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"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Passion for Truth

This one's a bit sporadic.  Sorry!  I tend to think in a way that can be difficult to follow and had a hard time connecting all these ideas into one cohesive story.  Hopefully it makes some sense.


The call came on Thursday.

I was sitting with a friend,

Chatting about the rapid approach of fall semester,

How our summers had been going.

My pocket started ringing and buzzing.

I pulled out my phone,

Looked at the number.

I could tell it was from the area I live in,

But I didn't know whose number it was.

So I apologized to my friend,

And I answered.

It was my pastor.


Now, to be clear, by "my pastor", I mean the current pastor of the church I grew up in,

The church I go to with my family almost every Sunday of the year,

The church I've said this, this, and this about,

The church where I love the people, but don't care so much for the preaching -

Not necessarily because it's wrong

(Although some guest pastors certainly have been),

But because it lacks the depth I need,

The breadth that puts it all into perspective.

The Bibles in the pews might as well have holes in them for all we talk about things like God's Wrath and Justice.

And I still go there.

Virtually every Sunday.

Why?

Primarily because I don't know of another church nearby that would be any better,

But also because I don't want to tell my parents that I'm not going to church with the rest of the family on Sunday morning,

Especially when I could just go somewhere else on Sunday evening.

There are a lot of reasons, I suppose, but those are the main ones.

(Yeah, not very good ones.  I know.)

Anyway, back to the phone call.

I explained to him that, while it was fine for him to call me on my cell phone, I was with a friend and didn't really have time to talk.

He said he was just calling about Sunday school, and that he'd send me the information in an email instead.

We said good-bye,

And I went back to spending time with my friend.


When I got home, I opened my email.

Sure enough, there it was.

He was asking me to teach Sunday school,

Probably because I'd volunteered to do it for one Sunday over the summer.

("Hallowed be Thy Name" - excellent topic to teach about!)

Now the question was how to respond.

I'd been hoping to spend more time at school this year,

Go to church with my friends,

But this was an opportunity to show others what I've seen,

Show them who God is.

I thought for a moment that I should pray about it for a few days,

Then realized that the Bible says we're supposed to preach the Gospel,

(Which I, being shy and having very few non-Christian friends, don't do so well at)

And that this would be a great chance for me to speak the truth in love to a captive audience for as much as an hour a week,

And that it might be the only chance those children would ever have to hear what has turned my world upside-down.  (Technically, right-side up.)

I was pretty sure that weeks of praying about the decision wouldn't change those things one bit,

(After all, the Holy Spirit isn't going to contradict the will of God as clearly defined in the Scriptures)

So I prayed about it a little, then sat down to write my response.

I decided to tell him the truth.


I said that,

While I would be glad to teach Sunday school,

What I have come to believe isn't really what's talked about in this church,

That I can't teach anything other than what I believe to be true,

That all the reformed theology I've been learning from my friends,

The other churches I've been attending,

The sermons I listen to every day,

And my own personal study of God's Word

Is going to come through quite clearly,

Whether I'm talking about Noah's Ark or God's character.

I told him that I would understand completely if he didn't want me to teach Sunday school.

Then,

Before pressing "send",

I set out to find some good links for "reformed theology".


I thought back to when a friend first told me,

Nearly a year ago now,

That God did everything for His Glory.

I was shocked and upset.

I didn't think that could be true,

That God would be vain if it were.

That is, until he said that otherwise God would be an idolater.

The impossibility of the second option showed me that,

Unlikely as it seemed,

The first one must be true.

It was probably the most defining moment in my faith.

It changed everything I thought I knew about God,

Everything I believed about Him.

It started me on a journey that has taken me amazing places,

Taught me difficult things like proper doctrine and discernment,

Gave me an incredible passion for truth,

And brought me to a joy I had never before fathomed.

I have seen God,

And, once you see God,

You can't go back.

I didn't know this was considered reformed theology until a few months ago.

All I know is it's real,

It's Biblical,

And it's changed my life.

I wasn't sure if my pastor would understand that,

But I wanted to find links that would reflect that,

(Not the one link I found that listed the United Church of Christ as reformed.  Definitely not.  Reformed people take the Bible far more literally than that.)


The first one I picked was a blog I'd bookmarked ages ago,

(Forgotten I'd bookmarked, actually,)

That had video clips and other resources on it.

Great sermon clips by famous names,

Even some cartoons.

I used Google to find the second one,

And,

Surprisingly,

I wasn't disappointed.

In fact,

It blew me away.


It was an article in Christianity Today - from 2006.

Last two words in the first sentence:  John Piper.

I figured that was a good sign.

I skimmed the first two pages,

Looked at the doctrine part more closely:

"Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints".

In my head I was going,

"Yes.  Yes.  I don't even know what that is.  (I have only been learning about this stuff for a year, you know.)  Probably, if that means what I think it does. Yes.

Okay, this is looking good."

Then I went to the next page,

Skimmed some more.

One sentence caught my eye:
 "Once you're exposed to [doctrine]," he said, "you see the richness in it for your own soul, and you're ruined for anything else."
That,

That

Is my experience.

I decided in that moment that it was a good link,

And,

Seeing as it was getting very late,

Decided to copy the link for my own perusing later

And send the email.

Then I went to take a shower, 

Joy in my heart,

(Which, as anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile will know, is a pretty big deal in this season of my life,)

Bouncing up and down, (no, not an expression)

Grinning wildly, (still not an expression)

Thinking,

"Yes,

Yes,

Ruined for all else!

Absolutely ruined!"


