Tag Archives: Help

Proximity

There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with Aram.
Judges 18:28 (NRSV)

Wendy and I have been in a new phase of life the past few years. I’ll call it the proto-empty nest. The girls have been off living in different places, traveling hither and thither, and establishing their own independent lives. There is still, however, the safety net of home within proximity. Help is still, relatively speaking, a phone call away. I may not be close enough to just hop over and help with flat tire in another state or country, but advice, tech support, and 24 hour concierge service is only a phone call away. If things get in a nasty bind, you can always go home to revive, regroup, and relaunch.

In today’s chapter a little community of Sidonians were living in the land of Canaan. The tribe of Dan besieged the city and were victorious. The victory was, in part, due to the fact that the Sidonian villagers were not within proximity of help from their own people. When the “fit hit the shan” (as my dad was fond of saying), they had no safety net or support network to deliver them in their hour of need.

That got me thinking this morning about my own willful choices along life’s journey. It’s one thing to willfully choose to strike out on your own path and go your own way. Rebellion, running away, and going your own way are choices each one of us can make. It’s quite another thing when you so distance yourself from your support network as to put yourself at risk.

 

Out of Ignorance Stream Ignorant Words

English: An early engraving by Blake for the B...
English: An early engraving by Blake for the Book of Job (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you know that we do not know?
    What insights do you have that we do not have?
Job 15:9 (NIV)

The journey for Wendy and me to try and conceive a child was a long one. I can’t even recount in a simple summary how much was involved medically, emotionally, and relationally for both of us. As a blogger and active participant in social media I found myself, in the early stages of the process, sharing in broad terms and hints what we were going through. It didn’t take me long to stop, to close in, and to begin withholding information from any but the most intimate of friends. I quickly learned that the most well-intentioned people can say some of the most hurtful things. People who speak out of ignorance say ignorant things.

I thought about that this morning as I read the words of Eliphaz, who brings his next argument to the debate between Job and his friends. Eli’s anger is rising. He is uncomfortable with the questions Job is asking and his discomfort motivates him to go on the attack. I was struck when I came to the question above. My playwright and actor’s brain began to script Job’s thoughts.

What do you know that we do not know?

“Are you kidding me, Eli? Let’s start with with the obvious. Last I knew, your children were living and healthy. Do you know what it’s like to lose all of your children in the blink of an eye? Have you gone through that? Do you even have an f-ing CLUE what it feels like to receive the gut-punch news telling you that your children, ALL OF THEM, are dead?

“When was the last time you found health gone and puss-seeping sores all over your body, Eli? I don’t remember visiting you on an ash heap.

“Oh, and please tell me about the time you lost your life savings and everything for which you toiled your entire life! If so, please share. If not, then shut up.

“What do I know that you don’t know? E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!”

One of the things I learned through our journey was the importance of keeping my mouth shut and my ears open with friends and loved ones who are going through trials I have never experienced. Even when I have experienced some of the same or similar things, I remind myself in the presence of the suffering that it’s not about me. My role is to quietly step in, to be present, to listen, and to love. Those who are walking the path of suffering know a present reality of which I am completely ignorant. I need to respect that.

Steering Out of Unhealthy Ruts in Life’s Road

The Road to Home
Familiar ruts (Photo credit: Universal Pops)

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.
Psalm 116:7 (NIV)

There is an ebb and flow to life. Things cycle. Relationships repeat familiar refrains. We often wander thoughtlessly from day to day, then wake from a daydream to realize that we are in the same place we’ve been before. If you’ve noticed, our life journeys follow patterns of our own unconscious making. Like tires that slip easily into the well worn ruts of a dirt road, we slip into well worn patterns of thought and behavior.

Over the past few days I’ve found myself in an emotional valley. I recognize this place. I’ve been here many times before. I’ve come to know that the depth of winter is a difficult seasonal stretch of the journey for me. Short, gray days give way to long, dark nights. The holiday hoopla is over and with it comes a certain physical, emotional and relational hangover. My subconscious links familiar sensory stimuli to painful memories of seasons past. With my guard down, anticipation for the year ahead is lined with an uncertainty that easily lends itself to anxiety and fear. Ugh. Back in the rut.

