Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We're in this together.........

I do like J.R.R. Tolkien, but honestly am not obsessed.  With the new Hobbit movie just out, rereading the book to Adam before he saw the movie, and our visit to The Shire recently, his works have been on my mind more than usual.   But the reason hobbits and dwarves have been part of my thoughts frequently this week has nothing to do with books or movies---it's because of a song.

"The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug" ends rather abruptly, but that fact is quickly redeemed by the hauntingly beautiful and strangely moving song by Ed Sheeran "I See Fire."  (Click on name of song to hear it!) Worth sitting for a bit more and listening to in Dolby while the credits roll.  Our kids love this song and it's heard frequently around the house these days. It's fortunate that I like the song because it keeps playing over and over in my head as well.

Yesterday as it randomly meandered across my subconscious mind yet another time, I wondered what it is about the song that 'makes' it. It's beautiful, yes, but that alone would get old quickly.  I decided it had to be a 'right' combination of the whole; music, vocals, and the words that strike an emotional chord and makes it worth listening to repeatedly.  

It's a song about tragedy.  Desolation coming with no reprieve.  Hope lost.  But in the song is intense comradery as well.  Words like, "If this is to end in fire then we shall all burn together."  It's about facing insurmountable odds, but with your friend who is even closer than a brother by your side.  Brothers in arms.  Brothers in battle.  Brothers in a cause worth dying for. 

Comradery, one of the deepest motivators of the human spirit.  Soldiers have known it for ages past.  Deep fellowship is the longing of our hearts.  Loving someone enough to die for them and knowing without doubt that they would do the same for us.  How precious it is when we find it!  And nothing brings people together like a common cause.

I've never been a solider but I've seen working for a common cause in action in what was our other home of the past several years.  While the foreigners working in the area were from different countries, often had different opinions and ideas, and different personalities, everyone came together because of a common goal.  If it was clear that something was what was best for the women that we served, then there was no argument whatsoever.  There was an incredible willingness to lay aside differences and find a common solution to whatever comes for the sake of the 'cause'.  The task before us was so great that it was worth shoving down our own pride because we knew that we needed each other and could not be effective on our own---and we all cared about something enough to do it.

That must be why Satan works so hard to divide the Body of Christ, destroy friendships, decimate marriages, devastate families.  Because 'two are better than one' (Ecc. 4:9) and we can do little on our own.  He is bent on destroying fellowship, wants us to turn inward, and fans the flame of selfishness into the destruction that he desires.

"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will love forever."  (I Jn. 2:15-17)

The battle for the mind is in the 'I'. What 'I' want.  What 'I' crave.  Looking inward at the 'I'.  It singles us out from the herd, makes us weak, makes us fall.  And it's an illusion of fulfillment that won't last.

But there's a stronger way.  One worth fighting for.  One that we were designed to crave.

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

We were made for comradery and fellowship.  It's the plan of the One who redeems and doesn't 'steal, kill, and destroy.'

"I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love.  I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ himself (who cared enough to die for us--the ultimate Comrade in Arms!) In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  (Col. 2:2-3)

We have a General.  We have a Cause (freedom and life!).  We have comrades.  May our goal for this coming year be to grow in love; love for Him, love for each other, love for the multitudes in need.  

"Many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and...God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again." (A Year With C. S. Lewis)

"Let love be your highest goal..."  (I Cor. 14:1)


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our visit to the Shire.....

We recently got to go to Middle Earth.  Well, technically all over New Zealand has been filmed as part of Middle Earth, but more particularly we visited Hobbiton in the Shire.  Only a short drive away from Steve's sister's house!

What a magical place it is!  I took many more photos than these but here is a sample.

Over sized gardens so the actors playing the hobbits looked smaller. 
Place where Bilbo hops the fence and says, "I'm off on an adventure," in The Hobbit

The Party Tree (left)
One of the party tents

Bag End from a distance.  It's under the tree on the left.  That tree's not real, however, and every leaf has been sewn on by hand!
The famous door!!!

To the right of the door.  Bench where Bilbo and Gandalf hang out.  The wicker fence that you can sort of see was changed into a lower one every time Gandalf stood by it to make him look taller.
My little hobbit next to Sam's home at the end of the LOTR.  
My phone battery ran out before we got to the town center and the Green Dragon.  Every tour ends with a drink at the Green Dragon, an intricately carved place with attention given down to the smallest detail.  Amazing!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unexpected Love - Merry Christmas!

