Thursday, May 16, 2019

Poor in Spirit, Devotion II

Happy Flowers
Scriptures
Matthew 5:3
Psalm 32:3-5
1 John 1

I talked in an earlier blog about the meaning of being poor in spirit. The first beatitude says blessed (or happy) is the man who is poor in spirit for his is the kingdom of Heaven. Being poor in spirit is letting go of our own wills and being poor in them in order to be filled with God's will and with the Holy Spirit. It is surrender, putting God first.

Several years ago the Session of our church was examining a new group of youth seeking confirmation and membership in our church. During the examination a knowledgeable and serious Elder asked one applicant to describe Communion and what it meant. The young man was nervous and shy. He seldom spoke and took a minute to prepare his answer. Finally the young man leaned forward. He put his arms on his already long legs and let his hands hang over his knees. Without looking up, he said, "Well, you are what you eat." Most of us began to giggle then chuckle and then belly laugh.

The young man's allegory will break apart upon closer scrutiny, but it has been useful to me as a way of understanding the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. While the spirit is not a physical thing, the act of filling yourself, even consuming is intentional. For me the idea of you are what you eat simplifies my focus. I'm not wandering around wishing for the Holy Spirit, but I am, instead an active participant. I consume food, television, games, diversions and entertainment. I say and pray that I hunger and thirst for the Word and nurture myself with Scripture. But if there is something occupying my belly, so to speak, I cannot take in the Word. I don't even hunger or thirst for the Word. Instead, I am full with diversions or distractions or sin.

The concept of a full belly gives me a notion of a full spirit, a spirit that won't move over or submit or surrender, not someone poor in spirit. Diversion and distraction may take over. Sin of course, fills the belly and pushes out the Holy Spirit.

In a sense we must expel our will to make room for the Holy Spirit, so that He fills us. And when it comes right down to it we don't do the expelling, God does.

One of the things we do before taking communion is confess our sins. It strikes me that one of the ways the Holy Spirit acts on us is to show us our sins that we may confess them. Our passage today from Psalm 32 speaks of groaning under sin; that God's hand was heavy on David when he wrote the Psalm. When I am struggling and willful, I too groan. Every act seems tortured when I walk in my own will and ignore the Holy Spirit.
In the early days of the church, Christians were followers of the Way. Jesus tells us, He is the Way the Truth and the Life, in John 14 then tells us later in John 14 that He is sending the Holy Spirit that He can be with us always, not as one man but the Holy Spirit in all believers.
Our passage from 1 John tells of having fellowship with Jesus and God through Holy Spirit, the triune God. First John tells us that if we confess our sins, that God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us that we may walk in the light.
I pray that you are full in the Holy Spirit, and empty in your own spirit. I pray you are full in the Word and delight in the Way. I pray that you are happy and that your is the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

Thank you for reading.
Published also on Jumping into the Deep

Friday, May 10, 2019

Jumping into Scripture, Matthew 5:3


Youth group painting Hagerman Presbyterian
Listen to Him
Scriptures
Matthew 5:3
Luke 6:20
Psalm 32:1-2

