Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting back on track

It's been a little over a week since my meltdown, and it's taking a long time to get back on track.  Spending time in Bible reading, journaling, prayer & listening to sermon podcasts has helped tremendously.

We also had a good time of prayer at church this past Wednesday that helped.

I guess I can't be too anxious to get back to "the way things were", it took quite a while to get to this point, it will probably take just as long, if not longer, to heal fully.

Dear Lord, grant me grace and patience in this time.

Lay Seminary II

Well, Lay Seminary is going to wait until next fall. I found out, yesterday, that the work that I had been doing for my "discretionary" funds, is no longer available. So it's a good thing that I decided to postpone classes.

I'm checking out the education options available on I really don't want to stop trying to gain more Biblical knowledge. It's not the easiest task to start learning after nearly 30 years away from a formal education setting.

As to a replacement source of "discretionary" funds, I think I may try to get a part-time job with either Office Depot or Staples. Plus, I need to get back to earning additional money to help pay down some debt.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lay Seminary

Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to postpone my second year of Lay Seminary. I haven't finished paying for last year's classes and am far, far away from being able to pay for this year's classes.

I think the most fiscally responsible, and most Biblical thing to do is to take the year off and concentrate on becoming more financially stable. Both in general and to be able to pay my tuition in full, before beginning classes.

I need to add that to my prayer list ASAP and discuss it with God.
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Well, I spent about 4 hours yesterday sitting alongside a nice little stream, reading, napping and talking with God. The only other creatures present were some bugs and a brief visit from a playing dog that ran up over the hill that separated me from the trail. I could really use another 20 hours or so! There's still lots of work to be done to clean up this current mess. I think yesterday's mini-hermitage took the edge off, and will allow me to "hold my tongue" a little easier. But I know I need to be very careful, there are some issues that still are capable of an explosive reaction if I'm not careful.

But, I left feeling a little better, and a little closer to God. I wish I could say that I spent the whole time in prayer and reading scripture, but I didn't. I also read quite a few chapters in The Last Week, by Borg and Crossan. It examines, in detail, the last week that Jesus was on earth. It's a fascinating book that really sheds light on the events, and the timing involved. The political side is particularly good. It gets me to thinking about how I should be acting and reacting in today's political environment.

Perhaps that's the next direction of exploration! How would Jesus act in this current political environment, and how should I act as His disciple? (I don't think he'd approve of bigger government.)

It's time to finish getting ready for church, we're having our Open House today at Houserville House of Hope, and anticipate a packed house! Unfortunately I'm not in the frame of mind to enjoy it fully, but with God's grace I can at least contribute what's expected of me, and control my attitude!
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Anguish, Torment, Pain, Blackness

Where to begin? A disclaimer seems to be in order.

Disclaimer: this post is not going to be cheerful, pleasant or "nice", it's about some problems I'm experiencing right now. So if you're looking for something of a "sunny nature", pass this one by.

Next a prayer seems in order.

Dear Lord, please guide me so that my words offer some relief from my, largely self-imposed, anguish and at the same time not speak out of turn, or harm anyone.

I've been experiencing numerous trials that have been chipping away at the armor with which I've surrounded myself. The armor I rely on to protect myself from angry thoughts, angry feelings, blackness and, in general, attacks by the forces of evil.

Little things like being upset with someone's behavior. Something breaking. (like my desktop computer at work.) Financial stress. (car needing unexpected repairs to pass inspection.) Being in close proximity to other people for too long (I cherish occasional "alone-ness" and sometimes wonder if I could live in a solitary commune.) General physical stress from working too many hours, too little sleep, too little time spent at home. And then, a very close friend and co-worker makes, in my opinion, a bad mistake that will have unpleasant repercussions if I'm correct. I pray that I'm wrong.

Several of these caused anger, in one case extreme anger, that wouldn't have been extreme if not for the preceding issues. Immediately, 2 recent lectionary readings and their related sermons came to mind.

August 9, Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT

26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”[a] Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

September 13, James 3:1-12

1 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.[b]

7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.[c]

But, I wasn't then, nor am I now in a position to discuss the anger without hurting others.

So, (in the manner of Rob Bell), what do I do? hold my tongue and let the sun go down on my anger? or explode and hurt others but sleep without anger? what do I do? what do I do? WHAT DO I DO? Unfortunately, I can't answer that. Perhaps there isn't an answer, maybe that's one of those "chicken or egg" questions?

Taken individually, none of the problems caused much damage. But, I've not asked God, sincerely, to help deflect them and to repair my armor, my faith. It's a continual problem I encounter. I've known since childhood that "my" verses are Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

I try to deal with, and "fix" things myself. When I'm able to force myself to abide by these verses I do very well, or more correctly, allow God to guide my path. When I fight and flail, I suffer. This time it's pretty bad, it's dark and painful. Deep. Black. Cold.

