Self-propelled

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A bicycle will get you there.

So will a jet — but much faster.

Wait.

I woke with two songs in my head today. One is The Boxer by Paul Simon. The other is Take Courage by Kristene de Marco. That’s an odd combination.

It’s a puzzle. I feel like the Holy Spirit is dropping breadcrumb hints. I follow. They lead to Jesus Christ, and the pandemic response, and the week between Ascension and Pentecost.

Before he left, Jesus told his disciples it was to their advantage that he leave. That must have been confusing. After he rose from the dead, he told them to wait to be empowered from above.  That must have been even more confusing. He had just come back. Something was coming that could not be explained with words common to their experience. They couldn’t understand. All they could do was trust and do as he said.

The Boxer, I realized as I listened again this morning, is about three responses to stress: flight, avoidance, and flight. The boy flees to the city. He succumbs to loneliness and takes comfort in loveless sex. The boxer, “in his anger and his shame,” fights on without success.

Take Courage talks about responding to stress with courage, steadfastness, and trust in a time of waiting when we don’t understand.

Today I heard the cry of more leaders in Christian ministries who are fleeing, self-medicating, and fighting not so gainfully on. All lament they feel like failures. All of them want very much to love others, relieve suffering, fight injustice, and make a difference in the world. They put in maximum effort, but they are exhausted, disappointed, broken.

One burned-out pastor, after receiving an invitation from his board to resign for failing to “put more bums in seats,” told me that with the current way most church structure operates, clergy are more like butlers than family members. They are there to work day and night for the betterment of the family, but when they themselves are tired, hurt, or losing hope, they learn they were never considered part of the family after all. They were hired help.

If you look around, it’s standard practise in many places to fire pastors when they are down. Perhaps there is more to loving each other than what we accept as “standard.”

There’s a reason why Jesus said to wait for this whoever-it-was to show up. The Holy Spirit would be their destiny, their comfort, their strength. He would teach them, reminding them of what Jesus told them. He would convict, he would transform, he would empower. Unlike Jesus in physical form, he could be everywhere and with everyone at once.

Without an external source of power, a self-propelled bicycle cannot go the distance. Without God’s grace to be who he empowers us to be, we all eventually become like the exhausted, disappointed, disillusioned character(s) in The Boxer.

In the Liturgical calendar, we are in the time between the Ascension (when Jesus was taken up in a cloud to sit the right hand of God) and Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit came in power). Many of us are sensing a shift in the spiritual atmosphere. Something is different. God is doing something, but what? I don’t know.

What I do know is that when we attempt to save the world through our own efforts we are in danger of breaking down. We need the Holy Spirit to lead, teach, convict, comfort, and empower. Waiting on the Lord requires steadfast trust as we lean in to hear the One whose promises never fail.

I am angered by lies and injustice and suffering all around. I am even more angered by my weaknesses. I want to do something – anything – to help. But I’m tired and in pain and struggling to understand truth in a barrage of “misinformation.” When I pray for wisdom, I hear, “Wait.”

So I wait.

 

 

Planting

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I planted daffodil bulbs today. They’re not very pretty. It’s hard to imagine what they will become.

In fact, the entire garden is not very pretty in November. We’ve had snow already, and some nose-under-the-covers cold nights. The snow melted, but today is my brother’s birthday, and as far back as I can remember the kind of snow that stayed always arrived on or shortly after his birthday.

I’m in mourning for the season of colour. A hard freeze turned the willow tree brown overnight. The plum tree leaves heaved a sigh and waved goodbye without the annual flash of red before departing. The snapdragons lay strewn about like the last soldiers to fall in a battle the other side will record in their history books. Saying goodbye is never easy.

Today may be the last day the soil can be worked before it freezes. So I worked it, digging holes and dropping humble brown bulbs into them. Then I buried them. Now they rest.

The Lord is speaking to me about both hope and letting go these days. I decided to plant some hope in the form of daffodil bulbs. The deer ate all my tulips last year, but I noticed the daffodils failed to impress them. They did impress me though. I love the early spring flowers that find their way through the detritus of winter. I planted more.

Sometimes, in the spring, seeds will germinate within a few days. These bulbs will wait for six months. Sometimes the things we plant spring to life right away. Sometimes they take so long, we forgot we even planted them. I am learning to let go of my desire for immediate reward. I recognize now that some of the truths planted in my life in past cold blustery seasons are only now starting to bloom in my heart — in His time.

For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of these people to inherit all these things.

(Zechariah 8:13 NASB)

Resting in Greatness

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Ever lift Thy face upon me

As I work and wait for Thee;

Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,

Earth’s dark shadows flee.

Brightness of my Father’s glory,

Sunshine of my Father’s face,

Keep me ever trusting, resting,

Fill me with Thy grace.

 

Jesus, I am resting, resting

In the joy of what Thou art;

I am finding out the greatness 

Of Thy loving heart.

 

(From Jesus, I am Resting by Jean Sophia Pigott. 1845 -1882)

Listen Carefully: Hearing God’s Voice

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I wish you could hear the songbirds in the trees surrounding my outdoor office. I wish so much you could hear them that I endeavoured to record them.

The result was not as anticipated.

What I heard on the recording was
a train, somewhere a long way off,
traffic on the highway down in the valley,
an air conditioner fan accompanied by windchimes,
the neighbour cleaning his barbecue,
kids yelling,
a dog barking,
a water sprinkler intermittently hitting a fence,
the breeze rustling the leaves,
and tiny birds singing their tiny songs.

The extra sounds had been there all along, but when I was concentrating on the birds I was able to block the noises out. The microphone picked up everything.

As I sat at my computer, I heard another sound, a still small voice saying, “Yes. Hearing is about focus.”

Not long ago, when someone spoke about hearing God’s voice I rolled my eyes.

“Riiiight. How nice for you.”

That was before the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention and spoke to me in subtle ways I hadn’t noticed before. The reason I hadn’t noticed was because my brain is a noisy place constantly full of clutter and distraction. It’s like “the wall of sound” arrangement of music in most popular recordings of the last thirty years. Silence feels weird.

It wasn’t until I started to learn how to still my heart and wait that I could detect a song I hadn’t noticed before. I am so easily distracted. I tend to pack my waking hours with the urgent, the dire, the entertaining, the outrageous, and the humorously absurd. It’s hard to say excuse me to demands of my own making, but once I heard the song, I wanted more.

I desperately want more.

Now I’ll listen carefully for your voice
and wait to hear whatever you say.
Let me hear your promise of peace—
the message every one of your godly lovers longs to hear.

(Psalm 85:8 TPT)

Refrain, Forsake and Fret Not

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Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
 
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
 
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Psalm 37:7-9

Trust and Do Good

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When those who want to exalt themselves, when the self-aggrandizing, false virtue-signalling people in power misuse the trust people have placed in them, I feel angry. I tend to fret.

When I see people who say they are following Jesus pick up the devil’s weapons of hate and slander and political subterfuge and try to use them — especially when they don’t fit — I tend to fret even more.

We are so easily captured by the spirit we oppose.

I need to remember that God is not stymied by evil.

His timing. His way. He’s got this.

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
 
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
 
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
 
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
 
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
 
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
 
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.

But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

(Psalm 37:1-11 NKJV)