I read the article in its entirety the next day,

(And discovered, thanks to a handy link within the article that I'd missed before, what "limited atonement" is - I'd been wondering about that . . . good to know other, smarter people have the same line of reasoning I do,

And, yes, "irresistible grace" did mean what I thought.  I learned the basics of reformed doctrine without even knowing it.  It just blows me away how much deeper and more sure my beliefs have become in the past year.)

And found another bit I liked so much I copied it into a computer sticky note

For later conversion into a printable for my wall:
 "If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, 'It's unbelievable.  Why would God choose any of us?'  You are so amazed by grace, you're not picking a fight with anyone, you're just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when He doesn't have to save anybody." - Joshua Harris
There were some real tears as I was blown away (again) by the incredible depth of God's mercy,

And as I praised Him for these tiny bits of feeling in the middle of the desert,

Prayed desperately for more.


It's been a week since I sent that email.

I haven't received a reply.

I'm not worried about it.

It's in God's hands.

If He wants me teaching Sunday school this year, He'll make it happen.

I would love that.

I think it would be incredible to teach children the truth I've become so passionate about,

Though I'm sure I'd make a lot of mistakes.

If He doesn't, I'll be able to spend more time growing in my own faith,

Maybe try out the church an amazing friend found for me,

Definitely spend more time with my friends at school,

Growing in faith together.

For me, it's a win-win situation,

And,

Even if it didn't seem that way,

God always works things out for the best.

He'll get me where He wants me,

Even if I'm kicking and screaming the whole way.


A couple last thought:

The title of that article?

"Young, Restless, Reformed"

I love that title.

It describes me and the group of friends I've become a part of so accurately.

Someone told us something we weren't sure if we could believe,

So we cracked open our Bibles and sought the truth ourselves,

Eventually finding that His Word says some pretty amazing things,

Things no one had ever told us were in there,

Things I'd never even noticed when I read through it for the first time.

It blew us away,

Gave us a passion for truth,

For good, sound doctrine,

Because these things help us to see God,

And, once you see God,

You can't go back.

You're too in love with Him to settle for anything less than what you have.

Instead, you want more.


The article said it well:
[T]he young Calvinists value theological systems far less than God and his Word.
Yes, that's it.

That's it exactly.

The key to it all is seeing God.

This is how I'd illustrate it:

The Word is like a little window,

Giving us a glimpse at the beautiful landscape of God.

The whole landscape is God,

Stretching far beyond what we can see.

The window of the Word is the only way we can see the landscape,

The only light in a dark room.

The theological system tells you what outside the window to look at.

Some say, "Look at that mountaintop, but don't look at the valley.

It's too dark and scary.

God isn't like that."

Others say, "Look down there in the valley, but don't look at the mountaintop.

It's too bright and beautiful.

God isn't like that."

Systems like this say they want you to see all of God,

But in practice, they make sure you only see bits and pieces.

To me,

(And I'm still learning, so I'm not saying everyone thinks this way)

Reformed theology says right out: "Take in everything you can see."

You follow a system like that,

You'll have your nose to the glass,

Mouth hanging open in awe,

As you try to glimpse every angle you possibly can.

That's not because of the theological system,

(For there are some windows you could look out of,

Take everything in,

And not really care.

The view from those windows is ordinary.

Those windows obviously do not show us God.)

Nor is it ultimately because of the Word,

(Though such an endeavor would be quite impossible without it.)

What it is about is what's beyond the window -

God.

Once you see the tiny scrap of His Infinity that the Word offers you,

See it in its entirety, with a depth and breadth so much greater than those bits and pieces some people look at,

You love Him so much that you want the whole thing,

And it changes everything.