There's a little gray cat that comes to call but belongs to the people next door.  He comes and goes and often for days on end doesn't come at all.  But then he shows up unexpectedly, meowing at odd times to come inside for a cuddle and a play.  And he makes us smile.

And I'm convinced that this cat hears the voice of God.  Because even though he's not ours, he often comes at times when one of us is lonely or sad. Like late in the evening a while back after I dropped Steve off at the airport to go back to our other home for a while.  I didn't even realize that I needed a snuggle until there was a fuzzy warm bundle purring on my lap.

Sometimes God reaches out to us in unexpected ways.

We had visitors from overseas recently and enjoyed being tourists alongside of them for a bit.  One of the 'must do' (but that I hadn't done yet!) things of New Zealand is to go to the glow worm caves.  We watched a documentary about the worms first and learned that they're somewhat repulsive creatures that eat insects caught on strands of slime similar to a spider.  But, oh, what a beautiful thing they become when the lights go out! A holy hush fell over our boat as we floated along the underground river in darkness except for an entire night sky of stars on the ceiling overhead.  One of the most unexpectedly beautiful things I've seen in a long time!  A little display of his Creative Majesty that sat there undiscovered for thousands of years whispering, "I'm here.  I wait for you.  I think about you.  I love."

Cropped from a Waitomo Glow Worm Caves brochure
The untapped depths of all that He is.

Right now we're remembering the unexpectedness of a baby.  Sent to poor parents in the midst of a journey. The most important event in history came almost unnoticed except by a few shepherds and wise men who followed a star.

God with us as a helpless babe, born to show us how to live, then to sacrifice Himself for us.  What could be more unexpected than that?

"We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life."  (I John 1:1-2)

The Disciples saw Him first hand but we 'see' Him in many ways as well; in hard times through trials when we think we've been stretched beyond what we can endure.  Yet when we're beyond ourselves we find that He is there.  We 'see' Him in a hug from a child (or neighbor's cat snuggles!) or through lights in unexpected places.  We 'see' Him in a smile or in the peace that He whispers to our hearts and the joy that shouldn't be there when life is hard, but is.  

And then we can say with Job, "I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes." (Job 42:5)

He's there showing Himself to us in countless little ways, but it's up to us to recognize, acknowledge and SEE.

So during this Christmas season let's remember not to be too busy to see Him.  Let's take a deep breath and be still........

And let a holy hush fall at the unexpectedness of all that He is and all that He does-----and worship. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Who Knows What's Best? (Continuation of my journey in learning about sheep!)

On Sunday afternoon everyone on the little lane that our land is off of got together to look after our respective sheep in the local stockyard.  A guy who sheers sheep and lives up the road came with his sheepdog. It was a fun afternoon with lots of hard work and a great feeling of community as we all helped each other.

Our own flock has grown from about twenty-five that we got for next to nothing from various people who needed to cull their herds because of dryness and lack of grass earlier in the year, to fifty-four with the coming of lambs.  This is the first time we've brought them all in and have been able to properly count them.

Steve, Aaron and I worked/played hard all afternoon giving them injections, treating them for worms and lice and Aaron even 'got' to help the man who trimmed their backsides put rings on lambs' tails to shorten them for their health and, uhem, on other places making the little future rams into less aggressive creatures.  Aaron as a big, strong boy was also the second sheep dog running around and gathering sheep while Steve drove a quad and I was a deterrent by waving my arms in the air and blocking unwanted escape routes.

And since this was my first experience ever doing something like this, I learned a lot about sheep.

Sheep are really smart---and really dumb at the same time.  They definitely have their own community, their own assumed leaders and their own forms of discipline.  Once they have bonded with them, they are devoted to their young.  They called to each other incessantly when we separated the lambs from the ewes and sorted themselves out in an amazingly short period of time when we put them back together.  While we have a perimeter fence to keep them safe, our sheep usually roam free.  They are curious about and tolerate us when we are around, but they don't know us and don't trust us.

And they don't know what we know.  They don't know about dangers from dogs and traffic, sickness and brush that they can get trapped in when their wool grows too long.  Sheep need a shepherd.

One particularly wily ewe managed to escape capture all together.  She led a small group of six other sheep, including her own twin lambs, in evasive tactics up and down hills until we gave up and decided to leave them for the next round up.  But while we're letting them have their way for now, they are still on our land, under our care and will be looked after in the future.  In the meantime, they're not getting the attention and care that they need.  They're actually hurting themselves.

