Wednesday, June 28, 2017

#32: First Cup, Second Cup (Part One)

    I usually start my day with a cup of tea. I try, though I am not always able, to do my Bible reading soon after waking up in the morning also. First, I do the boring, but familiar, mundane rituals: I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, take medication, put on my robe and slippers, then go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. This will be "first cup".
     While, in my morning stupor, I am waiting for the tea to brew, I clumsily tidy up in the kitchen – – emptying the dishwasher or loading it, wiping off the counters, and opening the blinds to let the sunshine pour into my breakfast nook. Bright light is an essential part of getting going in the morning for me. I then remove the teabag from my cup, add the milk  and sugar to my tea, wipe up the inevitable spill on the counter, turn off the kitchen light, and gingerly (hoping not to spill) make my way back to my bedroom to my quiet-time chair where I am able  to open my Bible while I savor my first cup. This is the simple daily routine that prepares me for my time with God.
     "First cup" typically involves reading five Psalms, one chapter of Proverbs, and whatever section of the New Testament I'm currently in. (When I finish the New Testament,  I plan to start over in the Old.) During "first cup" I read, underline passages that speak to me, write notes in the margins of my journaling ESV Bible, and record  favorite scriptures on cards that I keep near my chair. If I have time, I also write in my prayer journal where I make notes about the date, time, and place, my prayer requests, the requests of others, answered prayer, and thankful praises. Usually, by the time I do this, I have finished my first cup of tea, and I have to get busy, get dressed, and ready myself to face the day. I don't always finish what I hoped to do during "first cup", and it ends up being my only cup and sometimes even just a half-cup!
     The temperature of my tea often gauges the attentiveness I have toward making the "first cup" be for my time in the Word. If I let it get cold, it is usually because I have done too many little tasks before getting back to my quiet-time chair. I am distracted and have made myself busy before I stopped to be quiet. I have to make sure that my priority is God-book, not Facebook, and leave my smart phone on silent--elsewhere, where it is plugged into its charger and not demanding my attention. I need to plug-in to my Charger before I look at the phone.
     There is sometimes a blessed interval in  the morning when I have already read my Bible and am anticipating settling down with a second cup of tea to listen to God and focus on writing in my journal the practical application of what I have read.  It is after I do other tasks necessary to get the day started and only on days I don't have to go in to the office. It is when I am able to return to my quiet place for more--more tea and more of what God has for me. 
     Today, I didn't think I would be able to have that second cup because I had an appointment with my trainer to work out at the gym. However, she cancelled because her son is sick. Instead of bemoaning the time I didn't have to stretch out my sore muscles, I gladly settled down with my second cup after letting out and feeding the dog, sorting and starting a load of laundry, washing more dishes in the sink, and answering one call from my secretary and another from a physician's office. Whew.
     Now I sit here, guiltily relieved that I don't have to exercise, feeling privileged to sit sipping my second cup of tea, listening to His still, quiet voice, and writing in my journal. It is a sacred time, a place of refuge and renewal, a portion of peace that I don't often get. The more I ponder about this second cup, the more I realize that there is more to say about it. I will save that for next time.

"Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you,  for you answer me."
Psalm 86:4-7
"Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol."
Psalm 86: 11-13
"Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge that may tell of all your works." Psalm 73:23-28

Monday, June 19, 2017

#31: Relationship Idolatry

What follows is a story I shared in the context of teaching a Bible study on forgiveness and relationships. Even in the midst of losing an important relationship, God may be able to teach us something so that we may draw nearer to him.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24

Susan married a man whom she considered better than herself. She had poor self-esteem from her childhood, and wrong decisions in her young adult life made it even worse. When she found someone whom she considered "good" who loved her, she based her worth on his opinion of her.
She married the man and trusted him implicitly, believing everything he said about life, principles, and even God and the Bible. She put him on a pedestal. Then, when he left her after several years of marriage, Susan was shattered to the point of feeling suicidal. Susan had made her husband her idol; she valued his opinion more than God's.
Idolatry is like spiritual adultery; it is loving someone or something more than God. God says Susan is forgiven for whatever she has done wrong, but her husband, by rejecting her, showed unforgiveness. Susan, therefore, did not feel truly forgiven. Her husband's rejection would not have been so devastating had she not put him in God's place in her life. If her husband, knowing everything about her, rejected her, then how could God truly accept her? Obviously, her self image was based more on what her husband thought of her than what God thought of her.
When another person is given the position that only God should have in our lives, many things can happen. When Susan idealized her husband, she put an unbearable burden on him. She subconsciously expected him to be godlike – – perfect, incapable of failure, able to know and fulfill her every need. He was her all in all – – husband, father, and even savior. No human can withstand those types of expectations; he is a failure just by being human. Being someone else's everything is too much pressure.
If you have allowed the rejection of another to shake your faith, to separate you from God, to deeply damage your own self image, then perhaps you have placed that person above God in your life. Tell God about it; ask him to reveal to you His truth.

Lord, I confess that I have been guilty of idolatry, that I have put someone or something else ahead of You. I ask You to forgive me and to take first place in my life. I accept what You say that I am: fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and precious in Your sight. Father, take away any hidden idols in my home or in my life – – anything that would keep my loyalty from You or stand in the way of our relationship. Thank You for revealing these blind spots in my life and for cleansing me from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

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