Reasons 2077-2161 today,

Once again seeking to see Him

And be blown away:
  1. He is forgiving (Nehemiah 9:17)
  2. He is a forgiving God (Nehemiah 9:17)
  3. He is gracious and compassionate (Nehemiah 9:17)
  4. He is slow to anger and abounding in love (Nehemiah 9:17)
  5. He does not desert His people (Nehemiah 9:17)
  6. He does not desert His people, even when they are arrogant (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  7. He does not desert His people, even when they are stiff-necked (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  8. He does not desert His people, even when they do not obey His commands (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  9. He does not desert His people, even when they refuse to listen (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  10. He does not desert His people, even when they fail to remember the miracles He performed among them (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  11. He does not desert His people, even when they rebel (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  12. He does not desert His people, even when they appoint a leader in order to return to their slavery (Nehemiah 9:16-17)
  13. He does not desert His people, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf (Nehemiah 9:17-18)
  14. He does not desert His people, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and say, “This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Nehemiah 9:17-18)
  15. He does not desert His people, even when they commit awful blasphemies (Nehemiah 9:17-18)
  16. He has great compassion (Nehemiah 9:19)
  17. Because of His great compassion, He does not abandon His people (Nehemiah 9:19)
  18. Because of His great compassion, He does not abandon His people in the wilderness (Nehemiah 9:19)
  19. His pillar of cloud never failed to guide His people on their path (Nehemiah 9:19)
  20. His pillar of fire never failed to shine on the way His people were to take (Nehemiah 9:19)
  21. His Spirit is Good (Nehemiah 9:20)
  22. He gives His Good Spirit to instruct His people (Nehemiah 9:20)
  23. He instructs His people (Nehemiah 9:20)
  24. He does not withhold His manna from the mouths of His people (Nehemiah 9:20)
  25. He gives His people water for their thirst (Nehemiah 9:20)
  26. He sustains His people (Nehemiah 9:21)
  27. He sustains His people for forty years in the wilderness (Nehemiah 9:21)
  28. Those whom He sustains lack nothing (Nehemiah 9:21)
  29. The clothes of those whom He sustains do not wear out (Nehemiah 9:21)
  30. The feet of those whom He sustains do not become swollen (Nehemiah 9:21)
  31. He gives kingdoms to His people (Nehemiah 9:22)
  32. He gives nations to His people (Nehemiah 9:22)
  33. He allots to His people even the remotest frontiers (Nehemiah 9:22)
  34. He gives His people the countries of kings (Nehemiah 9:22)
  35. He makes the children of His people as numerous as the stars in the sky (Nehemiah 9:23)
  36. He brings His people into the land He told their parents to enter and possess (Nehemiah 9:23)
  37. The children of His people take possession of the land He promised them (Nehemiah 9:24)
  38. He subdues the enemies of His people before His people (Nehemiah 9:24)
  39. He gives the enemies of His people into the hands of His people (Nehemiah 9:24)
  40. He gives the kings of the enemies of His people into the hands of His people (Nehemiah 9:24)
  41. Those whom He gives into the hands of His people and does not give specific instructions about, he gives for His people to deal with as they please (Nehemiah 9:24)
  42. He allows His people to capture fortified cities (Nehemiah 9:25)
  43. He allows His people to capture fertile land (Nehemiah 9:25)
  44. He allows His people to take possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things in abundance (Nehemiah 9:25)
  45. He allows His people to take possession of wells already dug in abundance (Nehemiah 9:25)
  46. He allows His people to take possession of vineyards in abundance (Nehemiah 9:25)
  47. He allows His people to take possession of olive groves in abundance (Nehemiah 9:25)
  48. He allows His people to take possession of fruit trees in abundance (Nehemiah 9:25)
  49. He delivers those who are disobedient into the hands of their enemies (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
  50. He delivers those who rebel against Him into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
  51. He delivers those who turn their backs on His law the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
  52. He delivers those who kill His prophets into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
  53. He delivers those who kill His prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
  54. He delivers those who commit awful blasphemies into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
  55. He hears the cry of the oppressed (Nehemiah 9:27)
  56. From heaven He hears the cry of the oppressed (Nehemiah 9:27)
  57. His compassion is great (Nehemiah 9:27)
  58. In His great compassion, He gives deliverers (Nehemiah 9:27)
  59. In His great compassion, He gives deliverers to the oppressed (Nehemiah 9:27)
  60. In His great compassion, He gives deliverers who rescue the oppressed from the hand of their enemies (Nehemiah 9:27)
  61. He abandons those who do evil in His sight to the hand of their enemies so that their enemies rule over them (Nehemiah 9:28)
  62. He hears those who cry out to Him again (Nehemiah 9:28)
  63. From heaven He hears those who cry out to Him again (Nehemiah 9:28)
  64. In His compassion, He delivers those who cry out to Him time after time (Nehemiah 9:28)
  65. He warns His people to turn back to His law (Nehemiah 9:29)
  66. He is patient for many years with those who become arrogant (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  67. He is patient for many years with those who disobey His commands (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  68. He is patient for many years with those who sin against His ordinances (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  69. He is patient for many years with those who sin against His ordinances, of which He said, “The person who obeys them will live by them” (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  70. He is patient for many years with those who stubbornly turn their backs on Him (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  71. He is patient for many years with those who become stiff-necked (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  72. He is patient for many years with those who refuse to listen (Nehemiah 9:29-30)
  73. He warns His people by His Spirit through His prophets (Nehemiah 9:30)
  74. He gives those who pay no attention to His warnings into the hands of the neighboring peoples (Nehemiah 9:30)
  75. In His great Mercy He does not put an end to His people (Nehemiah 9:31)
  76. In His great Mercy He does not abandon His people (Nehemiah 9:31)
  77. He is a gracious and merciful God (Nehemiah 9:31)
  78. He is Mighty (Nehemiah 9:32)
  79. He is Mighty and Awesome (Nehemiah 9:32)
  80. He keeps His covenant of love (Nehemiah 9:32)
  81. He has remained Righteous (Nehemiah 9:33)
  82. In all that has happened to His people, He has remained Righteous (Nehemiah 9:33)
  83. He has acted faithfully (Nehemiah 9:33)
  84. In all that has happened to His people, He has acted faithfully (Nehemiah 9:33)
  85. In all that has happened to His people, He has acted faithfully, while His people have acted wickedly (Nehemiah 9:33)



(Take the challenge with us!  Please?  Sylvia's taking a hiatus, and I'd love some company.  You won't regret it!)

<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>
Counting in community:




 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The iPhone I Could've Had


I have an old-style flip-open phone,

Much like the old ones inspired by one of my favorite TV series.

I don't have texting.

I can't take video.

I can barely take photographs.

My phone doesn't have cool apps,

Like a Bible,

Or a compass,

Or an imitation of a real Star Trek communicator.

I can't use it as a calendar,

And the alarm is definitely not reliable.

All it does is make and receive calls,

And, really, that's all I need it to do,

(Though there are times that I could really use that alarm . . .)

But I'll confess that I wouldn't mind a new toy,

That I would really like to have a smartphone that could do all of those cool things.

Lots of my friends have them,

And they look so useful and fun.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to access the Internet from anywhere?

Check my email any time?

Have all those really awesome apps to play with?

Well, just a thought.


I remember very clearly one Sunday after church,

Just last month.

Dad had gotten out his brand-new iPhone,

The one he'd had to get for his work,

To call Mom,

Ask about lunch.

I looked over his shoulder eagerly,

Like a toddler with a new toy,

Giant smile on my face,

Amazed at the beautiful touchscreen and the attractive design of the phone,

Wishing I'd had to get one for work,

Though, of course, I don't really work,

And my siblings called attention to my childlike behavior.

