For the places and spaces that lack

Adonai is my shepherd; I lack nothing.

Adonai is my shepherd; 

I LACK NOTHING

I LACK NOTHING!

I have been reading through the Psalms again lately, this time in The Complete Jewish Bible for a bit of variation. The other morning, I was up to Psalm 23, but I didn't get past the first line.

Just three words, but oh so blunt.

I LACK NOTHING.

Let those words pound into you the way they did me.

I LACK NOTHING

Perhaps your head is a little like mine and would like to skip ahead - yes, yes, we know that, Jehovah Jireh, my Provider and all that. We know God is good and provides all that we need. Maybe we have even experienced it in mighty and exciting ways.

But...

There is a little whisper in our hearts that says, "but..." and as we stop to listen, it gets louder, 

BUT...

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What about my lack of confidence?

What about my lack of finances?

What about my lack of relationships?

What about my lack of energy?

My lack of health? My lack of peace? My lack of comfort and of joy?

My lack where promises lie unfulfilled?

What about all those spaces and places inside that are crying out because of lack?

As I have reflected on these questions I remember that so often, those places and spaces have lack because I hold them to myself, or because I try to use my strength, my wisdom, my ability to meet the lack.

What does it look like when I stop doing that, stop protecting myself in those spaces and places? 

I think it looks like surrender.

Not surrender to the enemy of my soul. Not the give up and lie down and die surrender of despair. But surrender that says, "I know I can't, so I am no longer going to try", and instead, goes to my Father, my Provider, and actually lays these places and spaces of lack down at His feet, very purposefully, and LEAVES THEM THERE. It is a surrender that says, "I WILL TRUST YOU", and is prepared to WAIT until He either fills the lack or exposes it for the lie it is and re-calibrates, re-purposes that space or place so it no longer has a lack.

I know for myself this has been a very real place this week. Your prayer, like mine, could start something like this: 

"Father God, I come to you and I lay this [xxx] down at your feet. Please help me to leave it there." 

You might even ask Him what He will give you instead, what He wants to fill that place or space with. For me, even though my circumstances didn't change, He did restore my peace and my joy.

Why not use the comments to share your experiences on this journey to encourage us all.

 

Prodigal Generosity

 "Don't be miserly, give them a proper watering!"

This was what I felt God was saying to me as I eked out a dribble of water on each plant I was trying to salvage recently. 

We were going through a hot dry spell, and although it was officially Autumn, someone forgot to tell Summer; the weather was set to be the longest hot dry spell we had had in months. 

Living on rain water as we do, it meant we were running to the end of our reserves. Although we are better off than millions of others in the world, as we can afford to buy water and can easily get it trucked in, it still grates on me a little. We don't live in a particularly dry area and I would like to be able to just use what we are given.

In all this, the garden was starting to look pretty sad. While I tend to be a pretty tough gardener - you don't survive in my garden if you need too much watering - there were plants I just didn't want to lose, so I had been watering a little more regularly.

I am aware that my minimalist watering can be quite ineffective. In some areas of our garden, the water just runs off the top; the soil is so dry that it takes a lot more water to get the water to soak in. As I reflected on these observations, the gentle nudge came from God, telling me to stop being stingy and water them properly, to stop worrying about the expense of buying water to refresh my garden. It just seemed so wasteful and extravagant to me - the plants are just for pleasure, just to look good. They can't be that important, can they?

And then we had a day that was really hot. It got to 40 degrees (C) on my way home. I stopped at the supermarket, and there were a few promising looking clouds around, but nothing that significant. The weather report had said there was a chance of some rain around the hills in the evening, and I had asked God if we could have some of that please, because my garden really needed it. 

I wasn't in the supermarket long, but when I came out, it was raining quite heavily. It felt so good, even though it was still very hot, and there was that wonderful smell that comes with rain after a hot dry spell, along with the sense of the soul being watered as much as the land. 

As I drove the fifteen minutes to home, up into the hills, the temperature dropped from 40 down to 32, then by the time I got to the end of the suburbs, it was down to 23. The rain was heavy enough to start to run off the road. I was only about 5 kilometres from home. Surely we were getting some of this. My daughter rang to find out when I would be home and told me that it was all blue skies and hot and home. No sign of any rain.

I felt pretty disappointed. We did eventually get a few smatterings, but barely enough to register, let alone revive my garden. What was going on? What was God trying to say to me in this? Why didn't He answer my prayer the way I wanted?

So I had a chat with Him. Why did we miss out? I know it is not the end of the world, it is not that big a deal, but it is easy for Him to give abundantly where He pleases. 

And suddenly it got a little more challenging.

