Sunday, March 30, 2008

Just a Reminder

We don't always know why what is happening to us is happening.

Sometimes we're not even sure what is going on in our lives!

I was given this cross today with these haphazard lines etched into it.

Okay...this is interesting...

But when seen from a different perspective; or shall I say, the right perspective, all of a sudden the lines are no longer random. They contain a message; they have a reason for being there and it all makes sense.

Isaiah 55: 8 says "My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."


That is not new information to you is it?

We've known for a long time that "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him...according to His purpose for them" (Romans 8:28). It just takes seeing the events of our lives from God's point of view, and trusting that even when we don't know what is happening, that God knows what he is doing. The events of our lives are not random: there is a purpose in what is happening to us.


I just wanted to remind you...

(If you can't read it, the verse on the cross is Jeremiah 31:3 a very appropriate truth to remember when we haven't a clue as to what God is doing in our lives.)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sunrise

The sun rose over my couch this morning.

Well, not literally, but from where I was sitting that's how it appeared and that's the last thing I saw as now the sun was shinning right in my eyes.

All I could see, or maybe perceive is a better term, was brightness: everything else was washed out. My furniture had form but no longer had color. There was brightness like a spotlight across my Bible and journal. Even when I had to close my eyes I could still see that brightness, and feel the warmth from outside the window and across the room.

The light of the sun dominated, overwhelmed, filled up all of my senses - there was nothing else but the sun - it's light and it's warmth was my whole world in that moment.

The words of a song came to mind:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
In the light of His glory and grace."

And these verses:
"The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace"
Numbers 6: 24-26

And if the light of the sun could have such an effect on my life this morning, what would the effects be of the Son lifting the light of His countenance on my, or your, soul today?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Life of Faith

I sat in a cemetery today and realized that I was surrounded by family members who had left me such a legacy of faith. My parents, grandparents, and an aunt: all of them who had lived a life of faith and now it was up to me. Their faith has been realized; home with their Lord.

When my children sit at my grave site or my grandchildren see my name, what legacy will I have left?

I don't think my parents ever did anything "great" for the Lord: they didn't write books, or go on speaking tours, although my dad did lead singing on TV when our church services were televised. But what I do know is that they were faithful: singing and serving, tithing and teaching Sunday school, just doing that day in, day out serving the Lord kind of stuff. Raising a family and being consistent in what they said and what they did. Nothing spectacular but significant nonetheless because of their influence I am who I am and doing what I am doing.

There is nothing like spending time among the dead to make one reassess how they're living.
I may end up doing nothing spectacular either by the time I've come to the end of my days, but I've realized again today that I just need to live faithfully - day in and day out - and trust that when all my days have been accounted for that my life will have also been significant.

And these words said of my life also"...they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord." Psalms 107:43

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hope and Mud

I cleared my garden plot yesterday of all the leaves from the fall that had mounded on top of it through the winter.

It seemed like an appropriate day to do so, it being Easter Sunday.

As I pulled the leaves away I discovered that there were many green shoots that had been growing, unseen, beneath the soggy, decomposing leaves.

Hope.

Hope in spite of dismal conditions, and oppressive circumstances.

Hope surrounded by mud.

Someday those shoots may develop into beautiful flowers that will only appreciate the exquisiteness of a cut crystal vase. They may bring joy to a friend by means of a bouquet. They may bring a smile to the face of one walking past the house.



Now, it's not much, but I guess that is the nature of hope - that in time what is wished for will bloom and do so beautifully - even if it is currently just a small desire in a bed of mud.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter


It's Easter weekend. Spring is coming and this greatest of Christian holidays is upon us.

Well okay, given that Easter is as early this year as it ever can be and that I've already seen TV footage of children in winter gear running across snowy fields to scoop up those brightly colored plastic eggs; it's not exactly spring so it will be a little different this year. I've just read that the last time Easter was this early was 1913 and the next time won't be until 2228. So enjoy those eggs in the snow, it may well be a once in a lifetime experience! But, whenever it is observed, Easter is a time of tradition.

