Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our Father's Cattle

"I am God, your God! . . . I own the cattle on a thousand hills." Psalm 50:7, 10b
Very old words that speak to my now. He is God, my God, and He owns more than enough to take care of my needs. May God bless you richly through His word in this little mini-post.
I'll be back soon with new posts--thank you in advance for your patience while I give some attention to some practical life stuff (I'd so much rather be here with you!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Blessed Oxymoron

-- That's a funny title, I know.
Good - Bad High - Low Light - Dark Up - Down Victory - Defeat Success - Failure Honor - Disgrace Glory - Shame
I think it's safe to say that these pairs of words are polar opposites. There is kind of a "never the twain shall meet" quality about each combination. These are "one or the other" propositions--you can't have both, at least not simultaneously . . . or so we think. As a lover of words, I have always enjoyed oxymorons--those quirky little figures of speech that carry contradiction like cargo--"jumbo shrimp," "act natural," "same difference," or "alone together." The word oxymoron is an oxymoron itself, meaning "sharply dull." Well, I think Jesus was a living oxymoron. He was God incarnate who left His home in HEAVEN and came to EARTH for one purpose--He said that purpose was to be lifted up.
"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." John 12:32 NIV
Jesus used that phrase, "lifted up," several times as recorded by John (John 3:14, 8:28, 12:32). At first glance people might think that being lifted up meant receiving accolades and awards; but no--Jesus came to be lifted up in humiliation, disgrace, punishment, ignominy . . . lifted up on a cruel cross. Instead of the honor He was worthy to receive, Jesus was made a vivid example for all to see, of what became of people who did miracles and claimed to be the Son of God of all things! The chief priests, the Pharisees, and the Romans said to themselves with a sneer, "There, that should take care of that!" They could NOT have been more wrong! When Perfection was lifted up in lowdown disgrace to die between thieves, Jesus powerfully revealed His true glory! When the King of Kings spilled out His divine lifeblood, willingly, on purpose, because He chose to do so, He gave Himself to ransom wretches like you and me! He was lifted up to be brought low, crushed to be exalted, disgraced to show forth His true glory!
God-man Born to Die Lifted up in Humiliation Perfection Punished Glory through Disgrace King's blood to rescue wretches Eternal Life wrestled from the clutches of darkest death
So yes, Jesus is my blessed oxymoron, a divine contradiction that makes perfect sense!
Out of the middle of a condemned pier, grows a little bush, the lone living thing in the crumbling ruin. Life out of death--a little visual oxymoron to remind us to live in stunning contradiction to the pull of sin and death . . . like Jesus did.
Share your thoughts with me about Jesus' glory and the ways He reveals it to you in unlikely places!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Never Forsaken

-- There is a doubting whisper swirling about during these uncertain days . . . have you heard it? People talk about it, wonder about it, don't know what to do about it . . . some even write blogs about it :) IT is the feeling that God is . . . nowhere to be found . . . distant . . . cold . . . ignoring our cries . . . indifferent to our suffering . . . somewhere else . . . too late . . . not coming . . . IT comes in many forms, but IT boils down to the sinking sensation that because we sometimes don't feel Him close, maybe He doesn't love us after all. IT. IS. A. LIE! But this well-crafted lie is so commonly FELT among skeptics and believers alike. We feel it when we're disappointed, when things don't go our way. We feel it when we're afraid, when we can't see around the bend. We feel it when stupid, earth-ish aggravations happen at absolutely the wrong time. We feel it when we ask Him for help and it appears to us that He hasn't and won't. We feel it when, like in Haiti, the unthinkable happens and we know He could have prevented it. We don't understand why He seems so quiet, and too often we are inclined to feel abandoned and alone. There is no wrong in wondering about the silent times--I know them well as my family is three years deep in the challenges that have followed my husband's job loss. There have been such big questions and times when it has felt like God was ignoring me. Usually I feel an easy flow of connectedness with God. My days and nights are a running conversation with Him, almost like on the phone when, even if no one is speaking, I can hear that the line is open and there is someone on the other end. However, there are other times when God gets quiet, so quiet that it FEELS like the call has been dropped and my voice is bouncing back to me, tinny and flat. The temptation is to think He hung up on me, but that is when I have to trust what I know, and NOT what I feel. There is a powerful dynamic that happens in our relationship with God when we want Him relentlessly, when we refuse to give up in the face of His silence. It reminds me of the famous night when Jacob wrestled with God in the form of a man, the pre-incarnate Christ. Jacob struggled hard with Him through the long night, unwilling to let go until God blessed Him. This kind of clinging to God in desperate, gritty determination may result, like it did for Jacob, in God "changing our name" (that's a good thing), because of our changed and deepened relationship with Him. As maddeningly silent as God can be, His is the silence of Presence, not the silence of absence. God isn't playing childish and insensitive games with the hearts of His children! Instead, He very much wants to create an insatiable hunger in us, a hunger for HIM. In the struggle, in the wrestling with God in prayer, despite His sometimes silence, let yourself discover how desperately you need Him! That realization is powerful stuff that will change you from the inside out. He will not be silent forever, and you will find that your fervent prayer has availed much.
"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." Psalm 9:10 NIV
No matter how alone you feel, God is closer than you know! How will you cling to Him this week? If you know someone who is feeling alone, this picture is available as a greeting card that might really be an encouragement.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wild Sky and Promises

