Posted in Christianity, Faith

Crafted Glory: A Lesson From Solomon’s Temple

 

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The temple was magnificent, clothed in precious metals, high above the city, the very best that man could create in honor of an immortal, all-mighty God. Imagine the morning sun rising to its zenith, glinting off the gold and silver and bronze that had been hammered and polished until it gleamed. In a city that had known nothing except rebellion and blood shed, the uncertainty of a hostile world despite their powerful King David, how different it must have been to face each day with this overpowering symbol of God’s sovereignty, an ever-present promise of the peace and prosperity that marked the reign of the wisest king the world had ever known.

Reading the story of King Solomon’s completion of the temple this morning, I was struck by the challenges to human nature the building of the temple must have presented to its many craftsman. So many people had to be employed to contribute to the work that it took 3600 foremen just to oversee all the builders hand-working stones in the quarry to be carted to the building site. The temple itself rose from the ground in a kind of reverent silence.

Hiram the bronze worker made an 11,000-gallon bowl they called a Sea. Statues of bulls served as the pillars to hold it up. He crafted pomegranates to give ornament to the temple. He must have worked from the first light of each day until he could no longer see even by candlelight each night, and yet his work, as well as the others, was not completed for seven long years.

When your God gives you the skill to create that which will be worthy of representing Him to your peers, how do you not at first quake at the fear of failing Him and later, as you see the beauty of what He enables you to create, keep yourself from feeling a surge of pride bordering on obsession to perfect what glorifies Him and at the same time shines a reflective light on yourself as well?

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I admire the humility of these craftsman who must have kept in perspective the absolute need for God’s backing to their success despite the very real temptation to stand back at the end of a long work day and admire one’s handiwork. Their success in completing the temple and the subsequent worship that God blessed there for many years to come tells us that they were grateful, obedient servants to His word, rather than those who might fall victim to pride, mistaking the beauty of what they had created as a thing glorified rather than realizing it only symbolized the glory of a God we mere humans can only begin to imagine.

The beauty of this building cast in precious metals would have meant nothing if it did not represent a living, loving God.  I think it also represents God’s understanding of our very human natures. He who defined light and shadow needs no building from which to rule or be exalted. But we humans, especially those living in a time where all kinds of gods were worshipped in elaborate venues, seem more inclined to understand our worship when it has some kind of physical representation.  Not only did Solomon’s Temple represent the quantitative wealth of the nation of Israel, it also represented the greatest wealth Israel would ever have—the honor of being the chosen people of the one and only God.

When I use the talent God gives me to glorify His name, I can only pray that I too give full credit to the One from Whom it comes. The moment I become more concerned with how well something I have done represents or reflects on me rather than God, I have put my trust in earth’s treasures instead of those which are in heaven. And I so want to have a chest full of heavenly treasures when this race of mine is done.

God is good all the time, and any work that strives to shine His goodness in a world cast in shadow is work that is worthy of our sweat and tears and devotion, whether that work takes seven years of hard labor to complete or a lifetime.

It may not be the lesson God intended in telling us how Solomon built the Lord’s Temple, but it’s a lesson I need to hear in my life, especially when I am tempted to think that my limited skills have anything to do with me instead of everything to do with God.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Do You Have The Guts To Pray This Prayer?

Find Your Daily Sacred Space
Find Your Daily Sacred Space

One of the phrases that Benedictine monks regularly use to help them stay in a meditative state begins, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner….”  The first few times I used it for myself, I finished it with phrases like, and help me shine Your Light or and help me be like Christ.  

When you first start to say those first words over and over, you are reminding yourself of your own human-ness.  We are all sinners.  We have no rights to judge other people for their actions because we have taken actions that are equally horrible in the eyes of a perfect God.  Luckily, that same God forgives us, so that the phrase, have mercy on me, a sinner, also means we can grasp that mercy and find peace.

In my perpetual quest to learn to give up the control of my life to Jesus so that I experience His peace, I am discovering some not so pleasant truths about myself.  I am always helping people out, it seems like to me.  So, I could pat myself on the back and say I’m doing pretty well.  I have a servant’s heart.

Here’s the problem.  Whenever I get stressed, I can get really angry about all this “helping out” that I am doing.  That reaction seems more like a martyr’s heart to me than a servant’s heart.  In other words, many times when I am doing things for others, am I doing it deep down because it feeds my feelings of self-worth instead of because of my unselfish love for others?

So, as I processed these thoughts lately, it came to me that I would probably be a lot happier, calmer, more peaceful in life if I could tame the beast that is my pride.

But, do I really have the guts to say the prayer that gets me help with that one?

I’ve prayed for humility before, usually by hedging.  Give me more humility, please God, but please don’t make the lesson painful.  That was usually the gist of my prayers.

This morning, as I began my phrase, God, have mercy on me a sinner, I knew what the ending needed to be.  But, I had to take several deep breaths before I could finish the statement.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner, and make me humble.

Praying for humility with no qualifiers and really wanting it means I have to be willing to experience pain.  The Bible teaches that through perseverance we learn patience and through patience we build character.

I am not looking forward to the lessons I am going to be facing as I continue to pray to God to remove my pride.  But I believe in His blessings for the humble enough to know that this is one prayer I must have the guts to pray if I expect to allow God to work to the good what He has planned for my life.

His will, not mine.  His omnipotence, my humility.

What prayer have you not had the guts to pray?  Get on your knees now and pray it.  God will bless you for it, even if the initial answer seems truly painful.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

The Trouble With Masks

20120706-202356.jpgWe all need a little bit of protection now and again. For example, if my sister figures out I posted this picture of her all geared up for some winter horseback riding, I will need some full body armor. But I wonder how often the protections we put on daily, those invisible masks and personality traits that we have used to wall ourselves away from the potential hurts of this world, actually keep us from truly reaching out to others as God intended us to do? After all, He is more interested in us showing love to others than in keeping our sense of pride in tact.

Actually, God is quite against pride, a fact I seem to often forget. Pride keeps me from saying “I love you” to people who may need most to hear it. It keeps me from sharing my doubts with others when realizing that we all have similar questions about this world and our places in it might have been just what somebody else needed to hear. Pride lets me fall into the trap of thinking that I am doing a pretty good job in my Christian walk, blinding me to my own sin and making me judgmental about the sin it is so easy to see in others. I believe Jesus said something about a log and a toothpick.

I learned the value of stripping away masks when I began my yoga class several years ago. Having never been an athletic person, I pre-determined that I was going to be the worst student in the class and that THAT WAS GOING TO BE OK. Approaching my exercise in this way freed me to concentrate on what was most important for my yoga, which was paying attention to what my own body was telling me as I tried the exercises. This decision to strip away my masks also allowed me to share when it was asked of me in a way that would benefit both me and my sharing partner. I have become a more open person in all aspects of my life, just because I decided to be myself in an otherwise intimidating exercise class.

As for the protection part of masks, Paul gives us directions for a far superior form of protection, available to us through the grace of God. In Ephesians 6, he writes that we should put on the full armor of God:

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Our enemy isn’t really each other, after all. We are all in this same struggle together, and none of us escape the ultimate destiny of every human existence. Instead of masks that cut us off from each other, we should be banding together against our true enemy, the evil one who would keep us from the Ultimate One.

No mask is worth keeping someone else from the love of Christ. Next time your pride or insecurities tempt you to put one on, think about that. Loving others may mean looking a bit silly sometimes, but the ultimate goal of salvation far outweighs any indignities we might suffer.