Remember Me

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“Lord, Eternal One, remember me” (Judges 16:28, The Voice).

I was reading a very familiar passage about Samson and Delilah when I saw something I had never seen before. It almost literally jumped out of the page.

The story may or may not be familiar. Samson was a Nazirite and a Judge over the people of Israel. Basically, a Nazirite was someone dedicated to God from birth who had certain restrictions, like no alcohol, no haircuts, no touching dead bodies. As a judge, he essentially ruled over the Israelites. He had extraordinary strength and could not be bound by any ropes or chains.

Most of the time, he was ruled by his appetites. He saw what he liked and went after it, no matter what the consequences. Even though God said for His people to have nothing to do with the Philistines, Samson continually wooed their women and spent time in their cities.

Then Delilah showed up. She agreed to betray Samson into the hands of the Philistine rulers for a hefty sum, or a king’s ransom, you might say. Of course, Samson fell in love with her.

She asked three times how he could be bound. Three times he fibbed. You would have thought he’d catch on to her motives but apparently his love blinded him to her wiles.

Finally, she nagged him to the point where he gave in. You can probably figure out that she got her reward and Samson got captured. He ended up with his eyes gouged out, working at the grindstone as a slave, reduced to a joke.

Samson’s very last actions were his best ones. The Philistines brought him out to taunt and mock him in a celebration to their god, Dagon. He ended up between the two main pillars of the temple. He prayed one last prayer for strength and pushed out the pillars, toppling the temple and killing everyone inside, himself included.

I’d never paid much attention to his last prayer. “Remember me.” Suddenly, it dawned on me. I remembered someone else in the Bible whose last words were the same. It was the  thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Such a beautiful prayer that says so much in so few words. It’s not so much that God has forgotten who we are but that we’ve forgotten who He is.

It’s a declaration of dependence, an acknowledgement of great need. It says to God, “I’m unworthy to ask but still I know you are a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love. Come to my aid and save me.”

The Bible is still living and active. God still speaks through His word to those with ears to hear. Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.

 

A Prayer for the Longsuffering

The Eternal will finish what He started in me.
    Your faithful love, O Eternal One, lasts forever;
    do not give up on what Your hands have made” (Psalm 138:8, The Voice).

Lord, don’t give up on us. And don’t let us give up on us.

Sometimes, it seems like day comes after day with no change and no hope for tomorrow. It seems like a weather forecast for more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Help us to remember Your works in days past.

Help us to recall how many times You have delivered us when we have forgotten.

Remind us that Your promises are truer than what our eyes can see, what our hands can touch, what our minds can comprehend.

Your faithful love will last forever. Longer than our doubts. Longer than our fears. Longer than situations we feel will never get better.

Even when we feel like giving up on You, You still hold onto us and keep us safe.

You will finish what You started in me. And it will have been worth the wait.

Amen.

 

Just Ask

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” (Luke 11:13 MSG).

I wonder how many times I’ve used prayer as a last resort.

How many times have I obsessively worried about something and tried to figure out ways of handling it myself and it never even dawned on me to pray about it?

You’d think for as long as I’ve been a believer that I’d be quicker to prayer than I am.

I’m guessing you feel the same way.

I think it points to a lack of faith. It says that I really don’t believe that God can handle my problem. Oh sure, He can deal with everyone else’s issues but for some reason in my own mind, my circumstances are different.

I look at it this way. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, He can handle pretty much anything I’m ever going to throw at Him. He’s not going to be shocked or surprised at the needs I lay before Him.

I keep up with Ann Voskamp, a fantastic writer who also happens to put some of the best posts out there on social media. She usually ends them with the hashtag #preachingthegospeltomyself. For those who are unskilled in reading hashtag-ese, that means “preaching the gospel to myself.”

A lot of what I write is me reminding myself of what I already know. Scratch that. Nearly all of what I write is me preaching to myself and stirring memories of times before when God was faithful.

All it takes is the tiniest yielding, the most hesitant agreements, and God can show up and do what He does best– amaze.

 

Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe

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“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.

 

Still Yet Another Good Reminder

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“Sorrow cannot steal our faith or even cause it to be lost; betrayal and loss steal our faith only when we refuse to remember, tell our stories, listen even as we tell them, and explore the meaning that God has woven into every one. If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even our most tragic experiences” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

I don’t know why I gravitated to this quote. I’m not dealing with any kind of loss or grief or even sadness, yet these words spoke deeply to me.

Maybe because I realize lately how fragile life is and how easily those we love can slip away from us, how quickly those little babies grow up and leave home, how fleeting are the days.

The most tragic remembrance in the end will be how we took so many people for granted and left words of love and gratitude unspoken. In the end we will not treasure our trophies or promotions or rewards, but the relationships that made us come alive and be better people.

So all that from a quote I stole from someone on Facebook.

