Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Faith Without Exercise is Dead!

I believe in God. I really do! 
I have faith.  
I say it loudly. Earnestly.
The Apostle Paul is not impressed.
"Good for you! You believe! Yipee! You have faith!" He throws up his arms sarcastically and then leans in toward me.  His voice is just above a whisper: "You believe in God, huh Hope?  Well, so does the devil!"
I know, I know.  Belief isn't enough.  Faith without works is dead. Got it.
I've heard the "faith without works" verse from the book of James a million times. (James 2:17)  Not as much since I became a Lutheran (The book of James is not a Lutheran favorite.  Luther called it the "epistle of straw."), but still it pops up almost every time someone mentions faith and works in the same sentence.
There is another small book in the New Testament that has a lot to say about faith and works:
2nd Peter.
Turns out Peter has a lot to say about what a LIVING FAITH is supposed to look, feel and sound like. He describes faith as something I "exercise" in order to "develop" certain characteristics.  Here is Peter, straight from the Amplified Bible:

"...Employ every effort in EXERCISING your FAITH to develop VIRTUE (excellence),
and in exercising virtue develop KNOWLEDGE
and in exercising knowledge develop SELF-CONTROL,
and in exercising self-control develop STEADFASTNESS (perseverance),
And in exercising steadfastness develop GODLINESS,
And in exercising godliness develop BROTHERLY AFFECTION,
And in exercising brotherly affection develop CHRISTIAN LOVE." (2 Peter 1:5...)

Wow, that is a lot of exercising! I'm out of breath just READING it all.  I can tell I am totally out of shape spiritually.  My faith is under-developed.  I feel like I am still in the warm-up stage, you know, the KNOWLEDGE part near the beginning?  Once in awhile I might put in a wind-sprint or two of self-control, but it doesn't last long. It's a lot of work.  Sometimes I even flex a little bit of my brotherly (or sisterly) affection, but I do tire quickly of all that neighborly lovey-dovey stuff, especially with those folks who are so hard to LIKE, let alone love.  It is SO much easier to just stay on the couch and let my faith relax.  Chill out. Veg.
These verses are a challenge to my spiritual laziness. One of the things I noticed about the exercise list above is how they all build on each other.  Exercising my faith starts a chain reaction.  Like a muscle moving, each exercise is independent, but works along with others.  They all work together and the ultimate result, the culmination, is CHRIST-LIKE LOVE.  That is really where all this faith exercise leads.  Physical exercise perfects the body.  Exercising my faith perfects my love - my love of God and of others.  It doesn't save me.  It doesn't make me better than anyone else.  It doesn't get me into heaven ahead of anyone else. (Just because there is exercise involved doesn't mean this is a race!)  Jesus already did all the work involved in saving me.  And like I said earlier, I believe it.  And Saint Paul is right -- the devil believes it, too.  Difference is, he doesn't exercise his faith. He exercises his power to wreak havoc. Stir up doubt. Kick-up fear. Encourage laziness.  He spends time trying to weigh me down with guilt, selfishness, pride and other vices to make my faith exercises nearly impossible.  Like sand bags, he loads them up on my shoulders.  This makes me just want to sink into the couch and sulk.  To blame.  To give up.  To complain.  The last thing I want to do is get up and exercise.  Forget that!  These sand bags are so heavy.  They're not really there of course, I just believe/feel they are.  I need God to remove them.  I've tried to remove them on my own and they are pretty hard to cast off.
Sometimes when I'm exercising my faith, you know, jogging around the track of life, exercising my SELF-CONTROL, heading toward STEADFASTNESS...all of a sudden-- AAACCCK!!  My foot catches on something in the road and I go flying face first on to the pavement.  What the heck was that?  I look back.  What?!?! Who put my SARCASM out in the middle of the road?  I thought I had moved that out of the roadway?  Ugh.  Guess I didn't move it far enough.  Actually, maybe that is the problem - I moved it out of the way instead of giving it to God so he can CAST it away.  I can't do it on my own.  I have tried dragging these temptations, vices and negative traits out of the roadway and they just keep getting dragged back out into the road ahead of me to trip me up again.  I need God's help to see them, avoid them, remove them and eventually defeat them (and to defeat the one who keeps putting them out in front of me.)
I am currently reading a book of spiritual short stories.  The introduction is by Peter J. Gomes, former professor and Chaplain at Harvard University. (He died this past year. RIP!)  He explains how America is the place people run to for freedom. He explains freedom in two ways - freedom FROM and freedom FOR.  People have come to this country seeking freedom FROM religious oppression (among other things) and freedom FOR the right/ability to express their freedom in new, unique ways.
When I read this, I was immediately struck with how this relates to my spiritual life and the whole faith vs. works debate that ensues when that verse in James is quoted.  What Jesus did on the cross gives me freedom FROM death/punishment/separation from God and also gives me freedom FOR living the life God created me to live.  I am free from the chains that bound me and therefore free to love as Christ did.  Doesn't mean my "works" will always match the "good work that He has begun in me" (Philippians 1:6), but it does mean that my works don't give me freedom, they are the expression OF my freedom!  So..I exercise my faith not to build myself up or earn a place in heaven, but because I have been created and empowered by God to love Him and others in a world-changing, peace-making, God-empowered way that shows the world...I AM FREE! COME EXERCISE YOUR FAITH WITH ME!  WE'RE FREE!

