Monday, January 12, 2015

Is That You?

'Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah,
that Ahab said to him,
Is that you, O troubler of Israel?"
1 Kings: 18:17

O troubler of Israel!!  I so love that title for the great prophet of God, Elijah!  I will not go into the details of this story of the battle between a pagan king and a prophet of God, but, if you are not familiar with it, read chapters 18 and 19 of 1 Kings to see what unfolds.  It is a fascinating story of human nature on display in all of it's brokenness and the God of all Kindness and Mercy.

My purpose right now is to draw some striking similarities to our lives, our struggles, our disappointments, and how God, in His lovingkindness ministers to us in the midst of them.  I'm quite sure there are many theological riches to be gleaned from these passages, but, for me, I just want to pull out some of the jewels I see that feed my soul with their beauty.

Elijah, following a spectacular victory over the enemy of God, responds to the threats of the madwoman, Jezebel, to murder him within a day, by running for his life and hiding under a tree and, finally, retreats to a cave to nurse his emotional wounds.  He is all alone with his thoughts and they are not good.  He decides that he is so miserable that he would like to die and asks God to let him do so.  He thinks that no-one has followed him, that his ministry has been a colossal waste of time - after all, he "is the only one left."  He is exhausted, worn out, lonely, more than ready to give up. To use our language, he's reached the end of his rope, he's had it, he's "done"! 

    "So he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts,
for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down
Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone
am left, and they seek to take my life. 1 Kings 19:10

Well, he does have a point!  I mean, I can relate!  Here he has been laboring and fighting the evil King Ahab and the prophets of Baal, he has pulled off a fantastic victory (or, rather, God has pulled it off!) and what does he get for it?  The evil Jezebel is planning to kill him.  It's just too much for Elijah.  Of course, we know how the story turns out, so we can stand above it all and wag our finger at Elijah for his lack of faith.  But, if I am really honest with myself, I am all too sure, I would have done the same. In fact, I have!  But, what I want to pull out of this story is the beautiful way that God receives Elijah, and loves him back to sanity and to ministry!  God doesn't beat him up for being so short on faith.  He listens.  He understands.  He loves him through to recovery. I absolutely love that picture of our God...

God reaches out to Elijah in the cave.  He sees him hiding in the dark.  He knows he's afraid.  He knows he's exhausted.  He knows, Elijah.  He knows exactly what Elijah needs and supplies his every need.  Elijah has lost his way.  He has come through a battle with great victory, but all he can hear is the sound of terror, threatening his life.  He hears her screaming her deadly threat.  He hears Ahab demeaning and mocking him.  He cannot hear God. The other voices are too loud in his head. 

God comes to him in exactly this state and in this "god-forsaken" place. But the truth is, there is no such thing.  God will visit His child wherever he is in need.  In prison, in a deep, dark pit, in a dark, cold, isolated cave, in a divorce court, in a hospital room where death seems to be having its way...There is no place God does not go to rescue his lost child.  Or we might say, His depressed child.  His suicidal child.  His terrified child. His desperately lonely child.  Elijah was all of those things.  Hiding in the cave, very likely trembling in the cold.  Hungry, lost, depressed, despairing, wanting to die.  

In this state, God moves in on Elijah.  He speaks to him lovingly. He calls him to come out of the place he is hiding.  He asks him, as if He doesn't know, "What are you doing here, Elijha?"

Then He lovingly directs Him to come out of the cave and into the Presence of the Lord.  As the story goes, Elijah goes and looks for God in the storm, but, God isn't in the storm,  He looks for Him in the fire, but, God isn't in the fire.  It is in the stillness, the quiet, that Elijah finally is able to hear God's "still, small voice!"  And it is in the Comforting and Reassuring Presence of the Lord that Elijah rediscovers who he is and who God is. As God comforts Him and reminds him of his calling, Elijah begins to recover and come back to his place in the Lord's arms.  God visits him with His Presence.  And in His Presence, every need is met.  In His Presence, is fullness of joy...

God corrects Elijah's distorted vision of himself ("I alone am left..." 1 Kings 19:10).  He calls him out of the darkness of the cave, of his deadly thoughts, and into His arms, into His Presence, and into His calling on Elijah's life.  I love this.  God doesn't stand outside the cave, wagging His finger, bemoaning what a mess Elijah is, and, that, after God had fed him and sent His angels to minister to him!  He understands how lost Elijah feels.  He comes right to where Elijah is and meets him there. He doesn't "preach" to him, telling him when he gets his act together, then, maybe, God will consider a visit.  No, He visits him there, right smack dab in the middle of the mess and the misery.  
I find enormous encouragement in this beautiful story of God's love for his imperfect, sinning servant.  He doesn't require perfection.  He requires honesty.  And certainly, Elijah was that and then some!

I love this story because it is such a beautiful picture of The Lord's love for his servant.  He knows Elijah from years of the two of them walking together and talking things over.  Yes, Elijah has served the Lord.  But it was the Lord, Himself, who called Elijah and who then enabled him to do what God asked of him.  But, God doesn't just use Elijah to do His bidding.  No, this is a picture of a God who knows his servant, in all of his weaknesses and loves him through and through.  God knows Elijah's deepest need, even when Elijah doesn't or isn't able to think clearly enough to remember.  Elijah needs the Lord, Himself.  Desperately.  He cannot go on any longer without a visitation from the Lord that he loves.  That's you and me.  We may have food on the table and a beautiful home with every physical need met, and still be in despair.  We need Him. More than anything else, we need Him... 

