Monday, October 27, 2014

The very best love song......

I have the most amazing sea view out my window.  And that's something pretty special for someone who grew up in the middle of the USA and remembers seeing the ocean for the first time at age 19.   People in New Zealand just can't believe that, but it's true!

The sea gives me perspective.  It speaks of something ancient and timeless.  It reminds me of power greater than my own and that there are things much bigger than me.  It brings me peace.

But I think I just looked, really looked at the ocean the other day for the first time in a while.  There are fruit trees distracting me by blooming in my backyard.  Lovely, lacy things that attract my eyes.  I love the colors, the freshness, the life.  They make me smile.

Now the fruit trees aren't bad, but it's the sea that brings me peace.  And I've been forgetting from my second story window to stop just looking down but to look past and UP. God's been singing His particular love song the way that I best hear it the whole time, but I haven't been paying attention.  I've been distracted by the immediate and have forgotten to look at the timeless.

The Timeless One reminds us, 

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?  
He who brings out their host by number,
 calling them all by name, 
by the greatness of his might, 
and because he is strong in power no one is missing."
                                       Is. 40:25-26

He knows us by name.  'No one is missing.'

I wrote this verse down recently,

"I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me."
                                                 Song of Sol. 7:10

There He goes again singing us a love song.  The Song of Songs is a beautiful example of marital love but widely accepted also as an example of a song of love from our Creator to us.  So imagine, the God of the Universe's desire is for YOU!  He loves you.  He wants to fellowship with you. 

"His desire is for me."

The first time I got asked out by a boy I was far too young to date, but he called me at home and asked to meet at a roller skating rink.  Sound cute?  It wasn't at the time.  It was a boy that I had absolutely no interest in, and it made the immature me recoil (poor guy!).  I got off that phone as fast as I could!  I've matured a bit since then, but for the idea of someone's desire to be for us to be something more than passing flattery, it needs to be reciprocated on our side as well. 

For God's desire to be for us to matter much, He needs to be our 'beloved.'  The object of our affection, dear to our heart.  Then the doorway is opened for the most beautiful of all love songs to be sung by the One!  Otherwise the song is merely somewhat flattering.  Or worthless.

To hear His song better we must silence the other voices in our ears, voices that cry out, "Worthless!  Damaged!  Despicable!" or even, "I don't need Him.  I can do it myself."  All lies that block the purity of the song.

We need to do what it takes to stop and hear His love song today, silence the voices or the white noise that makes it hard to hear.  Tune our ears to hear the song.  It doesn't matter if we haven't done this well for a while.  Today, right now, we can start anew.  In THIS moment.  In THIS place.  We can experience His Presence and find His peace.  Breathe in, breathe out.

It's the love song that will never change, never grow old, never end.  When He says, "I would die for you," He already did.  

"I am my beloved's and his desire is for me."  Let the song play loud!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ripples of faith.....

Peter saw a figure walking across the water and was afraid.  Yep, I think that would make my heart beat a wee bit faster, too!  When he realized it was Jesus, however, he became super-charged.  He asked Jesus that if it was really him for him to call him. "Come!" Jesus said.  (Matt. 14: 22-31) And Peter didn't hesitate.  He lept out of that boat.

Often when we see an amazing display of the power of God and are convinced that what's in front of us is part of what He's doing, it can be easy to leap.  Easy to say, "Yes!" and jump.  Brave and certainly displaying a God-honoring level of faith, but not as difficult as later.

What's hard is when we see the wind and the waves.  When we're out on the lake with nothing firm under our feet and at the mercy of the elements.  We thought that that first jump was the test of our faith, but it wasn't.  It's the walking after that shapes us.

I've lept before.  I jumped on a plan when I was 19 and headed to Asia by myself at His call.  I did it again at 25 with my three month old baby in my arms and moved to Fiji.  I did it at 38 when I boarded a plan back to the USA which was nearly 'foreign' to me by then.  And again at 41 moving to India with 4 kids in tow.  Each time took a measure of faith but it was the AFTER that changed and shaped me.  That taught me to truly trust when the rubber met the road.

When Peter saw the wind and waves and wavered, Jesus didn't condemn.  He didn't berate, didn't let Peter fall.  He 'immediately' reached out His hand and held Peter up.  And gently asked him why he'd doubted.  Something like, "Child, why did you worry?  Why did you doubt?  Did you forget that I am the One who told you to come?  Don't you trust me?  Do you doubt my power?  Do you doubt my care for you?"

Recently I jumped again.  My life-long love of jewelry as an art form crystallized with the realization that there are businesses providing employment for women at risk and for women trapped in the sex trade, and that representing them was underutilized in New Zealand.  I knew that doing something as part of promoting them was right up my alley.  I prayed.  Ideas flooded my head------and I lept off the boat.

