Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stand in the place where you live

Last Friday morning, the Daily Office lessons spoke to a flurry of comments and emails I've been sharing with friends.

Folks are grappling with all kinds of things - financial anxieties, church struggles, health problems, families - in other words, life in the world.

The morning Psalms included 142:7,

Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your Name;
when you have dealt bountifully with me,
the righteous will gather around me.

Friday Psalms often include images of oppression, to remind us of Christ's passion. But that word picture of being imprisoned evoked the whole feeling of being constrained, dealing with life situations one doesn't want while longing for better times.

Then the lesson from The Acts of the Apostles continued a series of readings on St. Paul's journey to Rome - which was accomplished as a prisoner! So much of Paul's world-changing ministry took place as a fugitive or a prisoner, "Christ's ambassador in chains" (Ephesians 6:20). This time of confinement included Paul's composition of letters, which would be recognized later as God's own Word in the New Testament.

If you are like me, you beat against the walls and shake the bars of your confining circumstances, with little more to show for it than extra bruises and amplified frustration. But these very circumstances can be the venue of our greatest purpose in life.

A friend who ministers among God's people in the Dominican Republic sent me a fine devotional on "God's geography." The heart of the piece is:

I fire off thousands of questions that center around the longitude and latitude of my life at God. And do you know how God answers me when I ask Him those kinds of questions? Do you know how I promise He will answer you if you ask Him those kinds of questions? Do you know the first answer God always gives when we say, "God where do you want me to go?"

"In my presence."

Or there's that REM song, which served as the theme for a short-lived Fox TV show about a ne'er-do-well who was always fine right where he was:

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