Do It Again, Lord! (Guest Post by Cynthia Hyle Bezek)

I am delighted to host Cynthia Hyle Bezek as today’s guest writer! Cynthia’s greatest passion and privilege is to help ordinary men and women connect with an extraordinary God through prayer. Leading people into satisfying, two-way, relational, personal conversation with God is the aim of whatever she does, whether as an author, editor, prayer leader, speaker, teacher, mentor, or prayer retreat leader. The following is reprinted with permission from Let’s Talk: Deepening Your Relationship with God Through Prayer.

Desert Sunrise I

Do It Again, Lord!

by Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Sometimes I get annoyed with Bible people. Like this morning. I was reading in Exodus and getting really excited about God. He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites—incredible to imagine! And then when the Egyptian army tried to follow, the waters crashed down on them and they all were destroyed. What an amazing rescue!

Is it any wonder the people rejoiced and worshiped? Moses led them in a song of praise to the Lord. And then his sister, Miriam, led all the women in a joyful dance before the Lord. As I read, the people’s joy nearly vibrated off the pages.

“I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory!”

“The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Savior. This is my God, and I will praise him, I will honor him!”

“O Lord, who is like you? You are glorious because of your holiness and awe-inspiring because of your splendor. You perform miracles!”

“Lovingly, you will lead the people you have saved. Powerfully, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The Lord will rule as king forever and ever!”

(excerpted from Exodus 15, God’s Word translation)

But a mere two verses later, I got pretty upset with the whole lot of them. For Pete’s sake, they act as if God had died! True, they’d traveled for three days in the desert without water. That’s a problem. But instead of asking God for help, they griped about Moses. Instead of trusting God to provide for them as He had done not even 72 hours earlier, they whined: “What are we supposed to drink?” (verse 24).

I paused from my Bible reading. “I cannot believe these people!” I said out loud.

Really? a Still Small Voice asked in reply.

I realized I’d been busted. The Holy Spirit was gently pointing out how much I have in common with the Israelites. Immediately I thought about a situation that I’m struggling with. It’s a genuine problem, no less real than the Israelite’s need for water. And I am utterly incapable of solving this problem. If I think about it very long—like more than about three seconds—I am very likely to gripe and whine, just like the Israelites did.

The irony is, like the Israelites, I have also experienced God’s deliverance in desperate situations. I can name at least three examples of God’s loving intervention, working things out in ways I never would have imagined, and never could have orchestrated on my own.

Still, I forget. The new crisis looms in front of me, and I forget the victory song I’d sung just a few days earlier. Or I doubt. Sure, God delivered me before, but who says He’ll do it again this time?

Either way, my responses are not pretty.

God, I don’t want to be like the Israelites, I told Him this morning. You have delivered me wonderfully before. You have walked through fires and floods with me on other occasions. You have never abandoned me. You have never failed me. I am sorry I forget. I am sorry I doubt. Please help me to remember Your deliverance. And please deliver me again.

It’s a full 15 hours later, and God has not answered my prayer yet. He has not led me to water as quickly as He did the Israelites in Exodus 15. I’m still waiting for His deliverance. But however long I have to wait, I want to do it with faith, not doubt. I want to hope in the Lord. I want to trust that He will help me—as He promises always to do when I call on Him. So that has been my prayer throughout today, and probably will be for days to come: Help me to remember, Lord—and please, please do it again!

Looking back

Photo credit (bottom photo): Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit (top photo): TLV and more via Flickr Creative Commons

Book Review (sort of): Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C. Haines

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I don’t know if it’s because Amber C. Haines is a poet, or because reading this book is a little like breaking open a pomegranate and exposing ripe seeds clustered in their hollows, the red of their juices lingering as stains on your fingers after you bring out the fruit—but this memoir, Wild in the Hollow, calls for something other than the typical way I do a book review. Instead, I’m sharing twelve found poems taken from Amber’s words (including page references to the book).

What is a found poem? The Academy of American Poets defines it:

Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

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1. From pages 49-51:
It didn’t take me long to see how different I was in the church

So tidy and clean
the church so aware of how it looked.