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way..." 
(Is. 53:6)

I understand those words a bit better now!!!  

What do sheep long for?  They long for safety and green pastures, but they are also curious and like to roam----thinking that somewhere else might be greener and safer

Sarah Young says, "Much of this world's angst is actually a longing for the perfection of heaven."  We long for somewhere and something better.  It's the cry of our heart.  Deep within us is the knowledge that there is somewhere better.  Somewhere safer.  Somewhere full of joy and peace.

It's one of the Enemy's biggest tactics against us, this recognition that we have of something more. He likes us to think that that 'something' can be found not just in the obviously destructive and perverse, but in the distraction of the meaningless and mundane.  Things that actually steal, kill, and destroy and lead to pain.  Things that only temporarily give any sort of satisfaction and trap us in the thistles and mire.  In distraction and alienation from the One that is more, searching for "heaven in hellish ways." (Sarah Young) 

While all the while our Shepherd is there.  Perhaps He's letting us roam for now---but it's costly for us in the long run.  We won't get the care that we need.  We won't be led to the best, safe pastures available here and now.  We won't have the Something More filling our hearts without Him.  

This is what He says to His sheep:

"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.  He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you."  (Deut. 31:8)

He is our Good Shepherd.  He is trustworthy and knows what's best for us.  And He will never fail.

"God is not afraid to get his hands dirty.  Whatever kind of mess you're in, he's in it with you."  (Liz Curtis Higgs)  He's not afraid to reach down into the mire and He knows the journey that we need to take even before we do.  And we are sheep.  Every moment we live we are following SOMETHING.  And if we're not actively listening to and following our Shepherd, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are following someone or something else.  Something that does not have our best interests at heart.  That unlike our Shepherd will not give his life for the sheep.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Let's not be dumb sheep!!!
**For a really cool example of the creativity of our Shepherd click here!**

Friday, November 22, 2013

When What 'Could' Happen Does.....

Two of my overseas friends serving in different parts of the world have had a child kidnapped in the last few months.  Fortunately they were both let go after about 24 hours, but that doesn't make the trauma any less significant for parent or child.  Bad things can happen to good people and someone you love being hurt, sickness or sudden death, anything that makes you realize that your personal space is actually less 'safe' than what you thought, these are the things that can rock the foundations of our worlds.

Faith in God's protective power had never been an issue for me.  One of my earliest memories is being in a doctor's office quietly chewing the piece of gum the doctor gave me while he explained to my mom that my from birth asthma appeared to be gone; my lungs were 'strangely clear.' My parents had just become Christians and prayed a simple prayer that God immediately answered and changed my life for the better.  And I knew from early childhood that God cared about ME.

That simple faith in a caring Father carried me into motherhood with sick little ones and strange-to-me illnesses in a foreign land.  (I recently made an impressive comprehensive list of unusual conditions that our family has had over the years!) I would trust Him during days of sickness and ask Him to wake me if needed at night and would sleep like a baby.  Childlike faith is a beautiful thing.  

But things happen in this fallen world that 'shouldn't,' faith becomes more complicated, and trust can become a struggle with fear.  It can be easy to trust Him when nothing's gone 'wrong.' But once it has for whatever reason, even if He clearly walks through it with you; when what COULD happen becomes what HAS happened, regaining that child-like trust is a whole different dimension.  New territory.  I'm not sure 'child-like' is even the right word anymore.  

I thought I trusted Him before, but I've been on a journey in more recent years to regain my child-like faith from the perspective of knowing that bad things can happen to me, to those that fill my heart, and am learning to trust again anyway in a way that's measurably deeper than before.  (But it doesn't happen overnight!)

I recently read:

"So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials wills show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."  (I Peter 1:6-9)

To be honest, sometimes I'm just thinking about survival in the present, not about 'praise, glory, and honor' later!  But the principle is the same;  trials deepen faith.