-- Storm watch! For days ahead of time they warned of a stack of storms from the Pacific. Anticipation . . . then . . . I awoke to the sound of rain bullets pelting windows in the wee hours, driving wind forcing water sideways. Drummer Boy stumbled out of bed early--I think he couldn't resist nature's finest percussion--he probably wondered if he could play his double-bass that fast! What a wild, raucous celebration!! Like an orchestra playing big bold brassy music, with cymbals crashing and timpanis thundering, the weather was a wild thing all day! Rain started. . . and stopped . . . and started again. My 4th floor office affords almost a 360° view and there was a lot to see! By late afternoon, a cloud made of midnight crested over the hills to the west, while the east side of the building was bathed in light as warm as morning sun! It seemed night and day were colliding directly above us! All at once, the rain in that rolling black thunderhead crashed hard, enveloping us on every side, like it must be raining all over the world. I worked, it rained . . . the minutes stretched inside the storm . . . until . . . the sun beat back the cloud again! Now the midnight cloud was on the east side, and the sun on the west had begun its sundown show, all gold and glitter. I stood up from my computer and went to the window next to my desk, on the east side of the building--there against the backdrop of that deep, dark cloud, was the most intense and perfectly complete DOUBLE rainbow. I could have cried over not being allowed to have my camera there to capture its radiant colors! Thank goodness for the camera of memory that will save it for me. Like another wild January sky I did have my camera for, this one today was convincing evidence of my great and grand Creator God who has such a sense of showmanship! How I love the productions He puts on!! And the double-layered promise of His rainbow, on MY side of the building, felt so personal to me. The promise of His faithfulness, the promise of His love, written there for all to see and for me to take to heart.
"Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens" Job 38:37 NIV "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:16 NIV
God is powerful! God is faithful! God keeps His promises!
Do you see Him in the storm? Do you take shelter in Him and watch for His power at work? What promises are you holding close to your heart while the storm is in motion?

holy experience

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Straight Path in a Crooked World


Welcome to my world. Traffic here in the Bay Area is a constant consideration in nearly everything we want to do. It becomes part of every decision, every plan, every schedule. I live with it and try to work with it, but I don't like it!

Does your world ever look like this? Do you feel like everything moves too fast? Is it hard to see clearly because of your breakneck pace and all the urgent and instantaneous actions and reactions for which you must always be ready? Does this ever happen to you--just when everything is speeding out of control, inexplicably, traffic comes to a halt, leaving you stuck at a standstill when you desperately need to show up on time?

Now, the emotions that were hovering just below a simmer, bubble up to a full boil and you're in danger of succumbing to road rage! Like those hot-headed people in the news w
ho lose their temper over time pressures and inconsiderate drivers, you find it all too easy to react badly to the stresses of your too-tight schedule. Even with the best of intentions, you can feel caught between cross-purposes, and the constraints of managing the cares of this life.

Sometimes a little planning ahead of time is all it takes to alleviate the pressure, but sometimes even the most disciplined plans can't account for the unforeseen. What do we do then?

How do we avoid a fit of road-rage?

How do we find our way through the obstacles?

How do we navigate when we're being cut off and wedged in and squeezed out?

