Phil Wickham Living Hope

Friday, December 14, 2018

A Work in Grace

I have not posted for a while because I have really not had much to say...  My time in silence with the Lord, reading and in prayer....has been more spotty than I would like it to be.  And you know, it's like practicing the piano,  "One day without practice, no one knows.  Two days without practice and you know.  Three days without practice--and the whole world knows."  I read that somewhere by some famous classical musician and it caught my attention because it paralleled my experience as a flutist.  

But it's true of our quiet times with our Lord, isn't it?  When we don't spend time abiding in his word and communing in prayer...we see the effects of it.  Two days away and my temper starts to flare, jealousy, you name it....Three days away and my language starts to become ungodly.  To me, that is the real warning...When epithets start to fly I know I've been away too long...and I'm sure to anyone hearing me, they would know also.  I have spoken in the past about the "washing of the Word." and it is so true.  Just by reading His Word, it doesn't matter if it is the long lists in Numbers the genealogies in Deuteronomy , the law in Leviticus--or the Psalms or Paul's all has that purification power, that cleansing factor that I so desperately need.

It is clear what I am without Him....and it's not a person I want to be; not how I want to be remembered.  I know that the enemy has me where he wants me in times like these...times when reading the Bible just does not sound as appealing as hanging out and surfing online.  What a LIAR he is!!  I always always come away from reading or study with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.  I always find something to "chew" on. And the beast convinces  me that reading someone's "Status" is more important and interesting????

Lately it seems that I've played out my audience online.  Not  a single "like" on FB other than from my daughter and one friend.  Readership is down on this blog also. And I think I know why. I had let my hair down in some posts...confessing my bad attitude about my 30 Days of Thanksgiving posts and also admitting some hurtful memories about my mother which probably made some people uncomfortable.  I think I've crossed some sacred lines: Forgotten to change my underwear. Let my heart bleed, and  people don't want to hear that though unless it's in the tabloids.  I cannot falter. Cannot disappoint.  But don't you have these same struggles?  Maybe you don't...maybe I really am out in left field somewhere.  I don't know.

But I do know one thing.  Before God, I am blameless.  Why? How can this be?  Haven't you ever heard of extravagant grace?  Daily God brings things to my mind...either years ago ....or from this morning; times of failure or out and out rebellion.  And I make it right with him.  I mourn and repent...and am written a blank check of grace.  Just fill in the amount you need...and here it is...forgiveness; that old debt canceled.  

 I have discovered this in the past three or four years when God gave me the word "Blameless" for that year and that ushered in a new way of living, and way of walking in the light of his forgiveness. A new depth of mourning for and repenting of sin...of being truly sorry and deeply sorrowful for my failings.  And part of that process has been to be honest about my failures and sins.  Evidently though that makes people uncomfortable.  Either that or I've just had so little subject matter that people are just bored.  And I can  understand that.  I mean how much really does a mostly shut-in person have to talk about?

Anyway.  Back to the topic.  The necessity of maintaining - not an "online presence" but an "in the Word Presence"...And when I am present in the Word, the Word Incarnate (See John 1) is present in me.  And I know too, that my current dullness of topic in this blog is caused by this lack of being regular in my times of communion and reading with God. Nothing in; nothing out.  

I am winding the year down in  Revelations and the minor prophets in my "Reading the Bible in a year" program.  Well, I've missed some chunks of time as the year has progressed and I didn't start to pick it up until the book of Job so missed a big chunk at the beginning. I cannot therefore count this year as among those when I have actually read all of the Bible. I will try again next year.

My New Year's Resolution?  I think I will make only one this year because it packs a load of benefit with very little investment: I will be in the Word....and will not lose more than an occasional day if I have a very good reason.  It would be good to take note of the Me I am now and compare it to the Me I will be in Christmas of 2019 (If I'm still on earth by then.).  One thing is certain: I will be a work of Grace then as I am now.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Christmas Observed

I'm listening to the Christmas songs of Hillsong Worship this morning.  My house doesn't have one sign that Christmas is a few weeks away.   Nor will it likely as Christmas approaches.  This makes me sad...but I just cannot go up and down the deck steps to the garage where the Christmas decorations are housed.  Nor can I go down and back up the 12 steps to our basement where I would store the house decorations until the Christmas ones are down and put away. 

I have a friend --who recently moved back to Indiana, where she grew up--and she came one year and decorated my house for Christmas and then came back after Christmas to put it all away.  And last year she brought me a small handmade tree because she knew of my need for one.  That now, is also downstairs and thus out of my reach.  And my friend too, is out of reach, far away in Indiana.  I don't know, I will ask my father maybe if he can find the wreath for the door in the garage.  And maybe he can locate the little tree downstairs.

There are a lot of things that being shut in that have to go by the wayside; like hitting the stores and finding the perfect gift for a friend or loved one.  Seeing the bustle of crowds and admiring the decorations and music. Or going to cookie swaps at church.  Or baking Christmas cookies, And cooking Christmas dinner.  And too, having marital struggles just adds one more heartbreak to the heap.