Just Keep Calm

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It’s funny how when you have a really great conversation or an amazing gathering of friends or a beautiful moment, you want to go back to that same place and re-create it. Well, at least I do. In my mind, I think if I get back to that place with those same people, maybe that same magic will be there and we can recreate another moment just like the one I remember so well.

But I’m learning you can’t. Real pleasure is only fully realized when a moment becomes a memory. Or so says one Mr. C. S. Lewis who I’ve heard was somewhat wise on these matters.

Besides, you can’t go back. Only forward. Otherwise we might stay stuck repeating one moment over and over. We’d never move into the future for always wanting to go back into the past and recreate it.

This is your best moment because this is where God has you now and this is where you will find Him. Be all in the moment right now.

I’m tired but thankful. I know I’ll sleep well and hopefully have more moments worth remembering tomorrow. I hope you will, too.

Keep Calm and Don’t Forget to Breathe

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All of us have those moments of panic. Or maybe it’s just me. Like yesterday when I couldn’t find my keys. It was like they went to that special hidden worm hole where all those socks go.

I was sure I had set them down, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember when. In times like these, I remind myself to breathe. Take a deep breath and exhale it slowly.

I found my keys hidden under my wallet.

Sometimes, you get to anxious over what you’re missing and can look right at it without seeing it because you’re too distracted by trying to find it. Raise your hand if that made sense.

I have to remind myself that God is present even when my senses tell me He’s absent. Too often, I miss Him when I look for Him in times of stress and anxiety. Too many times I might be looking right at Him and not see Him because I’m too worried about finding Him.

He’s not lost. He never was. It’s me who gets lost. Breathing deeply helps me remember that. It helps to remind me that if I only stand still, God will come to where I am and find me.

I Almost Forgot

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I can’t believe I’m about to do this, but here I am, confessing that I almost forgot to write my blog for today. You’d think after nearly four years, I’d remember, but apparently, the mind really is the first thing to go.

It’s easy to forget. God’s people forgot time and time again how good He was to them. They chose to bicker and complain. They chose to chase after the idols and gods of the nations around them, even of the very nations they conquered and drove out.

I forget those things, too. I forget how God saved me all those years ago and how He’s blessed me since in so many ways. I, too, bicker and complain and run after other things to fill the needs only God could ever fill.

Thankfully, God is faithful to remind me of His goodness. I think that’s part of why He established His Church. He knew we’d forget and would need reminding from time to time. In fact, He calls us to remind each other, to encourage each other and to not give up the habit of meeting regularly to call to mind with thankful hearts what God has done for us.

“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God I say it over and over. He’s all I’ve got left” (Lamentations 3:19-24).

Music I Heard: For All The Ones I’ve Lost

While this year for me is a happy time, it’s also brings a bit of sadness with it. The memories of those I’ve loved and lost come more alive at this time of year than at any other time. I’ve been thinking about a particular poem by Conrad Aiken that makes me think of family members whom I wish I could talk to but never will again this side of heaven:

“Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart that you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, –
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.”

The good news is that there is the other side of heaven where I WILL see all these people again. And Jesus will be there to wipe away every tear from my (and everyone else’s) eyes.

 

Frump Girl and God’s Grace

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Ian Miller: I know this great place… Zorba something… anyway, I’d love to take you there if you’d like to go.
Toula Portokalos: Uh, that place, Dancing Zorba’s…
Ian Miller: Dancing Zorba’s!
Toula Portokalos: My family kinda owns that place.
Ian Miller: [looking at her closely] I remember you. You’re that waitress.
Toula Portokalos: Seating hostess.
Ian Miller: I remember you.
Toula Portokalos: Look, I was going through a phase. . . up until now. I was Frump Girl.
Ian Miller: I don’t remember Frump Girl, but I remember you. (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

I love that last line. What Ian is saying is that he saw past the awkwardness and the insecurity to the inner beauty waiting to be revealed. An inner beauty that he had a hand in unveiling.

Sometimes with God, I feel like saying, “God, remember me? That promise-breaker? That doubter? That worrier?”

God’s response would be, “I don’t remember Promise-Breaker or Doubter or Worrier, but I remember you.”

You might remind God of a past addiction to pornography or alcohol or status. You might throw in adultery (like David), or deceit (like Jacob), or outright lying (like Abraham). You might show God Polaroids of the wreck your life used to be. God doesn’t see that.

What does God see?  Thanks to the cross, God sees you as though you had never sinned, never broken a promise, never doubted, never wavered in your faith at all.

He looks at you and sees the finished product, the stunning reveal. He looks at you right now and sees Jesus in all His perfection and glory. And He likes what He sees.

Better yet, He’s wildly in love with what He sees.

I know the mirror’s not a fun place to look at 5:30 am on a Monday morning. There can be some scary critters looking back.

But remember God not only has claimed you and renamed you, but He has redefined your past. Once you were an enemy, now you are an heir and a child of God. Your past no longer dictates your future. God does.

Just think about that and see how it changes your week.

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