In my car I am blessed to have 1) a GPS navigation system, 2) the OnStar service, and 3) a hands free phone to help me in a variety of situations. These are extremely helpful tools to keep me on course, and to assist me if I have a problem. It is a great comfort to see a map in front of me and to know that help is just a button away.

Even better than the high tech help I get from my car's cool features, I have a God who ALWAYS hears me when I call. He ALWAYS knows WHERE I AM and WHERE I'M GOING. As cool as my GPS system in my car can be, it occasionally will have a glitch and think I'm somewhere I'm not, hundreds of miles from where I really am--from that point on, all its directions are dead wrong. Not so with God!! The tracking system He has on me never glitches and His directions are always right. He even has ways to straighten the paths that have been made crooked, whether by my own doing or by the designs of the enemy.

"Lead me, O LORD . . .
make straight your way before me."

There is never a need to drive around in crooked tracks, lost and confused . . . never a reason to take vengeance on a co-traveler on the road we're on . . . and never a time when we are without help and hope to guide us home. When we rely on God's leading, He will make our paths straight and make our journey a joy.
How has God shown you His leading and made His way straight before you this week?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Door

-- "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." John 10:9 NASB Jesus paints Himself in the simplest of things, such familiar things. The Bread of life, the Light of the world, the Lamb of God, and here He calls Himself "the Door." For the longest time I didn't understand how Jesus could, in the same breath, be both the Good Shepherd and the Door for His sheep. Only after studying the shepherds of Jesus' day, did it become clearer for me. For the protection of his flock, a shepherd would lie down, placing his own body across the threshold of the doorway of the fold through the night, saying in essence, "you can't get to my sheep without going through me." He became the door to keep the sheep in and to keep the predators out. In the morning, he would lead his sheep to pastures of his choosing, always going before them. Evening would find him leading his sheep back to the shelter of the sheep pen, where he would hold his staff low across the entrance, allowing only one sheep at a time to go in, stopping to check each one for signs of injury. He knew each sheep by name and cared for not only the needs of the whole flock, but each one individually. Jesus, our Door, wants to be our way in, and our way out. He wants to be the One who keeps us safe and secure. He put His own body, His own life down on the cross, to permanently be our shield and defender. He keeps us as believers in, and no enemy can ever take us out! He is the One who provides us passage into the wide world, He finds us pastures where we can do the work of reaching people for Him. Then at night, when He leads us back to the fold for rest, he bends low in the doorway, inspecting each of us for any signs of injury so He can bind up our wounds and care for our needs until we are well and whole. Last night I limped home from the pasture, sad and discouraged that I simply could not make my self-determined Wednesday deadline for this post. All I could do was to rest in His care, and let Him bind up the bumps and bruises of the day. Jesus is daily my way in and my way out, and I can trust Him in every situation and put my confidence in Him, because He calls me by name, treats me with tender care and I am safe in Him. This morning, I give you this very small offering in the prayer that somehow it can be a blessing and encouragement to you. Please accept my humble apologies for bringing it to you a day late.
How does it help you to know Jesus as both Shepherd and Door?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Memories That Transcend

As a little girl, there were few things I loved as much as trips to the mountains
. My folks would pack up our Volkswagen and we would leave the verdant corn fields of the fertile Iowa plains in pursuit of the wilder beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Some of our biggest dreams, God-sized dreams, were born there.

We would camp among the towering trees of National Forests and make hot chocolate and S'mores at our evening campfire. At dawn, my Iowa farm-girl mom was already up, cooking scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast--there is nothing like the smell of sizzling bacon blended with the heady fragrance of pine trees and morning-crisp mountain air! Oh! Take me back!!

Our days would find us in our intrepid Volkswagen, Daddy driving, treating the little red bug like a jeep or a mountain goat depending on the quality of the road that had caught our fancy. The place
s we went!! The things we saw!! The rarefied air we breathed!! "No clan on earth possesses the memories that transcend those of the men and women [and little girls] who love the high places . . . " Belmore Browne 1941

I remember once when I was probably 4 or 5, looking out the window at the view, saying to my parents, "God sure has a good imagination!" From that first realization at that young age, I have never gotten over it--WILL never get over it!!

Both the depths of Colorado's 1,178-ft deep Royal Gorge,

and the breath-taking 14,259-ft heights of Long's Peak, are HIS.

They BELONG to Him!

