Praising God in the Dark

The February rain has usurped the modest daylight. i lie here trapped in a body that rarely tolerates being upright and i confess ingratitude. Recognizing how blessed i am to be watching a tufted titmouse at the feeder on the hill facing my patio doors stops me. A pile of rocks and roots that is the steep hill a few feet from my window blocks the view. Or, perchance, it is the glorious view of chipmunk, wren, and squirrel.

KQzoK4%+TVuQ2twtOQpuJwThe infirmity that keeps me lying and prevents me from participating in our society is the burden God gave me to bear. All our burdens are custom designed to help us grow toward Him.  The gloom and haze that infects the weather and our mood is the very medium we need to move our gaze to Him. i only feel sorry for myself when i am thinking about myself.

i am not the point. Period. Full stop.

Repentance, metanoia means to turn around, change direction and move the other way. i repent of thinking about myself.

The only reason i feel low is that i am thinking about what i would like to be doing. Being is more important than doing. i am learning in the lying down all the time to be. To be with God. In prayer.

Ceaseless, relentlessly He pursues me. Like Peter, i look about at the waves and cry that i am drowning. How can i drown when He is near?

i fear because i forget to be in His presence.

The hill does not block my view, the hill is my beautiful view even in the dismal dank rain.

My physical limitations are not preventing me from having a full life they are teaching me how to live a full life.

i praise God for His extraordinary blessings! His mercy never ends!

A Nicodemus Moment

Nicodemus was a Jewish leader, teacher and member of the ruling Sanhedrin. He came to meet Jesus under cover of darkness. The life-altering and life-affirming conversation that followed has changed the rest of human history. Nicodemus wanted to know how one could be saved. When Jesus told him that we must be born from above, Nicodemus replied with words that really hit a nerve for me.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” John 3:4

In a Bible study that I led on John’s Gospel many years ago we talked of how very human Nicodemus’ response was. Most of us under the same circumstances would ask or at least wonder a similar question. For those of us who have already buried our Mother it rings even more powerfully. How can we be born a second time?

Jesus was teaching a new thing. John the Baptist was baptizing with water alone for repentance.  Jesus was beginning to introduce the Holy Spirit.  The rebirth that Jesus was ushering in is different in character from what had existed before.

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above. ’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5b-6

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made new. The water with the Spirit becomes a force that offers eternal life. The water and Spirit washes clean souls. It is miraculous. Baptism is beyond the ordinary even though it uses something as ordinary as
water.

church-window-1016443_960_720I often respond to challenges by planning my response. I create a plan. I strategize. I prioritize. I make back-up plans and worry. Nothing I do will guarantee success. When I first rely upon my own problem-solving ability I deny God the chance to guide me from the start. Only through the assistance of the Holy Spirit is real success to be expected. On far too many occasions I have resorted to prayer at the end of a planning session to ask God to bless my efforts. It galls me to admit how arrogantly I have acted.

What I do or plan is not what is important. I am not the one in control. God doesn’t exist to do what I want or to bless my endeavors.

When I try to be the source of all the answers I begin to play God. Only when I step back and allow God to exercise His rightful authority do I make room for His plans to take shape in my life.

Nicodemus recognized the problem of death. His practical question was for each one of us. Jesus told him that the Spirit is the answer. The ideas borne of the flesh are of finite value. The solutions born by the power of the Spirit lead to eternal life.

As I confessed to my Bible study friends I have had many a “Nicodemus moment.” Ever after when I find myself looking for human solutions to spiritual problems I call the problem what it is, a “Nicodemus moment.” That helps me to course-correct and make room for the Holy Spirit to have a place in the solution. I pray first and plan second. It is astounding what keeping things in the proper order will do.

This post is one for the If:Gathering study on the Nicene Creed. As we reflect on what it means when we say that we believe in,”One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Nicodemus teaches us some of what that means. We must move out-of-the-way and let God accomplish our salvation because under our own power we cannot hope to win our salvation.