The book of Deuteronomy, it seems, is all about remembering:
Remember the day you stood before the Lord…
Remember you were slaves in Egypt… (this one shows up five times)
Remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh…
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert…
Remember the Lord your God…
Remember this and never forget how you provoked the Lord…
Remember … God’s majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm…
Remember the time of your departure from Egypt…
Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam…
Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past…
Do you remember, dear reader? Do you remember what God has done for you? Can you stand with one hand grasping your present struggle and one hand firmly holding the past, remembering His Deliverance? Remember your God because He remembers you.
Today while standing in a spacious bookstore I picked up a book about letting go of spiritual burdens. As I touched the pages I felt a great comfort, remembering with gratitude a God who lifts burdens like mine.
“Excuse me.” The stranger’s voice startled me. I looked up to see a confident and attractive man, maybe five or ten years younger than me. Confused, I wondered if I’d given him the impression that I worked there. If you had offered me a million guesses I could have never predicted what would come out of his mouth next: “I think you’re GORGEOUS!”. With that and a smile, he simply spun around and walked away. By the time I had recovered enough to stammer ‘thank you’ he was safely out of hearing range.
Sometimes I wonder if angels still roam the earth, disguised as men.
Lie #1: Prayer is Hard. God is so busy and so holy and so far away that I have to work really hard and try really hard to get His attention.
The Truth: God is near me (Acts 17:27) and He is attentive to my prayers (I Peter 3:12). I really believe that from God’s point of view prayer is supposed to be easy, natural, and pleasurable for both of us.
Lie #2: God’s will is always done. I should just pray for strength to accept it.
The Truth: Not everything that happens is the will of God! God is not evil and cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13) and yet evil is everywhere we turn. One of my favorite bits of advice is ‘Think Noble Things of God’. I believe God is Just, Good, Holy, Loving and Generous, and I don’t chalk up the evil I see around me to God’s will.
Lie #3: God doesn’t work the way He used to.
The Truth: God works powerfully today, and He intends for us to work powerfully with Him through prayer in bringing about His will on the earth.
What do you think? What are some lies you have believed about prayer?
This weekend I drove through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Twice. The first time I drove through at night. The road was winding and slow. My ears were popping. The traffic was rude and annoying. Two days later I drove back home along the same route. The afternoon sun pushed bright shafts of light through billowing clouds. I drove by sheer granite rock faces all globbed up with sparkly blue ice. Each turn in the road unveiled new vistas of ancient snow covered peaks and snuggled valleys. As the adventure unfolded I thought, ‘I was right here, I was right here and I missed it’.
Sometimes we travel through life in darkness. With our focus no more than a few feet in front of us, life’s annoyances and disappointments predominate our journey. In our preoccupation with the trivial we miss what’s really going on. We miss the dangerous cliffs and God’s heroic rescues. We miss the beautiful views He sends to inspire and delight us. Without light we are clueless and lost.
May God grant us light for our journeys and eyes to see.
My fear of falling from the Grace of God has often compelled me to make excuses for my choices. But when the rug of my rationalizations was pulled out from under me, I fell into His Grace instead. And there in that Garden I once again met my humble Rescuer. Jesus, who spoke with Pharisees as freely as prostitutes has not given up on me. He offers me freedom from all my self-protecting defenses and holds out the chance for me to walk in compassion and courage.
When I first admitted to myself, to God, and to another human being that I had been sexually abused, the world screeched to a jarring halt. Wave after wave after wave of emotional pain washed over me. I lost track of the painful days, of how much time had passed. I stopped estimating how many more painful waves were waiting ahead of me, surrendering to the distinct possibility that the end would never come. From the outside, life went eerily on. But inside it was like I was watching an old black and white TV while someone unknown to me was screwing with the vertical and horizontal knobs.
Then one day I read Isaiah chapter 40 and a single phrase lit up in my heart like a distant lighthouse in a foggy night. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. I was that lamb, nestled in my true Father’s arms, my head resting contentedly on His chest. At that moment I believed I was going to make it.
The same week a friend taught me a simple song that I still can’t sing through without choking up:
day by day
you reveal your love to me
cradled in your arms
a precious lamb
a diamond in your eyes
The word picture painted by that song is always with me. A love letter from God, tattooed on my Spirit. And while I know that I may never fully understand the love of God, never grasp it’s width or measure off the height of it, I know that I Believe. I believe that He is Good; that He Loves me nobly and unselfishly with no secret agenda; that when I can’t keep up with His long strong strides He will scoop me up again and whisper to me to rest in the safety of His warm embrace. And that knowledge is enough for today.
(OK, maybe I should explain. I got to thinking about forgiveness and what comes with being forgiven. I wrote this from the perspective of the Prodigal Son. I hope you like it.)
I bathed five times and rubbed my skin with rose petals. I burned my clothes and shaved my hair. It might be my imagination, but as my trembling hand pauses on this old familiar wooden door I can still smell the pigs.
A hundred eyes wait for me on the other side of the door. The side where the wine flows freely and the song of the lyre drips like honey. But I’ve already looked into the eyes that matter and those eyes told me all I need to know.
In all my life I’ve never seen him run like he ran to me today, his robe hiked up in his belt like a common worker. The disgrace he wore was mine, should have been mine. Standing there in my father’s arms I cried like I haven’t cried since I was a little boy. We both cried until we ran out of tears, until all I could hear was the sound of dry leaves scuttling across the path like so many crabs at the seaside. He didn’t say much but the relief I saw in him only thinly veiled the pain and worry I had put him through. I meant what I said, ‘I am not worthy to be called your son’. But he wouldn’t listen. Sometimes I think forgiveness is harder to take than it is to give.
This isn’t what I wanted. If I could only work for him like I had planned. I could serve them anonymously, alone with my shame. In so many ways that life would be easier than living with the disappointment in my brother’s eyes. For the rest of my life I’ll be living on his charity. I’ve spent my part of the fortune. Asking for my cut with my father still alive was like telling the world I wished he was dead. My brother may never forgive what I’ve done. But what I’m about to do is not for him.
My father wants things back the way they were. His love powers the courage I need to walk through this door, the courage to put the past behind me, the courage to forgive myself. Standing on the path I looked deep into his eyes and what I saw changed me forever. I saw an image of myself reflected there, me but not me. Gone were the smelly clothes, the dirty hands and ratty beard. In my father’s eyes I was stood strong and tall and glorious. In my father’s eyes I am a prince and from now on I will do whatever I must do to be the man he sees.