He looked at me and said,

"You know, you have enough money.  You could buy one."

I told him I thought there were better things to spend six hundred dollars on,

And, thinking of that,

I came to the realization that I must have six hundred dollars,

And I knew exactly what I wanted to spend it on.


I'd been thinking about it for months,

Felt like God was putting it on my heart,

But I wasn't sure.

My only job is babysitting in the summer,

Though, admittedly, I do make a decent amount of money doing that.

I'm a college student,

And there's no guarantee I'll get a job when I graduate.

I had no idea how much money I had,

As my parents keep track of it all for me,

And I never really buy anything,

As there's not much I want and my parents buy everything I need.

And then I would have to talk to my parents,

Convince them to let me do it.

That would probably be the hardest part.



I went on the website as soon as I got home,

And started looking at beautiful pictures of adorable children.

Having spent weeks receiving emails to pray for India,

I started there,

And looked at the girls who had been waiting the longest.

There were only two.

I looked at the one on the left.

She'd been waiting a little longer,

And I was thinking . . .

And then I looked at the one on the right,

Read the information,

Until my eyes just stopped. 

She shared my birthday,

Just ten years younger than me.

Some people look for that,

For children born on a specific day,

Looking for that connection,

That commonality.

I hadn't even cared,

Until I saw that date there

And it felt like a sign from God,

And there was a connection,

Instantly.

I copied the URL for her page and pasted it into a sticky note on my computer.

Then I tried to think of how to convince Mom and Dad.


Dad, of course, gave his usual speech to "think about it carefully.

I'd need that money when I graduated from college.

It wasn't really a good idea to spend all of it."

I reasoned that I'd be spending one-sixth of it in a year,

If I had as much as I estimated,

And that I made twice as much as I needed per year babysitting.

He said I'd have to talk to Mom.

That conversation went a little like this:

"Mom?  How much money do I have from babysitting?"

"I don't know."

"It's three thousand dollars, right?  One thousand for each year?"

"I suppose so."

"I haven't really spent any of it, right?"

"No."

"I'd like to spend some now.  I'd like to give some of it away."

"Mary, we give money to charity."

"But it's not my money.  I want to use my money."

"What do you want to do with it?"

"I want to sponsor a child.  Through Compassion."

"Mary, we sponsor a child." (As of our last trip to the Family Christian store.)

"I want to sponsor one myself.  Using my money.  I've been thinking about it for months."

"Well, I suppose so."

So I went downstairs,

Filled out the form myself,

Got Dad to help me set up payments,

And I was a sponsor.


I set up my online account the next day,

Discovered the online letter-writing tool,

And immediately wrote a letter

To the beautiful girl

Halfway around the world

Whose name I can't even pronounce,

And who I'd hadn't known existed just a few days prior,

But now cared for, prayed for, and loved.

I started writing letters online every week,

Quickly running out of pictures to send.

A week and a half later,

I received my sponsor packet,

Filled out the "introduction form",

And had several pictures printed to slip into the envelope,

Started putting pen to paper every month,

Slipping in small paper gifts,

Taking letters to the mailbox.

I hadn't heard from her yet,

Didn't expect to for another two months.

It didn't matter.

I wrote anyway.


Monday, there was an envelope at my seat at the table.

Mail in that location is not, in itself, an unusual occurrence,

As my seat at the table tends to collect junk,

And is usually so buried in mail that I can't even eat until I move it.

This was different, though.

There was just one envelope,

With my name on it,

The Compassion logo,

And big, all-caps letters, spelling:
 MESSAGE FROM YOUR SPONSORED CHILD
I have no idea what I'd walked into the kitchen for,

But whatever it was ceased to matter in that instant.

I picked up the envelope,

Ripped it open,

And immediately sat down to read it.


I looked at the names of her family members,

Her favorite foods, colors, game,

Song - "the Jesus song".

I smile.

I'm not sure what "Jesus song" it is,

But I'm pretty sure I'd like it, too.

On the other side is a beautiful picture,

Followed by a few short lines of gorgeous squiggles

That I can't even make out a pattern in.

In the midst of them, a few letters I can read:

"D.C.D.C." and "Love,"

Love.  Yes.  Me, too.

I skip down to the translation,

Read the beautiful words printed on this paper,

This paper that came to me all the way from India,

This paper that the girl whose picture is on my refrigerator held in her own hands,

And I read the first sentence:

"Greetings to you in the name of Jesus."

And I know,

Beyond a shadow of a doubt,

That this is way, way better than an iPhone.

Why invest in possessions I don't really need

When I can invest in people who need me,

Relationships that I need, too?

Isn't that more important?

And isn't it written,

Didn't He say,

Jeremiah 22:16

New Living Translation (NLT)
16 He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
    and everything went well for him.
Isn’t that what it means to know me?”
    says the Lord.
To know Him.

Yes!

How beautiful that one simple thing can do so much:

That I can help to meet needs,

Develop a relationship with a child halfway around the world,

And know God better,

Just by paying a little over a dollar a day,

Spending twenty minutes writing a letter each week,

Adding a few more lines in my book of prayer requests.

How beautiful that God planned it this way,

That He connects hearts half a world away from each other,

Draws people closer to Him!

I'd take this over an iPhone any day.

Way, way better.


Dad said it today,

Just as I started to write this post.

I don't know why,

But it I thought it went perfectly with what I'd been planning to write:

"I had an idea for a song:

'Don't give me the iPod, iTouch, iPad,

Just give me the I Am.

The Holy, Forever, Unchanging

I Am.'"