I was reminded of a few things. One was a verse: "Give and it will be given to you...For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38). Along with this was the oft recited story of the person walking in the desert, nearly dead of thirst, who finally came across an old pump. At the pump was a jug of water and a note. It said that you had to use the water that was there to prime the pump, and then it would produce as much sweet, fresh water as you wanted. There was also a reminder to leave a jug of water for the next person. One moral to this story is that you have to relinquish what you have in your hand sometimes before you can get what you really need, but it is a step of faith.

The third was the story of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath (1Kings 17). There was a severe drought, and she had enough food left for her and her son to have their last meal.  Elijah challenged her to share, with a promise that God would provide for her until the rains came again. Very like the pump story: are you prepared to give away what you have on the promise alone of more?

Jesus observed and commended the widow who gave two small coins in the temple, stating that her giving was worth more than those who give from their abundance. While she gave from a position of poverty, not a position of plenty, she gave from a position of faith that her needs would be supplied, even as she gave the little she had.

I have been learning that God's generosity goes way beyond the sensible or rational, way beyond what I think I deserve or is enough. He gives and keeps on giving, even when we don't show gratitude or appreciation, even when we squander what is given. When we look at the example of the father toward the son who wasted his inheritance in the story of the Prodigal Son, we see a picture of Father God who pours out His abundance regardless of our response.

He is prodigal in His generosity.

If I am to reflect Him, His glory and goodness, I need to be generous in the same way.

The question is, when I don't feel like I have much, do I hold back, waiting until I have plenty before I give generously (whether that be money, food, goods, or time!), or do I give in trust that God is generous, that He will continue to give me more as I need? Do I trust in what I have already been provided with, or do I trust in the further provision, in the Provider? Am I holding on so tightly to what I have that don't have spare hands to receive the next installment?

Am I as generous with my little as I am with my abundance?

Are You a Squanderer?

Have you ever got one of those emails telling you there is a huge inheritance waiting for you?

You know, the one that tells you that some person with the same surname as you has died, and because there are no living relatives to claim the estate, you can claim it yourself

All you need to do is send me few thousand dollars, and I will start the legal process to make a claim on your behalf.

Yep, sure thing!

I guess this sort of thing must work at least sometimes. Perhaps it taps into the hope many of us have: maybe someone, (not too close to me so I don't have to grieve too much) will fall off the perch and will leave me a fortune that will answer all my money woes and let me live in the lap of luxury.

There have been a number of times I have actually been on the receiving end of a financial inheritance, though.

The most interesting one would have to be from my great-aunt, who died when I was still a baby. She left a small amount of money to all her female relatives - she had no children of her own. This was held in trust until I was twenty-one, or could be used at my parent's discretion. The stipulation was that it was to be used to enable me, as a woman, to do or achieve something I otherwise could not. 

For my great-aunt, the inheritance was not just about the money. Growing up in the early 1900's she was fortunate to have a father who believed that girls should be educated just as much as boys. All his daughters went to university, and my great-aunt followed her father's footsteps, becoming a doctor. In fact, she was one of the first women doctors in Adelaide.

It wasn't until recently that I realised another aspect of this legacy. I had always taken it for granted that I was given the same opportunity in education as my brothers. The fact that my father expected me to study sciences and maths (as he did my brothers - the only subjects worth learning!), was harder to appreciate, though!

My father died well over ten years ago now, but I well remember his funeral. It was a very difficult day as our relationship with him had been strained. However, I felt that I wanted to honour my father anyway. Looking back, there were so many aspects of our family life that were part of our inheritance from him.

These ranged from a sense of adventure to the way we were expected to treat others and behave, and even to our Christian faith. Among many others, they were all values he planted in his family.

There is a story Jesus told about inheritance that many are aware of.  We call it the parable of the Prodigal Son. The various aspects of this parable have been explored unendingly, but here are a few pertinent thoughts.

The most obvious is about the young son.

In asking for his inheritance, he was basically wishing his dad was dead. He saw no value in his relationship with his father past the money. When he got it, the Storyteller says, he went off and squandered his inheritance on wild living. 

In the end, he really didn't even value the money.

When he returns to his father, we are given a glimpse of his older brother.

This older brother was pretty upset with the father's lavish acceptance of the squanderer. However, I don't think he really understood what his inheritance was either. He accuses his father of not giving him anything, while spoiling his brother. However, his father reminds him that he was able to enjoy everything the father had as his own, at any time.

This topic of inheritance is addressed many other times throughout the Bible. One of my favourites is the promise of our inheritance through Jesus. It includes being able to see clearly, healing of our bodies and souls, and probably my favourite: our freedom. In other places, we are told we inherit the Kingdom of God, which is all these things and more.

Can we be guilty of squandering our inheritance?

Do we, like the younger son, fail to truly value the healing and freedom that has been given to us? Do we waste God's provision for us on self-indulgence and self-gratification?

Or like the older son, are we failing to even realise or connect with the fact that healing, freedom and provision are already ours? Have we failed to access our birthright? 

What is it you value most in your inheritance?