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Friday, December 28, 2012

Sabbatical anyone?

Periodically I like to come back to familiar passages of scripture because they speak fresh intent into my spirit and just bring something refreshing within my parched soul.  You have probably heard me say I tend to turn to the Psalms, Proverbs and Pauline Epistles as my "favorite" places to turn in the scripture.  It is because I "connect" with David -  a sinner through and through, but intent on keeping God first in his life, not afraid to turn again and again to God seeking grace for his misadventures, much like me.  I also connect with Solomon, a man seeking wisdom and intention in life, always open to the truths God would teach.  With Paul, I find the honesty of a heart struggling to make a break from the past ways of doing things and reaching to do things in the newness of this Christian walk.  Regardless of the place I go, the theme is the same - God's gift of grace leads us right to where we need to be - connected to the one who gives life!  I particularly enjoy the following passage because it speaks to me of living out my life, not in some "religious" pursuit for purity, but practically, honestly, and dependently.


So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (Romans 12:1-2 MSG)

The first thing which "pops" out in this text is Paul's instruction to take the "ordinary" life we live and place it before God as an offering.  Now, you wouldn't think the "extraordinary" God of the universe would be interested in the "ordinary" of our life, would you?  Yet, the instruction is to bring the "ordinary" to the "extraordinary".  It is kind of "releasing" to realize God never expects the "extraordinary" from US.  He just expects the "ordinary" - in turn, he brings about the "extraordinary" IN us!  So many times, we "work up" to giving something of "worth" or "value" to God.  We find ourselves in the frenzy of "religious rule-keeping" and the resulting "busy-ness" of this practice, all the while missing the important point - God wants the ordinary, not what we can "work up" in our lives!

This leads to what Paul says next - God just wants us to embrace his work in our lives.  We somehow get this confused, thinking God's embrace only comes as a result of some "work" on our part.  The truth is, we reach out and his arms are already open wide to take us into his embrace.  Paul tells us WE embrace what God DOES for us - not that we do something to make God want to embrace us.  If we have God confused with humans, we might just think we have to do something which makes us "embraceable" in order to be embraced.  Isn't this the way we humans operate?  Someone does something "nice" or "good" and we return their "niceness" or "goodness" with our embrace.  One of the things I worked hard to do in my kid's lives was to embrace them, and to do it for what seemed like "no reason" to them!  Just doing it because I loved them - not because they did something well, or FOR me.  I wanted them to see the unconditional love of God and to learn to embrace well.  Both of my kids give awesome hugs and my daughter has taught my grandsons to do the same!  What an awesome thing to pass along - unconditional love!

My daughter shared yesterday, just one day after Christmas, about the need to put the newly gifted video game on top of the fridge, out of the reach of the oldest grandson.  Why?  Simply because it had "consumed" all of his attention since he got it!  I watched on Christmas day as he was totally absorbed in navigating through the various stages of the game, then taking photos of the family and drawing whiskers, funny hairdos, and the like on the photos.  Now, on the first day, I expected this, but by the second day, when his mother wanted him to enjoy a little sunshine and fresh air, he was refusing to do so.  He was more focused on the game than on what would do both he and his brother some good!  So, away went the game.  Now, as you can imagine, he was hurt by the action of his mother because he failed to see the loving intent behind the game "sabbatical".  

Sometimes I think God has to take our attention away from some of the things in life we embrace so freely, often without thinking much about it, just to help us focus again on what is really important in our lives.  We become so well-adjusted to the way we are doing things, and then God comes along and "messes with" our adjustment!  Even this action reveals his tremendous love for us!  Sometimes we need this "adjustment" in order to realize how "fixed" we were on the "thing" and how much this "fixation" was taking us away from what we need the most - connection!  Connection with him first, and then connection with the people we love in life!  Maybe this is why I like Paul's writings so much - because he was never content to see anything take the place of connection!

It never ceases to amaze me how "drug down" I feel when the connection has been interrupted.  It happens in the most physical sense, because when I have taken my eyes off of some relationship, allowing "space" to be created which should not exist there, I almost always feel a little "hollow" inside.  That hollowness is really a sense of being "drug down" into some empty space.  When connection is broken, with others or with God, there is almost certainly a sense of emptiness which occurs.  So, maybe an early sign of needing to "reconnect" is the hollowness we begin to feel with the pursuit of whatever it is that has our attention so "fixed".  Just sayin!