I liked the idea a lot,

Though it didn't instantly set any alarms off in the songwriting portion of my brain,

So I told him maybe he should write it.

Then this beautiful truth came out of his mouth:

"I just thought that we're getting so caught up in all these 'i's,

We're forgetting the most important One."

Well, here's to remembering

That, though there's nothing wrong with new toys,

There are so, so many more important things in life,

Like relationship.

I can live without an iPhone,

But I can't live without relationship,

And I definitely can't live without Him,

So I want it, too:

The I Am -

The only "I" I'll ever need.


Reasons 1955-2076 today,

Passing two thousand,

As I continue to look at who the "I Am" is

And what that all means:
  1. His gracious hand is on everyone who looks to Him (Ezra 8:22)
  2. His great anger is against all who forsake Him (Ezra 8:22)
  3. He protects His people in order to prove His greatness (Ezra 8:21-23)
  4. His hand is on His people (Ezra 8:31)
  5. He protects His people from enemies (Ezra 8:31)
  6. He protects His people from bandits (Ezra 8:31)
  7. People tremble at His words (Ezra 9:4)
  8. Because of His people's sins, He subjects them to the sword (Ezra 9:7)
  9. Because of His people's sins, He subjects them to captivity (Ezra 9:7)
  10. Because of His people's sins, He subjects them to pillage at the hand of foreign kings (Ezra 9:7)
  11. Because of His people's sins, He subjects them to humiliation at the hand of foreign kings (Ezra 9:7)
  12. He is gracious in leaving His people a remnant (Ezra 9:8)
  13. He is gracious in giving His people a firm place in His sanctuary (Ezra 9:8)
  14. He gives light to the eyes of His people (Ezra 9:8)
  15. He gives a little relief to His people in their bondage (Ezra 9:8)
  16. He does not forsake His people (Ezra 9:9)
  17. He does not forsake His people, even though they are slaves (Ezra 9:9)
  18. He does not forsake His people in their bondage (Ezra 9:9)
  19. He shows His people kindness (Ezra 9:9)
  20. He shows His people kindness in the sight of foreign kings (Ezra 9:9)
  21. He grants new life to His people (Ezra 9:9)
  22. He grants new life to His people to rebuild His house (Ezra 9:9)
  23. He grants new life to His people to repair the ruins of His house (Ezra 9:9)
  24. He gives His people a wall of protection (Ezra 9:9)
  25. He gives His people a wall of protection in Judah (Ezra 9:9)
  26. He gives His people a wall of protection in Jerusalem (Ezra 9:9)
  27. He punishes His people (Ezra 9:13)
  28. He punishes His people less than their sins deserve (Ezra 9:13)
  29. He gives His people a remnant (Ezra 9:13)
  30. No one who is guilty can stand in His presence (Ezra 9:15)
  31. He still offers hope for those who are unfaithful to Him (Ezra 10:2)
  32. He is Awesome (Nehemiah 1:5)
  33. He is the Great God (Nehemiah 1:5)
  34. He is the Awesome God (Nehemiah 1:5)
  35. He keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him (Nehemiah 1:5)
  36. He keeps His covenant of love with those who keep His commandments (Nehemiah 1:5)
  37. He scatters the unfaithful among the nations (Nehemiah 1:8)
  38. He gathers the unfaithful who return to Him and obey His commandments back from the farthest horizon (Nehemiah 1:9)
  39. He gathers the unfaithful who return to Him and obey His commandments and brings them to the place He has chosen as a dwelling for His name (Nehemiah 1:9)
  40. He redeems His servants by His great strength (Nehemiah 1:10)
  41. He redeems His servants by His great mighty hand (Nehemiah 1:10)
  42. He redeems His people by His great strength (Nehemiah 1:10)
  43. He redeems His people by His great mighty hand (Nehemiah 1:10)
  44. His ear is attentive to the prayer of His servant (Nehemiah 1:11)
  45. His ear is attentive to the prayers of His servants who delight in revering His name (Nehemiah 1:11)
  46. He gives His servant success by granting him favor (Nehemiah 1:11)
  47. His hand is gracious (Nehemiah 2:18)
  48. His hand is gracious on His servant (Nehemiah 2:18)
  49. He gives success to His people (Nehemiah 2:20)
  50. He gives success to those doing His good work (Nehemiah 2:17-20)
  51. He gives success to those rebuilding His city (Nehemiah 2:20)
  52. His people pray to Him (Nehemiah 4:9)
  53. He is Great and Awesome (Nehemiah 4:14)
  54. He frustrates enemy plots (Nehemiah 4:15)
  55. Those who walk in fear of Him avoid the reproach of their enemies (Nehemiah 5:9)
  56. He is to be revered (Nehemiah 5:15)
  57. He strengthens the hands of His people (Nehemiah 6:9)
  58. He strengthens the hands of His people so that they can complete His good work (Nehemiah 6:9)
  59. He remembers people (Nehemiah 6:14)
  60. He remembers people and their actions (Nehemiah 6:14)
  61. He helps His people to do His good work (Nehemiah 6:16)
  62. Other nations fear when they realize that He helps His people to do His good work (Nehemiah 6:16)
  63. Other nations lose their self-confidence when they realize that He helps His people to do His good work (Nehemiah 6:16)
  64. He puts His plans into people's hearts (Nehemiah 7:4)
  65. Days are holy to Him (Nehemiah 8:9)
  66. He has joy (Nehemiah 8:10)
  67. His joy is the strength of His people (Nehemiah 8:10)
  68. His people confess to Him (Nehemiah 9:3)
  69. His people worship Him (Nehemiah 9:3)
  70. His glorious Name is to be blessed (Nehemiah 9:5)
  71. His glorious Name is to be exalted (Nehemiah 9:5)
  72. His glorious Name is to be exalted above all blessing (Nehemiah 9:5)
  73. His glorious Name is to be exalted above all praise (Nehemiah 9:5)
  74. He alone is the LORD (Nehemiah 9:6)
  75. He made even the highest heavens (Nehemiah 9:6)
  76. He made all the starry host of the heavens (Nehemiah 9:6)
  77. He made the earth (Nehemiah 9:6)
  78. He made all that is on the earth (Nehemiah 9:6)
  79. He made the seas (Nehemiah 9:6)
  80. He made all that is in the seas (Nehemiah 9:6)
  81. He gives life (Nehemiah 9:6)
  82. He gives life to everything (Nehemiah 9:6)
  83. The multitudes of heaven worship Him (Nehemiah 9:6)
  84. He chooses people (Nehemiah 9:7)
  85. He brings people out (Nehemiah 9:7)
  86. He finds hearts that are faithful to Him (Nehemiah 9:8)
  87. He makes covenants with those whose hearts are faithful to Him (Nehemiah 9:8)
  88. He keeps His promise (Nehemiah 9:8)
  89. He keeps His promise because He is Righteous (Nehemiah 9:8)
  90. He sees the suffering of His people (Nehemiah 9:9)
  91. He hears the cry of His people (Nehemiah 9:9)
  92. He sends signs (Nehemiah 9:10)
  93. He sends wonders (Nehemiah 9:10)
  94. He sends signs against the enemies of His people (Nehemiah 9:10)
  95. He sends wonders against the enemies of His people (Nehemiah 9:10)
  96. He made a name for Himself (Nehemiah 9:10)
  97. The name He made for Himself remains to this day (Nehemiah 9:10)
  98. He divides seas before His people (Nehemiah 9:11)
  99. He enables His people to pass through bodies of water on dry ground (Nehemiah 9:11)
  100. He leads His people with a pillar of cloud during the day (Nehemiah 9:12)
  101. He leads His people with a pillar of fire during the night (Nehemiah 9:12)
  102. He leads His people with a pillar of fire during the night to give them light on the way they were to take (Nehemiah 9:12)
  103. He came down on Mount Sinai (Nehemiah 9:13)
  104. He speaks with His people from heaven (Nehemiah 9:13)
  105. He gives regulations (Nehemiah 9:13)
  106. He gives laws (Nehemiah 9:13)
  107. He gives regulations that are just (Nehemiah 9:13)
  108. He gives regulations that are right (Nehemiah 9:13)
  109. He gives laws that are just (Nehemiah 9:13)
  110. He gives laws that are right (Nehemiah 9:13)
  111. He gives decrees (Nehemiah 9:13)
  112. He gives commands (Nehemiah 9:13)
  113. He gives decrees that are good (Nehemiah 9:13)
  114. He gives commands that are good (Nehemiah 9:13)
  115. He makes known His holy Sabbath (Nehemiah 9:14)
  116. He gives commands through His servant (Nehemiah 9:14)
  117. He gives decrees through His servant (Nehemiah 9:14)
  118. He gives laws through His servant (Nehemiah 9:14)
  119. He gives people bread from heaven in their hunger (Nehemiah 9:15)
  120. He gives people water from rocks in their thirst (Nehemiah 9:15)
  121. He tells His people to go in (Nehemiah 9:15)
  122. He tells His people to take possession of the land He has sworn with uplifted hand to give them (Nehemiah 9:15)



