The King and I

Then King Darius wrote to all the people, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:

“Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 

I found the wrong side of my bed this morning.  After two long weeks of training, I had hoped to have a refreshing sleep.  However, last night I had trouble winding down, even though I was exhausted.  Then, at 6:30 this morning, good ol’ Chester announced that something was amiss.  “Come on, Chester, go back to sleep.” No dice.  So I got up and took him outside, and good thing I did!

Marching past my house were dozens of teenagers carrying supplies down to the river.  That’s when I remembered an email from yesterday with the word ‘regatta’ in it.  What’s a regatta? Is it today? I went back inside and checked the email — yup, today.  If I don’t move the car RIGHT NOW I won’t be able to leave the house until after 4 and I have two appointments between now and then.

So, I changed from pajamas to sweats (breathtaking upgrade) and grabbed the keys.  In order to move my car I had to communicate with two other humans.  Can I remind you that it is still before 7:00am? As I am weaving among hundreds of cars and being directed to drive through the parking lot and over the grass lot, the ‘low gas’ signal comes on.  Seriously? The last driver left the car below E!

By now I am seriously grumbling.  “Stinking regatta,….inconsiderate kids…house is a mess…didn’t get sleep…”

I parked the car and stomped across campus back to my house.  I spewed a little ugly at the only other conscious person in my path then crawled back into bed.  I tried to sleep, but it wasn’t going to happen.

Finally I dragged myself out of bed, made my tea, grouchily read some emails and checked my calendar.  Then I said almost audibly, “Might as well read my devotion.” (Yeah, my heart was really in it.)  I opened the book and saw that I was supposed to read Daniel 6.  “Seriously? Daniel?”  And here’s the magic…anyone who has lived with me will attest that if I have risen from the wrong side of the bed, you might as well just give me a wide berth for the duration of the morning.  I don’t recover quickly.  I am going to fume and fuss for a while. But not today.

I was reading the narrative about how Daniel was upright and admired.  In fact, he was promoted to a position of power.  Some jealous colleagues created a scheme in which they knew Daniel would be caught — they made it illegal to pray!  Of course, it wasn’t long before they nabbed him and threw him in the lion’s den.  The king, who admired, respected, and even loved Daniel was devastated. His own signet had to seal the opening to the den.

Let’s take a little sidetrack here and acknowledge that the king was not what we’d call a faithful God-follower.  He had witnessed God’s power as David had interpreted his dreams, and was impressed. He had witnessed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace, but he still hadn’t signed on as a card-carrying member. So, after spending the night fasting and pacing, he ran to the lion’s den yelling out for Daniel, “has your God been able to deliver you from the lions?”

“Yes! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me.”

And you know, it wasn’t Daniel being alive that got me this morning.  It was the king, good old Nebuchadnezzar. He was so moved that God had protected Daniel — even from lions — that he finally threw his hands in the air and said, “Ok, Ok, I believe.  This God is for real!”  He made a public proclamation that the “God of Daniel is the living God, enduring forever.”

And that, my friends, is what shifted my grumpiness to gratitude this morning. Ok, there is a woman on a bull horn 100 yards from my window starting race after race on my beautiful river.  I am going to have to walk across campus to get to my car.  I am going to have to pray that that car makes it to the gas station.  But, let me put it in perspective: I worship the God of Daniel who actually closed the mouths of lions to protect him.  I serve the God who is living and very active in my life. I love the Lord who endures forever — from Adam to Noah to Daniel to Paul to me.

Grumpiness be gone.  Rejoicing commence.

Saved from our distress

Psalm 107:10ff

Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners in iron chains

because they rebelled against God’s commands

and despised the plans of the Most High

That sounds serious, doesn’t it?  Certainly no Christian would rebel against God’s commands or despise the plans of the most high.  Come on, after all that God has done for us, would we go against His will?  Probably only out of ignorance, right?  We wouldn’t willfully rebel….

Would we?

I have lost track of how many times I have used this blog as a confessional.  I think what started as a chronicle of my journey after teaching in St. Louis has become an expose’ of my internal life.  I wasn’t planning on that.

But, as I have mentioned, I am a little obsessed with telling the truth…whether or not you, or I, want to hear it.

So, you know that book on prayer that I picked up at the library?  Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer?  Yeah, well, I think it was written with me in mind.  It was copyrighted in 2013, before I knew that I would be moving to Michigan, before I knew I would be leaving my job, before I knew that I would be given this grace period.  Yet, it seems that each day the message is specifically for me, designed to call me back from whatever it was that I thought I was accomplishing in my soldiering years.

I knew better.  I knew that what I really needed was daily time in God’s Word, daily prayer, regular support from friends, but I chose, over and over again, to ignore those facts and keep soldiering on by my own strength. And I found out I am pretty strong, but not strong enough.

Nobody is, really.  We were designed by a Creator who wants to continue to help us, who wants relationship with us, who doesn’t want us to go it alone.  He’ll let us give it a try, yet He won’t leave our side while we are trying.  Even more, miraculously, graciously, He will be ready to talk even before we are ready.  He will be placing things in the path that direct us back to Him.  But, you know, sometimes we want to sit in the darkness, in chains, because we’re being willful.  And stubborn.

And, even then, He pursues us.  Psalm 107 says that He sometimes “subjects [us] to bitter labor”, or maybe lets us get utterly exhausted in all our striving and soldiering.   We “stumble, and there [is] no one to help.”  So, finally, (sheesh), we “cry to the Lord in [our] trouble, and he [saves us] from our distress.”

Yup.  That was my Bible study today.  The only thing is, I didn’t quite get to the point that I was crying out in my distress…He met me before that.  He swooped in and took me out of my soldiering. He gave me some time to be still, so that I would know, more than ever, that He is God.  Let Him be exalted.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love,

and His wonderful deeds for mankind.