No one talked about brokenness. I did my best
to look good enough for the keeping, but—

How broken I was. How I didn’t fit. It seemed the rest
of the church had healed up good. Either that

or no one knew how to grieve
the stories, the rumbles of despair. Most days I thought

I would drown. Fresh in the memory of wild back roads
I walked in and asked, “Will you love me now?”

—–

2. From page 54:
My mamaw

She rocked in her chair.
She told me secrets. We became
so close in our brokenness, spoke
in secret language before she slipped away
into her real life. Her confessions
unified us, her perfect love for me
cast out fear.

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3. From page 54:
So much hammered doctrine

was an effort to control,
to harness the Holy Spirit so we could feel
better about ourselves—
a measuring stick superimposed into
the very hand of God.

—–

4. From page 56:
What is Scripture?

What is Scripture if
it doesn’t pour in,
transform,
and then
flow out from the depths,
especially
as love?

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5. From page 57:
I wish I had known

The depravity of man is only
the realization of the hollow,
the need. Depravity
should only imply that we
can be filled
with God.

—–

6. From page 58:
Mercy

Isn’t it sometimes
God’s mercy
that we crash?

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7. From page 111:
Friendship Beginning

a long, silent pause
like an orchestra
before the music begins

like a cellist holding position
with the bow hovering
just above the strings

—–

8. From page 141:
A Word of Truth

Do not forget
that the Spirit of God
indwells you.

And just like that,
the ash blew over, and I began
to burn.

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9. From page 173:
Repentance

a sorrow
a recognized need
a change of mind, the turning point
a place of release
a place to go

—–

10. From page 173:
After Repentance

obedience
moving forward
into righteousness, peace, joy
propelling the kingdom of God

—–

11. From page 186:
Good News

Isn’t brokenness
the fertile ground for the seed
of hope? We are weak ones, but
this is not bad news.

—–

12. From page 197:
In this one moment

I have seen my children
run naked and wild. I have seen them
without a drop of shame.

Book Review: Dancing Priest, by Glynn Young

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I find greatest satisfaction in a novel when it inspires me with admirable (but not flawless) characters, and when it makes an internal connection. As author John Green has been quoted,”Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” Glynn Young’s Dancing Priest wins on both counts—and this novel was so riveting that it kept me up way past bedtime. Immersed in its multiple layers that reach into the histories and current lives of Michael Kent, Sarah Hughes, the people who are and become part of their lives, and the geographical settings of Edinburgh, London, Athens, San Francisco, L.A., and Santa Barbara, I couldn’t put the book down.

The story of Michael Kent—student at Edinburgh, Olympic cyclist, then Anglican priest assigned to a San Francisco church—shows, unadorned, his steadfastness, integrity, and seemingly foolish love toward others. All this comes through without hiding or sanitizing his struggles. If you carry an enthusiasm for cycling, you will especially appreciate this book. But, cycling fan or not, you may find that Michael Kent’s life in Dancing Priest feels a bit like a cycling race: fast pace, determination, struggle, exhilaration, team dynamics, defeat, victory, gratification at crossing the finish line. This story challenged me to persevere in pain, love those who are against me, extend a hand to others in distress, practice art and exercise any God-given abilities, and deepen relationships with those I love. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, A Light Shining.

Lava Rock

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How can it be that magma heat
loses its liquid burn? How
can fiery froth turn cold,
molten bubbles no longer
bursting in a rolling boil?
Your zealous glow has cooled, aloof now
and indifferent, your white-hot hue
frozen into dull darkness, igneous and basaltic,
your dynamic flow turned
static, all the little holes
hardened into airy rock, not much
weight, negligible influence on
any scale. Burn again.
Burn.

Because you have this faith, I now remind you to stir up that inner fire which God gave you.