(Take the challenge with us!)

<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>
Counting in community:


And linking up at A Holy Experience today, surprised to find that the prompt is, once again, relationship, and that what I was planning on writing went very well with that.




Also, please look at some of the other beautiful posts found at the bottom of this one.  Maybe bless the author with a comment?  It's a blessing to know that God has used your imperfect words to bless another.




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

She Listened


God has blessed me with the best friends in the world.

I met them when I went off to college,

Sure that there was no way I would grow in my faith there as much as I had in high school,

And we got together and worshiped,

We sat down and studied the Bible,

We prayed together for hours,

And we just spent time together talking and laughing,

And the more I was around these people,

The more I saw Jesus in them,

The more I wanted to be like that.

We grew even closer the next year,

Learning hard lessons together

About who God is,

Where we should draw our lines,

Just how important it is to be discerning.

These people,

More than any others,

Are the reason my faith has grown so much.

When I see how they live,

I realize I want what they have,

And the discoveries that realization has led me to have changed everything for me.

These people are the ones that I've been missing lately,

Here,

Home,

Not having seen them for months.


I was shocked to see many of them on Sunday

When I went to church.

There were lots of long hugs and "How are you?"s.

It was a beautiful reunion,

Though quite brief.

The service started,

The band came up,

And all of us stopped focusing on one another,

And started focusing on God.

It was at that point that I saw the bread and cups at the front of the room.

We were having communion.


Normally, communion would be a cause for celebration.

The last four months, I have almost started to fear it,

Because I know that before I take communion I am supposed to examine myself.

Four months ago,

When I was living what those hymns speak about,

Examining myself was more about repenting,

Asking forgiveness for all the things I'd done wrong recently,

Meditating on what Christ did for me.

These days,

Examining myself usually consists of lots of worrying,

And even more praying,

About whether or not I should take communion when I feel so distant from God,

And that's exactly what I did,

During the entire beginning of the service.


The first several songs I'd never heard before,

But then they got to one I know,

And I knew what words were coming

Because they came from a beautiful old hymn,

And,

For the first time in weeks,

Tears filled my eyes.