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4)

But why does our faith need to grow?  It's painful and hard and unpleasant.  Wasn't our simple childlike faith good enough?  It is if that's what it truly is; faith in God alone, but James goes on to give a clue into what our untested psyche may actually be:

"But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do." (James 1:6-8)

Is that us?  How often is part of our faith in other things?  Ourselves, for example. Or another person. Our perceived 'right' to a good life because of OUR 'faithfulness' to God, etc.  There's an excellent word used in Texas to describe thoughts like these---hogwash!  (Basically rotted things fed to pigs; nonsense.)  Because deep down we know what we deserve.  And it ain't (another Texas goodie!) good stuff.  And we sure can't do it on our own.  Yet honestly, deep down in our deepest, darkest heart of hearts we often find that our faith isn't actually just in God alone----but in God and ___________ (fill in the blank).

We need to be tested.  We need to have our hearts laid bare and see what's really there.  We need to KNOW that He is faithful, not just because life is good but even when it isn't.  We need to grow in trust that He has it under control beyond a shadow of a doubt----even when we didn't realize that we doubted to start with.

We need to be able to have faith in Him even when what 'could' happen does.......

I worry, I'm afraid, and often have more questions than answers.  I read of those who have gone before and assume that I could never be like them. But then I remember that we are not defined by our doubts----but by we do with them after that.  How do we respond when troubles come and where do we turn?  Sometimes just showing up and taking that first step of faith towards God is all that it takes to lead us on to the next step, and the next step, and the next. Sometimes just turning to Him in itself is an act of genuine trust.  

And we need to know in Whom we put our trust:

"My soul clings to you;  your right hand upholds me."  (Ps. 63:8)

"The Lord knows those who are his."  (2 Tim. 2:19)

My God will certainly hear me."  (Micah 7:7)

"Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge......You guard all that is mine." 
(Ps. 16:1, 5)

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don't be afraid or troubled."  (John 14:27)

"So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.......There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."   (Heb. 4:14, 16)

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber."  (Ps. 121:2-3)

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted."  (Job 42:2)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)

This is Who He is. The Essence of Love.  The Risen One who tells us not to be afraid because he holds the keys of death and the grave. (Rev. 1: 18)

Micca Campbell said, "God cannot, shall not and will not lie.  Therefore, if God makes you a promise to help you, empower you, to never leave you, then it's your job to recognize and rely on and trust God to make good on that promise."  

Do we believe that God is bigger than ____________ (this today)?  Even this?  

Real faith develops when life doesn't turn out how we expected. Faith and trust CAN be regained.  It takes a focus on His Person, not the problem.  Faith will eventually be infinitely deeper than before.  And hope reigns.

Photo by Adam

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Other Half of Everyone's Story

November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day in New Zealand.  It has something to do with a failed plot to blow up the House of Lords in England in the 1600's.  Now I think it's just pretty much an excuse to have bonfires and fireworks!  Diwali, our kids' favorite holiday in our other home happened recently and the boys were mourning the lack of fireworks in their lives this year, so this season when bonfires and fireworks are allowed in NZ was a perfect opportunity to set that right!  (Or is that alight?)

We had a barbecue, slash bonfire, slash fireworks party Sunday night on our little farm with the family and friends who are 'family.'  It's such a nice place to hang out!  Not good enough land for a real farm, but perfect for some sheep, a couple of steers (Two just weaned 'throw away' calves that don't fit in with desired breeding were left there for us on Monday by farmer friends!) and maybe eventually a house with the restful feeling of being in the country while actually only being ten minutes from town.  

As the bonfire burned and the fireworks flared (the friend who brought the fireworks brought a little blowtorch to light them with, how smart is that!), I thought a lot about fire and flame. 

 "But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire.

 It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body.  It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue.  It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  (Notice this is not just in reference to Believers!  But all souls who have been "made in the image of God.") And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth."   (James 3:5-10)

Our bonfire was huge.  It was a windy night and while we knew that the grass around was wet enough to not spread flames farther than what we wanted, it was easy to imagine what COULD happen if the fire got out of control.  

The fire flamed.  Sparks flew and left scorch marks all around.  And while my hair has been washed since, it still smells like smoke, the remnant reminder of fire.

Sometimes the fires in our lives publicly blaze, and sometimes they're quietly raging inside where none can see; the result of hurt, pain, circumstance.  We've heard a lot about 'taking off the mask' and being real with those around us.  That's excellent but sometimes impossible advice.  Sometimes our 'fires' involve things that are really someone else's story and shouldn't yet be told.  Sometimes the telling would incite the flaming tongue of gossip.  Sometimes the experience is too raw or too new for public consumption.

The truth is that we never really know the other half of the story in the lives of those around us.