-Hope Horner, 2012 
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Unprofitable Servant (What? You Mean It's Not About Me?)

I read this prayer by A.W. Tozer this morning and it felt like I was reading a foreign language.  Not because of the author's use of old English words like "Thy" and "Thou" but because the prayer itself was so humble and self-effacing.  How often do I pray for my own success and take credit for my own achievements?  How often do I secretly wish that others (the ones I don't like or disagree with) wouldn't do quite so well or would flat out fail?  (Look at all the reality shows which play up when people lose, make a mistake, trip and fall and how we are urged to have a nice, long laugh at their expense.) Or during the political season where the candidate's goal is not only to build themselves up, but to tear the other person down?  Then here's Tozer talking about praying for the success of others and not focusing on his great attributes (of which he had many) but instead focusing on being a humble servant of God and giving God the glory. Refreshing indeed!
Here's the powerful prayer by Tozer:

"Dear Lord, I refuse henceforth to compete with any of Thy servants. They have congregations larger than mine. So be it. I rejoice in their success. They have greater gifts. Very well. That is not in their power nor in mine. I am humbly grateful for their greater gifts and my smaller ones. I only pray that I may use to Thy glory such modest gifts as I possess. I will not compare myself with any, nor try to build up my self-esteem by noting where I may excel one or another in Thy holy work. I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth. I am but an unprofitable servant. I gladly go to the foot of the class and own myself the least of Thy people. If I err in my self judgment and actually underestimate myself I do not want to know it. I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own. And indeed it is my own if it is Thine own, for what is Thine is mine, and while one plants and another waters it is Thou alone that giveth the increase." 
The Price of Neglect, 104-105.

Amen (So be it) Tozer, AMEN!

-Hope A. Horner
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote and never miss a post!

A.W. who?  )

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Gotta Have Faith (An Atheist & Christian Agree!)

