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Kairos

I'm all ears.

I'm all ears.

If you’re a parent, how well do your kids listen (…the first time)? If you’re married, how well does your spouse hear? At work, do you feel heard by your boss? Hearing is such a basic human instinct yet actual listening seems like an art form. Faith and relationship thrive when we’re able to hear and respond but it’s just not always that easy.

I vividly remember sitting in a booth with Sam Earp. At 68, he’d been a pastor, professor, and missionary but due to his wife’s dementia, Sam was now providing her full time care. But he still loved to make time for tired pastors with big worries. We were talking about prayer, specifically hearing from God. I was frustrated with not hearing from God when Sam relayed this story.

He had just finished bathing his wife, putting her diaper on, and getting her dressed when he got a whiff of a foul smell. Realizing she had just messed her pants, he takes her clothes back off to clean her up. As she’s standing there, she goes again right on the bathroom floor. In that moment, with a tear rolling down his cheek and the emotion still fresh, he describes how he turns to God with a loud voice, “I’ve had it! I can’t take it!! Can you hear me?!?!”

I start to offer my condolences, “Sam, I’m so sorry…” But, he interrupts, “David, God continues asking the same question of us, “Can you hear me?!”  He reminds me how God speaks in suffering as much as prosperity. Struggle isn’t God’s punishment but an invitation to trust, express our need, and see God is near. He had my attention. I was all ears. Simply put, we grow by listening.

The Shema is the centerpiece of Hebrew daily morning and evening prayer. Shema enables us to practice the presence of God. More than sound waves entering your ear, Shema calls the people of God to listen and obey. Because real listening takes effort and action.

All transformation comes about as a response to revelation. It’s our response that leads to transformation. So…What is God saying? What are you hearing? How might you respond? And, whom do you share what you’re hearing and supposed to do?

Get a clue.

Get a clue.

I have a vivid memory of the morning I woke to an excited newish dog in our home. We were both staring at each other in the kitchen like, “you don’t get it, do you?” So, I let her out the back door thinking she has to go potty. She obediently steps outside only to turn around with a look like, “I just woke up, you’re already putting me out.” So I invite her back in and fill her food bowl.  No interest.  At this point (and this isn’t new), she’s sitting by the back door as I’m making breakfast. She’s often undecided about where she wants to be. But I refuse to play her game of indecision. I’m ignoring her because she had her chance. But she didn’t leave the back door, which is in plain view of the kitchen counter. After a few pants and whines, I heard the unmistakable sound-from-the-depths of Throw Up!?  Adding insult to injury, I look up to see a large pile she also deposited. The only thing worse than a dog pooping in your house is a dog having a problem at both ends! Ugh!! Oh, the learning curve of relationships!! Obviously, there was some messaging that I was both unaware and resistant to picking up.

Sometimes…success isn’t getting just what you want. And, failure isn’t getting what you didn’t want. With our dog, I wanted to establish boundaries, discipline, and healthy expectations about who’s in charge. I got what I wanted AND I got a mess to clean up—Hardly a success. I didn’t want sensitivity training or a lesson on being me being an Alpha male. Yet, I had a teachable moment, which was hardly a failure.

God is continually trying to get our attention. Sometimes, it’s to turn away from resentment, fear, addiction, &/or the last word. Other times, it’s a prompt to turn toward generosity, forgiveness, &/or compassion. Covenant includes commitment and promise to form a partnership. But we have the hardest time partnering with God, which is why we’re stuck in a divided world of greed and injustice! However, an active covenant with God and a faith community may keep us from assuming our way is best &/or needed. Ultimately, a partnership with Jesus invites us to keep returning like the Prodigal child realizing there’s a better way.

'Laying by'

'Laying by'

All of us, all the time are planting seeds. We seed our minds with ideas and our hearts with hope. We seed our kids with love, character, and common sense. We seed relationships with truth and grace. We seed our 401K so to sustain and enjoy retirement. Yet, for all the seeding we do, none it make us less impatient!!  Immediate results are always preferred!

An old farmer once told me they had a sayin’, “Laying by”. It was the time on a farm between busy seasons. It meant rest and waiting but NOT inactivity. It was a time when you made long-term improvements on the property like digging a new well or re-roofing the barn. If there were no big projects then you did maintenance on equipment in preparation for the coming season. 