We were originally designed to uplift, support and love.  Yet far too often we criticize and condemn.  We make excuses saying that, "We didn't know!" of the pain that others were suffering.  We didn't understand what made them act like they did, so instead of love we appointed ourselves judge and jury.  And we fanned the flame of our tongues instead.

Perhaps we need to actively look for the other half of the story in people's lives.  Perhaps we need to stop being so easily offended.  Perhaps that's actually our job; to assume there's pain in things that we don't understand and become part of the healing instead.

We're all broken after all.  And, "Maybe if the broken would just love the broken we'd all be closer to the whole?"  (Ann Voskamp) 

Compassion just isn't in our natural, sinful state and it's often not easy. Sometimes it needs to be grown.  But what would happen if we made THAT our 'flame of fire' instead?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just Give Me Jesus

They come to my door every few weeks, these smiling ladies full of good intentions. They represent a different belief system but I respect what they're trying to do.  They usually come when it's not actually a good time for me, but I smile and try to be kind because I know what it's like to be rejected for your faith.  They're eternal souls after all so doesn't that make them worth a bit of my time and respect?  We talk a bit and sometimes even agree and I realize that I really do like them as sisters on planet earth.  I take what they give me and glance over it a bit later, not because I'm unsure of what I believe but because I'm always curious about what makes others tick, what puts passion in their hearts.  And if what I know to be true is true, what they're peddling doesn't threaten me at all.

This week they gave me a booklet that answers more earnest questions about their faith.  After they left I flipped to the part about who they believe that Jesus is, because isn't that the crux of the matter?  What defines the religions of the world?  The biggest question of all.

And I felt sad.

I knew this already but to read it in their own words felt harsh.  They know of the Father but don't see the Son as divine.  Not see Jesus as Divine?  Not know Him as the Advocate between Righteousness and mankind?  Not understanding the depth of the sacrifice, and therefore the incomprehensible love------for us?  For them?

I know the Trinity is hard to grasp, God-sized thoughts in man-sized brains usually are, but Jesus is the Door.  My Door.  My Lord, yet my best friend.  My Savior because He understands everything about me first hand.  He knows the depths of my heart, but gave of Himself anyway.........

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.....

.....It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
                                                     -Stuart Townend

My sin------taken.
My debt-------cancelled.
My goodness------restored.
My hope------ALIVE.

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
                                             -C. S. Lewis

Life in the loving arms of Jesus is my point of reference, my outlook on life.  And I've found it a pretty sweet place to be through all that life has to throw at me.  

"You can have all this world just give me Jesus"
                                         -Jeremy Camp

Life in Jesus gives us hope.  It also gives us peace.

"All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.......perfect love expels all fear."  
(John 4:15-18)

Fearless.  Full of hope.  Abounding in love.  That's what recognition of and faith in Jesus brings.

How can we endure life without Him?  And in the immortal words of Switchfoot, "I wanna thrive not just survive."

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
                          -Robert Lowry

Thursday, October 31, 2013


We currently live on a peninsula.  There are lots of little fingers of roads like the one that we're off of in New Zealand.  One way in, one way out.  There's very little crime in our area with not much of an escape route available.  In fact, a friend who is a police detective says that it's not very smart to be in a criminal in New Zealand at all.  It's a small country surrounded by water.  He says, "Unless you find a way to leave the country, if I have evidence against you I WILL find you.  It's only a matter of time."   

Since running from the law in New Zealand seems futile, how much more ludicrous is it to try to run from an omnipotent God?  So why does anyone try?  

 "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."  (Ps. 139: 7-12)

Yet there are days where I run.  Oh, not in a physical sense like Jonah who ended up thrown into the sea, and usually not even consciously, but subtly in my heart.  Something hurts, discourages, disappoints and I find that my heart becomes hard or just a bit closed.

I hate feeling 'away' from Him.  There's no peace, no joy, no hope.  Yet, sometimes I linger in that condition for a while and I'm not sure why.  Maybe I'm somewhat angry?  Maybe in my humanness it seems just too hard to run back to Him?  Maybe the enemy is working overtime to distract and discourage and I'm still vulnerable to his schemes?  Maybe I still stupidly want to do it on my own?  Maybe, maybe maybe.....

But the point that I tend to forget is that while may I have run, He hasn't.  He meets me where I am.  No matter how far I have travelled, He's still only a small step away.  A very small step of crying out, "Help!"