I finally heard an Atheist and a Christian agree on something.
Actually, on more than one something.
First, they agreed that they both need FAITH.
The Atheist said he has faith because he can't prove everything. (There are mathematical equations, for example, that can't be proved, but we know are true through experience.)  He also said that even though he didn't believe in a Creator, the universe still needs a starting point and well, that takes faith.  Whether you believe God or gasses started it all, you gotta have FAITH.  Why?
Because neither can be proven.  Some things exist outside the bounds of science and reason.  These things require faith.
Well, good, that settles it.
Nope, actually it doesn't. There are still a lot of Atheists and Christians batting this age-old topic, and each other, around.
But for a few moments, it was really nice to hear them agree on something.
But wait, there's more!
The other "something" the Christian and the Atheist agreed on is that  suffering is not always explainable.  Pain is just flat out a real crappy part of life on this planet.  Both of these gentleman were pediatric oncologists (children's cancer doctors) so they had seen a lot of suffering both by sick young patients and devastated parents.  Is there anything worse than a child dying?  Any greater suffering?  Any bigger reason to doubt that God exists?  Why must we suffer? Why? Why? Why?!  Where is God in all this?
Both the Christian and the Atheist doctor agreed that there is no way to wrap your head around why there is so much pain and suffering in the world. They both agreed that there aren't and shouldn't be any pat answers. The Atheist can't explain suffering fully by chalking it all up to science, synapses misfiring or out of control cells or simple cause and effect.  The Christian can't explain it all by saying God's ways are not our ways, or pointing to original sin or by regurgitating some other jaded church axiom.  In fact, they both agreed that when a parent loses a child to cancer and looks up at them with big, red, tear filled eyes that beg "Why?" the best answer is: "I'm so very, very sorry."
I found their agreement on these topics inspiring.  How nice to see them drop the dogma and just say look, it all boils down to FAITH and we just can't know everything. That doesn't mean God isn't real but it also doesn't mean that evolution gets it all wrong either.  So let's stop insisting we KNOW.  Christians please stop beating your chests and pounding your fists and screaming about how right you are! If you don't believe you came from apes, than stop acting like one!  And Atheists?  Stop acting like you can prove everything and you're soooo much smarter than people who believe in God.  It takes just as much brain power to explore theology as it does biology. And both require FAITH so we have at least one thing we can agree on, right?

What it boils down to for me is this: I put my faith in Creator God not Creative Gasses.  I want a Nurturer, not just Nature.  I believe in the un-created Creator; the One who does not need to be created - The Un-Started Starting Point - but I am not saying I  can prove it.  I am just saying I believe it.  And you know what? Now that I think about it, the very fact that I can believe - that I can have faith - is astounding to me.  I mean, what is belief anyway? And faith? Just chemical reactions in my brain?
The Atheist gave a few reasons why humans have faith or specifically, why they seek out God.  He believed we naturally have a "God-sized hole in our heart that needs to be filled" because it was essential for our survival as a species to bond with others and form trust based groups (i.e. religious groups). So essentially (and probably too simply put) it is in our DNA to find reasons to connect with others.  He also said that human beings artificially constructed God (the divine filler of this vacancy in our hearts) to create the "someone is watching us" mentality which ensures that people will well-behaved even when no one else is watching.  This ensured our survival.  If "the man upstairs" is watching then we better think twice before we steal our neighbor's sheep or sleep with his wife.  People are better behaved if they run a little paranoid.  Less destruction and devastation ensues.  Species live longer.
Sure, this is plausible.  But so void of all the passion and love and joy that goes along with finding out that God does fill that hole in my heart just perfectly.  That he was meant to be there and WANTS to be there. And then, once he is in that spot, he changes my life so completely that I WANT to do what is right not because I feel his steely eyes bearing down on me from afar, but because I love him.  Which makes me wonder... I know what my brain looks like on drugs thanks to Nancy Reagan (Remember the frying pan and the egg in the 1980's?) but I have no idea what my brain looks like on God.  That's OK.
I just know that I have a brain,created or evolved, that wants God, needs God, feels God and loves God.
And yes, it takes faith to believe that God has always been here, is here with me now, and someday I will see him face to face.
That reminds me.  The Atheist and the Christian agreed on one more thing. (See there is so much to agree on!) They talked about the end of life.  Even though the Atheist didn't believe that God would be there at the end, he said that he never tries to change his patients minds by telling them no one is waiting.  He said that would be heartless. He said he knows it is heartless to say that "not because I believe in God, but because I am a human being and I can empathize."  He said religion, in general, is good.  (Except when used for violence/oppression.) I thought it was weird to hear an Atheist say religion was good.  He explained. When your child dies, you want to believe that their suffering is over.  That you will see them again.  That they are being delivered into God's hands and not just put into the earth. You need hope.
So once again the atheist and the Christian can agree.
We all need hope.
And of course I agree with that!

-Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote and never miss a post!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

When my Dad said he liked a U2 song, I about fell out of my chair.  I was in my twenties at the time and it was totally unexpected.  This is a man with a doctorate in Theology who's biggest venture into the world of "secular" music is The Carpenters and the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire.  When I was a child, I remember once in awhile he would put on a Johnny Cash album--never on Sundays and always with caveats.   Johnny was a drinker and paid a price.  Johnny was rebellious and got in trouble.  Just love that baritone voice though.  None like it!  Don't take your guns to town son, leave your guns at home...I fell in to a burning ring of fire, I went down, down, down...

When I was in high school, he found a Bad English cassette tape in my room.  Remember the song "When I See You Smile?"  I had bought the album for that song, but as it turned out, I really liked the whole album and listened to it constantly on my Walkman. Bad English lived up to their name.  They were rocky and rebellious and the band members were slick and had big hair.  My Dad approached me in the living room with the cassette in his hand.
"Do you know what that four letter word is?" he asked me with a scowl on his face as he pointed to the song title "Heaven is a Four Letter Word."
I thought about it for a moment.  I could hear the line from the song in my head:  Hey girl, haven't you heard?  Heaven is a four letter word?
"Love?" I offered up innocently.
He sniffed. "You're very naive, Hope.  I guess that's a good thing."  He snapped the cassette closed and walked away.
"Well, I might be naive, but YOU need to get your mind out of the gutter!"
Thank goodness I didn't say that. I would still be grounded. Or dead.
So, several years ago, when he announced he liked a U2 song, I held my breath.  I wondered which one...
Could it be Sunday Bloody Sunday?  (He is Irish.)
It's a Beautiful Day? (He is optimistic.)
Where The Streets Have No Name? (Possible.  Isn't this about heaven?)
"I really like the song Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Now, I don't agree with Bono's message, but I really like the song.  It is very haunting - the guitars, the chorus.  It's just a really good song."
I nodded and said, "Hmm."  My response sounded like I was agreeing, but not whole-heartedly just in case it was a set-up.  Maybe he was trying to figure out if I had traded in my Sound of Music album for the Dark Side of the Moon?  Maybe this was a test to see if I had I gone "Amy Grant" musically, in other words-- crossed over without bringing the cross over?
I stayed quiet.  My silence was more out of shock than anything else.  My Dad listened to a U2 song?  What happened to the Bill Gaither Trio?  Sandy Patty?  Mozart? And what did my Dad mean when he said he "I don't agree with Bono's message..."? I didn't ask.  I just tucked that comment away. But if I had to guess what my Dad meant it would be this:
Bono may not have found what HE is looking for, but my Dad has, namely - he has found God.
Then today, I heard the song on the radio and that lingering question popped up in mind.  I heard my Dad in my head saying he liked the song, but didn't agree with Bono.  Good song Bono.  Really good.  Your voice is perfect.  Guitars are great. But your message is well, not so good.  Actually, it's bleak.  Hopeless. Directionless.
Bono lifts his silvery sunglasses and looks my Dad square in the eyes. (Oh no! My Dad and Bono are arguing in my head!) With the same calm intensity Bono uses to raise money for children in Africa he says:
Yes sir, I know, the song is pretty depressing.  You got that right. But was there ever a time when you felt like me?  EVER felt hopeless?  Ever wondered Have I really found what I am looking for?  Is God really there?  Is he listening?  When I die, will he really be there waiting for me? I wrote that song when I was doubting, struggling, you know, yearning.  You mean you never doubt? Never have, never will? 
Bono had a charity fundraiser to get to in Bangladesh, so he didn't have time to stay and hear my Father's answer.  He slipped his glasses back down on to his face and slinked off to his private plane like a jaguar.
I am sure my Dad would say he has had doubts.  He is human! And he has definitely suffered tragedy, the kind that makes you question God.  He and my Mom lost their first child at birth and I am named accordingly (Hope). I've just never heard my Dad share his doubts or struggles along his faith journey.  He has always been so faith-full and trusting and believing and well, certain. I do remember once, he told me that for a few years he went through what he called his "mystical years" reading Thomas Merton, John of the Cross and others.  It was probably the 1960's and mysticism was as close as he was going to get to a mental trip, since alcohol, acid or Woodstock were not an option.  Sure, my Dad looms larger in my mind spiritually than he probably is.  He is AMAZING.  (But doesn't every little Daddy's girl think that?)  He knows the Bible so well he could probably write it down verse for verse.  He's preached, prayed, and proselytized.  He's taught Sunday School and written a "How To" book for other Christians. He's sung, played piano, organ, and I think even banjo at church functions inside the sanctuary and out.  He's been the voice of God in countless school plays (There is the Johnny Cash baritone voice and then about two octaves lower there is my Dad's baritone - a.k.a. the voice of God.)  Don't misunderstand me - he is not pompous, stalwart, stoic or judgmental.  He just appears to me to be spiritually superhuman.  Impenetrable.  Unshakable.  And sometimes I wish he was more human.  Sometimes I wish he would let his spiritual hair down.  Shake in his faith boots just a little? Sometimes I wish he would admit that he hasn't always been sure he's found what he is looking for. That he feels like Bono does sometimes. That he feels like I do sometimes.
I know I am God's child. I know he loves me.  I know he holds me in the palm of his hand.  I know, I know, I KNOW! But sometimes the knowing doesn't satisfy the longing.  Sometimes I hear or see or read or watch something that makes me say - Whoa!  What if this is all just a big, long, perpetuated Sunday School story that really isn't true?  Have I really found what I am looking for or is what I've found just an illusion? A manufactured man-made myth? Then I read the Bible and a verse will pop out at and say, "Hang in there Hope."  Or someone will say or do something that brings me back into the fold.  Like a lost sheep, I am led back with a loving hand. And I believe again.  I hope.  I trust.  I find what I am looking for.
But sometimes it is not that simple.
Sometimes I have to admit I feel like Bono.
And sometimes I wish my Dad would admit that he does too.

