a young shepherd boy in his isolation and fear and responsibility. He had no one else to protect him . . . no one else to comfort him . . . no one else to entertain him . . . no one else to be his companion and friend. And in that time, David learned that God Himself draws near to those who will let Him do so, and that there was no better protection, no better comfort, no better entertainment, and no sweeter companion or friend. And then God led Him out from the wilderness into the spotlight, gathered followers around him, and led him into a position of leadership . . . and David was able to walk through all of that from the perspective of the intimacy with God that had been built in the wilderness alone with the sheep so many years earlier!

God knows the places I lack character and integrity, and He calls me on them and heals me and changes me. Through all of that I have the comfort that "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners" and so how much more do I have His faithful love and care and discipline now that I am marked as His disciple!

And still there are many places each day where I do my best to be obedient and healthy, but others call me on being foolish and sick. I cannot ignore them, but also cannot always agree with them. Our perspectives are different, and who is to say what is the "right" perspective -- God's perspective? But still I have the assurance that "Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely", and that all in the context of an explanation of what it is to walk in real agape love!

So I will walk on today, in fellowship with Him and in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and trust that He is indeed "able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return." And as I pray through the concepts of the prayer the Lord taught his disciples to pray, I hear with each phrase the benediction that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews bestowed upon them and that Jesus Himself bestows daily upon each one of us: "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

I rejoice to know that the same is true for each one of you who call out to Him! He is indeed the God Who hears our cries!



Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I was remembering the other day a conversation I had recently with someone I respect deeply who was talking about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. He essentially demoted MLK from being the great man that he was because of the record of sexual infidelity to his wife. Yet his wife and family have been willing to see MLK as he was -- a flawed man who was a great man. And what other kind of great man or great woman is there?

White men generally have absolutely no idea of what it is like to live every day oppressed by something over which you have no control -- society's reaction to something like the color of one's skin or one's gender or some other part of being "you" that either cannot be hidden or is oppressive to have to hide. Even white women like me -- born into a family that could give me every advantage, and with all the personal resources to compete well academically and in society -- have difficulty in really imagining what it would be like to live with the handicap we place on minorities in our culture, let alone with the handicap we placed upon them 50 years ago. But I have ears and a good imagination, and a tiny little bit of experience of personal injustice . . . and I can run with that to a real empathy for what articulate brothers and sisters have described their lives to be under the injustices of racial oppression.

"Good people" submit to the culture around them, and so there have been incredible pressures on black men and black women who want to be successful personally to just work within the status quo and follow the existing rules to get as far toward success as they personally can get. Even the Bible called upon "slaves to submit to their masters" and for all of us to submit to the governing authorities, and so conservative Christianity rarely has sided with a rebellion against the status quo. But there have been great men and great women who have had the discernment to see the big picture, and to understand God's vision for justice, and to be willing to be obedient at great personal cost so that greater justice would be available to more people.

The powerful majority needs to understand that we all benefit from the world God envisioned -- a world of justice and true equal opportunity. Just on an economic level, we all get to enjoy a healthier economy when our resources of intelligence and initiative are best deployed toward producing the whole picture of goods and services. And, on an individual level, it is more deadening spiritually and personally to be part of that unjust majority than it is to be part of the oppressed minority. A spiritual life and great personal power are tied to imagination, empathy, and a clear view of reality. Those who participate in the majority with clear consciences when they should be horrified at the blood on their hands can only do so by ignoring a huge piece of reality, and are thereby handicapped in living the abundant life they could otherwise enjoy.

Many white evangelical males are very invested in "justice" when it means involvement in something that will address someone else's injustice in a country far away, but unwilling to invest anything close to home where it might undermine their own power or at least their obvious right to power and comfort. We women are equally to blame, because we benefit from the male power by protecting our own power and comfort - - and we are much more effective at enforcing our social values and cultural expectations. We are the keepers of the status quo, and punish those who violate it by ostracizing them socially.

So we are as much to blame as are they for any attitude of minimization toward this day when not only our country but also our churches should be celebrating the life of one of the great saints of our times. Martin Luther King Jr. was used by God to accomplish God's goals, and I look very much forward to meeting him and listening to him in the New Heavens and New Earth that is promised us. While he failed his wife and failed himself, he did not fail his God or his brothers and sisters . . . and he did not fail us. He has provided us and our children with a richer America and a better life than we would have had without his life and leadership.

May I allow all my sisters and brothers their proper place in this world God has created. To do any less is to miss obedience to the God of my salvation . . . and to do that is to miss out on all He desired to give you and me if only we had been willing to obey.

I believe obedience requires also that we all make sure the we -- and our children -- listen to the stories of daily oppression from minorities who suffer, and take every action necessary to make sure that we are not complicit. Justice in Africa and Asia is necessary, but even more necessary is justice in Orange County. We are called to clean house before we go out and try to fix things in someone else's world. But how many sermons will we hear on justice this weekend in our white churches, and how many among us in the pews have skins that are different colors than our own?

Micah 6:7-8 is not meant to be convenient. It is meant to shape our lives completely, even when highly inconvenient. Is that something we can afford to ignore or minimize?


Time, Sleep, Agendas, and Power

It's hard to believe I've gone over two weeks without posting, isn't it?

I have a background working with networks and computers, and Anderson Bat Company (my husband's company) finds itself in between full-time computer people . . . so I am filling in. We'll see how long it lasts! It is going well so far, but it is not my goal for myself -- nor is it my husband's goal for me. I am guessing it will last exactly as long as the house-remodel project lasts, and then when I have fulfilled that obligation and have my husband's blessing to become a full-time student . . . well, we'll see.

