(Reading List Theme 3.4)

Why is it SO HARD sometimes to set proper priorities? Which task should I do first on my list today? Should I take care of my kids first, or clean my house? Should I work on that thing that is on a deadline, or take care of the thing that has been eating away at the back of my mind, so that I can actually concentrate on the deadline thing? Should I brush my teeth first, or floss first? Should I eat my vegetables or dessert first? Which bill/expense should I pay on this check, and which one should wait until the next check? Should I spend time with God first, or do everything else first?

Some of these seem obvious, some less so… but the last one is the one I feel SHOULD be obvious, and yet it is so often the other way around. “Seek first MY kingdom and MY revealed will, justice, and grace and everything else will fall into place” (Matthew 6:33 – my version). I have not blogged in over three weeks because I have been so overwhelmed with moving into our new home, a busy schedule otherwise, and a pregnancy now almost half way through, which leaves me tired. Though I HAVE been in the Word of God (a little) and I have been at church, in worship, and in prayer, there hasn’t been a whole lot of personal “quality time” with God lately. And my soul feels it. Things are not falling into place – because I have not been taking time to seek God first.

Picking up on my posted reading list on the blog, I meet Elijah again, in 1 Kings 18. It is now three years into the drought that began in the previous chapter, and people are at a breaking point. Elijah has been laying low in the neighboring country of Sidon, when God says, “Return to Israel to King Ahab (who hates you), and I will send rain” (18:1).

Elijah had apparently not been active in “prophet work” – doing public miracles or sharing God’s word with the people, for Ahab had been unable to find him those three years (18:10). But apparently, what he had been doing, was staying in the presence of God – for the presence of God is not dependent on a location, but on an open heart. He raised the widow’s son from the dead, and he now returned, full of the Power of the Holy Spirit still, with great faith to do this amazing miracle we see in this chapter. Though he had been laying low, Elijah had his priorities straight.

Are you in a drought? This morning I feel tired, spent, worn out, and a little distant from God. But also encouraged, because of a conversation I had with a friend, who is just beginning her journey back to God after a few years of difficult times, desperate decisions, and in many ways, having given up. But now, she has the courage to start over, leave an abusive relationship, and see what God may have for her. “It’s not like when I finished college and was starting over – that was exciting.” This is scary, this is unknown, and she knows that she is broken and in need of healing. A few weeks ago I went to visit her, and she was still not ready, not able to leave what she knew was a bad situation. “You were the first person to give me any hope in a long time.” I am encouraged, because she is walking toward freedom now. I didn’t do anything really fantastic, but I was there for her, I loved her where she was, and reminded her of the hope and open arms of God. I realized for myself – I needed to reconnect today. I need to find that hope and follow God’s leading every day of my life, so I don’t lose myself in the cares of this life.

When Elijah came to Israel, he asked, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, then follow him.” They didn’t know who they should serve – the God on whom their country was founded, the God of their ancestors, or the god/Baal of the current age. They were frozen. But they were open to a “test” (18:21-24).

Their journey back toward God started that day, as they saw the grotesqueness and futility of the worship of evil (18:28-29), and the power of God clearly manifest over the power of that false god they had worshipped. The journey back to God wasn’t completed in a day – in fact, the influence of evil King Ahab continued to have widespread effects on Israel and Judah for many, many years. But that day there was a victory, and God brought the people out of the drought (18:39-40, 45).

Personally, I have never seen God do anything as dramatic as what happened in this chapter, or done anything really as bold as what Elijah did in challenging the prophets, drenching that altar (an extravagant waste of water in the middle of a drought, it would seem!), and then calling down the fire of God upon it. I have also not often felt the urgency to pray for something or someone as diligently as Elijah does at the end of this chapter. But I do see God answer prayers, every day. I see him heal people of physical and emotional wounds, and I see him restore lives and bring hope when there seems to be no cause for it. I see him provide financially for those who are faithful to give to him and trust him with money as he asks us to. I experience his love, forgiveness, and the sense of family that comes when we are in a community of people who serve him. And I see how a simple act of love can change a life and give them the hope and courage to walk away into the unknown with God, relying on his promise that he has for us a hope and a future, even when we’ve been living in sin and exile (Jeremiah 29). Are these things not also miracles?

Lord, as I go through my day and the coming week, I pray that you would help me set my eyes on you when I feel dry or overwhelmed, that in seeking you, I will find my peace and my priorities align, and go where I need to be that day. I pray I would be connecting with you often, so that when the time comes for me to show the way to someone who has lost you, or never known you, I will have that cup of cold water to offer, the hope that they need of a better life. I pray for my friend who is on her way to a new life, and for those who have not yet committed to that journey, but are considering it. Bring us your rain, your sign of greatness over all else we might commit ourselves to (worship), and give us courage to take bold steps of faith. Amen.