Haven Sunrise

My BFF is a blazing ball of hydrogen gas?

What does mean God to you? Is He some great spirit in the sky who grants wishes when you reach a certain level of perfection? Is He some distant intellect who created everything and then left it to rot? Is He your homeboy, someone you chill with and shoot the breeze with after work? (Louis Giglio has a talk about this option that you should see.)

I think Christians, American Christians specifically, have a skewed misconception of who God is and how He works and what He does. We Americans with our entitlement mentality have the feeling that God owes us something if we obey. And if He doesn’t answer our prayers, well, He must not exist. Or if He does exist, He doesn’t care, so why bother? And the rest of Christianity that isn’t stuck in the performance trap treats God (and Jesus) like some casual acquaintance they can punch in the shoulder when they greet each other.

I can’t tell you which perspective is more wrong because they’re all wrong.

How do you describe God? How do you explain Him? If you know how, I would gladly hear your take on it because words fail me when I set about accomplishing that kind of a task. So instead of me fumbling around trying to find the right words, I think I’ll let Scripture take care of it this morning.

Haven Sunrise

Haven Sunrise - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 84:11.

 For the LORD God is our sun and our shield.
      He gives us grace and glory.
   The LORD will withhold no good thing
      from those who do what is right.

The Bible often uses metaphor to describe things that we can’t understand in their entirety. Metaphor is a powerful writing tool that enhances a story or a manuscript because it helps to communicate a concept even if the actual fact is too big for us to grasp.

Think about that first statement: For the LORD God is our sun.

I took this image on Christmas Eve 2011. It was 20 degrees outside, and I had made the mistake of assuming the sun came up at 7:00. So I got up at 6:00. Well, if I would have Googled it, I would have known that the sun wouldn’t come up until 8:00. So I was outside in my simple coat and my Crocs for two hours. Yes, I was frozen. I actually had to come in at one point because my right foot had gone numb. But after I ran hot water on it until the feeling came back, I went back outside. It took a hot shower and two cups of tea to get the feeling back into the rest of me after that.

But I noticed something. I live out in the middle of nowhere, as evidenced by the photo. There are no lights. I have yard light and the stars and the moon at night. And I have the sun during the day. But until the sun comes up, my world is pitch black. And it gets cold out here in winter. Like I said, it was 20 degrees. But once that sun came up, even though it was freezing, I felt warm because of the sunlight.

Is the metaphor becoming clear? God is my sun.

I think that’s a good way to put it. In the darkness, He brings light. In the cold, He brings warmth. He is the center of my universe. My whole life revolves around Him, or it should.

But this verse doesn’t just identify God as the sun, it also calls Him our shield. And those two terms aren’t usually synonymous.  If you’re a sun, you’re blazing hot and powerful and unrelenting. But a shield is quiet and confident and steady. And God is that way too. He’s a shelter and a refuge, a safe place to go in times of danger where nothing can hurt you if you take cover under Him.

And God doesn’t just light our paths and protect us from harm, He gives us grace and glory, according to this.

And you realize that He doesn’t have to do any of this, right? Unless you think you can walk up to the sun and demand your rights? Unless you think you can throw your arm around the sun and talk irreverently about what you think is wrong with the world? If you tried to do that, you’d burn up. Can you be best friends with someone whose very presence can turn you to ash?

Well, yes. Because Jesus made it possible. Jesus bridged the gap between us and God, welcoming us into a relationship with God. But we can’t forget that. We can’t forget that Jesus is the mediator and without His sacrifice, we could have nothing to do with God, not because God is limited but because we are. God is our heavenly father. He loves us, and He tells us to ask Him for what we need. But I think we forget our place sometimes and in trying to understand God, we present Him as Someone Who is like us — and He’s not. It’s not up to God to become like us; it’s up to us to become like Him.

So the next time you present a request to God, think about Who He is. Our sun. Our shield. Strong enough to bring light into the darkness but compassionate enough to protect us. And remember to approach Him with respect, not in terror but in humility, understanding that you can’t understand everything.

I’m not all right but I’m still peachy

Does God have to hit you over the head with a tw0-by-four on the rare occasion to get you to pay attention? He does that to me an awful lot. I think He does it to help me remember that I don’t know everything and that I’m still very young.

Yesterday I didn’t really go into my thoughts on the verse of the day because I didn’t want to get emotional before I went to work.

