Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word. - Psalm 119:33-40
Sunday morning I had a commitment to speak at another church. Consequently, I slipped out of First Presbyterian before Rebekah finished her sermon. It was good to be there for the first part of the day, and I'm especially glad I was there to witness a baptism (a mother and daughter), but I was also gone for 11:00 worship and I really miss my community of faith when I'm away.
SMALL GROUP: So I'm glad our "POGs" small group was scheduled to meet Sunday evening. POGs stands for "Parents of Grads." What we all have in common is young-adult children. Additionally, and increasingly, we're also concerned for our aging parents. There's never a shortage of issues to talk about, and the two hours we have for dinner and conversation pass all too quickly.
That's why, sometimes, I design a conversational framework that addresses resources we have beyond one-another. So last night we talked about scripture, and the impact The Word can have when we give it the prominent place a life or deliberate discipleship requires.
"This past 10-day stretch has been extremely difficult in many ways," I said. "I visited the oncologist with my brother, Geoff; we had a funeral for dear friend here at church; Rebekah went through hand surgery; and Geoff's situation is becoming increasingly challenging...
"However, and this is amazing, it's also been an extremely good week and a half. God's Word has spoken to me so directly, so consistently, and so powerfully."
SHARING: I then asked my group to share how a verse, or a passage, or a story from the Bible had helped or guided them during the past couple of weeks. Almost everyone had something to share - which was great - but for most the intersection of scripture and life had been haphazard at best.
My next question (pretty much all I do at these meetings is to ask questions!) was exactly this, and I'm reading from the paper I took with me, just to make sure: "When tough situations go down, do you (A) Need to search for scripture that helps... or (B) Is the scripture that helps already at hand?"
The question boiled down to, "Are we able to draw on a long-term body of knowledge and our current devotional trajectory, or do we have to go fishing around for 'something that fits?'"
IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE: It's a similar principle to the one I discussed in "GET REAL," concerning improvisation. How can we possibly improvise unless we first develop a set of skills and disciplines to improvise from?
Last week God spoke clearly and powerfully through scriptures I was already reading, or had just studied; God was feeding my soul via wisdom and promise vested in passages and stories that are familiar because they are a part of my deliberate, daily, walk of faith.
Fact is, we don't have to go fishing for something that may or may not fit our situation when we are already steeped in God's Words and committed to spending time in God's presence.
HEDGING FOR THE FUTURE: At my small group meeting, we all agreed that our lives aren't going to get any simpler or less demanding in the foreseeable future. But God is faithful, regardless, and the scriptures are our most reliable mile-markers on this particular leg of the road less travelled by....
And here's the other part - Make sure you're not traveling alone - DEREK
Here's the scripture we opened with, this time in The Message translation:
God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways! - Psalm 119:33-40