Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

2013

posted by Ruth Graham

Another year.

But what did I do with the last one?

Will this one be as difficult? Am I destined to be on this treadmill forever?

Everyone is in a festive mood. But me. They are excited about a new year…I am depressed. Am I to repeat the past? How do I truly begin again?

So many drink to forget. Overeat. Shop. View porn. Escape. Or get angry at the ones they are supposed to love. For many it is a difficult time of year.

I have never put much stock in New Years. December to January is like February to March but a lot more hype. What’s the big deal? A new beginning.

Really? Am I really a different person at 12:01 PM on January 1st as I was at 11:59 on December 31st. Not likely.

But I like to think I can turn a new page. Start anew.

We all have things we which we could undo. Forget. Decisions we could make differently. We may have covered them over with busyness and denial. But they haunt us in our quiet, private moments. How could we have been so stupid? What got into us?

We beat ourselves up. Or at least I do. That’s fruitless.

What I have decided to do this New Years is to invite God into the process. My own resolutions are mainly about me – what I will do. How I will try to reform. How I will form new habits. But that is so egocentric. That’s all about me.

One thing God has tried to get into my head this year is that is’s not about me. If it is, that’s idolatry! Yikes!

No, I don’t bow to a little statue. Or burn incense to a little god. No. But don’t I? When my first thought is about me? When everything is about me? How I feel? How others are treating me?

Let me give you a personal illustration:

I recently went to a large conference. I was not the speaker. I was an attendee. It was a great conference. I was by myself. Everyone else was part of a church staff. I sat by myself. I inroduced myself to those seated near me. I asked them questions about their ministry. They didn’t ask me about mine. In my mind I thought, “If they only knew who they were sitting near…” (arrogance!) At lunch time I asked an usher to introduce me to the two main speakers. I just knew they would be delighted to meet me and be interested in my work.  When I was introduced they looked at me as if I had dropped in from space!

I was miserable. Why had I come? The knot in my stomach grew.

I had tried.

As I got in my car to go home I asked God what had happened. Not in an audible voice, but the answer came back in a booming voice: “It’s not about you!”. Wow! I was so concerned about me that I missed so much of the message of the conference. My self importance – seeming self importance – got in the way of God’s blessing at that event.

So…no resolutions. Instead, I am simply making plans to give God more time. I am starting a reading plan with my church to read through the Bible in The Daily Walk Bible. I am asking God to transform me through His Word. I want to be more in love with Him each month. (Not daily. I don’t change that fast. It may be just this year – or  the rest of my lifetime – God is patient.)

I encourage you to forget your self-effort resolutions and ask God to transform you. That’s His speciality.

Happy New Year. Not because you are turning a new leaf but because you are asking God for grace to follow Him more nearly. He will do it.

 

 

Presents

posted by Ruth Graham

Christmas is here! We have shopped, bought, wrapped… the “perfect” present for each one on our list. Did I over spend? Did I forget someone? What have I overlooked?

What about the birthday Boy? Have I overlooked Him?

Each year I ask what He would like me to give Him.  This year, I am going to give Him more time.

And then I ask Him for something. This year I am asking Him to birth in me a deeper devotion to Him.

What is your gift to Jesus this year and what would you ask Him for this year?

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Merry Christmas to each of you!

God’s Silence

posted by Ruth Graham

It had been a long 400 years of silence. Malachi had been the last “official” word from God. Now the silence was deafening. Life went on but where was God? Did He care? Did He leave them? Did He forget them? Had He washed His
hands of them? Did they misinterpret what He said to them?

God had used prophets throughout Israel’s history to tell His people what He wanted them to do. He wanted them to rebuild the temple and worship Him only. He wanted them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. Their history was very sketchy with God.  It was a history of obedience then rebellion then obedience then idolatry – up and down, back and forth. Most of them hadn’t listened to the prophets – there were a few that were obedient, a remnant. Most continued to disobey God. He warned them that their disobedience would be judged.

And then God got quiet. He didn’t say anything to His people. He didn’t say anything for 400 years. That’s a long time!

God’s people went through a hard time. But He was silent. Maybe He had forgotten them – but He said He wouldn’t. Maybe something happened to Him – but He is eternal. Maybe He went away – but He is always near.

The ones who were obedient were hopeful that God would one day speak to them again. They hoped year after year. They had no idea how He would speak and He surprised them. He didn’t shout from heaven. He didn’t stand on a street corner preaching. He didn’t send a letter. He sent a baby – His very own Son!

Why that’s ridiculous! Absurd. How would a baby bring victory over oppression? Peace to war and conflict – especially those in my own heart and mind?  Who would devise such a plan?  Can a mere baby do anything about my fears of the future and guilt of the past?  Why would God think such a crazy plan would work? And for what reason?

Why expose Himself to the ugliness of the world? Foolishness. A baby isn’t relevant.

Or maybe, just maybe God is onto something! A baby is innocent and pure. A baby is sweet and tender. A baby brings people together. But wait a minute a baby grows up! This just doesn’t make sense. How would a baby make a difference?

Let’s ask the shepherds that had heard the angel’s message and then went to the stable to see the baby. They were glorifying God and praising Him all the way back to the fields. Or ask the magi. They bowed and worshipped the baby and before they left, they gave lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh . Odd gifts for a child. No toys among these gifts.

Well, at least the gold could provide for their needs. But frankincense? It was an expensive spice which was the only spice allowed on the temple altar. And myrrh? It was used in embalming?

What was all that about? It speaks to the treasure to be found in Jesus. As the song says, “I rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” It speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus that would end the need for blood sacrifice it the temple. It speaks of Jesus’ death.

So what does all that gruesome stuff have to do with the baby and Christmas?  Everything. That’s what it is all about.

What does Jesus know about school slaughter?

posted by Ruth Graham

I don’t think any of us can get the school shootings out of our minds. The images haunt us. The news bombards us with speculation then finally facts make their way into the news. The analysts try to come up with answers and blame. It’s stunning. It is beyond comprehension. I try to put myself in the place of one of those parents…”if only”… “just a week ago”… life changed forever in a moment.

We rage against the only one safe…God. Why did He allow this? Couldn’t He have intervened? Couldn’t He have prevented it?

How can He be good? Fair? Just?

No. It does not make sense. How can He know how they/we feel? He was never in a school building being gunned down. He never had the shock of learning His child had been gunned down by a man crazed with a mental illness.

Will He strike me dead if we say we hate Him?  If we say we don’t trust Him anymore? How can I trust Him now? After what has happened. No it all seems so dark. So pointless.

The Christmas lights and music mock us.

Or do they?

Emmanuel. “God with us” is the message from God to all broken hearts.

 

 

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