Faith is often ignited when something overwhelming happens – a death, a health scare, job loss, or the birth of a child. But once we get familiar or acclimated, we lose a sense of urgency. It is so easy to put off faith and community and living with any sense of mission.  St. Peter wrote to Christians, under persecution and false teachers, about God’s timing…“But you must not forget this one thing: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Pet.3:8-9 

Your life is a harvest but any growth requires fertile soil. Renewal means tilling the soil of your heart and mind as each of us yield to God’s Spirit – either a nudge to turn from or turn toward something or someone. Simply put, a renewed heart is a sensitive heart. And, we can actually grow more familiar with God’s voice but only to the extend we respond! This IS the process of spiritual transformation. We might not even be aware of what the Spirit is doing. But we start with doing what we know to do THEN God begins to direct our lives in increasing ways.

“Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (Jas.5:7-8)

Pick & Choose.

Pick & Choose.

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. Like others, he held a sincere faith BUT he didn’t actually believe God to be present in the daily life. Jefferson was so heavily influenced by the Age of Enlightenment that he couldn’t believe Jesus was divine or the Son of God. As a rationale and moral man Jefferson valued the teachings. So, late in his life, with a razor in hand, He re-worked the Gospels. Jefferson literally edited numerous sections removing all miracles and most mentions of the supernatural. The Jefferson Bible, or what he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, begins with an account of Jesus’ birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from his collection. 

Maybe if I helped found a nation and authored its laws, I might see myself able to tailor scripture to fit my worldview too. Being selective of God’s inspired Word might sound like a bold (if not, convenient) move, Yet I wonder...how much WE ‘pick-&-choose’ God’s revelation???  At first reading this, it seemed ridiculous to dismiss so much of Jesus’ life and ministry. But then it occurred to me…I do this All. The. Time…Ouch!

Christians follow Christ because they have presumably made Jesus their Lord. That means I have to work at following even when I doubt…when I’m afraid…when I’m bothered. It’s tempting to think there’s lots of things that the average Christian can’t do – like heal the sick, proclaim the Good News, respond to injustice, lead a person to Christ, or disciple them. Except, what if God intends this “Living Faith” to be the normal Christian life?

While many search for meaning, significance is found in saying ‘Yes’ to Christian community & the marginalized. It’s ‘Yes’ to new life & self-sacrifice. ‘Yes’ to giving & receiving mercy. We always get to pick-&-choose how we respond to God’s presence but learning to say, ‘Yes’ is our salvation. 

Opportunity Knocks

Do you ever have those moments when you just feel like there’s something more going on? It might be a lesson to be learned, a prompting to give, a moment of pause, overcome with joy or even sadness. Yet, you struggle to find words to explain it? 

I tend to think God’s at work even when we don’t have words. God is near even if we can’t feel Him. 

Mark’s Gospel records a rather bold announcement when Jesus says, “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mk.1:15). When Jesus announces “The time has come”, he’s not referring to a chronology of events in time. Rather, Jesus uses the word ‘Kairos’, which translates time as 'opportunity'. 

In other words, we have regular - if not daily opportunities - to experience God’s presence in the grand, ordinary, and/or minutia of life. That is, if we’re paying attention.

‘Opportunity’ Knocks...but an opportunity for what?

...An opportunity to gain God’s perspective. 

...An opportunity to experience the our lives as God intended.

...An opportunity to usher in heaven on earth.

…An opportunity to turn or re-turn to a God who accepts, loves, sees, and knows.

With all the demands for our attention, recognizing God’s presence and hearing His voice becomes a discipline. Yet the thing that we all want is for God to draw near. So let’s practice noticing these “opportunities” and learn to share them together.

Keep a "Kairos journal". Let me encourage you to try something new this month. Notice and jot down the times where you feel like there’s something more going on – maybe an unsettledness, a check in your spirit, a sense of conviction. Sometimes it will be a lingering thought. Other times, it might be an interruption to your day. Simply observe, reflect, and respond. This might just be God drawing near. 

Lean in.  Listen.  And, in this case, jot a few notes down. When you stumble across ‘kairos’ moments – where you sense there’s something more going on — take time to:

State briefly your experience. It need not be long. Just 1-3 sentences.

Examine. Jesus invites to draw near by examine our heart and mind. Is it turning from something or perhaps turning toward? You might pray, journal, ask questions, or find scripture. Try and answer the question, What is God saying?  

Respond. What is a belief without an action. What is needed? Is it a nudge to confess, invite, help, give, apologize, go, serve, stop? Try and answer the question, What do I do?

A key to spiritual growth is our awareness of the presence of God. As a community, we can encourage each other with how we see and notice God at work. It’s how we share a living faith, together. I encourage each of you to try this and see if it doesn’t affect your perspective and sense that God is near.

Looking forward to our next ‘opportunity’ to be together & seeing how God shows up!