Sunrise over Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Bending down listening

Yesterday I posted a simple Psalm about listening and how God listens to us. But after reading it over and over again, one of the verses kind of jumped off the screen at me.

Sunrise over Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Sunrise over Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 17:6.

I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.
    Bend down and listen as I pray.

I remember posting last year about how God bends down to our level so we can see that He hears us. But what really stood out to me about this verse today is the fact that we can ask Him to bend down and listen.

I have some really great friends. And we can talk about anything. But if I really need to tell them something, I just have to ask them to listen. Some of them, I don’t even have to ask; they just do it. But you get the point. If you’re close friends with someone, you can ask them to stop what they’re doing and get down on your level so you can communicate with them.

That’s one thing for friends. That’s another thing when you’re talking to the God of the universe.

There are two kinds of listening, the listening that you do from a distance and the listening that you do when you’re close. I went to my church’s First Wednesday service last night and listened to a wonderful message about prayer and boldness and gratitude, but I listened from a distance. What my pastor was telling me was personal, because everything he talks about is personal to him, which is one of the reasons How God can use it to make such a difference in peoples’ lives.

But distance listening is different than “bending down” listening. “Bending down” listening is being so comfortable with a someone that you can share your deepest worries and concerns with them. It’s getting in close with someone else and revealing your faults and flaws and failures and knowing that they will love you in spite of them. It means you can tell them anything. And it means you’re close enough to tell them, “Hey, bend down and listen to what I have to say!”

Check out our verse again:

I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.

Are you close enough to God to ask Him to bend down and listen while you pour out your heart?  If you aren’t, it’s not difficult to get there. The only person keeping God out of your life on a personal level is you. God wants to be involved in your life. He wants to play a personal role in your decision making. He wants to be an integral part of your day. And many times, I think we actively try to keep Him out because we think He’ll be ashamed of us if He really knows who we are inside.

I’ve got news, Christians. He already knows you. And He loves you anyway. So stop trying to keep Him at arm’s length, and invite Him to “bend down” in your prayer life. Get specific. Get real. And just talk to Him.

God wants to be your friend. Yes, we always need to keep in mind that He’s God. We need to remember who He is. But God isn’t a tyrant and He doesn’t want terror from us. He wants us to call Him, “daddy,” remember? He wants to be that close to us.

Don’t be afraid of what He’ll find if you open up to Him. He already knows. So look up and ask Him to bend down. He’ll do it every time.

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Cutie - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Know who you’re talking to

In business and in life, it’s a good idea to know who you’re talking to before you start a conversation, especially if you have a request. I learned that by submitting manuscripts for publication. I didn’t really read literary magazines previously, but I kept submitting stories to magazines where they didn’t fit. And the stories, even though they were good, would be rejected, not because of bad grammar or poor writing but simply because they didn’t work with the context and the design of the magazine itself.

Something similar happened to me yesterday. I work for a medium-sized plumbing, heating and pipe joining manufacturing company, and we have a large warehouse in McPherson, KS. Since I’m the company’s press contact, I get all the random emails from our website. And this one had me giggling for about an hour.

Basically some charity that supports cats and cat-related groups is having a charity fireworks booth in July and wanted to know if we had a company newsletter we would be willing to allow them to advertise in. Now, apparently this group is in McPherson, but that’s the only thing we have in common with them. We make pipes. We design plumbing systems. We have nothing to do with cats (most people I work with don’t even like them), and we can’t have fireworks in any of our facilities. And while it’s a very nice thought, I just don’t think this person did their research before asking. And, on top of that, do cats even like fireworks? Mine don’t. The whole thing just made me smile.

Cutie - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Cutie – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 9:23-24.

This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

I think this set of verses is fascinating because it’s one of the only times where the Bible gives us permission to brag about something. There are other times where Scripture says we are allowed to brag, but it’s always about what God has done or what He’s doing. But this is permission to brag about how well you know God (note it says if you wish to boast, so I get the feeling it’s probably not the best idea to boast anyway, but if you simply must, this is the topic God says is okay).

So … we can boast about how well we know God. But the question is, do you really know Him? I mean, it’s hard enough to know people you work with on a daily basis. So is it even possible to really know God?

Well, I think so. Mainly because God has nothing to hide and He’s laid everything about Himself out in the open for us to find in the Bible; we just have to look for it. Everything we need to know about God is in Scripture, so if we read Scripture, we’ll know God. But I think there’s another level of knowledge too beyond just reading Scripture. You have to read Scripture and apply it to your life. You have to take the things God says to do and do them. And that’s what really makes the difference. That’s like meeting a pen pal you’ve only exchanged letters with. Because when you do the things God has told you to do, that’s when you really meet Him. That’s when you really experience what it means to be a Christ follower.

