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God is Faithful

Introduction by my new blogger: Bobbie Spradley.

 

Many years ago I heard the Spirit’s invitation to be in a closer relationship with God and longed for that.  But how? The answer jumped out at me.  To be in a close relationship with someone means to know that individual.  To truly know God meant at least three things: being open to learn, listening more during prayer and talking less, and discovering what the Scriptures say about the truth of who God is. I’ve been applying these ever since. As I prayed and studied the Bible, I began to keep track in writing of various characteristics that described who God is and what God does. The result has been such enriched daily praise and thanksgiving during my devotional time that I end up in tears most days. I wanted to share that joy and felt God calling me to put my notes into some form that might encourage a reader to engage in deeper praise and worship.

 

I will be sharing on Janet’s blog a few of the characteristics of God as revealed in Scripture that have been especially meaningful to me. I hope you will enjoy this as an opportunity to be immersed in focusing on a single facet of God’s unlimited wonder.

 

GOD is FAITHFUL   

 

God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19…and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age. Genesis 21:1   Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…Deuteronomy 7:9  Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he.  Deuteronomy 32:3b,4 … all his work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33:4b   God is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:9  Not one word has failed of all his good promise.  1 Kings 8:56b

 

Blessed is he….whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord who remains faithful forever.  Psalm 146:6  NIV…The Lord…a God abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Exodus 34:6  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do this.  1 Thessalonians 5;24 ..if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.  2 Timothy 2:13   Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23

 

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13    If we confess our sins he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9  I know, O Lord, that your judgements are right, and in faithfulness you have humbled me.  Psalm 119:75  The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.  2 Thessalonians 3:3

 

O Lord God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you. Psalm 89:8  You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.   Psalm 86:15  Your faithfulness endures to all generations;  Psalm 119:90  O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.  Isaiah 25:1  Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.  Psalm 115:1  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:23

 

….Reflect on the repeated theme of God’s faithfulness. What does it say to you?

….What are some ways God’s faithfulness has been evident in your life?

….Praise God now for this enduring quality of faithfulness.

 

Thank you, loving God, that we can depend on you, that you keep your promises, that you are at all times and forever faithful.

 

c Barbara Spradley, 2015, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Short bio

Hi, I’m Bobbie and am what some would call seasoned.  Now in my early eighties I look back on a life full of experiences through which God has shaped and refined me – still a work-in-progress – and for which I’m so very grateful.  My first husband and I raised three daughters and both of us worked full time. Following his death from leukemia, God gave me another good man to partner with. Our combined families now delight us with 17 grandchildren. Our church’s prayer ministry is my passion.  I also enjoy reading, journaling, long walks, jig-saw puzzles and knitting prayer shawls.  I’ve known Janet and treasured her friendship for close to 35 years and am honored to share on her blog.

 

 

Dear Subscribers

I have a nice surprise for you. I have a fourth guest blogger for the next 6 months. She is Bobbie Spradley, a long term friend of mine who has a rich history of listening for God. She is writing about a 20-year-long project chronicling the attributes of God. Reading them feels like a waterfall of sacred water spraying over my head. I hope they affect you in similar ways.

P.S.  You will hear from me only in the months that have 5 Sundays. I will try to make it worth the wait…

Janet

MOVING

In accepting Janet’s gracious invitation to be a guest writer for her blog, I wanted to remember what she had named as her original intention for her web site. As my search unfolded, the phrase that captured my attention was the one that described her desire to create an oasis of “beauty, hope, and healing.” I immediately felt drawn to the possibility of speaking into these themes from my own lived experience. So, I here begin with a story about beauty and have included a picture of myself (see photo at end of story). While I understand how this pairing likely appears quite presumptuous, please allow me to explain.

 

For better and for worse, I arrived in this world a highly sensitive, largely introverted caregiver and not surprisingly found myself growing up in a family that seemed to need a lot of what I had to offer. Hardwired to fix and to please, I mostly unknowingly functioned from the sole motivation of trying to heal all the hurt I sensed around me. (In later years, I often thought the perfect epitaph on my headstone would read “Died Trying.”) While most of the behaviors this purpose fostered were applauded, like getting top grades, assuming positions of leadership, etc., some of the other behaviors, the self-abandonment, the perfectionism, the anxiety, weren’t quite so positive. In essence, these more challenging parts of myself have comprised what I have gradually and affectionately come to understand as my “life work.”