They exis
t because He wants them to be here.

"The depths of the earth are in His hand,
and the mountain peaks are His." Psalm 95:4 HCSB

Knowing He made, and holds in His mighty hand, both the depths and the heights, fills me with indescribable awe. If His creation is made on such a grand and heart-pounding scale, what must He be like??? Oh to know the One who is capable of such things!! Oh to realize that Someone so great, so mighty, is so personally concerned about me!! It makes me catch my breath just like standing on the edge of the Royal Gorge or seeing Long's Peak and the other "fourteeners," the mountain giants that dot the Rockies, towering above everything else.

My nephew recently had his own moment of revelation when he looked out at the first white blanket of winter and said excitedly, "I'm so proud of God--He made snow!!" YES!!
God imagined all this . . . made what He imagined . . . and sustains all He made and imagined.

He is both powerful and tender, infinite and personal. Somehow, He is simultaneously completely transcendent, thoroughly immanent and utterly immediate! There is no one like Him!! I pray that in the ordinariness of daily days, we would ponder the heights of His greatness and the depths of His love for us . . . and be changed by them both. 

Where do you connect with God?
What do your special places tell you of Him?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Frame Within the Frame

-- From within dark and damp decay inside a hollow tree trunk, an unexpected light caught my attention. Changing my angle for a closer look, I discovered a favorite thing--a frame within the frame. The leafy light that filtered into the rotting tree was all the brighter for the surrounding dark inside. It glowed warm and soft despite the chill of the day and the winter white light of the hazy sun.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5 TNIV
Today, I had to change my angle of observation to look for the frame within the frame of my life. When I looked for it, there it was--light shining in the darkness. While I felt somewhat surrounded by evidence of decay and diminishing joy, God gave me opportunities to speak His encouragement to people who needed His touch. In shining His light into dark moments of a very mundane day, His bright, warm glow sparkled back all over me!
"The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out." John 1:5, The Message
I pray for you that His Life-Light would blaze from your heart as a frame within the frame and that the darkness would never be able to put it out!
How do you let your light shine?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Mercies

-- Like a painter's palette holding orange and gold and purple . . . the glory of a new day comes in vivid color. Painted by the Artist's imagination, a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-seen-again masterpiece. The day, only just begun, stretches out, as yet unlived, untouched. Birthed in radiant beauty, it holds fresh promise bathed in new mercies.
" . . . His mercies begin afresh each morning." Lamentations 3:23 NLT
If the tiny new beginning of a new morning brings God's new mercies, what do you suppose the dawn of not only a new year, but a new decade must bring? Where the year ahead is all a big unknown to us, He is already well-acquainted with every moment of it. He has a limitless supply of Himself with which to meet our every moment's need . . . with new mercies. So I wrote Saturday night in anticipation of my Sunday publishing day.
Sunday morning: Well, just as I was writing about being able to rely on God's merciful presence in the new year, this morning is already giving me "opportunity" to draw on those new mercies. Sometime during the night, my computer decided to break down--a jolting thing for someone who uses and relies on her computer as much as I do. I'm sure you can relate to my heart-dropping feeling when I got up early to write, only to find that my computer's power switch would. not. respond. Thankfully, My Tony's laptop is pinch-hitting. My temptation is to be frustrated at the inconvenience, worried about what it will cost to fix, upset about the difficulties this presents and let down that my hopes for a wonderful Sunday, and a wonderful year of Sundays in 2010 are already being challenged . . . BUT . . . NEW MERCIES! Right at the point where I am writing of my hope and joy in entering a new year, the enemy would like nothing better than to derail me before I can hit "Publish." As tempting as it is to give in to my natural inclinations, I am reminded of something Martin Luther said,
"If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
I have a choice--today, and every day of 2010, I suspect--to be a steady soldier on my own battlefield and live out my faith and loyalty, or to flinch at that "little" point where the attack is coming, and face the disgrace of living beneath my privilege. With "new mercies" every morning, I have no reason to fail to rely on them--they are there for me exactly when I need them. I need them this morning, and I choose to draw on their unfailing provision. God is here, and with or without my computer, I can praise Him and live victoriously above the fray, rejoicing in the grandeur of the dawn of a new year, a new decade, fresh with promise, bathed in new mercies.
Where do you want to learn to rely on His mercies being new every morning? How can I pray for you?


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