A few weeks ago a friend of ours stopped me in the lobby at church to ask me about journaling.
That’s not surprising in and of itself because I do get asked about that from time to time, but it is always women and this happened to be a man.
He has been feeling the nudge to journal more regularly as part of his study and prayer time and his question was a good one.
He asked me if I stick to vague references about heart issues or if I am gut honest when I journal.
I believe that writing out my thoughts, ugly and raw … deep and pondering…working through all of what is crowding out God in my heart, soul and mind…is part of the journaling process.
It helps me clear away the fluff and often reveals pride or guilt or whatever isn’t of God and makes room for Him to do what He does…
convict, rebuke, comfort, forgive, restore, edify, counsel, speak into this life that He gave me.
And there is another reason I express myself in journaling with bold transparency.
There are days I run across an entry and as I read the words I wrote with my own hand, farther down the road of this journey, I sit in humble gratitude for how God took those thoughts the day I wrote them and He held them tenderly and faithfully and because I owned what I was feeling…
He did His thing and I do not feel shame for what I misunderstood about His goodness.
My honest outpouring was a child crying out to her Abba Father.
And while I may not get an answer right after I write out my heart and my questions…over time, He worketh <3
I ran across a confession I wrote in the margin of the No Other Gods study today.
I wrote it in a hard season of deep hurt three years ago.
In the midst of painful loss and transition, as I cried out to God, He revealed to me things that were buried in me that needed to be dug up and removed.
Today I read with humble gratitude the exchange I had with Him that day and I can mark the growth that has come three years later.
Little bits of fruit here and there on a tree that dug her roots into His mercy and grace and took life from His living water as we limped through a rough time.
Perhaps you are not one who takes up a pen and writes out your thoughts, but it is the only way I know to record mine so that I can remember what God has done for me.
He is great and awesome and yet so very kind and personal.
I sat a little extra long with my coffee, journal, Bible and prayers this morning and now have a list of things I need to tackle, so a quick thought and we are off and running for a Monday.
With being gone last week, I didn’t really share any thoughts on the No Other Gods study…so I had to smile this morning when one of my first Scripture references in one of my morning devotion standard reads was this one…
“You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves carefully.”
The attribute of God for the passages today was focusing on “Invisible”
How do you feel about that?
Probably like me, you wish that wasn’t a quality of God we have to deal with.
Giant crosses hung in front of the church surrounded by smoke, lights and a lot of people who think like me
A breathtaking sunset
Tiny fingers of our first grandchild gripping my pinkie
All the faces of all our people gathered around the table
These are blessings I can touch and taste and see.
How difficult to realize we can give all we hold dear to be thrown into the fire and when a golden calf just pops out…we figure it must be from God and suddenly….we have strayed into idolatry.
But God reminds us.
He does not “appear” out of the fire.
He is invisible.
He will not satisfy our need and desire for an image.
He is too big for that.
He is greater than the little gods we have made up in our hearts.
Out of good things we fashion a god who can satisfy our immediate need and we can somewhat control and manage and manipulate.
But He refuses to play by our rules.
I am so thankful.
The blessings He has bestowed upon me have come in many shapes and sizes and have been both mind-numbingly beautiful and soul-piercingly difficult.
But not one of His blessings can save me.
He is God and there is no other.
He will show Himself to me by covering His face because He is so glorious I cannot handle it.
So I got to come to Atlanta and go the the AmericasMart and it’s pretty amazing.
Three buildings the size of … I don’t know….a small airfield maybe…I might be exaggerating but not by much.
Twenty plus floors, each loaded with show rooms of all the things…but one tiny glitch.
Unless you want to go allllllll the way back down to planet earth to pass from one to the other you have to cross this death bridge of glass suspended over thin air.
Kind of like the sensation Spider Man must have on his nightly outings.
See that foot in the picture.
That’s the tennis show of a man who had to be my senior by maybe five years or more.
That’s as far as he will go out on it he said.
And he works there.
I got a few inches further and just looking out to the side of that building in the background took enough years off of my life that I am now technically older than the owner of the black aforementioned tennis shoe.
Oh I will cross that bridge tomorrow.
Make no doubt.
I once conquered my fear of heights in the presence of our daughter Sarah and there is no way I will go back on a victory.
It won’t be pretty…and I may be extremely focused on my own feet as I make my way across that span of fear…but I will do it.
A victory over something doesn’t mean it will never threaten to try to take you out again…it just means you know your God got you through it the last time and He will be there, rock solid, all the times you face your giant again…and again…and again.
And when I get to the other side, I will be stronger than I was the day before and I will know that with God…all things are possible.
Stand up to your fear by falling down before you God.
I have an opportunity to head north a little early and make a pool visit with some of my favorite people and since this has been the summer of overcast days and rain…I am not passing on this opportunity!
This morning I watched the third video session for “No Other Gods” and my mind and heart are so filled.
I felt perhaps she was speaking directly to me, but I know that is how God speaks.
The words would all appear the same if written on paper, but the message is divinely engraved on each unique human heart in a personal way.
He is the ultimate Author.
I will be pondering what was opened up in me throughout the day, but for our time together I want to reflect on a point Kelly made as she reviewed Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.
She talked about how Hannah would go up with her husband year after year to the festival in Shiloh.
Childless and taunted by her rival, the other wife Peninnah, she would attend this celebration with roots going back to the book of Deuteronomy.
It was a time of feasting and rejoicing as families gathered together.
I picture the ideal Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner.
But Hannah had no children and so at this particular year’s party, she was done.
