Monday, June 4, 2012

attending to

Consider this from the book of Haggai:

 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”  This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.   Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, ” says the Lord.   “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.  I called for a droughton the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
And then this from James 4:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
In the last few weeks challenges have swarmed every aspect of my life like locusts trying to devour me.   My soul resembles a small child in an school tornado drill, curled up next to the wall with my hands over my head to protect myself from falling debris while terrifying sounds of complete devastation threaten to rip me apart.  So I was feeling pretty sorry for myself as I embarked on an extended family vacation I've been dreading.   Large crowds, poor sleep, and awful food sounded almost heavenly as I left Nashville in a semi-crazed state, desperate to get away.

Impressions from so many different sources have been swirling around in my head now for a few weeks.  I recently finished Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster, and one of the best parts of the book was how he detailed the lives of so many extraordinary people.  In addition to inspiring me to purchase or reread quite a few books, I was struck by the common theme in the lives of these great people - disciplined, focused prayer.

ouch.  but still not quite so personal.

Then I came across the book of Haggai as I've been reading through the prophets.  The Lord, through the prophet Haggai, tells the people of Israel that they haven't been satisfied with their material lives because they haven't attended to God.

again.  ouch.  but those were other people.

Finally, as I was driving on one of the long drives and attempting to pray and failing about every 37 seconds because of another "oohh, shiny!" thought darting through my head and leading me astray on some tangent or another, I thought of that passage in James I quoted above.  You know - the one that makes you cringe - you don't have because you don't ask and when you do ask it's for purely selfish reasons.

big. ouch.  okay, I get it. (well, maybe a little)

If my body is the temple of Christ and to live is Christ as Paul likes to say, then shouldn't I be attending to the Lord's presence in my life in the same way the Israelites should have been attending to the temple in Jerusalem?  Isn't my insatiable appetite for things other than God caused by a lack of proper attentiveness to him?

So now I'm hoping he delivers the five step plan next because I don't even have the slightest clue how to attend to the Lord.  I tried it last week in an unpleasant meeting, I mean really tried - sending up the prayers and the big, fat satellite radar waiting for a coded message as to how I should proceed.  I was even surprised at how I was able to quiet my soul and genuinely invite the Spirit's wisdom and insight.  FYI, it didn't come.  Or it did, and I'm deaf.  Either way is no good.  Because maybe really what I wanted from him was the secret, easy way out of an unpleasant situation, not simply to walk through the mess with him.

On the one hand I suppose the list for attending to God is pretty simple: Bible study (check), prayer (check), fellowship (check), everyday life (check).  But how to really do those things in such a way that my heart and mind are fully engaged and aware of the Lord's presence whether I'm reading scripture or scrubbing the toilet - that is a tough, tough question.  I suspect there is no five step program.  I suspect there is no going through the motions.  I suspect that my problem has been wanting to do a process without ever engaging with a personality.

Really engaging with God is kind of like meeting the man behind the curtain.  Or maybe for us it would be like finding out there are leprechauns in our computers.  Talk about mind blowing.  Realizing that I am not operating a machine but rather interacting with a personality means I can't shut off my brain.  There is no autopilot, no easy button or fast track.  God is a quirky personality that seems so strange because I have no idea what holiness means.

I suspect I've been wanting to attend to God on an emotional level without attending to him on an intellectual or physical level.  As long as he makes me feel better, that is all I want to need from him.  So maybe all this tornadic activity in my life is really his way of getting through to me, saying, in a way, "I'm not your emotional Advil, I am your living water."

Still working on what that means.  There's a lot that still needs attending to.


  1. Were it not for the obvious disparity between your eloquence and my lack, I could have written that. Praying for you, daily. ~ K

  2. A book I have loved and learned a lot from is Paul E. Miller's "A Praying Life." It speaks to the "ooh, shiny" prayer life... and suggests that maybe that's actually just learning to pray like a child. Well-written and full of wisdom and practical prayer tools.

  3. The passage from James really resonates with me - particularly the motives behind my prayer(s). I'm working on it every day! Hope you and Q have a wonderful summer. Julie Wilson

  4. truth to my soul. thanks for this post, wendy, from someone walking through a tornado of her own. love this: "maybe really what I wanted from him was the secret, easy way out of an unpleasant situation, not simply to walk through the mess with him."