You can find Holding Hope Collection on Facebook!
But now, although leaping is familiar territory to me, I've looked at the waves a few times.  I've sold jewelry as a job before LONG ago, but doubt my ability to do it now.  I wonder if I'll have wasted my precious, limited start up funds?  Can I really do this?  What if my ideas dry up?  What if I can't relay the passion for the project that I feel to others?

What if I'm a big, fat flop?

After Peter's fantastic leap of faith his mistake was that took his eyes off of Jesus.  He looked at the wind and the waves.  He must have thought, "WHAT in the world am I doing?  This isn't possible!  I can't do this!  I'm gonna drown!" Until that hand 'immediately' reached for him and held him tight.  Until that voice soothed away his fears and challenged him to trust.

And real faith kicked in.

It's not that Peter never doubted again, but he knew where his focus should be.  The only other real documented time of doubt was right before Jesus was crucified and Peter didn't know where to look. But Jesus himself called Peter 'the rock,' a firm foundation of faith that carried Peter through martyrdom later with a whole lot of steps of faith in between.

Sometimes when the waves roll and winds blow and we're doing our best to keep our eyes on the face of Christ, we need to remember that the journey of faith is still one step at a time.  Eyes on him, take a step.  And another.  And another.  And like ripples in a pond our faith grows, one step at a time.

I've been wearing a visual reminder myself lately.  It's a ring I got this week from someone who works in the Philippines focusing on education to prevent trafficking (I have one more if someone wants it!).  In the middle of my own, "I can't believe that I jumped off the boat!" time it reminds me of the ripple effect.  It's a visual of ripples from a pebble dropped and reminds me that small things become big things affecting and impacting beyond what we even know.

All we need to do is keep our eyes on Him and take that next little step before us, or drop our little pebble for Him and watch the ripples grow.  So simple, yet so challenging and life changing as well.

And it allows us, like Peter defying physics through the power of God, to be part of a miracle!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

That elusive deep down trust......

An old man lay restless and awake in the dark, dreading the morning light.  But at the first peep of dawn, just light enough to see the trail, he arose and woke his son,"We're going to make a sacrifice."

The story of Abraham being asked to offer up his son Isaac never ceases to move me.  Abraham's immediate obedience, his willingness to put God first over something and someone he'd waited his whole life for.  It's a huge 'behind the scenes' story where there is so much left unsaid, but you can imagine.........! Every time I read it something new stands out.  This morning it was the words, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." (Gen. 22:8)  I read it several times.

I have always thought of this as a distraction for Isaac.  "Don't worry son, we'll pick up a lamb along the way," so Isaac didn't fret or figure out what was actually going on.  But what if it was spurred on by a deep understanding that God somehow WOULD provide, because of the promise He had already made; that Isaac would be the father of countless many?  That deep inside he just KNEW.

Abraham certainly didn't understand why, he didn't know how the day would turn out, but by that point in his life he had an unshakable faith in WHO God was, what He was capable of, and in the fact that even at the deepest point of testing, that God's provision can unquestionably be trusted.  Even if it looks like we're being asked to give up something that's been our lifelong dream.

Photo by Karen Eland
I'm far too often guilty of being among the group that says, "But God, you said (insert whatever)!" when something happens that I don't understand.  Whining at God to remind Him of what He's already promised, grasping at what I thought would happen, questioning His sovereignty and without even thinking about it, doubting His character.

Trials, triumphs, victory, despair: things that shape us and build the foundations of who we are.  And unfortunately you can't have the good without the difficult.

Psalm 11:3 says, "if the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Trials and things that we don't understand will come.  Our foundations will be rocked, they will need to resist erosion, they will be tested.  The same psalm goes on to say, "The Lord tests the righteous," and "The upright shall behold his face." (vs. 5,7)  Our foundation is Him. Nothing else will stand.  God, in His mercy, tests those foundations for our sake, so our foundations will be firm and ultimately we will be ready to 'behold' him face to face.

I want to get to the point where my FIRST response is trust.  Where I don't have to work through thoughts and emotions of, "But God?" but I doubt if I ever totally will.  And maybe that's part of the plan.  If we didn't have the doubt, then we wouldn't have the victory.  I very much think that despite the example of faith that we see in Abraham in this story, that he had a rough night beforehand.

But far better the continued struggle than this:

"You will indeed hear but never understand
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people's heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes 
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them."  
                     (Matt. 13:15-17)

I hear God's anguish in the 'lest.'  If only, my child.  If only, I would heal you.  If only.

We will be tested, but it's for our benefit.  There will be trials, temptations, even deaths of our dreams; but if not we would never know that there is a 'ram', a provision, a way of escape, a future plan.  We would never truly see Him, hear Him, understand Him, know that the victory is really His, see His face and receive the healing.

And trust, like Abraham, that no matter how things may look at the moment, that God will provide.