 

Early on, my grand plan, and as you might imagine I often had one, was to approach this desired work intentionally and gradually over time through periodic workshops, visits with a trusted counselor, and much later on, in ongoing conversation with God and meaningful engagement with my spiritual director. That plan was gaining momentum as I left college for the world of work and was in forward motion as I married and later left the world of work to raise our three daughters.  As is often the case in my life, my well-laid plans don’t always yield the hoped for results in the desired timeframe. Another plan was yet to unfold, a series of events actually, that I have come to call my ten-year tsunami. In those ten years, my one sibling and I moved our parents from their home of 35 years into assisted living, companioned them daily as they faced the ravages of advanced age, and celebrated their lives when they died within six months of each other. At the same time, my husband and I helped send our three daughters across the country to college. Shortly after they graduated, we helped plan each of their three weddings and offered our support as they all moved out of state.   We then welcomed three grandchildren. Finally, we decided to sell and move from our large family home and build the home where we now reside.

 

I fully realize that for many people, perhaps most, this is merely the stuff of life and nothing whatsoever to come undone about. I, on the other hand, who was often referred to by my lifelong friend as a “bag of nerves” and who frequently observed myself, in trying so hard, as someone who could wring the joy out of absolutely anything, was all but undone. For me, and I was able to see this most clearly in retrospect, this was my refining fire. Given how I am wired and with what felt like so much life coming at me, I could hardly see straight let alone maintain any semblance of balance or health. My default response of rising to the demands of life in white-knuckle fashion and running as fast and trying as hard as I could until everything was seemingly taken care of was no longer working. It eventually became apparent to me that if I had any hope of surviving, God was going to have to help me change my long held ways. That thought, on top of everything else that needed doing, somewhat comforted but mostly overwhelmed me.

 

Thankfully, the phrase God began gently whispering to my soul was “in the midst.” As I cleared interior space for this idea to more fully unfold, a few things became clear. I could no longer wait until the demands of life ceased, to begin taking care of myself. While I didn’t have control over much of what was happening in those years, I did have control over how I would respond.   Making sure that my core habits of praying, eating, sleeping, and exercising were in place was mine to control. At this same time, a dear friend suggested that I consider asking myself on a daily basis, “What is my part to do? In other words, where is God, where are others? As unbelievable as this might sound, I had always simply taken on as much or more than I could, so the idea of a part presented a whole new perspective. I also began to understand at a far deeper level the statement my spiritual director frequently made, albeit with great love and gentle humor: “Tracy, there is a God, and you’re not it!”

 

As I further opened myself to the idea of a new way of being in the world, I was deeply moved by the divine guidance I continued to receive. It was actually about two years before the close of this ten-year tsunami that I was celebrating a birthday and also well into the seemingly unending sifting and sorting that accompany a downsizing move. I was bringing order to my external world, so why not my internal one as well. I decided to make a list of all the ways God was encouraging me to reshape my being and doing. I wanted to name and claim these emerging awarenesses and then, in time, secure them to one of the main doorways in our home as a daily reminder. On my birthday, I invited Janet to join me in front of our home, still much under construction, as I proclaimed before God and her the learnings I was beginning to gather from my tsunami, those things God was inviting me to bless and release and those God was inviting me to claim and embrace. This ritual was deeply meaningful and invigorating. Unfortunately, in the process of moving, the list was inadvertently misplaced and assumed lost.

 

Just recently and again in what seemed to be God’s perfect timing, as I looked for something else, I happened upon this list. What a welcomed reunion and what an impactful surprise to recognize all the important growth and movement that had occurred in my life. My precious proclamation reads: release a life of overwhelm with few limits and boundaries and claim a life with healthy limits and gracious margin; release a life of self-abandonment and embrace a life of self-compassion; release the desire to be enough and embrace the desire to be whole; release a life of compulsive giving and helping and embrace a life of balanced giving and grateful receiving; release a life filled with obligation and embrace a life of celebration; release a life of being stuck in anxiety and embrace a life in the flow of creativity; release the tendency to please and embrace the desire to be authentic; release the need to control and embrace the capacity to accept; release the burdened adult and embrace the playful child!!!

 

As only God could orchestrate, New Year’s Eve was a day away and 2015 would mark the year of a brand new decade for me, the big 6-0! Our home happens to be on a small lake and one evening some kind neighbor went out with his snow blower well past my bedtime and created a path around the entire perimeter. The first thing that occurred to me when I awoke the next morning to see it is how much fun it would be to skate again after a mere thirty years. With our entire family home for the holidays, I asked if anyone might want to make a trip to Play It Again Sports. Many of us piled in the car and “Dita” (what my grandchildren call me) and a few others returned with skates. Just as the sun was setting on New Year’s Eve, our youngest daughter and I sat on our dock, laced up our skates, and, haltingly at first and then quite gracefully and very joyfully, glided around the lake. This convergence of breathtaking soul growth, courageous body engagement, and glorious life timing was an exquisite gift, a true turning point for me. With each stride, I felt lighter, freer, more invigorated, more excited to embrace the beauty that is my life.