When I get like this my anger controls me, I cling to it, embrace it, and internalize it. If I could harness the energy of the anger, the way fright was harnessed in Monsters Inc, the world energy problems would be over! It tends to be a vicious spiral, anger, temptation, failure, internalize, anger, temptation, failure, internalize, etc. Meanwhile, the armor is breached and the forces of evil are wreaking havoc on my soul.

The best way that I've found to deal with it is, obviously cry out to God for help. But sometimes my cries don't seem to be effective. Am I not sincere? is God not done teaching me? have I not become desparate enough to receive His grace? That is one of the answers I read in Prayer by Ole Hallesby, sometimes we need to be helpless, our attitude of heart needs to be helpless before we can pray effectively. It's painful, very painful. And I know I'm not pleasant to be around, I'm short-tempered, moody and, in general, a real pain in the ass.

Maybe this is the perfect time to remove my self from the presence of others and retreat to a "hermitage", even if it's a quiet walk in the woods to sit beside a stream and read the Bible, pray and pour out my anguish to God. Problem is, when you have committments 7 days a week, when do you retreat?

Father, Abba please hear my cries and release me from my anguish and blackness, grant me the wisdom to trust in You and to allow you to lead my life once again, grant me the grace to be more bearable to others, and grant me the wisdom to remove myself, if needed, from the presence of others to effect the healing needed in my soul.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and be forever. Amen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thoughts on Worship

Today's devotions included Revelation 16. I've been using Conversations, The Message Bible With Its Translator by Eugene H. Peterson for my devotions. This version includes authors notes and reflections throughout the text. I'm including the following, which is a note from the author. I could not find any information at the front of the book to indicate whether a direct quote of the author's notes requires written permission or not. It does specify that one can quote scripture, up to 500 verses, without written permission, so I'm going to work under that premise.
The celebrated negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh had a single theme: worship. Moses' opening petition to Pharaoh was "Free my people so that they can hold a festival for [God] in the wilderness" Exodus 5:1; "Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can worship our God" (verse 3). Moses' task was to lead his people in worship. Pharaoh's sin was that he prevented them. The judgment plagues are visited over this issue, and this issue alone. The greatest evil that people of faith face from the outside is the obstruction of worship. The greatest evil that they face from the inside is the subversion of worship. This is what we have most to fear. Conversations, The Message Bible With Its Translator pg 1971

Let's take a long hard look at our worship services. Are they truly worship services? worshipping God? or are they just what we do on Sunday morning?
Are the songs we sing heartfelt praise and worship of God? or are they what we routinely sing, just plodding along?
I know for some folks, singing the traditional hymns are worship, for some it's just plodding along. For me personally, I enjoy some of the "old" hymns, but for the most part, I feel the "KLOVE" songs, as we call them, are much more worshipful. That's what works for me, it may not be your method.

One Sunday, when I was filling the pulpit, I started by asking folks for a show of hands; "How many of you have ever left a Sunday morning worship service and said "I just didn't get anything out of that"?" I lifted my hand, because I've done that a number of times. Then I told them (and myself) that we were wrong. The reason we were in church was not primarily to be "refilled" or "recharged", we were there to offer praise and worship to the King of Kings!

Unfortunately, I find myself forgetting that. I need to be intentional about worshiping God in our worship service, and I need to remind the rest of the church of the true purpose.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Sabbath rest

We've been making some huge changes to our church, Houserville House of Hope, recently. Tons of painting, new carpet, lighting, you name it! And, since we've been doing most of the work ourselves, there are quite a few of us that are BEAT! This has included working most of the Saturdays and Sunday afternoons this past month.

My wife, Sharon, and two of our friends, Jeff and Amy, left after church yesterday to head to Chincoteague, Virginia for vacation. I was sitting outside the motel room this morning, reading today's scriptures from the devotion I'm using. (lifejournal, click here or on the link in the right column) One of the scriptures was 2 Chronicles 36. I've been using The Message because I find it to be very understandable and very easy to read. Verse 21 jumped out at me:
21 This is exactly the message of God that Jeremiah had preached: the desolate land put to an extended sabbath rest, a seventy-year Sabbath rest making up for all the unkept Sabbaths.

It couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. God's timing and His word continually amaze me!

This week, I hope to minimize my time on the computer (major time waste and addiction) and spend more time reading, writing, sermon writing, praying and getting back in touch with God. And since this week has started with rain, and the next few days are forecast to be rainy, this will be a perfect opportunity.
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Accountability partners

I recently had coffee with a friend, so that we could catch up on "things." We had a great talk and covered several things that we're both trying to improve in our lives.

It's so refreshing to have an opportunity to discuss sensitive issues with a Christian friend. And to provide support for each other, even if it's just to lend a non-judgmental ear.

If you don't such a friend, I encourage you to pray (and LISTEN!) to God to send you one. It's such a blessing and help to be able to talk about absolutely anything, in confidence, and to know that the person listening is doing so out of Christian love. No money, no personal agenda, just honest, caring "brotherhood."