“In Transition…” One Year Later

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Last year, I wrote this blog post on Christmas Eve called “In Transition.” It’s odd how I feel pretty much the same way now, though rather than hitting a speedbump, I’ve faced an earth-shaking crash that seems to have turned my world upside-down and render me senseless.

In that post last year, I wrote this:

One day from now marks the traditional anniversary of the moment my God left the throne of Heaven, took on flesh, and became a baby, a baby that would grow up to die for my wrongdoings and then conquer death to bring freedom and victory to the whole world.
So maybe that’s all that matters. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know the Gospel. …
May this be a time of sweet communion with the LORD, then. I want to know my Father’s heart so deeply, to bind mine with His so closely, that the way is obvious. And even if it isn’t, even if I still don’t get an answer, at least I will be drawing closer to the Lover of my soul.

I am grateful to have kept a log of my journey and be able to look back on these words to find comfort, comfort in the encouragement to simply commune with the LORD.

Manna today, or I starve. And that’s for today, not tomorrow, not a week from now, not a year from now, but today. There’s a reason God specifically commanded the Israelites to only gather enough manna in the morning for that day alone. (And when they disobeyed and tried to save some for leftovers, it rotted. See Exodus 16:16-20) Manna today. I must see His goodness today, or I won’t make it to tomorrow. And if I see His goodness today, then that is enough. He provides today, and therefore He will provide tomorrow, and two weeks from now, and decades from now.

Remember earlier this year when I blogged about my trek through the Hebrew prophets post-exile? I wish I had started blogging even earlier, when I was reading about the prophets in conjunction with the accounts of their various kings, because then I could’ve blogged about Habakkuk. I remember writing about Habakkuk for my college course on “The Problem of Evil,” because Habakkuk cries out to God about the evil he sees in his world and God’s plan to let the Babylonians carry the Israelites into exile, but in the end the prophet chooses wisdom over knowledge and joy over despair and lives by faith in a sovereign God.

I am grateful that such a sovereign God led me to read through the Old Testament prophets last year so that this year, when I am so in need of their stories, He can bring them to mind again.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 says in shigionoth (wild, emotional, enthusiastic song):

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.

Yet. I. will. take. joy.

That’s not a very easy thing to say or do right now. Grief still troubles me in the middle of the night, it still suddenly stabs the heart in the course of a normal day. Confusion and worry and fear tend to cloud my future. Joy sometimes seems too simple. Or worse, joy seems like forgetting, forgetting the father I lost, forgetting the need for a future.

But joy is not forgetting, joy is remembering. Habakkuk didn’t forget the evil surrounding him, but rather he chose to remember the goodness of the Lord and to trust in that goodness to carry him through the hardship, to allow him to tread on the high places, to give him hope and a future.

To quote Voskamp again: “Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing– and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! This day! Surprise!”

I will take joy.
“LORD, I have heard of your fame: I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known…” –Habakkuk 3:2

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He Delights in You

Please check out the rest of my latest post over at Small, Still Voices. I know these are some words I need to read over and over again to myself. God delights in you, He really does!

A good king, a change of heart

IMG_1512Alright, blog, it’s time to get back to my trek through the story of the Israelites. In my life recently, in the midst of my ups and downs, my immense unfaithfulness and God’s everlasting faithfulness, I have found myself aching to go back to these stories, the stories of a people loved and chosen and cherished by God, a people who continually turn from Him and a God who continually draws them back to Him.

When we last left off, I was returning to Chronicles to read the ancient stories again as they were told to the returning exiles. I had just related the change of seasons, from war to rest, between David and Solomon. The other day I was reading about the kings that came after Solomon, and the story of one really stood out to me: King Asa of Judah.

His story, told in 2 Chronicles 14-16,  recounts a spectacular reign of God-honoring reforms, victory, and peace on every side. Asa destroyed the idols and commanded his people to serve the God of their fathers.

However, 36 years into his reign, Asa of Judah faces the threat of the king of Israel, and instead of trusting in his God to deliver him, just as He’d done before, he takes the dedicated silver and gold out of the temple of the LORD and gives it to a pagan king to win him as an ally. With the help of this ally, he succeeds in getting the king of Israel to back off, but he doesn’t defeat him. Hanani the prophet says to him, “You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (16:9)

Rather than listening to the prophet and turning to God, he gets angry and throws the prophet in prison. He mistreats his people, and three years later comes down with a disease and still refuses to turn to God for help (16:12). He dies, but he is buried in glory and honor, his reign still celebrated by his people.