My family will start the day with the egg hunt in the house that will hold the clues as to where the Easter baskets are hidden. We'll dress for church and my daughter will put on her new dress, and I will have to convince my son to not wear sweat pants and a t- shirt to church this morning because it is Easter and he looks so nice dressed up. We'll have egg casseroles at the church breakfast and the children will sing. We'll enter the sanctuary permeated from the scent of many Easter lilies on the platform. We will sing "Christ the Lord is risen today" with great exuberance and hear again of Christ's resurrection. We'll then go home, have an Easter dinner and then, Easter Sunday will be over. And the next day will be Monday.

This is the way it has been, with minor variations, for many years. It's good. It's comfortable. It's traditional. And by the next Sunday, all that will remain will be a few jelly beans and some very hard yellow peeps.
We've done Easter most of our lives.
We know the story and appreciate the demonstration of God's power.

Yet, I live as though Easter is just another holiday to observe and then I cross it off the calender and go on with my life; my day after day after busy day life. Is it because the wrappings of life, the concerns, conflicts, and crises of my days have wound themselves around my spirit as tightly as the linen strips that bound the body of Christ, and my spirit is just as dead?

I expect no Easter.
That was then, this is now.
This is life and it's busy and complicated and hard and this is just how it is.

So when Easter comes, I can hide eggs and sing glorious hymns, but I can no more raise my soul to new life than one can walk out of the grave. I can try to be more positive, more loving, more faithful and compassionate: I can even try to be more prayerful and more attentive to God's voice.

Yet the power of the resurrection does not lay in me but belongs to God.
Only He can truly give new life to my heart.
It is He that even must give me the desire for new life:"For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him." ( Philippians 2: 13)

"Lord, my life has taken over my heart and my love and relationship with you. I sing the hymns but I don't talk to the Savior. I know the words, but I've lost the meaning. I came to the cross because I needed You. Your redemption of my heart produced such joy and love in me. I'm so busy living my life and caring for all that you've given me but along the way, I no longer hear your voice, my heart no longer beats with the passion it once did for you. I hear you say "Come and talk with me" (psalms 27:8) but I do not respond "Lord, I am coming" for there are too many things that keep me from you. Release me from the cares of my life that keep my heart cold towards you and give me new life that revels in communion with you."


And to you, those who will read this and find yourself also in need of resurrection: "Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you will all our need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him. " Hebrews 13:20,21


And may Monday find you with new life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Choices

It was a beautiful 40 degree spring day.
I'm on a chair lift surrounded by picturesque mountain beauty enjoying a smooth and easy ride to the top.
Idyllic was the perfect word describing that moment.

Three minutes later I had a new adjective: terrified.
I am flying over packed snow on two thin pieces of, what are they, wood? plastic? what difference does it make - the point is, it's not a lot!

My arms and poles are flailing wildly (aren't things that are flailing always doing so wildly? anyway...)
Adrenaline, produced by pure panic is coursing through my heart that is way above an acceptable aerobic heart rate.
I should not have come down this run (and that might well be the understatement of the year)!

But this was the choice that I had made.
Did I know what I was getting into when I'd made this choice? I thought so.
Was my understanding accurate? Not at all.
Was I experiencing the consequences of my decision? Absolutely.

My beautiful, enjoyable, and easy ride had brought me to this place.

In Matthew 7: 13,14 there is reference to two paths available to follow. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." This scripture references the way to get to heaven as small, narrow, and difficult. The way to hell is broad, wide, and easy.

Often we find that to be also true in other choices in our lives. How often is the easier choice the best one? And we know full well how often the best choice is the one that is going to be more difficult.

In John's Bunyan's book Pilgrims Progress, Pilgrim and his fellow traveler were instructed to stay on the narrow way, no matter what.
The allegory goes on though to show how several times it was so much easier to walk along the broad path, for just a little way, because it was smoother and more pleasant and each time, they ended up in trouble.
When the Bible says to us "Thou shalt not..." God is really saying "Don't do this because it will hurt you."

Yet we still make the wrong choices.

Do we know what we're getting into when we make these choices? We think so.
Is our understanding accurate? Not at all.
Will we experience the consequences of this decision? Absolutely.

Does God forsake us when we've done this?

Hmmm?

Does He?

When we leave his way, when we sin, when we reject his commands and decide instead to forge our own path, does God turn his back and give up on us?