Recently I was in a the Bible study Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer. Speaking on listening to God, Shirer quotes Matthew 17:5. God says, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him." Immediately, I thought of this study. Not only does Jesus tell us how to listen to him, but God tells us to listen to Jesus. Shirer asks in this study if we can imagine a Savior who would would give His life so that we may know Him, so that we may be saved and so that we may have a relationship with Him and then this Savior wouldn't speak to us though He loved us so?
It seemed far-fetched even to me. Of course our Savior would speak to us. We have the gift of His words throughout Scripture. We have the gift of the Sermon on the Mount.
When I read the Sermon on the Mount, I have have plenty of questions, things like I'm wholly insufficient to the task. How can I, sinful woman, effect any of these in order to be blessed. But Jesus tells us how. He tells us in the first beatitude. Blessed are the poor in spirit for their's is the Kingdom of heaven.
Being an engineer, the first thing I do is break it down. How does the Kingdom of Heaven become mine? Oh, I see, it's a trick. I must be poor in spirit. I turn to Luke 6: 20 and it says poor not poor in spirit. In Matthew 19 and Luke 18, Jesus tells the young ruler, a rich man, that to be perfect he must give away all that he owns and follow Jesus. Oh no, I'm in trouble. I'm not likely to lead the ascetic life. Already I am crushed. But surely God and Jesus don't want me crushed before I even begin, and i know the passage after the rich young ruler turns from Jesus. Jesus assures us that all things are possible for those who believe.
Re-examining the first beatitude I wonder if Jesus telling us a way to understand Him, a way to receive this blessing. He is telling us to surrender our spirit to God. With God, all things are possible. All of these blessings in the beatitudes, they are available to those who surrender and let the holy spirit take over our human spirit. He is saying, do not worry, I will guide you. You are loved and nurtured in My Way, My Words and ultimately My Sacrifice. He tells us right off the bat, surrender to God. Surrender that troublesome spirit of self help. Consider yourself no longer full of your own will and way and even words so that God can move in and work in you, so that you can listen to Me.
Easter Morning 2019
This Easter Sunday, our local churches again met at the lake for sunrise services. We were too tired and too chilly to be much of our own self-help scions. We were there for, well, coffee if I must be honest, but more, we were there for Jesus. We were there to know that He had risen, that He is with us, that because of His work on the cross, we may now know Him through the Holy Spirit. We may listen to our Savior as God instructs. We get to have a two way relationship with the King of Kings. Seriously!
When I strip away my own will I pray God enters in by means of the Holy Spirit. I can pray, Thy will, not my will Father. I don't always pray this. Often I pray something like: "It'd be really cool if this was okay with You and You would help me God." For these willful prayers, God usually remains silent. That's not to say He doesn't answer, He just doesn't answer the way I wanted. It's kind of like my mom when I asked if I could go do something dangerous or harmful. Early in life, she would tell me, "You already know my answer." Later she shook her head a pursed her lips. 
Our Psalm for today speaks of a spirit without deceit. How happy, how blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no treachery For me that would be an exchanged spirit, once mine, now God's.
May Heaven be yours.
May your spirit yield so that God enters in.
May you glorify God in all that you do. Amen
Thanks for reading.
Published also on Jumping into the Deep
  


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Ollie McNeil Circle Devotion May 2019


Scriptures
John 14:1, 26-28

Twice in John 14 Jesus tells His disciples, “let not your hearts be troubled.” He also tells them that He is leaving to be with His Father. His disciples are understandably confused – ‘You’re leaving, and we shouldn’t be worried?Our hearts are troubled. Where do we go from here? How do we proceed without our Lord?’

I’m a worrier. I've been a worrier for a long time. When my son was young, he liked to walk in the orchards and look for dandelions. We had a big dog, a Neapolitan Mastiff, (think Fang from the Harry Potter movies.) The dog wasn’t a sheep dog, but he was a working dog, part protector and part pack animal.

Usually my son and I would venture into the dappled light before the sun became strong. We would search the grounds and the heavens for whatever we might find, a rock or birds’ nest, a butterfly or raccoon paw print. To a three-year-old anything is cause for adventure. Sometimes we made up stories about what we found, sometimes we just let the wonder of God seep into our faces.


One day, I was busy. We had built a dog fence, but the dogs had burrowed under it and I was filling holes. My son was near me, I thought, but when I looked up, he wasn’t there. I called. No answer. My heart raced. I looked to the road, where the traffic of trucks and semis seemed too fast and too near and too constant.


I called again. Then I looked for the dog thinking to enlist his help, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found.

I whistled and heard a barking answer.

In the very middle of the orchard, my son and the dog (half a head taller than my son) walked with my son’s hand on the dog's back.

When I finally rounded them up, my son said, “You didn’t need to worry, 
Momma. We didn’t go near the road and Taz was with me.” He smiled and took my hand.

For a while that day my heart was troubled. It could have been so much worse as many of my friends here know. Evenso, I have learned that not only our great mastiff of a dog was with my son, but God was and is with us. Jesus died that we may always be with Him through the Holy Spirit. He told us not to be troubled, He is with us always.

When I read these passages from John 14, I am renewed. I am reminded that this world is not my home and that I trust God so much more than the traffic on the highway. I know that bad things happen in this world and I dread times of sorrow, but God is with me even then. The Holy Spirit is my comforter and I may find peace in Him even in this ragged world.

May your spring be bright with adventure. May your hearts be light with love, and may the peace of the Holy Spirit dwell deeply within you. Amen.