My hope and prayer for you is that you will find Him right there with you, wherever you go to hide from the storms and the raging fires in your life. May you find Him in the still small voice that is calling you to come out and return to the One Who Loves You more than you know. He is right there.  In the middle of the mess...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Always Remember...

I love you!

When I was just a little girl of about five years old, I went to spend the summer with my grandparents in New York City.  Although they knew me, of course, I had no memory of my mother’s parents, since we had moved to Chicago when I was about two. 

Today, I remember my grandmother being a very stern and seemingly cold woman who never smiled or laughed or seemed to enjoy life.  She had lived through two World Wars, and the Great Depression.  She had lost a child she loved in a tragic car accident and endured having a son who contracted polio and was crippled for the rest of his life.  She was something like a rubber band, stretched by pain to the limit, always about to burst.

My grandfather, on the other hand, was a study in contrast.  He was a serious man.  After all, he had lived through the same circumstances that my grandmother had.  But, somehow, he had found a grace and a peace with life that my grandmother never did.  Always avoiding my grandmother for fear of another rupture of her temper, I watched with the big, innocent eyes of childhood, as my grandfather, for some reason unknown to me, loved my grandmother. 

Her angry outbursts and sour disposition didn’t seem to faze him.  He still teased her and called her “Mary Lou”.  When he called her that, all her frozen edges melted away right before my eyes.  He would hug her and kiss her and pinch her affectionately.  I, terrified to get to close to her, watched in amazement that she was “touchable”!

I don’t remember a lot about that summer.  Except for Sunday evenings in the living room.  We didn’t watch T.V.  We sat around and talked, or played checkers or read books or the comics.  I waited anxiously watching every move my grandfather made until, as if on cue, he would rise from his chair, stretch his big frame and invite me to go to the corner grocery store to buy an ice cream cone.  Off we would go, my little five year old hand cupped in his enormous, grown-up hand, just me and Gramps! 

Back home in Chicago, I was one of six kids and a twin to boot.  I didn't know what it was to have my parents all to myself!  Yet, here I was, all alone with my grandfather, and he was buying me an ice cream cone!  This happened without fail every Sunday evening.  I thought it must be my reward for surviving the week with my grandmother!

We would trot into the grocery store with my grandfather announcing loudly that “my granddaughter needs an ice cream cone, Jerry!”  Then we would make a big production out of selecting just the right type of sprinkles to decorate the top of my ice cream cone.  Life just didn't get any better than this!  Grandpa loved me.  I had proof!  He bought me ice cream.  And he threw some sprinkles on top, just for extra measure!

This dear man, my mother’s father, has been home with the Lord for many years now.  I never spent another summer with him.   But, the memory of his love for me, and for my grandmother, is indelibly written on my heart.  He taught me so much about love in the few short months I had with him.  Here are some of the lessons I learned at my grandfather’s knee.

Love comes in many different packages.  
Some come with understanding for the misunderstood.
Some come with forgiveness for the unforgivable.
Some choose to see with eyes of love what no one else can see.
Some remember the love that was shared 
when everything seemed so right.
Some continue to love when everything goes wrong.
Some remember the promises that were made yesterday.
Some keep the promise long after others have forgotten.
Some protect the object of their love, no matter what.
Some sell everything they have for love and never look back.
Some don’t just buy the ice cream.  
They throw some sprinkles on top…


" Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres... Love never fails. Now abide faith, hope and love.
 But the greatest of these is love."
 1 Cor. 13:4-8, 13

Friday, January 2, 2015

Exceedingly, Abundantly...

"Now to Him who is able
to do exceedingly, abundantly more
than all we can ask or imagine,
to Him be glory in the Church
and in Christ Jesus,
forever and ever..."
Ephesians 3: 20:21

Tell me, where does God live?
I need to see Him, right away...
I'm not one of those who visits often
Or drops by every day.

But, I have a need I'd like to ask of Him
I doubt that He can help me or even knows my name
We're pretty much strangers, me and Him.
I much prefer my sin...

But, today, something happened
That scared me to the bone
I'm looking at the bottom
The end of all I've known.

I never thought I needed Him
I really didn't care.
God is just for losers, for those who need a crutch.
I brushed Him off, I ran from Him, I didn't need Him much.

Today, it all blew up on me,
Everything I love and treasure has washed into the sea.
Where is God?  Does He hear me when I call Him?
Tell me, do I sicken Him when He looks upon my sin?

If I find Him driving on the road, will He drive right over me?
Pretending He didn't mean to, pretending He didn't see?
Or if He stops to talk to me, will He say that it's too late
Or remind me of my littleness and that He is One so Great?

Or will He say, He wishes He could help,
But, even for Him, it's just too much
He can only fix the fixable
And can only do so much.

Will He say, He wished He had the power
To do what needs to be done.
Laughing, will He ridicule and mock me
And have a little fun?

I'm afraid to think He cares for me.
Please tell me is it true?
Have you found the One who loves you?
Is it possible it's true?

I know it isn't like me to believe in fairy tales.
But, this God I'm feeling come to me
Is so much more than Disneyland
So much more than anything I ever thought or dreamed.

I don't know why I took so long
To look for Him who made me.
To seek the One who died for me
And loves me as I am.

I don't know the whys of so many things.
I don't have any answers.
I'm resting in the One who knows.
Who loves me without measure.

He promises to love me
Until the end of time.
I'm dancing in the glory!
I am His and He is mine...