Today, since the verse of the day is basically talking about the same thing, I’m going to write down what I’m thinking about it even if I end up crying about it becuase I’ve learned not to ignore things like this. When God is obviously telling me to deal with something, I need to deal with it and not ignore it.

Psalm 18:1-2

1 I love you, Lord;
      you are my strength.
 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
      my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
   He is my shield, the power that saves me,
      and my place of safety.

What do you do when you feel threatened or scared? What do you do when you get upset about something that’s happened in your life?

If you’re anything like me, you hide it. There’s something inside me that hates displaying any sort of weakness to anybody. I know it’s prideful, but it’s my first instinct. Something upsets me–makes me feel like crying–and I automatically shut that part of myself down and ignore it. Like taking all those emotions and shoving them down deep until I can function without really feeling them.

But I think that’s a lie I tell myself. I still feel the emotions I’ve hidden, but they come out in different ways. I get snappier. I get sharper with people. I can’t focus.

I live in denial in a way, I guess. I don’t deny that it happened; I just refuse to think about it. And that’s not healthy.

It’s not managing my emotions. It’s hiding from them. And that’s not healthy.

When I’m threatened or scared or upset about something, I run away from it and bury myself in diversions. I don’t actually face the problem.

What this verse today (and the verse yesterday) tell me is that I’m looking at it all wrong. I shouldn’t run away from the things that upset me. I should run to God with them.

I need to run to Him and tell Him everything that’s bothering me without letting my pride get in the way, and He will take care of it. He’ll protect me. I don’t have to be strong because He is strong for me.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
      my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
   He is my shield, the power that saves me,
      and my place of safety.

I can take my sadness to Him and He won’t wonder why I’m sad. I can take my weakness to Him and He won’t think less of me. He’ll just listen. He’ll just be. He won’t try to fix anything or explain why I shouldn’t feel the way I feel. He’ll just love me and let me be sad, and I think that’s what I need. I need to feel safe being sad, to let myself admit that it’s okay to not feel all right about things.

There’s a song called “I’m Not All Right” by a group called Sanctus Real. I was thinking about it just now. There are so many Christians out there who think that we have to be happy all the time and that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be sad because it’s a bad witness. And that’s foolish. Even the great heroes of the Bible mourned and grieved when someone they loved died or when something terrible happened. As a follower of Christ, we are always to have joy, but being joyful doesn’t mean we always have to be happy.

I’m sad. I’m sad that Grandma Bea died. I know that we weren’t close, and I know that I probably shouldn’t be as upset as I am. But I’m still sad. I don’t really know why. It was expected. I knew it was going to happen, and maybe it’s more that I’m sad that time is passing faster and faster every day and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just know I’m sad and being sad is okay for now.

So I’m going to be sad. And I’m going to grieve. But I won’t stay that way. Because God is my refuge and He is also my Healer. And what I don’t understand, He already figured out before He made the world. That’s why I’m always peachy, even when I’m sad.

Written from my parents’ house

Well, I’m back in Wichita. Made it safely with only an hour delay in Houston because they couldn’t find the flight crew. I had a good laugh about that, guessing that the flight crew didn’t want to come north either. Although, for that matter, it was freezing in Houston too. Around 28F. Poor Texans were all walking around bundled up like snowmen looking bewildered. It was kind of funny.

Mom and Dad picked me up at the airport, and we got back to their house. And it was cold and snowy and icy and dark, and I didn’t think it was wise to continue on home. So, I just stayed here. I’ll probably go home early today. I’m concerned about my big old farmhouse and a couple of straight days with lows in the subzeros.

So I’m getting ready to head to work in a few moments. The verse of the day today is wonderful. Just saying. In the brief moments I have, I won’t be able to really do it justice. That and if I really get into it, I’m going to be a red-eyed crying mess before I get to work and that’s probably not a good idea.

What I love about the Psalms is that they are simple. They are easy to understand and they are beautiful, encapsulating so much emotion in true, real poetry.

So, I’m going to be lazy today and not even really go into my thoughts on this verse. I’m just going to put it down because I don’t think I can say anything about it that it doesn’t say for itself.

Psalm 59:16

16 But as for me, I will sing about your power.
      Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
   For you have been my refuge,
      a place of safety when I am in distress.

I don’t know about all of you, but I desperately needed this today.

May it be as much of a blessing to you as it is to me.