We know this because her husband asked her why she wasn’t eating, even though he had given her double what he gave his child-bearing wife.
In the teaching, Kelly Minter compared this to times when our hearts are so heavy and we make an appearance in the Lord’s house, but we are no longer participating in the celebration at His table.
I find myself at this moment, just as I did when I heard her say it, feeling the grip of tears and a tight throat that constricts just above a heart that, like the Grinch, knows the confines of a small box with walls constructed of some pain.
Do you remember the old cartoon?
How his heart was just so small…and then when it grew and grew and grew some more and burst through?
That’s how I feel sometimes when God starts softening up and breathing life back into places where my heart has died a little.
It hurts good when our heart grows bigger…but it hurts bad when it is constricted in pain.
And sadly, heart pain can cause us to withdraw from worship.
We can excuse it with a lie that we are just going through too much and we don’t feel happy and joyful so we just can’t bring ourselves to participate in those chipper worship songs.
Let me personalize this.
I can excuse heart withdrawal by showing up at church and standing in the midst of the worshippers…but not worshipping.
I can take the bread and cup as it passes but not really nourish myself in the truth of the joy of His salvation.
I can walk through the lobby and chat a little with some people and not koinonia-fellowship with anyone.
And when I withdraw from the Body because I am hurting deep within…when I push back from the Lord’s table because deep down I feel He has forsaken me….
I for sure am taking the first steps towards fashioning some kind of idol out of some kind of lesser material and I will be worshipping something…even if I said I just didn’t have it in me to worship God that day.
It’s hard truth, people.
We were made to worship and if, in our pain, we don’t fall down before the only One who can understand the depths of it and can heal it…we will fall down before something or someone that will never bring about the restoration and healing we so desperately need.
Before we even start in today, as I sat down to an overflowing desk of neglected paperwork to open a computer where 742 UNREAD emails reside…to have my “quiet time”…I flipped the desk calendar over and find this…
“Ask where the good road is, the godly paths…Travel there, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jeremiah 6:16 The Living Bible.
Thank you God.
Thank you whoever put this lovely little desk calendar in and prayerfully selected verses and quotes because so many times, it hits me right where I am.
You are probably in a hurry today, just like me.
But sit back, scroll back…take a deep breath and then a long drink of living water and read that passage again…
God is inviting us, you and me, to ask Him where the good road is…
inviting us to ask for directions that will take us on the godly paths…
inviting us to book our journey based on HIS divine road map and why?
Because it is there we will find rest for our souls.
And that is why we want freedom from idols.
Idols do not give us rest.
Idols demand and oppress and crush our spirits and make us weary as we attempt to satisfy the capricious whims of something or someone who can never be what God desires to be for us.
Yesterday we looked at some specific things from a quote by Richard Keyes that we can turn into idols:
a physical object
On page 25 of my study guide (remember I am using the original one!), there is a definition that enhances our understanding of how we can begin to identify what our idols might be:
“Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone or metal worshipped by pagan people..In biblical terms, it is SOMETHING OTHER THAN GOD THAT WE SET OUR HEARTS ON, THAT MOTIVATES US, THAT MASTERS AND RULES US, OR THAT WE TRUST, FEAR, OR SERVE…an idol can also be referred to as a ‘false god’ or a ‘functional god.’” Ken Sande
page 25, No Other Gods by Kelly Minter 2007 Lifeway Press
As I did yesterday, I will do again today because listing things is my jam…
An idol is something other than God that….
we set our heart on
masters and rules us
we trust, fear or serve
I am an extremely private person about a lot of things and yet, God continues to pry my hands off of my “fear” of over-exposure and being judged and asks me be open and transparent about my own struggles so that perhaps someone else can learn and grow.
I typed that more for me than for you because guess what one of my “idols” is.
I care very much about what others think of me.
I care so much that I have imaginary conversations in my head in which others are vocally criticizing me, or correcting me, or comparing themselves to me and as I defend or justify or explain myself, I can get so beat down that I am ready to quit and the only real person who said all these negative things about me…was me.
And culture might have me put up a meme that says some kind of cool, positive, empowering quote with a picture of a woman in her mid 30’s with long thick hair that I will never have and kind of a dewy background and some pretty flowers so that I can affirm myself of the value of being me…and you know what?
That’s not what I need.
And God knows it.
What I need is to confront an idol I have handcrafted that is the image of me doing everything exceedingly well to the applause of many over my originality and creativity and I need to take a sledgehammer and knock that phony god down.
Because one of my idols is the idea that I can do life well all by myself. It is an idol of an idea that somehow if I just do everything perfectly, I won’t have any struggles or trials or bad things happen.
The little god I have set up in my mind and heart is me not making mistakes and not having to back track to correct them.
And the weight of catering to the whims of this idol can wear me out and keep me from living in the full freedom that says…
before I ever even thought to love God, He loved me. In spite of all that I am and all that I have done and every way I will mess up today and tomorrow and the next day until He comes and takes me home…He loves me. He doesn’t love me because I am perfect – He loves me because HE is perfect love.
Oh, I will be perfect one day, but it will be because of Jesus Christ, whose blood covers me now and it is by His perfection that I will one day be presented…faultless…before the Throne of God.
So I can blame Satan or haters or whoever I want to for the angst I feel when I don’t measure up…but it’s my own little g, functional god of self that has displaced the Almighty God who made me, knows me, and is transforming me more and more into His image.
It is for freedom that Christ has set me free…so anywhere I do not feel free…I have discovered the calling card of an idol.
Oh Father, show these prone-to-wander feet the good road. Help this child of yours to journey onward along godly paths.