Monday, September 24, 2012

Confession 250: Offering

From what you have, take an offering for the Lord.  Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering...
Exodus 35:5

Zooming through the book of Exodus this morning, working to catch up on my "B90X" (Bible in 90 Days) challenge, this verse brought me up short in both a figurative and literal sense.  God was in the process of directing the newly freed people of Israel to construct a dwelling place for him.  Obviously, the desert did not supply a great deal of building materials, so it was up to the people of Israel to furnish the supplies that would build and adorn this Most Holy of Holy places.  God could have said, "Everyone bring me a pound of gold, 5 pounds of silver and 25 yards of dyed silk."  Or, "Every household must bring me a case of your finest Shiraz along with your sterling silver flatware and any jewels you might have squirrled away."  God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and fed them for forty years from the storehouses of heaven.  Surely it would be within his right to demand elaborate gifts. 

And yet, God did no such thing.  Instead of demanding, God simply made an offer...if you are willing, then give to me from what you already have.  Notice he didn't add, "It's all mine, anyway," at the end of that statement.  Although it is, and he could have pointed that out at any point in this dialog.  But God has never been interested in our compliance.  Rather, God is seeking a relationship with his people, a relationship built on love and devotion and trust. 

In verse 21 the author writes, "and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord."  We give to God because our hearts are moved by his love.  We give to God because our hearts are full of gratitude for the many things he has done for us.  We give to God because our hearts yearn to share his love with others.

And what, exactly, are we called to give?  We give from what we have.  The ancient Israelites left Egypt with everything needed to construct the Tabernacle of the Lord so that God might physically dwell with them.  God saw to it that they had plenty to give so that they might experience him.  Likewise, God equips us today with everything we need to share the experience of God's love with others.  Most of us have extra money that we can use to help those in need.  Most of us have possessions, like clothes, gathering dust in closets or on shelves that we could give as an offering to others.  All of us have gifts which God has endowed us with to use as an offering in ministry for and with others.

The problem is, we aren't always willing to bring our offerings to the Lord.  Our hearts are not moved enough to give.  I would like to say that I get up every day ready to pour myself out for the work of the Lord.  In reality, I'd rather sleep in.  I'd rather spend the extra bit of money I have on things like boutique shower gels and hand soaps, cd's, books, clothes, fancy coffee, and whatever else might catch my eye than put that money aside to give to someone struggling to make ends meet.  Instead of using the new tablet my family got me to work on my writing (for which they got it for me in the first place), I play mindless games that suck away time I could spend on more important things.

It's not that any of those things are wrong in and of themselves, but when they prevent me from offering myself fully and completely to God's service, they do become a problem.  God says, "Give me what you have."  I say, "How about just one thing?"  Or, "Mmmm....not today."  What does that say about the state of my heart?  What does your offering say about yours?

I want to close this blog with one final piece of scripture.  In Exodus 26 we find that the people have brought so much to give to the construction of the Lord's tabernacle that the workers cannot use it all.  The foreman went to Moses and said, "The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done." (Vs. 5)

Do you see it?  If we, God's people, were to bring all we had to give to the Lord then it would be more than enough to do the work God has called us to do.  Can you imagine what that would like?  No more hunger.  An end to poverty.  Recovery from addictions.  Forgiveness abounding.  Peace.  Love.  Justice.  Vibrant faith.  "From what you have, take an offering for the Lord..."  What shall we bring for the Lord today?

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Confession 249: The Presence

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. 

After the wind there was an earthquake,  
but the Lord was not in the earthquake.   

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. 

 And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Have you been in the presence of God, lately?  Tell me, what did you hear?

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Confession 247: Refreshment

 At the end of a busy week, I find myself in need of refreshment for my soul.  I love that I can go to the Word and find what I need.  Here is some "refreshment" from Psalm 19.

Blessings and Peace,

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
 The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.

The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Confession 256: Kite Flying

 I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you. 
 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:9-10
My oldest started Kindergarten a couple of weeks ago.  It's great, and he loves it, and we are slowly finding our rhythm in this new stage of life.  But, like most transitions, it wasn't an easy one to make.  Parent Night was especially difficult for me.  So many emotions coursed through my body.  Anger and bitterness emerged as I dealt with the fact that I am not working in the school which my son attends.  I've had to let go of the picture in my head of us walking to and from school together, sharing our days with one another.  And there were the tears which stung my eyes as I walked through his new classroom and watched him explore his new "home'. 
In sharing all of this with a friend, I received from her this encouraging word.  
"Our children are like kites.  We hold the string at the end of the kite, and when they are first born we keep the kite string very short and they are right by us.  As they get older, we continue to let the kite string out, so they can grow in their independence.  You are just letting your kite string out a little more with this step, but remember you are never letting go of the string that ties you to Garrett.  Just think of the parents taking their kids to college.  Whew!  Their kite strings are really getting long, but no parent ever lets go of the end of the string."
As I was reading her e-mail, it occurred to me that this analogy is true for our relationship with God, as well.  God says, "I am with you".  Jesus reiterates that in the Gospel of Matthew when he tells his followers:
Remember, I am always with you until the end of time.
Matthew 28:20
Even so, there are times in this life when we feel as if we are being carried away by a strong wind.  We feel as if we are a kite that has broken off from it's string, tossed and battered in the wind.  It can be easy to forget that God is still there holding onto our string.  Why doesn't he reel us in?  Because, what would we learn if he did?  How would we grow in our faith if God never let us ride on the wind? 
In Hebrews 6 the author speaks of the importance of Christians growing and maturing in their faith.  We can't grow in our faith if God protects us from all the ups and downs of life.  Time and again Scripture shows us that it is through the struggles of life that real faith emerges.  It is in those times of trials that God is able to show us his mighty hand. 
And so, he lets us fly through both the gentle breezes and the raging storms of this human life.  However, no matter how far we fly, God never lets go of the string.  Through it all, he charts our course and leads us where he wants us to go.

And so, as hard as it will be as my children grow and mature, I rest assured that there are stronger hands than mine holding their line!!

Blessing and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2