He is commended as one of the great kings of Judah, he is still remembered as a “godly king who reformed Judah.” In 1 Kings 15, there is no mention of his turn from the LORD, only that he took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the temple. He is remembered as a good king. But I can’t help but think, in light of 2 Chronicles, that in his personal relationship with God, in his cries behind closed doors, in his heart, he lost something…

He lost something.

Earlier in his reign, when faced with a vast army, he prayed: “LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

What happened? How could he have gone from that to stealing from the temple to buy a foreign ally? Was it fear? Was it pride? I don’t know, but it troubles my heart, and I don’t want it to happen to me.

I don’t want to forget what the LORD has done, to forget His power, His goodness, His closeness, even when I’m lost in terror and darkness. I dont want to attribute success and prosperity to my own doing, when all good gifts come from the Father. I don’t want to win a battle on my own effort, but lose the war in the long run. I don’t want to turn my back on conviction, but rather I want to repent and seek the LORD. I want to come to Him, to humble myself before Him. I want my heart to be fully committed to the LORD, all my life, as is written about King Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:17—but I want it to be completely true, all the days of my life.

Heartbeat

Hello, lovely blogging community. I feel like I’ve been a bit missing in action for a couple of weeks, and it is weird to not be posting regularly here anymore. I thought I should at least take some time to post about what I’ve been doing. The truth is, I’ve been spending most of my time trying to craft posts for Small Still Voices every Friday. I love being a part of that community of sisters, but it has taken a lot of my energy away from Chased by Light.

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It’s not just Small Still that’s been keeping me busy though, it’s also the two new jobs that I started. I’ve already blogged about the sudden change on Small Still, and I’m still getting used to it. I’m so grateful to have the chance to work now, but I haven’t quite hit the sweet spot when it comes to managing my time yet. I also haven’t hit the sweet spot when it comes to being Light at work, but I’m praying through it.

Tonight I am praying that God will help me to learn what it means to pray without ceasing,  and to help me actually do it during my shift tomorrow. I work very early shifts at this retail job, and I tend to too tired to focus on Christ or the other people there. I don’t want to be like that.

I’m still reading Chronicles (now on to book 2) and Luke, and I’m sorry I haven’t written many blog posts about them yet. As I read about David and Solomon and their plans to build a temple for the LORD, I am awed by the fact that God chose them as leaders for the people he also chose as His own. I know David’s earthy history, and I am amazed by the faith he pronounced at the end of his life and psalms he penned and the deep relationship he, a sinner, had with the Creator of the universe.

Sometimes, I feel an ache in my soul to know Christ more. I’ve been thinking about His humanity, and His divinity, and how many times Luke records that Jesus spent time in prayer. Jesus, who was by nature part of God Himself, needed to spend time in communion with His Father. I need communion with my Father. I want to fall in love with Him over and over. I also want to remind myself that He is too big for me. I can never have Him all figured out, and I don’t ever want to think that I do.

I’ve been listening a lot to Judah & The Lion’s album Firstfruits. (Please go get it on Noisetrade, it’s free!) They have a song that says “I’ve tasted and I’ve seen the sweetness of our King, I’m taken by the warmth of Your embrace.” And still another that I may have completely wrong, but when I sing it, I say, “I feel Your heartbeat, and I am home.”

Because that is what I want, to be so close to my Father that I can feel his heartbeat, and know that I am home in His arms. I have tasted the sweetness of my King–that He would even chose to be called mine. I don’t want to forget it. Why have I forgotten it? I want to taste that sweetness again. And I want to rejoice always and pray without ceasing, always walking with the God who chooses to dwell in me.  Oh let Your love come fill me up, I love Your love for me.

Thank you for being a part of my journey. Let us continue to seek our King together. <3

Changing Seasons

Yesterday on Small Still, I wrote a post about the transition in Israel from King David to King Solomon, and I reflected upon the changing seasons in my own life:

In 1 Chronicles 22, King David makes preparations for the temple his son Solomon is to build for the LORD. God tells David that Solomon’s reign will be a time of peace and rest for Jerusalem. The fighting and bloodshed of David’s reign has ended, there is peace on all sides, and it is time for the people to rest secure, free from battle, in the land of their inheritance.