Thanks for reading, Bev

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Book Review Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens' debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of my favorite reads for 2018.
It is a romance, a family saga, a coming of age story, and a murder mystery rolled into one, often poetic, book. Owens writes from a remarkable understanding of nature. A quote from her website reads, "When you can feel the planet beneath your toes and trees moving about, you must listen with all your ears and,--I promise--you will hear the crawdads sing. In fact, it will be a chorus."
This tells me much about the author and her debut novel. Owens spent over two decades studying wildlife in remote regions of Africa. As a result of this research, she makes the case that mammals in strongly bonded groups form those groups of exclusively females. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya is a female without a group and desperately wants one. Owens subtly makes the point that female bonding is in our DNA. Kya's mother is the North Carolina marsh and her teachers are the animals that populate the marsh. She is abandoned by her biological mother, siblings and eventually her father. Kya scrapes out a living and a huge education on the water's edge, befriending rare and wonderful characters like Jumpin, the general store and gas station owner, and Tate, the young man and friend of Kys's brother that teaches Kya to read. These people help her in her greatest times of trouble. Throughout the book, the characters are well-drawn and there are good and bad folk in equal measure. The marsh too, becomes a character as well as the town of Barkley Cove. 
I read one review of this book that said the reader did not find Kya's life believable and thus could never engage with the main character. I laughed with the reviewer because I too wondered at a young woman so isolated and yet able to make her way on tired grits and very little else. For me, this wasn't a problem, but a wonder.
If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it. I read it then re-read it because I hated to finish it.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for reading books. Bev

published also at bacoots.com

Friday, April 5, 2019

Chewy has been Sold











Well, I have a gentleman's agreement on the sale of Chewy and I trust the buyer to tell me if he changes his mind. 
My husband and I may have named the truck Chewy because the old Studebaker sounded like Chewbacca when he headed down the road. I wish I could remember for certain. There are so many things I can no longer remember. Never-mind all of that. Chewy is going to a new home. Chewy will be with a family that likes old things and enjoys restoring them. The home even has young'uns interested in old things.
Lonny bought the truck for me when I started a novel that featured a '49 Studebaker truck. When Lonny brought it home and I drove it to Mom and Dad's for the first time, my father put his hands in his pockets and frowned. He shook his head and said, "Studebaker was very good at making wagons. They weren't very good at much else."
I worried some about what my father thought. I respected him, but pretended I hadn't heard. I liked Chewy for his blue paint and round top. I liked him because my husband bought him for me to encourage my writing. It was Lonny's way of saying, "I support you. I may not read what you write, but I'm proud of you."
We used to have fly-ins. My husband and I built an ultralight (which is a story for another time.) We would host other ultralight owners for a few days of games and feasting. 
 I had driven the Studebaker to work the day of one of these fly-ins. I came home just as the planes started arriving.
Lonny waved as I drove up and parked. His grin was broad, as if it wanted to jump off his face and give me a hug. I heard him telling one of the pilots about the truck.
Later he told me how much he enjoyed seeing me drive around in Chewy, how proud he was and how much delight he knew I took in driving the old blue Studebaker.
I remember that day now and wonder at how people can take joy in another's pleasure. It touches me to know that Lonny and I truly delighted in each other's happiness. It touches me that I tried to forget my father's comments. I am glad that I relaxed and drove the old truck even when my father shook his head and complained.
But Chewy is gone now. It is bittersweet. I knew I would never get him running again and I hope his new owner will. I took down the new owner's number. Maybe I'll stay in touch. Maybe I could drive Chewy one more time. Probably not, but life has some strange twists.
Thank you for reading. Bev

Monday, March 25, 2019

Lesson Six, Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Hagerman Bible Study Notes
18 March 2019
Scriptures:
Matthew 7:1-14
Proverbs 8
Mark 4

Our Lesson in chapter six was titled, Love and Discipline. In it Keller discusses the need to discipline his dog when she misbehaved. He says that he loved her too much to watch her be swayed from her purpose by a damaging distraction. He likened this to how God disciplines us and quotes Hebrews 12:6-11. We discussed God's discipline and how Peter was quickly restored to Jesus when Jesus asks three times, "Peter do you love me?" We touched on how God would be unworthy of worship if He didn't demand obedience or love us enough to insist on a right relationship.
Keller speaks early in the chapter of John 14-17. He makes the case that, like we are to Jesus, Lass was companion, co-worker and friend. We spoke about how God's discipline establishes boundaries and order and allows for strong lasting relationships.
In our Scriptures from Matthew we covered; judge not lest you also be judged, do not cast your pearls before swine, and if we as evil give good gifts, how much more so God who is good. The passage in Matthew ended with the golden rule. Our passage from Proverbs is the chapter on wisdom and we reflected on choosing God's instruction over riches. In Mark 4 we discussed the parable of the sower and having ears to hear.
We closed in prayer noting that we would meet Monday at the Community Center in Hagerman.
Thank you reading. Bev