And he sang it as I prayed,

"Yes, yes, I need that" :
"My richest gains I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride."
And I was just amazed that I was actually feeling something,

Emotionless as I've been lately,

And, oh, how I needed that!


When they called people forward,

I thought I'd go,

Since I was feeling better than I'd felt in two months,

But I figured I should sit down and pray awhile first.

That lasted all of ten seconds,

Because the next thing I knew,

The band was playing again,

And it sounded a whole lot like God saying to me,

"Get up!

Go!"

Because He knows what this song means to me,

And He knew that it would get His point across.

So I went,

And though I still have no idea why I can pray for weeks that I'd want Him again and feel nothing,

But pray for a few minutes about whether or not I should take communion and have a definitive answer within half an hour,

I will admit that there's something good about having to question this,

That it's not automatic anymore,

That it seems to be the one time God really answers my prayers and gives me a desire for Him again.

It makes it feel more special,

More real.


Instead of a sermon, we break into groups to pray,

Praying for what I need so desperately right now,

And I'm reading through Psalm 38,

Feeling it in my heart.

Then we go back to our seats,

And the band plays a song I'd forgotten I knew,

Forgotten how much I liked,

And my hands are in the air,

And, for the first time in weeks, it feels right,

And, yes, my God is not dead, He's alive,

He's alive!


After it was over, my friends (remember them?) and I sat and talked for far too long,

Yet not nearly long enough.

One came over to me and asked how my summer was going.

I told him the truth,

That it wasn't what I expected,

That being home makes it all so hard,

That I can't get alone easily,

Have a hard time listening to sermons,

Don't have a Bible study I can go to,

That I feel just so far . . .

All the while hoping it's finally over,

Praying that God will allow these feelings to continue.

I finally decide that I really do need to leave.

Before I go, he tells me there's going to be a Bible study the next day,

Invites me to come.

My jaw drops.

He doesn't understand,

So I say it out loud.

"I would love to go to a Bible study."

I sing in the car the whole way home.

I haven't done that in months, either.


The next morning, I pray that I won't lose it,

That that day would be better, too.

I try.

I listen to a sermon,

Though I had to do it while decorating my sister's school folders for her,

Getting my own folders ready.

I count,

Memorize,

But it's still out of my control,

And I can't make myself feel anything.

Finally, I leave,

Drive to the Bible study.

We sit,

Talk,

Have dinner,

Clean.

We don't even really start until nine.

It's nice to just be with them again, though.

Someone pulls out a guitar

And we sing.

I ask for one of my favorites,

And that song I enjoyed.

It was the only thing I really, truly enjoyed all day.


After some discussion, it was decided that we'd read and discuss Hebrews 10.

It was a great chapter,

And there were so many great observations about it.

We talked about sacrifice.

One said she almost wished she could live in Old Testament times,

So that she could experience what the sacrifices were like,

Really understand why Jesus' sacrifice was so significant.

Another across the room responded that he was thinking the same thing just the other day.

(See?  That's what kind of friends I have.  Aren't they awesome?)

One wondered what it would be like to live somewhere between the first sin and God's first promise of forgiveness,

How hopeless it would be to know that the penalty is death,

Not see any way out.

We talked about what a beautiful interruption grace is.

There were just so, so many good thoughts,

And I?

I wasn't hit by any of them.

None of them meant much to me at all.

I was hoping that Bible study would help,

That someone would say something that would hit me so hard I'd just break down and weep.

Didn't happen.

I became a bit restless and frustrated with all of it,

Almost wishing I hadn't come.


When it was all over,

I sat down next to one of my friends.

I wanted to talk,

To catch up with her,

But mostly because I just needed to get it all off my chest.

She'd emailed me the week before,

Said she knew I'd been struggling at the beginning of the summer,

Asked if I still was,

And I'd replied,

Told her how dead I felt,

How I couldn't even be upset about it,

How I was so sick of it.

Well, I sat down next to her,

And she knew just what to ask,

And I told her about how wonderful the day before had been,

Told her how it didn't last,

Told her how I hadn't really gotten anything out of the Bible study,

How it would've been great if it mattered to me again.

And it's been hard because people don't seem to understand,

Or they give me wonderful advice, and I really do appreciate it, but it's stuff I've already tried,

Or they're encouraging, and it's wonderful, but I wish that encouragement helped me right now, made me feel hopeful,

But she just sat

And listened

And let me tell about all I've been struggling with this summer,

And I talked way more than I should've,

Didn't ask nearly enough about her,

But she didn't seem to mind,

And that conversation meant so much to me,

Because I really just needed someone to listen,

And she did.



God has blessed me so much.

I have the best friends in the world.