This rest is purposeful. There is a very important task to be completed during this time of peace and quiet, the task of building the temple of the LORD. David says, “Is not the LORD your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? … Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:18,19)

Click to read the rest on Small, Still Voices!

The issue of remembrance…

First order of business, I have a correction to make: I had spoken incorrectly in my other post. The Jews had returned to their land, and they had settled, but not in Jerusalem. They left Jerusalem empty and ruined, until Nehemiah arrived on the scene and led the rebuilding of the wall. The wall was important. The wall brought boundaries. The wall kept them set apart, the wall upheld their Jewish identity. [Interestingly enough, even after they’d finished rebuilding the city’s wall, he had to resort to a lottery to repopulate the city because everyone had already settled in towns outside of it and they knew that living in a city was dangerous because the city could an easy target.]

Now on to the rest of the post!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of remembering as I’ve been going through these Old Testament stories. A lot of them I’ve never really studied in depth before, and I never really had a clear idea of the timeline between Exodus and Malachi. So as I’m finishing up the last of the history-text in Nehemiah, I’ve been thinking, “Okay, great. I know what’s going on now. I got it, check. Moving on…”

But that’s not the point of this. If the point of these books were just so I can read them once, understand them, and move on, then they wouldn’t be here in my Bible. God put them here because He intended for them to be read over and over again. It’s hard for me to get that, and it’s hard to understand why we would need to reread something like Lamentations, poetry of grief about a moment that happened centuries and centuries before Christ. It’s beautiful poetry, and it’s a great literary and historical study, but it’s included in the Bible for more than those reasons alone. I’m not sure what the real reason is yet, but I know that God intended for us to remember these ancient moments immortalized in laments.

In Nehemiah 9 and 10, the people rededicate themselves and their nation to God in a lengthy prayer. The prayer begins with Abram and ends with the return to Jerusalem, recording the people’s continuous rebellion and God’s continuous goodness. This happens a lot in the story of the Israelites: the people have to constantly remind themselves (and God has to remind them too) that their God is the One who brought them out of Egypt and led them into the promised land of their inheritance, the God who sustained them in the desert and gave them all good things. They read and reread the Law of Moses, they retell the stories through the ages.

I am so far removed from those stories. They happened thousands of years ago in a place thousands of miles away, for a people I have no ancestral connection to. But I am connected, through the blood-relation of the Savior. I have been grafted in and become a part of this chosen people. These stories are important to remember. These sins are important to remember, just as it is important to tell and retell how God had mercy upon a fallen and stiff-necked people. Thankfully, though, God also likes to remind His people that He brought them out of slavery, and He questions why they would continue to return to it. These stories are important.

And the stories of my Savior are important to remember too. I’ve noticed that I tend to shy away from rereading the Gospels, and I don’t know why. So my next journey will begin in Luke, to explore and remember how God responded to His people after four-hundred-odd years of Scriptural silence. Here is where the promises of Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and the other prophets are being fulfilled. On the side, I’ll also try to read through 1 and 2 Chronicles, the same history and the same stories I’ve finished reading retold for the returning remnant of exiles.

Because it is important to remember, and these stories are in here to be read more than once. I want to meditate and absorb the Word of God, and I can’t do that without returning to the same stories again and again. Thanks for joining me in the journey. <3

Takeaways from Two Prophets

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I haven’t been able to put together a sufficient blog post for my readings of Zechariah, but keeping up on this blog has really helped me process through the Scriptures, and I didn’t want to skip over an entire book. So I am going to list here some various notes and “takeaways” from my reading of Zechariah. I’m also including some notes from Ezekiel, since that is a very long book and I only briefly touched on it. These are still only brief notes, but it was helpful to me to write them out here.

God spoke not only through Ezekiel’s words, but also his actions. Ezekiel’s entire life was the message. Sometimes, Ezekiel didn’t even speak at all. God told Ezekiel to do certain things as an example for his people– certain crazy things like lying on his side in front of a model of Jerusalem for 430 days (390 for Israel days for the sins of Israel, 40 for Judah). That’s over a year, and it boggles my mind. Also, while he was doing this, he had to cook his food over cow manure. In chapter 24, we see that Ezekiel had a wife. I wonder what it was like for her in times like these…

God gave Ezekiel some amazing visions of His glory and His power. These come in the very first chapter, because Ezekiel has to know the power and the presence of the LORD Almighty before he can submit to speaking such bold words and doing such crazy things. We have no way of knowing whether or not his wife experienced such visions, but there must have been some incredible faith on her part if she didn’t.

