Thursday, January 12, 2006

Rest Assured

"I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly God was speaking: 'My name is I am.' I waited and God continued, 'When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I was. When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I will be. When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is I AM.'" ~Helen Mellincost

Wow, I really need to write; it’s been way too long. So on this day of turmoil and chaos, frustration and rage, busyness and restlessness, I will make time to write, because only one other thing soothes my soul such as this. There is too much these days for any one person to handle (except Jesus, of course). There is too much noise, too many errands to run, too much stress, too many crazy California drivers, too much heartbreak and too many worries that bombard us from one minute to the next. Shall I go on? Oh, what a girl would give for just five minutes of solace! We wonder why we all have difficulty falling asleep, and no, it’s not because we haven’t given in and bought a sleep number bed yet. We can’t get our bodies to rest at night because we can’t get our minds to rest at night. The worries of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow weigh on us like a ton of bricks and in the stillness of the night, our “to do” list is anything but still.

So try to follow my random thoughts for a minute and don’t freak out when I say this. Those crazy Buddhists have it all figured out (well, some of it anyway). Buddhist ideals rest on the challenge of maintaining consciousness of one’s surroundings at any and every given moment. Buddhist philosophy rests on this principle – be here now! When you are sitting, feel the chair beneath you. When you are speaking, listen to your own words. Whatever you do, focus on the physicality of the task and try to align your thoughts with those actions. In other words, THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (ok, maybe the Buddhists would leave out the love of God thing, but you get the picture)! Hmm, easier said than done and even the Buddhists know that, but it’s a good goal to have, right? Ok, here comes that movie trailer guy again…”In a world with too much of everything, where chaos ruled and busyness triumphed, one man came to awaken their hearts, put to sleep their minds, and change the course of history forever.” I love that movie trailer guy! Anyway, in a perfect world our “to do” lists would only get smaller (and our bank accounts larger, but I’ll leave that one for another day). So let me just touch on the “be here now” idea for now.

So I’ve been trying to figure out a way to work Psalm 23 into my writing, because I truly love it and I guess now is as good a time as any. In case you’ve forgotten, Psalm 23:1-6The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I love this Psalm for so many reasons. It’s all about the peace, comfort, and solitude that only a loving and powerful God can offer and it’s all about how He chooses to bless us with these things daily. On a side note, I love verse 6, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” Notice it does not say that I will strive for goodness and love or run after them? Goodness and love will follow me. Imagine that…they will come to me wherever I go. God loves me that much. But I digress. What is truly appealing to me is the tense of the scripture. The author is writing in the present tense. He is not concerned about what God did yesterday or what He will do tomorrow. His only concern is what God is doing RIGHT NOW. And right now, God is providing, and leading, restoring, guiding, comforting, and shepherding. God is present at this moment and every moment for that matter. So really, God is the greatest Buddhist who ever lived (LOL). God is the only one who has ever mastered the art of “being here now.”

In the song “Getting Into You” by Relient K, their hearts cry out, “I’ve been a liar and I’ll never amount to the kind of person you deserve to worship you. You say you will not dwell on what I did but rather what I do. You say, ‘I love you and that’s what you are getting yourself into.’” So if God is not concerned with what I did yesterday, why would I care? It seems like wasted energy, doesn’t it? Warren Wiersbe says it this way, “Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves: Yesterday's regret and tomorrow's worries.” Hmm…thieves, I like that. Yesterday and tomorrow are thieves. They steal our peace, rob us of our joy, and deprive us of the intimacy with God that comes from awareness of His presence at every moment.

So how do I learn to live in the middle? To make my comfort zone the diminutive space between yesterday and tomorrow or better yet, between five minutes ago and five minutes from now? How do I feel the chair beneath me, the air around me, and the keyboard that I’m typing on when my mind draws ever closer to the stack of bills lying on the desk beside me? How do I maintain consciousness of God’s love for me RIGHT NOW and let everything else fade into the background? Here is one perspective: Arthur W. Pink states in an almost urgent tone, “From every pulpit in the land it needs to be thundered forth that God still lives, that God still observes, ... still reigns. Faith is now in the crucible, it is being tested by fire, and there is no fixed... resting place for the heart and mind but in the throne of God. What is needed now, as never before, is a full, positive, constructive setting forth of the Godhood of God.”

The Godhood of God, I like that too. It seems the longer our “to do” list gets and the more crushing the weight of our present circumstances, the less relevance God has to us. In fact, He takes on a whole different role in our lives, doesn’t He? God becomes the punisher, the great unknown, the misunderstood, misrepresented, unloving, unsympathetic, distant, fair-weather friend. He is responsible for our burdens and slow to pull us out from under them. He is selective in His hearing and apathetic about our pain. He is an Alzheimer’s patient, forgetting those He loves. Where, oh where has our great God of compassion and mercy gone? I’ll tell you where He’s gone – nowhere. It’s us who have gone. That author is right, faith is now in the crucible being tested by fire and the real question is, how will we fair? Will we find a resting place for our hearts and minds in the throne of God or in the checkout line at Target? The coffee counter at Starbucks? The big screen at the local theater? God forbid, the bar at the end of the street? Where will our solace lie? Only in the throne of God! So I’ll say it one more time, in case you missed it. COME TO JESUS! Or better yet, stop leaving Him. Lord knows He’s never tried to flee from you. Let’s set forth the Godhood of God, let Him play the role He intended in the first place, and try to believe He really does have it all under control. After all, I’m lucky if I can muster up enough energy to change my cat’s litter, let alone try to change my past or my future.
God, please help me to take back the night. Help me to find rest without the assistance of a million tiny pills. Lead me every second to the middle ground, to the moment between regret and fear, to the throne where your Godhood lies and my need for grace is evident, to the only place my soul finds rest. And when my only focus is on crossing off the items on my list so I can breathe, remind me that only one thing is needed to breathe life into my soul again and that is your love. Help me to live in constant awareness of that love. And in those times of protest when I cry and scream and throw my little temper tantrums, please, drag my sorry butt to Jesus and remind me that I am nothing and life is meaningless without His friendship. And please, oh please, do the same for my friends and family (ok, and all those other sinners too).

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