Saturday, June 21, 2008

Possessing my Portion

Have you ever noticed that when you learn a new word it seems to pop up everywhere? I have found in my life that often when I hear a new Word it works this same. This week's Word was Psalm 73. Kurt spoke about this passage at Warehouse 242 this past Sunday. His focus was to impress upon us all the significance of the portion which God has given to us, and the loss we experience when we consider the portion of others with envy and ignorance. He gave two beautiful examples of portion (one positive and one humblingly relate-able negative example)and how our portion and our inheritance is certain and it is enough. (You can hear Kurt's message here.)
This past year has provided a lot of time to reflect on my portion. To recognize that my portion may not be 'large' by the standards of others, but it is enough. There are so many 'criteria' that I impose upon God about what portion I will accept - perhaps I can only accept my portion if it includes marriage or if it includes the right job, or if it includes recognition, etc. When all my regular comforts and identifiers were distanced from me (my eloquence, my independence, my friendships, my social position, my material possessions)I realized that although those 'portions' might mean something to me, or to my peers they meant nothing to God. The portion that concerns Him is that which He has given me. My comfort should come in my certainty that my portion (regardless of how it may appear) is enough!
Asaph's Psalm more perfectly expresses my year than anything I can write here. I was at the end of my spiritual rope. I felt I had tied a knot and was hanging on with my fingernails to the belief that God would provide for me. With self-loathing and bitterness I watched the wicked around me prosper while I felt left behind and forgotten by the Savior around whom my life had been shaped. Asaph felt the same thing as a Levite relying on the obedience of the tribes of Israel for his 'portion' or his provision; as an obedient follower, he felt he had followed fruitlessly and was bitter and frustrated with God. Asaph realized, however, that although he could not change the world around him he could rely on God to remain faithful and hold onto him whether he [Asaph] understood his circumstances or not.
"As for me, it is good to be near God." God has given me a portion far greater than any I could compare myself to in shallow envy. I can seek self-satisfaction and find myself always oppressed by my circumstances, or I can recognize that God has a portion for me that is enough that I will never lack.
Tuesday night I attended a city-wide singles worship service called Charlotte One and the passage shared was Psalm 139 which seemed the perfect next step to my ponderings about my 'portion'. My portion is mine because God knows me! He knows me intimately down to the words on my tongue! He has prepared my portion for me because His heart is good; because he is the only one who has the right to do so - because He is God and He is the only one who knows me fully, the only one who ever would have the ability to know me fully, even so much better than I know myself.
As I ponder this word 'portion' I have a conversation with a friend about Messianic Judaism and she mentions to me that when she was in Jerusalem over her 30th birthday, she learned what her Torah 'portion' was. Every year the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy) is read (in weekly readings) during services and the same reading falls on the same week every year (according to the Jewish not he Gregorian calendar). The portion read during your brithday is your Torah Portion. There is also a corresponding Haftarah (the scriptures from the prophets, etc.) Before I muddle this too greatly, let me point you to a few sites where you can find your Torah portion:
The one that my friend Kaite suggested to me is found here,but I also found a site that provided a little more information on Jewish Birthdays here and some additional information on how your birthday and portion is determined here.
My Torah portion is VaEtchanan, Deuteronomy : 3:23-7:11 and my Haftarah portion is Isaiah 40:1 - 40:26. I have not had time to really ponder the Torah portion - it is the section where God forbids Moses to cross the Jordan, gives Israel the Ten Commandments, restates the authority of God, sets aside cities of refuge and gives instruction for entering the land.( here is some info about the passage and the Jewish holidays, etc. surrounding it.) The Haftarah portion is the very famous passage in Isaiah about Comforting Israel & God's greatness. (Which, incidentally leads me to ponder a message I heard by N.T. Wright talking about that passage.)
There will be more postings about portions as I practice possessing my portion and considering it with thankfulness. (and possibly some electronic media artwork as ponderance and practice.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

returning to time away at home

it was a long year away, of that i am sure. in hindsight, i see that it is true that a person can endure almost anything for a year; and despite the unbelievable frustrations, i don't feel that i just survived - i feel i learned.

a lesson is only as good as the length of time that its knowledge is retained. if it took 10 months for me to begin to hold the information God was heaping upon me, how horrible will it be to forget it as soon as the familiar again becomes comfortable.

life comes at you so quickly, especially stateside. media images are everywhere -- i had to ask my parents (who run the t.v. most of the time - watching FOX News) if i could please turn the t.v. off -- music is fine; but the visual images become noise in my brain.
sometimes people and places can become the same kind of noise. sometimes my thoughts alone crowd my head to the point that i am over stimulated (which might answer why i am up writing this blog after midnight.) the t.v. i can turn off - people and my thoughts...that is a bit harder. where is the balance between accepting too much input and holing yourself away and experiencing none.

this is a critical thing to ponder when i put it in real context - that of my quiet time and my prayer life. when there are so many people and so much stimulation it is hard to get away and consider prayer. friends are so much 'easier' to talk to than God. o.k. - i get it, that is a funny thing to say...but my external processing mechanism seems to work with people, where it seems to just be additional internal processing when i pray UNLESS i can stop the other input and focus on the Father. but will i take the time to do so?

one thing is certain to me about the lessons i learned in the D.R. - i will only retain them as long as God remains my focus and my anchor. input and images become idols as soon as they de-seat the Father from the throne He deserves. one of the ways that happens in my life is through over-socialization. being busy socially fills my felt need for quality time with the Father. i recognize that not everyone is built the same way i am; some folks do not replace God with other folks. maybe it is the particular burden of external processors to seek advice from others when they should be spending time with the Father. *shrug* i dunno, but i do know that people, in some form or other, often become my idols.

it is an amazing testimony to my sinfulness that i can known this, and still choose to do what i know is not good for me, nor best, nor most pleasing to God. even as I type this i can think of half a dozen things that i would rather do than quiet my heart and go before the Father. it is really all about instant gratification - talking to others makes whatever issue or topic i am discussing seem more manageable and meaningful. i think this is a valuable tool but i also think it can keep me from what 'feels' like a less prompt pay-off, namely prayer.

God has not shown Himself to be on my schedule so far in my life. usually when i bring something to Him he does not provide an apparent(ly positive) answer to my inquiry in anything that would look to me like a timely fashion. God works according to His own schedule, and that makes me want to dig in my heels and chat with folks who (if from no other reason than politeness) have to respond to me in some way immediately. in fairness, however, were God to write on my wall the answer to whatever inquiry i have brought before Him undoubtedly i would have rationalized it away or argued its interpretation to the point that it was no longer divine at all -- but just as mundane and unknowable as the future always feels from the present.

time management is the beast i have yet to slay. the land i have yet to conquer. (more on the 'land' idea later.) perhaps, how i handle my time is the thing i need to be spending the most time handling -- especially in prayer. so here i go - with less than worthy excitement but more than priceless need to take my concerns (from lesson retention to time management) before the Father to ask Him to bless me though I am undeserving and teach me though I am slow to change.