I remember You were with me

Five Minute Friday Last week, I made my first jump into the pool of Five Minute Friday. And swimming in its waters of freedom worked some writing muscles that had begun to atrophy.  

I tend to be performance-oriented. I worry too much about what people (including anyone reading my words) will think of me. I want to inspire, I don’t want to offend, I want to be sensitive, I don’t want to oversimplify, I want to write like those I admire most, I don’t want you to know how afraid I am that what I post in this space just isn’t any good.


The idea of writing for five minutes and posting whatever comes of that time is frightening, and that’s exactly why I need it. There’s no time for editing or polishing or making sure that things were said “just-so.” It’s writing bare, and that is medicine for my writer’s soul.


I hope it is good for your soul, too. Whether you write or not, may something inspire you to peel away a layer of perfectionism somewhere in your life.


This week’s prompt: REMEMBER


When I struggle to know which path to take, I forget.


I forget about how You have been present with me through it all. How I am on this path to begin with because You led me here. You brought me to a place that would blow the mind of the me of 20 years ago.


That girl who was depressed from all the turmoil in her home life, combined with the waves of drama that are part of being an adolescent girl. The girl who, without anyone telling her how to read the Bible, opened it up every night and read a Psalm, somehow feeling the comfort of its words.


I remember how You were with me.


I remember how even as I took paths leading me wrong, You held my hand over the rough terrain, so I could find my way to a better way.


I remember Your grace. I remember the way my life could have been, if not for Your presence with me in so many times and places.


And so as I face difficult decisions now, I face them with gratitude that I have the opportunity to be here at all. On a path where I am making decisions about how to move forward, instead of how to escape from the mangled tree roots tying my feet to the ground.


I remember that no matter which path I take, I am walking forward. And that, my Lord, is because of Your grace and love and presence in my life.


Lead Me Up Your Mountain

  CactiIt was warmer than I anticipated. The temperature was mild, but the sun blazes hot in the desert.


Still, the hike through the canyon was striking. The cacti stretched their arms towards the sun, and let their needles glow in its light, The boulders radiated their red warmth and showed off their quartz sparkle.


Then there was the stream. My eyes were drawn to the juxtaposition of a cool bubbling brook streaming through this arid land. It danced over rocks and meandered its way in and out of our path as it led us up the mountainside.


As I looked around at this scorched terrain with a creek as its middle, I remembered teddy bear cactusPsalm 42. I thought about how those who are parched with desert thirst desperately search for water.


And I wondered if the yearning for water isn’t just about quenching our thirst, but about the way water can lead us to someplace new.


Enter now Psalm 43, which is really just the conclusion of Psalm 42. It even repeats the verse used twice in Psalm 42,


Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in god, For I will yet praise him, desert streamMy Savior and my God. –Psalm 43:5


But there is a difference between the two Psalms. While in Psalm 42, the psalmist declares his thirst and laments of his plight, in Psalm 43, he asks God to direct his path to someplace new.


Send me your light and your faithful care, Let them lead me; Let them bring me to your holy mountain, To the place where you dwell. – Psalm 43:3


What good would it be if God quenched our thirst for just a moment, but kept us in that same arid place? The psalmist asks for more than that: he asks God to lead him up his sacred mountain.


stream up the mountainA mountain gives us perspective. We see the magnificence of rocky trails and dry places that along the way, felt only difficult and frustrating. We see pathways of future journeys, and find direction about where we might go next. Mostly, though, we see how vast the world is and how tiny we are in comparison.


God’s presence gives us that same kind of perspective. The psalmist knows it, and he prays for God to lead him there.


Then, like a desert wanderer daydreaming about a refreshing oasis, the psalmist pictures himself in that place.


Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. – Psalm 43:4 (ESV)


He calls God his exceeding joy. Not just his Prayer-Answerer or his Happiness-Giver, but his Exceeding Joy.


What is amazing is that he calls God this name while still thirsting for him. While still feeling abandoned, the psalmist calls God his Exceeding Joy.


The psalmist has faith that this time in the desert is only part of his journey. That God will send his light and care to guide him to someplace new.


Perhaps those are the two most important things to know when we are in those desert times in our faith journey: that God is there, even when we don’t feel him, and that this part of arid path will not last forever.


When we appreciate those two realities, we can pray with faith. We can lift up prayers of lament, confident that God will not abandon us, and prayers for help, confident that God will one day lead us out.


One day, God’s loving care will lead us up His holy mountain, and we will be amazed by the view.

desert mountain view

walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.

Please Talk about the Bible

  I have noticed a trend that is bothering me.


Too many people feel uncomfortable talking about the Bible.


The great tools available to help us interpret the Scriptures have somehow become trappings that are stifling our voices.


We go to churches with gifted, dynamic, and intelligent speakers. (Or, if we don’t, we listen to podcasts of churches that do.) We read articles and books and blogs by writers who have advanced degrees in biblical history and languages. We interact with professional pastors who are paid to read the Scriptures.


We listen and read and study and learn. And, then, after all that absorbing, we feel inadequate.


Who am I to talk about the Bible? I don’t know Hebrew or Greek. I am not a trained minister. I am not a gifted theologian. It is not my role.


talk about the BibleYes. It is your role. Talking about the Bible is the role of each of us who have a copy of it in our hands.


Studying, speaking, and writing about the Bible is not a job best left for the experts.


Just to be clear, I believe in the work of biblical experts.


I count it a privilege to read the works of theologians and scholars that can deepen my understanding of its words. The Bible is not simple. It is a complicated text entrenched in culture and history. Professionals can shed light on the nuances and difficulties that we didn’t hear about in Sunday School or memory verse drills.


But I also believe in the Holy Spirit.


The Word of God is alive and active. When we read it, if we allow Him to, God uses the verses to change us. The Bible feeds our souls, convicts us of our sins, inspires us to live differently, and reminds of God’s redemption story.


When that happens to you, I want to hear about it. It keeps me accountable to reading the Bible, too. Not because someone is telling me to, but because I am inspired by hearing someone else’s story of why the words of the Scripture matter.


That’s not to say that every time we read the Bible there are lightning bolts and fuzzy feelings and rainbows in the sky. Sometimes we walk away frustrated or confused. We wonder why in the world God put that verse or that story in with the rest of the text.


When that happens to you, I want to hear about it. It shows me I am not alone in my frustrations. It allows us to wrestle with the Scriptures together instead of question alone. It reminds me that it is okay if I don’t have all the answers and cannot bring everything to a nice and tidy conclusion.


When you read the Bible, I want to hear about it.


I want to be reminded that the living Holy Spirit weaves these living Words into the living body of His Church. I want to appreciate that reading the Bible is not always about being accurate to the text, but also about being accessible to its power.  I want to be encouraged to keep on reading when I feel like giving up.


Talking about the Bible is not the job of professional pastors, it is the work of the God’s people. So please, tell me what you are reading in the Scriptures. You are my pastor, too.