I ran into the above verse this morning and I heard in it the whisper of the Spirit calling gently to my soul. Return to the rest God has for me in healthy paths and patterns. I have learned from experience that the first step in progressing out of unprofitable emotional or behavioral ruts is to recognize that I’m in it. Once aware of the situation, it takes a conscious resolve to steer out of the rut, which may require an initial jolt of personal effort and energy:

  • Replace: Combat negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
  • Replenish: Do one tangible thing each day to show care for myself.
  • Refresh: Do something loving and unexpected for someone else.
  • Relate: Make time with friends and family who will encourage and fill my life and love tank.
  • Return: to familiar, healthy patterns and paths that have led to good places in the past.
  • Remind: myself daily. Without conscious attention, I easily slip back into mindless, unhealthy ruts.
  • Repeat: There are cycles and patterns to life. Healthy, positive ruts will not made by doing things once, but many times over and over and over again.

 

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A Plea for the Nations

Balance
Balance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 60

But you have raised a banner for those who fear you—
    a rallying point in the face of attack.
Psalm 60:4 (NLT)

Scholars tell us that Psalms 54-60 were placed together for a reason. The seven psalms form a cluster that fit together like a literary word picture in the Hebrew language in which it was originally written. Think of a mountain. Psalm 54 is an individual’s plea for God’s help. On the opposite end is Psalm 60 which is a nation’s plea for God’s help. The Psalms on either side lead up to a pinnacle in the center, Psalm 57, which contains two sets of seven lines (notice the repetitive theme of seven?) containing a refrain calling for God to be exalted.

I find it interesting the contrasting opposite ends of the cluster of psalms. The plea for the individual and the plea for the nation. This morning I’m weighing out in my mind the amount of time I spend thinking about and praying for myself and the amount of time I spend thinking about and praying for our nation. The scale I have pictured in my head tips quickly and decisively with a loud “thunk” on the side of the self-centered prayers.

Today I’m reminded that, no matter the country we find ourselves living in, God calls on us to pray for our leaders and our government. There is so much trouble in the world. We need God’s help to navigate the troubles of the nations just as much as we need His help to navigate our own personal journeys.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 14

2010 05 03 Playhouse Construction Weekend 005 God answered, “This time don’t attack head-on; circle around and come at them out of the balsam grove. When you hear a sound like shuffling feet in the tops of the balsams, attack; God will be two steps ahead of you….” 1 Chronicles 14:14b-15a (MSG)

We just finished a(nother) weekend of construction on the lower level of our playhouse at the lake. We had a stellar crew helping us with doors, flooring, and electrical work. I am, admittedly, not a real do-it-yourself guy. I can do some basics with a hammer and screwdriver, but I’m pretty clueless when it comes to some of the intricacies of construction.

One of the blessings of this project has been having family and friends who know what they are doing helping out. As we’ve worked on this project, I have often come to a point in the project where I’m perplexed. Many times I’ve gone to my dad or one of my knowledgeable friends with a question and have heard in response, “Yeah, I noticed that and I’ve been thinking about it. I think what we need to do is….” It’s been amazing to have people two steps ahead of me, looking out for my best interest and sharing their wisdom.

Daily taking time to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in the perplexing steps my journey, there is something comforting in the knowledge that He is two steps ahead of me, looking out for my best interest, and willing to guide me.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 41

Everyone needs a first aid kit. Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

There is a first aid kit in the back of my car. There's another one in the boat at the lake. When I was a lifeguard as a teen it was mandatory to know where the first aid kit was located. You never know when you might need it. It was, perhaps, that very realization as a teenager which made me think about the idea of a spiritual first aid kit.

It was simple. I jotted down a few verses that provided me with encouragement and reminded me of God's faithful provision, power, protection and promise. Isaiah 41:10 was always one of the verses in my "kit." I would then fold up the paper and stick it in my pocket. Throughout the day, as I reached into my pocket and felt the paper there, I was reminded of God's message. I would quickly, mentally think through the verses. When stress or anxiety would rise, I would reach into my pocket, or simply remember what was there. The verses popped to mind and reminded me of God's presence. The simple discipline of responding to negative emotion with positive reinforcement from God's Message was a lifesaver.

Throughout my life, as I have faced difficult legs of life's journey, I've gone back to the practice of sticking a spiritual first aid kit in my pocket.

What verse(es) would you put in yours?