Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Call from across the waves.....

Storms.  Sometimes they seem pretty constant.  Right now I'm between big waves in a moment of relative peace in the storms of my own life.  Lovely.

But storms are a vital part of the journey.  As Corrie ten Boom said, "In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm."  Sometimes they're also a big reveal in showing us what we're actually holding on to as our personal anchor........

This photo and the next what Sybille Stahlberg saw outside her window in Germany this week.
The song I can't get out of my head lately says, "And I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves." (Oceans, Hillsong United)  Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water as long as he kept his eyes 'above the waves' and on Jesus. (Matt. 14:28-31)

What is our anchor and where do we have our eyes focused today?

My son recently turned 16.  He was soooo excited to go for his Learners license before he was 16, but now that he is he's taking his time.  And that's fine by me!  We'll just let him do that when he's good and ready.  As part of the process we'll teach him one of the first rules of driving well; not to put his focus on what's directly in front of him, but to keep his eyes on what's ahead.  Or to look at where you're going, not where you are currently at.

We can keep our eyes focused on Jesus because we've looked ahead and know what's coming:  the end of life's storms and our destination of Heaven with Him.  We also need to remember exactly Who it is that we're fixing our eyes on.

Who He was:
You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, 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 that he said, "I am terrified and trembling." "(Heb. 12:18-21)

Who He is:
"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 mediates 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." (vs.22-24)

Who He always will be:
"Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.  For our God is a devouring fire." (vs.28-29)

"Our God is a devouring fire."  Selah.  Oh yeah, definitely time to pause and reflect.

When the storms of life rage all around us, when the world that we live in continues to fall apart, we need to listen to the gentle voice that calls to us from across the waves, "Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come ahead.” " (Matt. 14:28-30 MSG)

Peter didn't hesitate.  He knew Who Jesus was and that He could be trusted.  He didn't hope that Jesus would call on someone else.  He, like that kid in school who always knew the answers, waved his hand up high and said, "Pick me, pick me!"

We need to remember Who He is.  We need to remember Whom we serve.  We need to respond to His call based on Who He is not on our own strength and ability.  We need to fix our eyes on Him and remember that when He calls us, "Come!" from across the waves that it's not a duty or a burden------it's a PRIVILEGE. 

What my friend and neighbor Lexi Waterhouse looked out the window into her paddock and saw this week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Avoiding Destruction......

"Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall." -Prov. 16:18

Words that I have certainly come to believe.  You know that person that walks into lamp posts and stubs their toe on door frames?  Who can somehow fall off of shoes that don't even have heels in public and spills from their drinking cup down their front at least a couple of times per week?  Yeah, I'm that person.  It certainly helps keep one humble........

My kids love stories that involve me and this sort of thing.  Where my mind is somewhere else when it should be focused on basic motor skills.  

Just walking around was more challenging when we lived in India with uneven pavement and steps of inconsistent height. The Metro subway in Kolkata has never flooded even after forty years of torrential monsoons because of cleverly built steps up before you descend.  

One day my daughter and I were headed home loaded down with food shopping bags and I wasn't paying enough attention to my feet.  Yep, I managed to fall UP the steps, arms flailing and bags flying.  In a society where it's normally inappropriate for men to touch women in public, all formality is thrown out the window when there is fear that someone is hurt.  The nearby security guards yelled and grabbed.  They anxiously wouldn't let go until I demonstrated, with the kind of yanking assistance that would have paralyzed me had I truly been injured, that all of my limbs did in fact still work properly.  Then they chattered somewhat accusingly at my clumsiness as I gathered my bags and slunk away.

Yeah, I've always had reason in my world to avoid pride.  Because I'm too good at falling.

Recently, I've had the opportunity to use some of my natural gifts again that have lain dormant for a long time. There's something deeply satisfying about glorifying God through the very way that He's made us.  Very much a deep soul satisfaction of offering back to Him what He gave us.

I so admire those quiet saints who serve faithfully for years, those 'behind the scenes' people who don't ask for any sort of glory.  It must be hard for them at times if no one notices. Some of my very best gifts, however, are things that do gain the notice and praise of others.  And a few times lately I've found myself wondering if I've enjoyed compliments a bit too much.

Pride.  It's a tricky issue to circumnavigate.  It's a fine line between enjoying being part of what God is doing through the way that He's made you---and just feeling good about yourself.  And how do you know the difference?

So many things in life make us keep short accounts with God.  To cry out often, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Ps. 51:10)  Pride is definitely one of those.  Imagine the multitude of troubles around the world that would suddenly cease if selfish pride just died!  Certainly the root of all kinds of evil.

"There are two kinds of people:  those who say to God, "Thy will be done, and those to who God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.'"    -C.S. Lewis

My way usually ends up walking into a lamppost in front of someone that I admire or completely forgetting a piano piece that I'd memorized and practiced for months in a public recital (True stories!).

I actually value those little lessons in pride because it's sure better to fail now and then and remember to choose His good, perfect, and so-much-better-than-my-own will than to walk away.  (However, you can be sure that I won't be running for public office where I would constantly be in the public eye any time soon!) 

And in those times when despite our best intentions we think we might be erring on the side of our own pride?  Well our Father is amazingly just a repentant thought away.  You can be sure He, who knows what's truly best for us, wants to help us fine tune our hearts so we can walk more in step with Him.  

As we repent we need to remember, "To be repentant means to be committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep from falling back into sin......Genuine repentance is utterly vulnerable." (Randy Alcorn) 

Yep, kind of the opposite of pride.

All photos today by Sybille Stahlberg
This one is now the screen saver on my laptop because it makes me smile.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pricking our hearts.......