The need for Christ: “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” — Ezekiel 22:30

A very great promise: “I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.” –Ezekiel 37:26-27

Zechariah means “God has remembered.” Throughout the book, God is described to be “choosing” Jerusalem.

Zechariah, like Haggai, called the people to return to God and rebuild the temple, but he also points to a greater future: rebuilding the physical remains of Jerusalem is powerful, but it is not all that God has for his people. Look ahead to the glory of the LORD.

Zechariah speaks of one who will be both ruler and priest. At the end of Haggai, the governor, Zerubabbel, is appointed by God to rule over Israel. In Zechariah, Joshua, the high priest over Israel, is anointed and referred to as a man “symbolic of things to come” when “the Branch” will be a priest and rule on his throne, and there will be harmony between the two. (Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13)

“I will remove the sin from this land in a single day.” — Zechariah 3:9

When the LORD comes to reign, “Holy to the LORD” will be inscribed not only on the priestly garments, but even on the horses, and pots and pans for cooking will be the same as the sacred bowls used at the altar (Zechariah 14). Everything in the LORD’s city will be sacred.

Haggai: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

Today, I moved in my Biblical trek through Israel’s history to the book of Ezra, and I was pretty excited. This is it, the promises that God made through Jeremiah are being fulfilled! God has allowed His people to return to their inheritance, and they are eagerly choosing to leave the prosperity of Babylon behind in order to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem. What a story!

In Ezra 3, they start right away with building an altar and sacrificing to the LORD. Alright, Israelites, that’s what I like to see! Ezra goes on to record the building of the second temple, and how the enemies around Jerusalem tried to thwart the process, but God continued to move the Persian kings’ hearts to favor His people and order the empire to comply with the rebuilding of the temple. This is pretty awesome!

It all goes so fast in Ezra, but I almost missed something. Did you know there were almost twenty years and two prophets between the first exiles’ return to Jerusalem and the actual building of the second temple? Those prophets were Haggai and Zechariah, and they urged the Israelites to refocus on the LORD Almighty, and the people listened.

So today, I read Haggai. Haggai’s name derives from words meaning “festive,” “feast,” and “the festival of the Lord.” His prophetic words call the Israelites to honor and worship God by rebuilding His temple. It’s as if he’s saying, “Come on, look at what God has done for us. He has given us reason to be festive, let us honor Him.” The message God gave him, recorded in only two chapters, can be summed up in 1:4-6:

“Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses while this house [the temple] remains a ruin?” Now this is what the LORD Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways. You planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

The exiles had returned to their home, to the land promised by God, and they began to rebuild it. They built houses for themselves and tried to restart the economy, but the land was desolate. They worked on everything else except the house of the LORD, and they lacked some serious blessings because of it. Haggai 1:11 speaks of a drought that halted the production of every kind of crop in the land.

The people weren’t deliberately turning away from the LORD, they just weren’t thinking very clearly. They had hit some roadblocks in the construction process, so they set it aside and just kind of forgot. And so God offered them a reminder that I’d like to paraphrase:

“Hey, Israel, remember: I promised to be with you, and here I am. Rebuild My dwelling place, and the land will bloom in abundance.” 

As I read this today, God added between the lines: “Give careful thought to your ways. Are you seeking me? Are you serving me? Or are you seeking to rebuild your own house, to have all of your own affairs in order, before you work on Mine?”

For the past couple of days, I’ve been working on this blog and applying to countless jobs and trying to build my own dwelling place for the future, but I haven’t been spending very much time focusing on the Word of my God.

In church this week, the pastor told us that when the Bible calls us to meditate on the things of God, the same type of wording can be used to describe a dog gnawing on a bone. It’s the same type of idea, chewing on the Word of the God, absorbing every bit of it.

I want to do that. Nothing else matters. Nothing I build matters, unless I am first and foremost building a dwelling place for the LORD. I am a dwelling place for the LORD. Am I increasing His space daily? Haggai served as a gentle reminder to the people of Israel to keep their focus on the LORD alone. I pray that I can respond as they did, and earnestly prepare a place for Him.