 

………………………………………………………….

 

In writing this piece, I became aware of my natural inclination, when reflecting on beauty, to look for and see beauty in others, in the natural world, in art, in dance, in the phrasing of music or written word, but rarely in myself. This is especially so when I wrestle alone with all of my shortcomings. I was then reminded of the following gloriously powerful message:

 

Woman Un-Bent

By Irene Zimmerman

 

That Sabbath day as always

she went to the synagogue

and took the place assigned her

right behind the grill where,

the elders had concurred,

she would block no one’s view,

she could lean her heavy head,

and (though this was not said)

she’d give a good example to

the ones who stood behind her.

 

That day, intent as always

on the Word (for eighteen years

she’d listened thus), she heard

Authority when Jesus spoke.

 

Though long stripped

of forwardness,

she came forward, nonetheless,

when Jesus summoned her.

 

“Woman, you are free

of your infirmity,” he said.

 

The leader of the synagogue

worked himself into a sweat

as he tried to bend the Sabbath

and the woman back in place.

 

But she stood up straight and let

God’s glory touch her face.

 

 

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

~How might you relate to the experience of a life tsunami or refining fire?

~What fruits were born from your experience of this?

~How has God been whispering to you, calling you forward?

~What points might you want to include in your own proclamation of growth?

~What are the ways you see and celebrate beauty in your precious life?

 

 

Warm greetings! I’m Tracy Mooty and the consistent thread woven through my nearly sixty years of life is soul care. I’ve especially enjoyed sharing this with my husband of 32 years, our three daughters and their husbands, our three grandchildren, and our two pups. We’re an active bunch who enjoys golf, Frisbee golf, tennis, pickle ball, and most every board and card game! Janet and I first met at Colonial Church years ago and thanks to her mostly gentle prodding we’ve partnered to offer all sorts of retreats and programs. She’s also the reason I’ve entered into this adventure. J

 

c Tracy Mooty, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Trying to Leave a Cult, by Michael Bischoff

 

I am an earnest man. Sometimes it is embarrassing.

A year ago I called all my friends together and gave a formal presentation to confess that I was in a cult, and to ask for my friends help in getting out of the cult. I told them that I had been in the cult of self-development.

I had been talking with my kids recently about what is unique about each of us. My 8-year-old daughter said, “one thing that is unique about you, Daddy, is that you like to try to improve people’s personalities.” It was ouchy when my daughter pointed this out, but she was right.

I love self-development. I’m a part of men’s group, and we do long personal check-ins and provide support and challenge to keep growing. I love talking about personality types, like the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs. I especially like to try to guess and analyze someone else’s personality type, which I know you aren’t supposed to do. I like to list my shadows and talk about them. I’m a part of many groups that really value talking about how we’re feeling and the dynamics between us. Even though I love it, sometimes seems to me that I’m in a cult of self-development that is hard to get out of. I think that I, and sometimes we, prioritize personal growth and development above everything else, make it an idol. Like a religion, focused on things that make us better, happier, and kinder people. We can use many things for this goal–emotional intelligence, therapy, small groups, personal boundaries, spiritual practices, journaling, mindfulness, yoga, etc.

In my presentation a year ago, I asked for help from my friends and from God in moving beyond this cult in three ways, by surrendering to the source of life, surrendering to community, and surrendering to being used in social transformation.

 

Now, a year after my public confession, I haven’t fully left the cult. I’m more aware of my temptations in that direction and I feel more moments of freedom and grace, but I still take many compulsive drinks at the bar of self-development. But in the past few months, I’ve found unexpected help in my long-term exit from the cult—Lutherans. I’m a Quaker who has developed a sudden infatuation with 60,000 Lutherans. It is a little unsettling.

Janet, your regular author and host here at this blog, is a dear friend and inspiration for me. She’s invited me to submit a blog post here once a month for the next six months. Next month, I’ll tell you some of the story about my romance with the Lutherans and update you on my journey out of the cult.

 

What role does self-development have in your spiritual path?

What is more important than that to you?