I guess it is time to strip away all those traditional Christmas sights and activities--the things that warm one's heart and make us wish for a cup of eggnog or spiced cider and sitting in front of the Christmas tree and feeling cozy and sentimental.  While that is very is not Christmas.  Christmas is a dark, smelly stable filled with a young woman's screams of pain, a rush of blood and ....there he is: our Savior.  It is the announcement of angels to the social rejects of the day: the shepherds out living in the fields with the flocks assigned to their care.  The celestial songs lit by stars and glowing heavenly beings.  And their compelled haste to find the babe as the angels had bid them.

Christmas is the God of Glory, who cannot be seen  by mortals lest they die from exposure to his Shekinah Glory, it is that God who voluntarily confined himself to a 7 lb mortal who was dependent on his mother for everything.  One who experienced hunger pains and gas pains, cold, sickness and fevers, and soiled his diapers. The One whose smiles and gurgles of glee prompted chuckles of love from his adoring parents.  This cannot be grasped by us.  We have no ability to grasp the enormity of the Immaculate conception and the incarnation of God to a mortal child.

Maybe it is good not to have Christmas parties to attend, or to be able to sing carols in Church, or to do  Christmas baking or to spend money at the stores and stand on long lines at the checkouts --or decorations in my house.  All of that is lovely and enjoyable...but its lack doesn't mean that Christmas is beyond my reach.  Maybe I have an advantage.  I can think a lot about the real miracle of Christmas.  Maybe my heart is more free to "Come and Adore Him" than it would be were I distracted by the trimmings.  And this year I am planning on delving more into the meaning of the
Advent of our Lord. 

Enjoy your families.  Enjoy the cookies and gifts.  But don't forget to spend some time pondering on the thing that is most important.  That our GOD quietly burst onto the scene of this sad planet, offering hope. Hope that promised a cross.  More spilled blood.  This time to fulfill the purpose of Christmas and to die to pay for your sin and mine.  That, friend, is the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Mom I Barely Knew

My mom went to heaven Oct 27th, 2016.  She had adapted a proverb from Scripture ("A soft answer turneth away wrath").  She said this because, when I knew a spanking was coming, if I could make her laugh, she would find it difficult to discipline me.   She said "A smart answer, turneth away wrath." ("smart" as in "Smart-Alec").  Because I was frequently the recipient of spankings, I had honed my humor to a fine edge, relying on it to save my sore buttocks. It didn't always work, but hey, I tried.

My memories of my mom are multifaceted.  And they were not all complimentary to her.  They say you should not speak ill of the dead....and it is true that my mind tends to filter out the pain and hurt but my heart wishes I had known her better...what motivated her?  What caused her to be so angry with me that she would go for weeks not speaking to me or acknowledging my presence?  What was the deep anger toward her father and siblings about?  What things made her happy?  Her house is like something out of "House Beautiful" even though it is just a double-wide trailer...she selected things that were beautiful and then found the perfect spot for them.  She had a home decorator's eye..and used it  to feather her nest.

She was not a cuddly person.  But I remember once, in my psychotic 20's I came to her house from my home in New Haven ,CT and fell into her arms...sobs shaking my body and I cried myself to sleep leaning on her and laying on her lap with her hand patting me and smoothing my hair.. And she stayed like that the entire time that I slept.  It was the first and only sleep I'd had in a week or more and she didn't want to disturb my sleep.  Did she pray for me while I slept? I believe she did. What believing mom wouldn't ?

I know my mom prayed for me, but once she confessed to me that the thing she most regretted in her role as my mom, was that she did not pray more for me.  I understand that because even though I pray a lot for my daughter, I too, feel that it is not enough.  It is never enough--to our mind--but God the Father knows the love behind my prayers and in my silence and he, through the Holy Spirit, fills in the gaps, "with groans which cannot be uttered."

One time I had the flu.  My temp was 204 and going higher every time I checked it.  I was too sick to go to the doctor or even to the ER. I couldn't answer questions or do anything but lie in misery.  I called my parents and requested for them to pray for me to get me through the night and to feel well enough in the AM to go and get treatment. Later  I found out, that my mom was certain I would die that night and she stayed up the entire  night in prayer for me. I did survive (obviously) and was admitted to the hospital the next day.

There are many mysteries about my mom...and many unanswered questions.   She did not leave any journals except some notebooks of prayer requests that she kept to pray for her friends and church.  I believe she can see me and Mom, if you are reading this, I regret many things about our relationship--that I didn't credit you for being a beautiful woman.  I did not appreciate your many domestic talents.  I did not honor you for the sacrifices you made on my behalf.  There are questions I wish I could ask you but they will have to wait until I get to heaven.  Please forgive me for looking down on you for your lack of education--.  It was not your fault that your early schooling was in a one room schoolhouse and of dubious quality. You put  yourself through 2 years of college with your own earnings.  And that, it turns out.was the same as I had done.  (I  only finished 2 years of college due to mental illness)

To those of you who still have surviving parents, my message is this: KNOW them. LOVE them. APOLOGIZE to them and FORGIVE them. Do these things while you have them. I do much wish I had.