Monday, March 17, 2014

Tabula Rasa: For Rough Mornings and Rainy Days... a new a new day...

How are you?

Me? My morning began as a whirlwind. Woke up late. Snapped at my dog for whimpering about wanting to go out because it was interfering with the sheer concentration and focus that doing my hair requires. Seriously misjudged the weather - walked outside expecting spring, but apparently it's still winter. Stop. Turn around. Change Clothes. Angry Mumbling. Forgot my tea. Sarcastic comment. Standstill traffic. Utter frustration and impatience.

Sigh. It already feels like I've failed for today.

Far too often, we awake with a jolt, already worrying or brooding or dreading what will be. We think about yesterday. We think about later. And in our dismissal of the present, we miss the gift that is a fresh, new morning. We fail to breathe in the crisp morning air over a Bible and hot, steaming cup of coffee, and exhale out a praise to the One who makes it all possible, Whose grace is what opens our eyes each day. We get distracted with the hustle of alarms, coffee machine, burnt toast and traffic reports, of bad hair days, or ironing and rinsing and twirling and racing through our homes and lives, rushing to get out on the dead-locked highway, where we rage at the slow pace and the inconvenience of it all.

And meanwhile...the still small voice calls us to remember...that this is not the purpose or the pace He has set for our lives. He has given us one more day for a reason. A new chance to reach out, a day to draw near, an opportunity to bring healing and joy to the world in our own unique way, to trust that our steps will be ordered by Him and that we were meant to be exactly where we found ourselves this morning...they were not meant to be spent in this frazzled, frustrated, frantic state into which we find ourselves daily sinking.

So this morning, in need of a tabula rasa, a clean slate, I write for those of us who need just that. A mulligan for the day. Just a moment to take control - to pause, to meditate on a few simple truths He's brought to my mind that take us to the place of surrender - to thank Him and ask what He would have us do with these precious and fleeting gifts, these moments of time, which He has granted - that He set the pace for our lives and not the things or circumstances in it.

A Daily Offering

The pages of my devotional Bible study recently fell to Leviticus, the book which I have found reveals the heart of God and how He desires to be worshipped in such a profound way. In the opening chapters, God unveils five offerings for the people of Israel. I've learned something about these as I've studied them - for one thing, they were at no point offered to obtain salvation or forgive sin. Instead they were a voluntary way to express repentance, to acknowledge wrongdoing, showing the recognition that there is a cost for it - for the self and others. But, if we look at even the first five chapters of Leviticus, we see that not all the offerings are even sin related. Take, for example, the Olah offering.

The Olah offering is the first one listed, in chapter one. Your Bible may translate that as Burnt Offering, because that's what was done to the animal - it's completely burned up on the altar. But that's not what the actual word means. Olah means to "bring near." Let's read a little bit of the passage:

Read Leviticus 1:1-9.

From this verse we pick up on some things:

• It's a voluntary offering (verse 2)
• It is to be from the flock and not a wild animal (verse 2)
• The animal represents the offerer (verse 4)
• The offerer is the one who must make the sacrifice and take the life (verse 5)
• The inward parts of the animal are arranged and washed by the priest, and then burned up on the altar (verses 8-10)

Now, surely you are wondering, what in the world does that have to do with my mornings be started off right? Lots, actually! This, sweet friends, was the sacrifice that made fellowship possible with God. More than atoning for sin, it was a gesture of devotion to God. To begin a day well, that is where we must start.

Every morning, whether your a radiant and joyful morning person - or like me, spending your first hours in a state of "thawing out," as my husband calls it - we have an opportunity to rise to the day with intentionality. To bring and become that offering of devotion to the Lord. We don't have to do it, it is our choice.

When we decide to offer ourselves to the Lord, we have to do it His way, or it's no good. We can't do it with a willful and wild nature - we must do it recognizing we are His lambs, that we belong to Him. We must give ourselves completely over to His purposes. Everything else has to fall in line behind that.

And then there are our inward parts. These, by the way, represent our instincts, our motivations, our selfish desires, our emotions, our fears - everything that is animistic about us. We must allow our High Priest, Jesus Christ, to rearrange us on that altar of that morning devotion, to change those into holy pursuits. We must be flexible, teachable, washed clean from the inside out. And then we must allow ourselves to be consumed by His holy refining fire. The Israelites saw this as a way of sending that life up to God Himself. And when we bring ourselves as an Olah offering, we are saying, "Father, my soul resides with you. Arrange me any way you like. What is left of me here on earth belongs to Jesus. Shape and use me as you will."

Friends, whether we struggle with purposelessness, grumpiness or lack of focus, this is the answer. We were created for good words in Christ Jesus, and without coming before the throne daily, offering ourselves up to Him, we cannot find our purpose or the plan. Don't let your day happen to you - Let God take control, acknowledge Him and He will direct the path and calm your spirit. That's the only way to face your day with real confidence.

A Continual Sacrifice

I'll confess that there are lots of days when I feel like I've really earned a gold star in the "giving it over to God" department. I'll have had a fantastic devotion, feel so spiritually fed and full, have lots of grace and perspective...and then, just the next day, tempted by a new challenge or commitment, I find myself trying to ride on the proverbial coattails of the previous day's devotion. The Bible addresses this, and if we flip over now to Leviticus 6, we find such a powerful illustration from the sacrificial system.

Read Leviticus 6:8-13.

Notice that we're still talking about that same burnt offering - the Olah. And take note of the emphasis on keeping the fire burning - it's mentioned three times just in this small passage. Friends, we are commanded to keep the fire of the Spirit burning in our hearts and lives every day too. We're not really supposed to have extreme highs and lows in our walk - steadfastness, dependability and faithfulness are traits God wants to develop in us.

But what, here, seems to be getting in the way of the fire burning? It's not neglect. It's yesterday's ashes. God loves our sacrifice. This is why in verse 10 we see that great care and respect are given to the ashes. But how often have we let yesterday's stuff - whether bad or good - get in the way of today's sacrifice?

Beloved, we have to get yesterday's ashes out of the way. We must come, continually, regularly, before our God in whole devotion and adoration. Proverbs tells us, "Let your eyes look directly ahead," there is no room for yesterday in today any longer. Don't let it put out your fire. Whether it was an argument, a day you feel you failed, or an exceptionally good day, don't let it keep you from wholly offering yourself today, in this day. We're on a forward journey. The old hymn plays in my head and resounds in a new way today, "I have decided, to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back." To keep the fire burning in our hearts, we must let go of the past, and be in the present.
Let's always be willing to begin again.

So for all the days that began like mine did this morning, I say, forget about all the today's we didn't get it right. Move the ashes. Ready the sacrifice. Let's start with today. a new day...

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

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