Photo by Beth Waterman
Sometimes I hesitate to call thinking that He must be so tired of my failures.  How could I not have trusted like the Israelites yet again when He has always been so trustworthy?  How could I have become anxious when He is the 'peace that passes understanding'?  How could my heart feel cold to the One who died for me?  

How limited is my human thinking of the Divine.

Instead I try to back-paddle my way to Him in my own efforts.  I try to remove that thin veil myself instead of letting Him do what He's wanting to do all along; be with me and carry me through thick and thin.  "For He knows how weak we are;  He remembers we are only dust."  (Ps. 103:14) And yet, "...the love of the Lord remains forever..." (vs. 17)

And: "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."  (Zeph. 3:17)

I can say this with reverent, awestruck confidence:  "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;  I myself will see him with my own eyes."  (Job 19: 25-27)

So why are there still days when I run?  

A friend plans to run a half marathon this Sunday.  She's put a lot of time, energy and effort into preparing for this run.  She's fit as a fiddle and ready to go, but I've seen what a commitment it's been for her to prepare for this for the first time at 40.  She's had an admirable, positive goal-----but running from God is not!  

What massive energy I waste when I do.

I want to embrace Him each and every day.  HE knows my weaknesses, HE knows my 'frame,' yet His nail scared hand is always outstretched even closer to me than I know.  I want to grasp His hand every day and say with the wisdom of one of my favorite philosophers:

"Any day spent with you is my favorite day.  So today is my new favorite day." 
 -Winnie the Pooh

Hanging up my running shoes today.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not a "Tame" God

Majesty.  Glory. Trembling before Him.  These are all concepts in our modern, more comfortable ways that are hard to resonate with.  

But I remember the first time I stood on the shore before pounding waves and realized just how small and powerless I am.  I've seen the magnificence of a lightening storm in the West Texas sky.  I've ridden up, up, up, up the mountainside at the top of India only to look up and find myself dwarfed by the Himalayas still above.  I've been on a boat in the South Pacific and been amazed by the seemingly bottomless, clear depths of the deep, Deep Blue. 

Creation clearly shouts His majesty and power.  If we only stop to listen.

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is where God speaks to Elijah in a whisper.  Elijah has just experienced one of the highlights of his 'career.'  After the prophets of Baal asked Baal to answer all day long and the heavens were silent, Elijah called God just ONCE----and fire fell from heaven.  It must have been a big 'Ah ha!" moment for everyone there.  Jaw dropping proof of the might and power of the Almighty, Living God. 

But others denied that moment, threatened Elijah's life, and he ran. He ran into the wilderness and begged for God to take his life.  God sent strength in the form of food at the hands of an angel instead.  Then for forty days more Elijah ran.  He ran to the mountain where God had spoken to another great prophet.  A man who had led the Children of Israel out of Egypt. A man used mightily by God who was actually just as human as Elijah.

The story gives me chills:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (1 Kings 19:11-13)

During the impressive disasters of windstorm, earthquake, and fire Elijah went from standing before God on the mountain to hiding in a cave.  Uh, yeah!  I think that would have been a given for me, too!  

But then God spoke in a 'gentle whisper'...............

When Moses stood on that same mountain he spoke with God face to face.  His physical body responded so strongly to being in the presence of God's glory that his face glowed----even behind a veil.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses on the mountain as well.  It's a beautiful picture of how, through the blood of Jesus, we are sons not servants.  And an intense picture of how the sacrifice that Jesus made for us enables us to come into the very throne room of the Father, not hover terrified, trembling, and separate on a mountain:

"You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness and gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.  For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking.  They staggered back under God's command: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death."  Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, "I am terrified and trembling."

No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering.  You have come to the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things.  You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect.  You have come to Jesus, the one who mediated the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel..............

........Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping him with holy fear and awe.  For our God is a devouring fire."  (Hebrews 12:18-24, 28-29)

He's our Savior, our Best Friend, but we often seem to forget that He's also a 'devouring fire" to be worshipped with 'holy fear and awe.'  Yet, as Oswald Chambers so eloquently said, "He comes with a grip of the pierced hand of his Son, and says 'Enter into fellowship with me; arise and shine."'

While we are to seek Him, the very same God who was at Sinai is always reaching out to US through the 'pierced hand of his Son.'  With a whisper.  And a nail-scared grip that never lets go.

And when we get to know Him, He's never EVER boring!

"He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” (C.S Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beautiful day out today.  I love Spring!!!