I've struggled with writing this week.  There's something I started last week that I can't quite finish mostly because it doesn't seem the right time to post something introspective.  There's just too much going on in the world at large this week.  In reality there is always suffering, but the last couple of weeks through social media it's been especially in our faces.

There's an interesting power in social media because in the past if we didn't want to know we could just turn off the newscast or put down the newspaper.  Now, however, we see things just connecting with family and friends.  I usually appreciate this because as I'm settling down for now in a first world nation, I don't want to forget what I've learned and how to globally love.  The world is smaller than we think and we ARE responsible to care and to respond beyond our own comfort zones.

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." 
-William Wilberforce

But this week I'm not liking the empathy I feel with developing nation faces, with the suffering of real live people who dress differently and may look a bit different than I do.  I've had friends like them, ate with them, held their children.......

There's a photo on my Facebook feed of dead children and smiling militants that makes me feel like I've been punched in the gut.  Every time I see it.  I'm sure it would/does you, too.

In my first year of overseas life I was based in Hong Kong and had just spent a couple of months in China when Tiananmen Square hit the news.  It was the first time for me where events in far off places had a face. Most of my English interaction in China had been on 'English corners' where students went to practice their skills.  And then real people just like them were being killed.  For the first time, current events brought real, human faces to mind.  And I wept.

Yesterday the world reacted to the death of Robin Williams.  A man who made us laugh and who more importantly let us hear the laughter of our children.  Because of that we feel like on some level that we knew him and can't believe that a true genius of wit would become low enough to end his own life.  And perhaps during a week of terrible news stories we're especially grateful for the lifetime of laughter he gave us.

Some of the social media reaction I saw was along the line of 'let's stop making a fuss over someone just because he's famous and get back to remembering those who have no voice.'  Part of me agrees, but the life of one man is precious---and no less so just because he's famous.  Maybe others with depression won't go unnoticed because someone near them is learning through the life and death of Robin. 

And after all that's what real compassion is all about----the life of one.  And then one.  And one more.

A danger of our modern glut of instant news is something I've heard referred to as "knee jerk compassion."  An emotional response to an event that pricks our hearts, makes us momentarily bleed and quickly respond (partly to make us feel better), but then quickly scabs over and we move on without it turning into something that evokes real compassion.  

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”
―Henri J.M. Nouwen

Real compassion is not easy.  But real compassion is the example we have in Christ.  We need to let compassion become action and affect lives, one person at a time.

It's not easy letting the pain of others prick our hearts.  

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (Jn.16:33) 

There will always be sorrows here----but there will always be Him.  And while pain may have it's way for a little longer, we can walk encouraged that He has already won the battle.  As we let our hearts be broken into action for the sake of others, we'll come closer to what His heart has been all along.  

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:38)

"Jesus wept." (Jn. 11:35)

All photos today by my sister-in-love Megan Lindsay.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Glimpsing Glory

"This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all."  I Jn. 1:5

This week a friend put up a thank-you to people who were working on her local road.  She included with it a photo where she was sitting in delayed traffic at the time.  I immediately 'got' it.  She and I have both lived in places with not-so-good roads.  And when you then get great local services, you notice and appreciate it!  In fact, our main road has been delayed for weeks now because of a new water pipe being put in alongside it. And I don't mind a bit!

The other day we met a man with terminal cancer.  He's doing well right now but if he lives for too much longer, he'll beat unbelievable odds (something like a 3% survival rate).  We didn't meet him before the cancer, but meeting him after, well, it was pure privilege.  He spoke of the faithfulness of his Savior, and how much the internal part of him has changed for the better through the trial.  How he's become passionate about the One that he loves.

Little nuances of how we perceive life experiences make all the differences in how we live. Whether we see things in a hopeful light or are immersed in the negative.  

This morning I drank coffee with my lovely girl for whom life has not been easy, and who has been spending this year finding healing for those scars.  And I listened enthralled as wisdom poured out of her mouth. Words of discovery: healing, wholeness and Him.  Especially Him, and how her whole paradigm has shifted,  moving through the pain to be infused with the belief of His innate goodness and love.  Her hand  unconsciously flitted to words etched on her collarbone, "There is always hope." Words put on her skin when hope was just a seed, but now sprouted and growing.  Same girl but with the perspective that light and healing can bring.

Recently Ann Voskamp pointed out in her blog the two great questions agonized over by the philosopher Augustine.   The first one is, "If there is a God, why is there so much evil?"  And the second, "If there is no God, why is there so much good?"

The first question can bring you to your knees.  But the second will keep you there in reverent awe.  One is despair and the other the essence that is true worship.

One of the things discussed with my girl was the concept that while Creation 'was good,' the appearance of evil has made this place into something we're not designed for.  It's left us with unfulfilled longings and made us homesick for a better place.  The deep understanding that we're actually not all right.

But in the midst of that is the reminder.  The certain knowledge of something better with little glimpses of Heaven along the way.  Reminders of what He's preparing for us. Glimpses of Him.

Days like today seeing hope in the eyes of someone I love more than life.  When the winter storms cease and the sun warms your skin.  When you go to sleep with peace in your heart or wake with the certainly of a smile.  When you walk on the beach and marvel at the power of the waves.  When wrapped in the embrace of a loved one or in the thoughtfulness of a friend.  (And sunflowers!)

All photos today by the brilliant Cathi Geisler
Both of Augustine's questions are worth taking the time to ponder.  But we should never get stuck on the one without the balance of the other.  Light dispels darkness, goodness is the absence of evil, and evil isn't unbeatable----it's just the absence of Him.

"In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind."
Jn. 1:4