 

**

I’m a 40-something man who is ga-ga about his 2 kids and wife. I also feel warmly about bikes, mountains, and Jesus. I do consulting work with religious and secular organizations, walking with them as they look for where there is the most life and vitality in their work. My occasional blog posts are at: http://spiritofinstitutions.blogspot.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Waking

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I wonder if the power of the Scripture’s stories is not that they happened once upon a time, but that they happen. They have happened; they are happening; and they will happen. Like the story about Jesus taking the hand of the dead/sleeping girl and saying: “My child, get up!” Wake up. Wake up. Live right now. This is happening.

 

The western horizon gathers all of the day’s remaining color, suspending it in a breathtaking array of pink, orange, and red. I sit mesmerized as we travel across the flat Minnesota farmland offering a view of sky that I am not privileged to enjoy often.   While the sun settles beyond the western horizon every evening, this particular display is a once-in-a-lifetime event. This particular sunset will not happen again. And I get to witness it.

 

As the color disappears from the sky and the light disappears from my particular patch of the earth, the sky transforms into a window with a view spanning millions of miles and millions of years back. I find myself looking up at the same stars that captured Galileo, that guided travelers and sailors centuries before Jesus was born, that flickered brightly when the dinosaurs reigned. The stars show me my place in the scheme of things. Miniscule.   As Rumi said, “One brushstroke down”

 

The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. ~ Psalm 19:1-2.

 

No wonder my heart is drawn to the sky.

 

Reminders like these–the preciousness of a particular moment in time, the vastness of the world around me, the depth of history, and the moreness of the One who holds all these things together–call to my soul: Wake up! Wake up! Live right now.

 

Each day is a “precious gift, with an unspeakable mysterious value. . . . When it comes to time, the moment, the hour, and the day, one cannot replace one time period with another. Each day is unique and irreplaceable.”[1]

Sometimes I remember this, but most often I seem to get lost in the routine that becomes my way of daily life. I grow weary from lack of sleep, from trying to plan a meal that will please picky palates, from crunching on cereal spilled on the floor, from playing referee while my children bicker and harass one another, from the quick undoing of every chore I attempt to accomplish. Sometimes the cyclical sameness of my days lulls me into thinking that this is just how it is and that every day will be like today.

 

But last week, we removed the step-stools from the bathrooms. My baby no longer needs them. And after nine years, my closet is now emptied of its supply of baby gift-bags to recycle. I will need to buy new gift bags for the new babies I greet.

 

Today, my daughter’s four-year-old frame fits perfectly against mine as she snuggles in my lap. But for how long? Time marches. And we march along with it, whether we are aware of it or not.

 

May my finiteness always be before me, so every breath is one of thanks and grace and love–a call to my soul: Wake up! Wake up! Live right now.

 

And while it is easy to get lost in this circular nature of living, this repetition can also bring me to an awareness of holy: We get to repeat because we are alive. Each day has a gift for us and us for it. Eyes opened to the holiness of moments, I can find gifts in the act of washing my floor, or cleaning my closet, or in chopping vegetables for dinner.

 

Slicing into a beautiful, red tomato picked from my garden, my heart is drawn to the mystery of all the life-potential held in a small seed and the magic of dirt and sun and rain. These tomatoes are extra special. They remind me of who I come from. They grow from seeds I harvested from my Opa’s tomatoes, which grew from seeds he had been harvesting for longer than I have been alive. As the knife opens up the red tomato flesh and seeds spill onto my cutting board, I give thanks for my Opa who loved the dirt and tomatoes and making things grow.

 

Most often, when I stand at my stove making dinner, I am wondering why I have to make dinner Every Single Day for people who would be happier eating chicken patties from the freezer aisle. But when I remember that my mom also made dinner every single day and that this is what people have been doing since they discovered fire, I find my place again. We care for our loved ones; we feed them. It is holy work, feeding your loved ones. Making dinner becomes an offering of thanks-as I take my place and my turn feeding those I love. Making dinner becomes a holy call to my soul: Wake up! Wake up! Live right now.

 

Most mornings, I have a hard time waking up. My eyes open. I think about getting out of bed. And then I fall back to sleep for another 30 minutes or so. It takes a lot to drag my body out of bed. Sometimes, I feel like this is happening to my soul. It is catching glimpses of the Moreness that gives life and holds life together, and then it falls back to sleep. But it is waking.

 

My prayer for this year is: Open. There is so much that goes into that. But I pray that my eyes and mind and heart and hands would be open. Open to holy moments and the preciousness of days. Open to the call to wake up. Open to the call to Live right now.

 

~ Jessica

 

© J.L. Sanborn, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

Hi.  I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures.  I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy.  I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter.  I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at jlsanborn.wordpress.com. 

 

[1] Karl Rahner, The Mystical Way in Everday Life, p. 190.

 

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