Reasons 1867-1954 today,

More reasons to bless the LORD,

Because He is in control,

And He knows what He is doing,

Even when I think otherwise:
  1. His anger falls on those who turn their backs on Him (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  2. He makes those who turn their backs on Him an object of dread (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  3. He makes those who turn their backs on Him an object of horror (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  4. He makes those who turn their backs on Him an object of scorn (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  5. He brings about things for His people (2 Chronicles 29:36)
  6. He brings about things for His people that make them rejoice (2 Chronicles 29:36)
  7. He brings about things for His people quickly (2 Chronicles 29:36)
  8. He will not turn His face from His people if they return to Him (2 Chronicles 30:9)
  9. His hand is on people (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  10. His hand is on His people (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  11. His hand is on people to give them unity of mind (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  12. His hand is on people to help them to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  13. His hand is on people to help them to carry out what had been ordered, following His word (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  14. He hears the prayer of one who asks that the unclean who seek Him be pardoned (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
  15. He heals the unclean who seek Him, because of one man's prayer (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
  16. He hears those whose prayer reaches heaven, His holy dwelling place (2 Chronicles 30:27)
  17. Heaven is His holy dwelling place (2 Chronicles 30:27)
  18. He is greater than the arm of flesh (2 Chronicles 32:8)
  19. He sends out an angel to annihilate all the fighting men and commanders and officers in the camp of the one who speaks about Him as though He were as powerless as the gods made by human hands (2 Chronicles 32:19-21)
  20. The one who speaks about Him as though He were as powerless as the gods made by human hands is cut down (2 Chronicles 32:19-21)
  21. He saves His people from the hands of all their enemies (2 Chronicles 32:22)
  22. He takes care of His people (2 Chronicles 32:22)
  23. He takes care of His people on every side (2 Chronicles 32:22)
  24. He answers prayers with miraculous signs (2 Chronicles 32:24)
  25. His wrath is on those whose hearts are proud (2 Chronicles 32:25)
  26. His wrath is on those who do not respond to the kindness He has shown to them (2 Chronicles 32:25)
  27. His wrath does not come on those who repent (2 Chronicles 32:26)
  28. His wrath does not come on those who repent of the pride of their hearts (2 Chronicles 32:26)
  29. He gives very great riches (2 Chronicles 32:29)
  30. He leaves people to test them and to know everything in their hearts (2 Chronicles 32:31)
  31. His anger is aroused by those who do much evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 33:6)
  32. He brings enemy army commanders against the leader who does much evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 33:6-11)
  33. He brings enemy army commanders against the leader who pays no attention to Him when He speaks (2 Chronicles 33:10-11)
  34. He is moved by the entreaty of the one who seeks His favor (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  35. He is moved by the entreaty of the one who humbles himself greatly before Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  36. He listens to the plea of the one who seeks His favor (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  37. He listens to the plea of the one who humbles himself greatly before Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  38. He brings back home the one who seeks His favor (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  39. He brings back home the one who humbles himself greatly before Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  40. His great anger is poured out on those who have not kept His word (2 Chronicles 34:21)
  41. His great anger is poured out on those who have not acted in accordance with all that is written in His book (2 Chronicles 34:21)
  42. He brings all the curses written in His book on the place and the people that have not followed the commands written in His book (2 Chronicles 34:24)
  43. He destroys those who oppose Him (2 Chronicles 35:21)
  44. He destroys those who oppose those who are following His commands (2 Chronicles 35:21)
  45. He destroys those who oppose those whom He is with (2 Chronicles 35:21)
  46. He sends word to His people (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  47. He sends word to His people through His messengers (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  48. He sends word to His people again and again (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  49. He sends word to His people because He has pity on them (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  50. He sends word to His people because He has pity on His dwelling place (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  51. His wrath is aroused against those who mock His messengers (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  52. His wrath is aroused against those who despise His words (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  53. His wrath is aroused against those who scoff at His prophets (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  54. His wrath is aroused against those who mock His messengers until there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  55. His wrath is aroused against those who despise His words until there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  56. His wrath is aroused against those who scoff at His prophets until there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  57. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  58. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that kill their young men with the sword in the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  59. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare young men (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  60. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare young women (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  61. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare the elderly (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  62. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare the infirm (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  63. He gives all those who have aroused His wrath into the hands of the enemy king (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  64. The land rests all the time of desolation until the seventy years are completed in fulfillment of His word, as spoken by His prophet (2 Chronicles 36:21)
  65. He moves the hearts of kings (2 Chronicles 36:22)
  66. He moves the hearts of kings to make proclamations (2 Chronicles 36:22)
  67. He moves the hearts of kings to have His temple built (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)
  68. He gives all the kingdoms of the earth to those whom He chooses (2 Chronicles 36:23)
  69. He appoints people to build a temple for Him (2 Chronicles 36:23)
  70. He moves hearts (Ezra 1:1)
  71. He moves the hearts of people (Ezra 1:5)
  72. He moves the hearts of people to go up and build His house (Ezra 1:5)
  73. Because His people anger Him, He gives them into the hands of enemy kings (Ezra 5:12)
  74. Because his people anger Him, He gives them into the hands of kings who destroy His temple (Ezra 5:12)
  75. Because His people anger him, He gives them into the hands of kings who deport them (Ezra 5:12)
  76. He fills people with joy (Ezra 6:22)
  77. He fills people with joy by changing the attitudes of kings (Ezra 6:22)
  78. He fills people with joy by changing the attitudes of kings so that they assist in the rebuilding of His house (Ezra 6:22)
  79. His dwelling is in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:15)
  80. He is the God of heaven (Ezra 7:21)
  81. Those who do not obey His law must surely be punished (Ezra 7:26)
  82. He puts it into kings' hearts to bring honor to His house in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:27)
  83. He extends His good favor to His servant (Ezra 7:28)
  84. He extends His good favor to His servant before the king (Ezra 7:28)
  85. He extends His good favor to His servant before the king's advisers (Ezra 7:28)
  86. He extends His good favor to His servant before all the king's powerful officials (Ezra 7:28)
  87. His hand gives people courage (Ezra 7:28)
  88. It gives people courage to know that His hand is upon them (Ezra 7:28)



(Take the challenge with us!)

<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>
Counting in community:

And linking up at A Holy Experience today - because my post finally matches the prompt!  Talking about relationship this week.



Also, please look at some of the other beautiful posts found at the bottom of this one.  Maybe bless the author with a comment?  It's a blessing to know that God has used your imperfect words to bless another.

  


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