-Hope Horner
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for...
Music and Lyrics by U2

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is That You God?

Is it possible to find God in nature?  Can you go into the deep woods and breath him in?  Can you hear him in the chirps and bird songs of an African sunset?  Feel him in the spray of magnificent Niagara Falls?
Sure, you can find God in nature -- enough God to render disbelief in Him impossible.
But you can't find enough God to save you.
This was the answer given to a student who said he "wasn't religious"; he was "spiritual" and that he "found God by going out in the woods."  The student explained, "I don't go to church or anything.  I find God in nature."  The pastor responded graciously and kindly, but directly, and in a way I have never heard before. 
I hear many people say that they "find God in nature." I never really know what to say when I hear this.  I mean, they're right. I can see, hear, feel, find God in nature, too.  In fact, some of the sunrises I see from my backyard are so gorgeous that they appear painted by the very hand of God, not just some scientific intermixing of moisture, sun and gasses.  I've posted a few pictures of them below and I can assure you that they are as I found them, no enhancements, no Photoshop.  Pretty impressive, huh? 
Can you see God in these sunrises?  I can.
But is that all the "God" I need?  Just the feeling these images inspire?  Merely the visual assurance of a great Creator, a Divine Artist?  Nope, I need more.
I need a  God who drops the paintbrush and comes to earth.  I need a God who isn't content with just showing off how cute he can make baby ducks or how lush he can make the rainforest or how many colors he can throw on a tropical fish.  I need more than a  Maui sunset or a Santa Clarita sunrise.
Thankfully, I have it. The all-powerful creative genius God, who made me and everything around me, didn't just make it all and say "it was good" and then leave me and everyone else to enjoy it, use it and even abuse it.  He gave me more than just biology, breath-taking views, beautiful places and baby animals to tug at my heart strings.  He gave His only Son, Jesus.  And when he sent his only Son to earth, he didn't send mankind into the woods to find Him.  The instructions were not to walk up a mountain and look around for a man that looks "spiritual".   He didn't send mankind on a safari with a tour guide who points out the open window of a Jeep and says, "See, there is my Son.  Isn't he attractive? Well, he's got Cheetah speed, too. See if you can chase Him down."
God sent his Son directly to earth, as someone who the prophet Isaiah said was not "a looker" or in today's teen talk, "a hottie."  God could have made him with the looks of Cruise or Clooney and the body of Captain America.  Instead he made him a common Uncommon Man - the Son of Man - God incarnate!  Immanuel - God is with us!  God, who came to us!
He is not out there somewhere. I do not need to find him.  He found me.  Sounds so simple, but it has taken me awhile to realize this.  To believe it.
I wrote an article a year or so ago about "finding God on the mountaintop" where I described how I have wandered around on "the mountain" (a metaphor for life) looking for God, ran into people who tried to point me in the right (or wrong) direction and how I had a few moments with God over the years, but never really FOUND God because I hadn't "been to the top" so to speak, so I just keep wandering, wishing, walking, up, up, up...Are you there, God, at the top? God is that you?  This reminds me of the popular 1980's Judy Blume book for teens: Hello God. It's Me, Margaret.  This was my thinking:  I need to wander up the mountain of life, find God at the top and then like Margaret, introduce myself.
That was my thinking.
It has changed.
I am not wandering around looking for God anymore.
I am not going out into the woods or trying to find him in the clouds, the stars or even on the mountaintop.  My plan is to make it to Hawaii in 2013 and I am not going to ask the tour guide to let me out in the rainforest so I can look, listen and feel for God.
Not that He won't be there.
He will be.
But the saving God I need has already come (Jesus). And He is still here. Not physically.  Not metaphysically either -- not in some "unknowable" petal or the pond or pasture, but in His Spirit which lives in me and works through me. 
I'll let Saint Patrick take it from here:
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man who hears me.
-Prayer of Saint Patrick (excerpt)

