Monday, January 24, 2011

Seal: To Determine Irrevocably or Indisputably

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV)

“Surrender Everything And Live!” (my newest motto for life)

Just to warn you this will be the first entry of a two-part blog. I have two topics mulling around in my head, and wasn’t sure whether to go with the feel good message first, or hit ourselves with the “ouch” one. So I decided to go with this happier one first, to soften the blow.

I recently came up with this”seal” acronym to help my friend and I, as we each face daily spiritual battles. Namely, to do that which at times seems too overwhelming--like making the bed, perhaps. We asked God for a strategy that would work for each of us. I left her with the promise that I would be her s.e.a.l. prayer partner. Driving home, I was playing around with ideas for the acronym, and the above motto popped into my head, “Surrender Everything and Live!” I laughed to myself because in most military efforts the cry is “Surrender or Die!” I love the twist.

I was trying to think of something that we could relate to when we think about being “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”, which brings me to canning. Not that I practice the ancient art, but I did grow up in a family who valued storing our hard earned produce for the winter. I remember enjoying fresh canned peaches that we had picked in an orchard during the summer. We would sanitize the glass jars in our dishwasher, boil the two-part metal lids on the stove top, then fill the clean jars with sliced peaches covering them with syrup made from sugar and water. Next, we would line up the seal part of the lid on the jar and then loosely screw on the rim. We had this big black, speckled pot with a jar holding contraption inside. We would place each filled and prepared jar in the cage-like mechanism, and lower them into a water bath, boiling the jars for the required time.

My mother would remind us to listen for the pop that the seal made to indicate that the process was complete. We could also authenticate the seal by visually checking that the center of the lid, which was indented at the beginning, had indeed popped up. This was an important check in the process. If the seal didn’t take, we could start over. If we missed a jar, in the winter our peaches would be rotten.

Authenticating the seal insured fresh peaches. I am not sure this is the best metaphor for understanding the seal of the Holy Spirit, but I like to know that I have been authenticated by the Holy Spirit, as far as my salvation is concerned. Through Jesus’ sacrifice I know that I have been preserved from God’s wrath, but the seal of the Holy Spirit assures me that this knowledge can be freshly applied to my daily spiritual battles. It has been determined irrevocably! To dispute the fact that Jesus has redeemed us would be pointless, since we have the promised Holy Spirit indwelling us.

Surrender is the means by which I know the seal has taken hold! And now to live!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Routine: A Regular Course of Procedure; a Worked-Out Part

(Routine has its roots in route meaning: “traveled way”)

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
Ps 19:4b-5 NIV

“. . . [I]t might be true that sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to lifelessness, but to a rush of life.” G. K. Chesterton

I am not the sun, so I do tire of rising. I get the doldrums. I dig in my heels and resist routine. I want out. I want to do nothing. But alas, when I have nothing to do, I get depressed. I tire of it as well. I need a change of perspective.

The definition of routine is about as rousing as the forcing of myself to engage in my daily routines, especially when I get in a funk like this. I want to blame my blues on the lack of blueness in the sky. I tell myself, it’s just winter, I always get down this time of year. I am not in a full blown state of despair, but I’m just saying-- it’s difficult to stay motivated.

The psalmist and Chesterton both have something in their poetry and prose that I think is lacking in my perspective of routine. I need a little imaginative, role playing to help me get up and face the day. To engage in some story making. To embrace adventure as my credo. If I would wake up and remember God has a role for me today, a worked-out part, maybe I would be a little more enthusiastic.

Others have traveled this route before, and have made it through the dark days. I need to surround myself with their stories and sayings. And take to heart that Jesus, himself, walked these weary ways of the flesh; he feels my frustration. Yet at the same time, he is the only one, who can lift my head and cause me to rise like the sun. He gives me the “rush of life” at just the right moment. And gently reminds me to not try so hard. To let the routines take care of themselves, to stay on the traveled way is his invitation at this moment.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ordinary Time: In Between Feasts

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
                                          Psalm 34:8 NLT

“Ordinary Time reminds us that contemplation is the center of the Christian life. It is the place where the mind of Christ and our own come to know one another, where we integrate our concerns in this world by attuning them to the next.” -Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

We started our journey several weeks back with observing Advent. Yesterday marked the feast of Epiphany and this coming Sunday many celebrate the remembrance of Christ’s baptism. If you are keeping the liturgical year with me, then this coming Monday we head into Ordinary Time. A season which is observed between the feasts. The four major feasts are Christmas, Lent, Pentecost and Advent. Advent leads us into Christmastide and several feasts including Epiphany.

As I mentioned before, this is a fairly new practice for me to observe these feasts, so I am not really sure what is expected of me during this Ordinary Time. But I do agree that contemplation is central to my walk with Christ. Since I have a break from my regular routine for ten more days, I am looking forward to more time to contemplate our Savior. We often say when we want to understand some topic that we are going to pick the brain of an expert. The Scriptures tell us that we have access to the mind of Christ, that our thinking can actually be transformed and renewed. (1 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 12:2) I am thinking that picking the brain of Jesus through Scriptures will be one of my main pursuits this year.

Although the feasts of Advent and Christmas have passed, I still want to feast on the Word of God. Maybe it will not be a fancy meal or special dessert, but I do want to daily take in the presence of God with regular Bible readings and devotions, sticking with the basics, and every once in a while savoring a extraordinary helping of spiritual sustenance by sharing an extended day with Jesus.

Jesus invites us to meet with him in the setting of a meal. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “ Revelation 3:20 NKJV

Won’t you accept the invitation of Jesus to dine with him?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Next: Nearest or Adjacent To

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven. . .
                                    Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

“Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live . . .”

The Word of the LORD through the prophet Isaiah (Isa 55 NKJV)

Happy Next Year! So often I get caught up in the newness of a year, yet this New Year’s Day, I was struck by the idea that today just begins the next year on the calendar. Not last year, not a year from now, but that which is going to unfold next. I don’t know why this is so intriguing to me, except that maybe I am not so interested in doing something new this year. I kind of like my current routines. I don’t need a new goal for healthy living—I need to keep making the next good choice. I don’t have to find a fresh way to connect with God—His word and prayer and loving others are the tried and true ways. I just need to keep trusting Him to lead me to the next step of faith.

I am sure there are some habits I need to change or some attitudes that I need to improve, but mostly I am content. So instead of approaching this as a new year filled with over ambitious expectations of myself and others, I plan to continue on the path and see what happens next.