So, my usually full schedule is now truly full, and I am enjoying it. Life works well for me with the work-day routine and all housework and homework relegated to the evening. I don't tend to procrastinate as much if there is an assigned time to do something and no other open time to think I'll do it instead!

But this is also a time of spiritual adjustments. Intimacy with God takes time. I can't hear God if I don't take time to listen . . . and even if I do make the time to listen, I can't hear Him if I'm over-tired or so focused on my own plans and agendas that I can't set them aside long enough to really hear His.

We are so much a world that is playing a game and watching all the various "points" each of us scores, and we are so much a world where we find ourselves drawn into competitions for "points" and winning and power . . . even when we've chosen to center our lives on something completely different like pursuing the One Who understands real significance and power.

My little boys (and the big ones too, actually!) play various video games, and sometimes I sit and watch. There is one game where you can do things to increase one of the "scores", and yet my boys were ignoring those obvious ways of accummulating a measure of life and success. Josh, watching with me, explained to me that that measure really didn't mean anything in the long run. and that they were right to ignore opportunities to increase that "power". It didn't affect their real power or longevity or success in the game. Hmmm . . .

If I were playing, I wonder how long it would have taken me to figure that out, and how long I would have gone after accummulating the obvious source of power only to find later that it wasn't the real point of the game and that it didn't help me in any measurable way? I suspect that the satisfaction of seeing an increase in that kind of point, coupled with the ease in each scene of adding to that kind of point . . . would have been addicting enough that I would have made it the point of my play and not really cared that it wasn't the "best way" to play the game. But I don't play videa games.

I do find myself playing the game of life very much like most of us play it, though. And the more driven by a work-day routine and normal good-worker, good-mom, good-wife, and good-person agendas that I find myself, the less able I find myself to pursue the things that really matter. All those other kinds of "points" are the obvious ones to pursue . . . and the "gratifying" ones, too, when you are as competitive as I can be!

But I do have enough of a taste of REAL LIFE to get me out of bed at 5 each morning now. I do hunger for that time of really encountering God Himself. And I do know that the only "points" that matter are the reality of knowing Him the ways He wants me to know Him and of becoming the woman that He desires to make me and of doing those things that are His idea of what I should be doing in any given moment.

I just need to add to that motivation the motivation to go to bed early enough to be rested enough at 5 to be able to greet my Lord with something other than a fatigued body and mind and soul. And that would require getting my diswasher loaded earlier and the boys to bed earlier, which requires the whole evening to start a bit earlier . . .

But the only "points" that matter are the ways that I can be an effective tool in God's hand to accomplish His purposes. And I can't be that without however much time and attention He needs me to give Him alone with Him each day. So all of my routines and scheduling and priorities need to revolve around that reality.

I need Him. The rest flows from that reality.

And, at this point of my life, I do really know that. It's not just words. It is enough to shape all my other routines and commitments and relationships.

Have you had enough of a taste of His beauty and His love and His passion that you can say the same? If not, find the time to really authentically "taste and see"!


New Year's Resolution

One of our pastors, in the "confession" part of a pastoral prayer last weekend, led us to pray along the lines that we would do the things we keep talking about doing but don't do. That has been a lot of the theme of my hours since then, as I have been examining where I am, who I am, and where I am going.

The fact of the matter is that we -- I -- simply do not have enough time to do all the things it would be nice to do if time and energy were unlimited, and to be everything I could be in a world without limits. I have the ability to envision and plan much more than I am capable of actually executing.

Even the tedious things of life compete for time and energy. We must eat, drink, sleep, move, do laundry, pick up, pay bills, sort through old stuff to make room for new stuff, etc . . .

So a lot of the things I talk about doing must remain undone as long as the things I do spend my time and energy on are properly God's priorities for my time and energy. We live on fixed budgets, whether we like it or not!

So my New Year's Resolution this year is just this: I will continue to do my best to walk closely enough with my Lord so that I can let Him reinforce my priorities when they are the ones He wants me to have and so that He finds it easy to correct me and change my priorities when they don't accomplish His best.

Much of that looks like mediocrity these days to others . . . but to me it looks like living on a budget and not failing to have money for all the basics because I've spent foolishly on things not needed. I wish I could have it all and do it all! But, since I can't, I must neglect the values of the world and the values of my friends and family and even the values of the evangelical community when they fly in the face of the values and priorities that He Himself is teaching me.

We don't have to have what it would take to impress the group of people that we currently would like to impress. We don't have to have what it would take to feel like we've given our families everything a parent should give. We don't have to be anything we've been trained to pursue being -- not successful, not fit, not popular, not financially secure, not responsible, not accomplished, not even "well-balanced and healthy" by anyone's definition other than His. We do have to learn to hear Him and learn to love Him and learn to obey Him. We do have to learn His priorities and learn to let our primary motivations be His glory and His fellowship. We do have to stay in training for His purposes.

I cannot make myself the woman God wants me to be, either today or at the end of this coming 2008 . . . no matter my resolutions and no matter my self-discipline in following them.

I can resolve to take what I am given in this minute, and trust it every minute throughout the coming year:

Romans 12 reminds me that God will make me into a new person by changing how I think!

Philippians 3 reminds me that everything else in life is worthless when compared with the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and pursuing Him!

John 14 reminds me that I cannot do anything apart from my connection to Jesus and His love, and that obedience to Him is focused primarily on loving others as He loves me, out of that place of being His beloved . . .

So my resolution this year is to do the "stand firm" part of the last chapter of Ephesians, over and over . . . and to diligently make sure I have done the first part and not discarded any of my armor along the way somehow.

I cannot make myself what He desires me to be. But I can show up again and again to have Him do His work!

That is my New Year's Resolution.