Author: Hope Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter:  HopeNote

Psalm 19 - Nature demonstrates God's glory:
Psalm 139 - Can't get away from God; there is no where he is NOT so we don't need to find Him:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fruit Picker

You can cast me out
You can
Because you don't know me.
You never had to look me right here -
Right here in the eyes and tell me
You don't want people like me around here.
It would be a little harder then wouldn't it,
Fruit Picker,
To toss me back into the heap like a bad apple;
One brown spot too many.
Look at me!
You see me now in the sun and the sod, in the shine of the linoleum,
There, in the back with your dirty dishes, your crusts and crumbs.
Someday you will see me --
My back no longer bent over the green rows;
My hands no longer black, stained with the blood of your fruit;
My glory no longer restrained under a bandana -
But flying as a bandera -
Freedom whipping across my face
Joy stinging my almond eyes!
I will not be thrown back by you,
For I am Chosen!
Not by you, Fruit Picker,
But I am Chosen!
Poem by Hope A. Horner, ©2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Finding Rest

I do not rest.
Even on vacation this past week, I found little to no time for rest.  There was time for doctor's appointments, dish washing, signing documents, comforting, applying bandages, painting kitchen cabinets, buying groceries and sight-seeing, touring and bus-riding and subway tickets and so much movement and going and doing and driving and walking that the time zone change wasn't the only thing that caused my head to spin.
And I realize looking back on last week that during all the un-rest - I prayed only a few times.
I prayed a few times for the family member who has nearly smoked himself to death, his lungs full of dark masses the size of marbles and golf balls.  I prayed for his healing and comfort as he sat before me in his living room, fear dancing in his eyes.  Another time, I prayed for his Mom and Dad - for healing of their own illnesses -Parkinson's, macular degeneration, tinnitus -- fleshy growths that have to be seared off,  and then leave wounds that heal slowly and scar. All of their own suffering is now wrapped up in the fear and worry that they might outlive their son. I prayed for peace.  Oh, and I threw up a few quick prayers on the plane ride out and back.  You know, the "safe travels" prayer that comes when you realize you are about to travel thousands of miles, way,way, up in the air inside what amounts to a giant hunk of heavy, but aerodynamic metal.  Safe travels were granted.  Healing and peace for family members remains to be seen.  Rest?  I didn't pray for that.  It remains elusive.
This morning, I read Psalm 119:2 --
Blessed (happy) are those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
I thought about this verse in light of my un-rest.  I realized when I say I want rest, what I really want is happiness.  What is rest anyway?  It is the absence of pain, of obligation, of work, of things that cause my eyes to strain, my back to ache, my mind to race.  It means no smoke coming out of my ears from deep thinking or off of the keyboard as I type.  Rest is removal of angst, worry and busy-ness from my life, in other words, rest = happiness.  Or maybe the best way I can put it - rest is happiness uninterrupted by life.  Rest is the couch, not the cubicle.
Problem is, you have to get up off the couch.You have to go to your cubicle, your desk, your workplace, your in-laws, you gotta get up and go because you got to earn a living; you've got to "do your duty" as an employee, an in-law, a sister, mother, coach, a human being.  Vacations always end.  Naps have timers.
So how do I keep restful when I'm not on the couch?  How do I keep my mind at peace when family members are sick? When work is challenging?  How do I keep my energy up?  Spirits up?  How can I find rest in the midst of all this un-rest?
Blessed are those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