– 2 Timothy 1:6 (Phillips)

(for this poetry prompt at tweetspeakpoetry.com)

The Mercy of Horizon

What a mercy to have a horizon—
that faraway line reminding me
while my head is in the clouds
that earth and soil are under my feet
and everything is not sky. The horizon

is horizontal only because of my
smallness. In fact, it is a curve beyond which
my hands cannot reach, my eyes cannot see.
It is a great circle inscribed where the heavens
and the two-dimentional place of my perspective

intersect, a reminder that God is always
more than I know. What a mercy to have a horizon
that hides (for now) what is past the threshhold—a mercy
because the knowing, the sight, might be more than

my easily blinded eyes can bear. A mercy because
if I see too much, I may not have faith enough. Funny, too—
without the horizon that limits knowing
there can be no azimuth,
no arc to give direction, no reference point
from which to measure a navigating angle.

Listen as Wisdom calls out!

“…I was there when he established the heavens,
when he drew the horizon on the oceans.”

(Proverbs 8:1,27 NLT)

Read It Like You’re Bleeding [and a book giveaway!]

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(***GIVEAWAY UPDATE*** Congratulations to Beth and Erica who will receive Discipleship Journal’s Best Bible Study Methods!)

Something about this woman drew me to her. I wanted to be her friend and probably would have pursued that friendship if I ever had a chance. Though I never knew her, she taught me a pivotal spiritual lesson—a Bible-reading lesson. I wish I knew her name.

If she were still alive…

Read the rest of my article at BibleDude.net: read it like you’re bleeding. At the end of the article are the book giveaway details! I’m giving away two copies of Discipleship Journal’s Best Bible Study Methods. I’d love to see you in the comment box over at BibleDude.net!

i'm a bibledude.net writer

(Not) Demanding Pomegranates

On a typical Friday morning I started boiling water for oatmeal while Charles and our seven-year-old finished their Bible time by practicing memory verses. They do it out loud, so while I watched the water begin to bubble, I could hear them.

And why have you made us come up out of Egypt
to bring us to this evil place?
It is no place for grain
or figs
or vines
or pomegranates…
(Numbers 20:5)

When they practice memory verses, they say it over and over, so I heard it like a refrain. They say the words in a kind of cadence…

“It is no place for grain
or figs
or vines
or pomegranates…”

… and as I heard, I noticed. The list in this complaint was so specific. Grain, figs, vines, pomegranates. They questioned God and His goodness and faithfulness because they weren’t in a place that looked the way they wanted it to look. They were trying to dictate life. Could that be what made it an evil place?

How I have done the same when I complained to God that I was not bearing any fruit! I have tried to dictate what my fruitfulness is supposed to look like. Lord, what good am I doing for you?! I’m not discipling anyone [grain], people don’t pursue friendship with me [figs], I’m not leading any Bible studies [vines], and we haven’t been on a family short-term mission trip [pomegranates]!

Instead of demanding that God would make my life look a certain way, should I not instead look at my life the way God has made it? Shouldn’t I look for His purposes, for the way He wants to do things?

So I am not in a land good for pomegranates. But what is this land good for? Can God not bring purpose and beauty in cactus, in sage, in dust and tumbleweeds?

Father, I trust in your unfailing love and believe in your perfect plans. Help me not to make demands of you but instead to trust what you are doing, which is always better than what I can dream or imagine. May I have vision to see what You have given and respond accordingly.

—-

This week Bonnie Gray hosts a community of those who share about the topic: “Fearless.” Click on the FaithBarista badge below to read more posts on Fearless!

Who Fills In the Blanks? (Wanting What He Wants Me to Want)

Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)

Because of Psalm 37:4 I have a wish list:

My Heart’s Desires

1. I want __________.
2. I want __________.
3. I want __________.
4. I want __________.
5. …
6. …
.
.
.

It’s not that I delight in the Lord,
fill in the blanks,
give Him my list,
and then He will give me
what I desire.

I think of it this way:
I give Him the blank list,
He fills in the blanks,
and then He will give me
the desires themselves.

Father, I ask not that You give me what I want, but that you give me the want.

***

(This week Ann Voskamp hosts a community of those who share about Fasting. This is my fast: to seek not my desires but His.)

“Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?”

Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers …

Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?

(Isaiah 58:3,6, emphases mine)

(On Wednesday, click on the Holy Experience badge below for more community posts on Fasting!)