I will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

I created you and have cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime - until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. Isaiah 46:3

And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ comes back again. Philippians 1:6


God has committed Himself to us.

This is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weakness, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:14- 16

If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness - I John 1:9


God invites us to come back to Him.

And this is my favorite verse of all:

If we are unfaithful,
He remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.
I Timothy 2:13


We may be unfaithful,
but God's faithfulness is not dependant on how reliable we are.
God's love is not determined by how much we love him for "He first loved us." (I John4:19)

If I make the wrong choice, God does not abandon me.
"The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. (Psalms 34:17) but it's up to me to call.

So, as the Holy Spirit says:
"Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts."
Hebrews 3:7,8

Thursday, March 13, 2008

THIS Moment


THIS moment - not the one that just ended, nor the one that is going to come next.
What about this moment?

Steven Curtis Chapman has a song titled, "Moment made for Worshipping". I was listening to it while walking and as I walked it began snowing with those large swirling flakes that make you feel like you're in a snow globe.
It was beautiful and serene and the combination of the song and the snow gave me a moment of pause - this really was a great moment, perfectly made for worshipping.

There is much written about moments:

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away"

"We do not remember days, we remember moments."


"Every beat of my heart, is another new place to start."

I'd read that Steven Covey, in one of his lectures about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, asked an audience how many of them were smokers. Hands were raised and Covey told them they were wrong; they were not smokers, for in that moment, they were not smoking, at this moment, they were all non smokers and if they chose to, in the next moments, they could continue to be non smokers.

Who am I in this moment?
Maybe I am one who eats well as I've chosen a whole grain cereal over a sweet roll this morning, or maybe I am a productive member of society as I've already started the days chores or...(fill in your own blanks here.)

But, what if who I am, in this moment, is not who I want to be?

What if, in this moment, I am not where I could be and am far from the one who has called me to be His own and enjoying communion with him?

George McDonald, over a hundred years ago wrote, "Never wait for fitter time or place to talk to Him. To wait till thou go to church or to thy closet is to make him wait. He will listen as thou walkest."

Every beat, every beat, of your heart is another new place to start.

No matter who you were or what happened in the last moment.
You now have this moment.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wait until the flowers bud

It's been a long, long winter.
Everyone, I mean every one I've talked to in recent weeks has commented on how long and bleak this season has been. I read somewhere that we had 10 hours of sunshine in the entire month of February - only 10 hours! No wonder everyone is feeling that winter will never be over!

In talking about Easter decorations today my friend said she can't bring herself to put out the bunnies yet while there is still snow on the ground, they may freeze their little cotton tails off!

We change time this weekend: "Spring Ahead". Ugh! I've appreciate lately that the sun has gotten up before I have - I'm not looking forward to prying myself out of bed in the dark; it's hard enough to get up some mornings.

Will Winter ever end? Will Spring ever come?

Yes. Of course.

We know this because we are not infants.
We've lived through this cycle of seasons before.
We know that someday the sun will have been shinning for hours before we leave our slumber and will just be creeping beneath the horizon before the ten o'clock news begins.
There will be flowers, and green grass and warm breezes again.
There will be no need of coats for protection.
There will be renewed energy and laughter will be contagious.

It's been a long season of bleakness for so many I've talked with lately.
There hasn't been much light.
It seems there never will be, since it's been so long since there has been.

But Easter is coming...

Easter is our own holiday to remember that the Light of the World cannot long be shrouded by darkness.

"We sorrow not as those who have no hope..."(I Thessalonians 4:13) because Christ is risen he has conquered death. A day to remember that God has the power to raise up what is dead from the depths of hell and bring to a glorious ascension to heaven.

And, if one can conquer death, which is the greatest enemy, the finality of our lives here on earth; then He is powerful enough to conquer the winters of our lives.

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted;
He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.
The Lord looks after those who fear him, those who put their hope in his love.
He saves them from death and spares their lives in times of hunger.
So our hope is in the Lord, He is our help, our shield to protect us.
We rejoice in him, because we trust his holy name.
Lord, show your love to us as we put our hope in you." Psalms 34: 18, 33: 18-22.

Hang on.
Wait.
The flowers may be about to bud