Problem is, I don't seek.  Well, maybe I do a little.  I look around a little bit.  Turn over a couch cushion or two.  God is that you?  Are you there?  I throw up my little prayers and petitions.  Read a Bible verse here or there.  Take a quick listen to a podcast sermon.  Now and then. Except when I'm on vacation or with the in-laws or swamped with work.  Then I get too busy for God.  There is no time to "rest with Him" or "rest in His Word" - just barely enough time to get to the Pharmacy to pick up meds, to get the porch painted, to return the rental car, to get the presentation finalized.  You know - civil unrest.  I don't seek,therefore I don't rest.
Blessed are those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
Prayer is one way I can seek the Lord.
Andrew Murray explains it this way:
Our first work in learning how to pray is this:  We must come simply into God's presence--not with our ignorant, pleading prayers, not with our many words and thoughts, as if we must convince God to do what we want, but in childlike confidence that the very work of God is being carried on is us by the Holy Spirit.  This kind of confidence will help us to REST in the reverent joy and quietness of the soul.  When we are so at peace in His mighty presence -- like a child RESTING every weight and concern in the arms of its Father, then it will be a matter of great joy to lay or desires and needs before God...
So there it is, I need to:
REST in the Holy Spirit.
PRAY in childlike confidence.
Wait a minute.  How the heck do I do either of those?
What does in mean to REST in the Holy Spirit?  Pray with childlike confidence?
It all sounds so easy, so CHILDISH.
That's it, I think.  I can rest in the Holy Spirit and pray with confidence because simply put,
I AM HIS.  God is my Father.  I am his child.  He knows me.  He loves me.  He saved me and he wants me to rest in that truth, in that knowledge.  My prayers don't need to be filled with a lot of words because he knows what I ask even before I ask for it.  He's looking out for me in the midst of it all.  He's in control.

Recently I heard Pastor Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan say in a sermon that Jesus is still human.  He is with the Father, perfected, resurrected, ascended, but HUMAN.  I found that strangely touching and moving.  I guess I always thought that when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven (Luke 24, Acts 1) --called "Ascension Day" in a lot of churches - that he went back to being, well, GOD. Or God-like.  He was no longer human and no longer had a human body.  He wasn't on earth so why would he still need it?  I don't know exactly how I pictured the ascended Jesus actually, but I know it wasn't as a human.  I find the thought of Jesus in heaven, still with a human body, to be very comforting because for me it means he knows, he still knows, how it feels to be human.  He doesn't cry anymore, his body doesn't have any imperfections or problems, he is Christ the risen King, but he still can look at his hands and feet and touch his side and remember the suffering, the aching, the pain, exhaustion and unrest.  So he knows what I mean when I say, "God help my mind to stop racing."  "Calm my worry."  "Heal this sickness."  or simply "Help!" He did exactly all of those things when he was here - he calmed, healed and helped and more than that, as a human, he knew those feelings himself -- he knew fear, disappointment, pain and restlessness - he felt all of this and more in the fishermens' boats, in the temple, the garden, the court and on the cross.

I can seek the Him with all my heart and find rest because I am not seeking a distant, disinterested God, but the God who came to earth and became human -- the God who knows what it means to be human; he understands, he's been there and he remembers. So I can ask with childlike confidence: "Father, help me find rest in your human hands." And I know that he hears me because he says:
Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
And that's a promise I can rest assured in.

-Hope A. Horner
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