How many times do we request things from people we don’t know? I’ve got to call my electric company because I’m pretty sure they have my meter set wrong, but whoever I speak to at the company is going to be someone I don’t know. So I don’t know what they will be capable of doing. I don’t know if they can help me or not, and I’m going to have to dig to be transferred to the person who can. It’s the same as asking a plumbing company to promote a fireworks stand for the benefit of Kansas cats.

But I know God. So when I ask Him for things, I know what He can do. I know the power He has, and I have seen Him work in my life before. So I don’t hesitate to ask Him for things that I know will please Him. So when I ask Him for something, I know He can do it, and if He doesn’t do it, I know He has a reason.

So before you ask God for something, make sure you know who He is. Make sure you know who You’re talking to. It will make all the difference in the world, not only to you but also to Him.

Knowing God means letting Him into your life

Psalm 18:30 says,

30 God’s way is perfect.
      All the Lord’s promises prove true.
      He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

 I struggle with going God’s way sometimes because I want to go my way. With my way, I can see how the path twists and turns. I have a plan that will help me navigate around the blind corners and the steep hills . . . at least, I think my plan will do that. Of course, when difficult times come along my way, my plan turns out to be pretty much useless. What’s nice about going God’s way is that He really does know all the pitfalls along the path you’re walking. Really. He doesn’t have just some half-baked plan on how to survive when life gets tough. God knows everything about the road He asks us to take.

And as far as God’s promises? God has never made a promise to me that He hasn’t kept. He has promised never to leave me, and He hasn’t. He has promised to provide for me, and He has. He has promised to protect me, and this one I’ve seen Him actually do time and time and time again (and I would love to know the things that He’s protected me from that I know nothing about). He hears me when I call to Him. He listens when I need Him. He doesn’t always act when I want Him to, but He always acts when I need Him to. And He’s always moving. He’s never still, which means that I can be still and wait for Him to work.

God is my shield. He’s the refuge where I take shelter from the storms of life. Like yesterday. Yesterday was a rough day. There were conflicts at work, not necessarily involving me but conflicts where I found myself between people. I always end up between people, and it’s the place I like least in the world to be. And there were all sorts of different difficulties (odd and assorted) going on in life at the same time, and to just sit and think on it all was overwhelming, discouraging and pretty depressing. So I stopped thinking about it and read Psalms. I read every Psalm from Psalm 46 through Psalm 56. The common theme through many of those Psalms is how God does the fighting for you. That you just have to be still. And then the message at church last night was on Elijah and how even though Elijah had gotten down and depressed about something insignificant that God still had work for Him to do. And that when Elijah was being pursued, what he needed to do wasn’t to fight; he just needed to stand and let God fight for him.

God’s way is perfect.

All the Lord’s promises are true.

He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

I know all of these are true from experience. But here’s the kicker, if you don’t ever go God’s way, how will you know it’s perfect? If you don’t ever give God the opportunity to keep a promise, how will you know that His promises are true? And if you never look to God for protection, how will you know the strength of His shield?

I can sit here and talk about God all day long, but it only goes so far. And people around you can talk about God’s goodness and His mercy and His power and protection until they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean anything personally until you experience it for yourself.

I used to be like that. I used to sit and wonder and how people could speak so familiarly about God. I used to marvel at how people seemed to be best friends with Him. I was shocked that God would intervene in peoples’ lives on such an individual basis. I mean, I knew it happened in the Bible, but that was the Bible. And things in the Bible don’t happen in modern culture. Right?

But when I stopped following my own rules, when I stopped walking my own path and decided to get on the road God had chosen for me, I learned that He really does know what He’s doing. And when I started taking Him at His word, I discovered that every promise He’s made to me is really, actually, honestly true. And when I ran to Him for protection, He wrapped me in His arms and reassured me and reminded me that He will never leave me.

If you don’t ever give God a chance — a real, honest chance — you will never understand who He is. And I’m not talking about a half-hearted attempt. Even those people out there who are Christians can fall prey to this. We’re all so comfortable in our Christian churches and our Christian homes, listening to Christian radio, watching Christian TV and going to Christian movies. We’re so caught up in “being Christian,” we have forgotten what it means to follow Christ. Or maybe we never knew what following Christ was from the beginning.

Give God a chance. Follow His way for a little while. Trust in one of His promises. Seek shelter under His wings during a difficult day. Believe Him. He’s waiting for us to open our eyes and accept the relationship He’s been offering for all our lives.