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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers
in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather
some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly
A certain minor light may still 
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair 
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects
now and then -
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largess, honor,
One might say love.  At any rate,
I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape);
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow.  I only know
that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.  With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts.  Miracles occur, 
If you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles.  The wait's 
begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.

Sylvia Plath

A close friend gifted me this book several years ago; an Advent read.  I'm somewhat unconventional when it comes to typical Christmas practices, and perusing daily devotional books is not a practice I normally engage in.  But I've found this book to be quite different.  Sylvia Plath's poem, an excerpt from the book, is a great example.  If interested, you can find it here.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Growing to Maturity

Paul, to the church in Colosse:

We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

Colossians 1:28-29 The Message

Before I started this blog, I knew this would be a key guiding verse for me.  Even from the earliest days after I trusted Christ to be Lord of my life, I longed for maturity… to be trained, guided, taught God's ways.  As the years have clicked along that thirst has not waned.  But what has surprised me is how often the route to growing up is a review of the basics.

I suppose that shouldn't be shocking, because the same holds true in many other arenas of life.  Diet.  Exercise.  Work ethic.  Yes, as we gain ground in our understanding in these areas, we become more "muscular", more knowledgeable, wiser.  But we never forget the basics.

Some of the "basics" that have served me well over the years are making prayer a priority ("pray all the time"), guarding my thought life (Power #1Power #2, Power #3), choosing thankfulnesspracticing holiness (only by God's grace!)… obviously this is not an exhaustive list!  These are disciplines, choices to be made daily.  Every bit of it can only be done by God's grace and with His power.

If you want to get really serious about growing & changing, a must-read is Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines.  He takes this discussion to a whole new level!

If you could choose five "basics" that help you to become more of who God made you to be, what would those things be?  Are they biblical directives?  Are you practicing them?  What is the benefit of reviewing the basics?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

He Will Shelter You With His Wings

"1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection."
Psalm 91:1-4 New Living Translation

Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) was one of Christianity's most prolific song writers (she wrote more than 9,000 songs).  Often when I read Psalm 91 I think of one of the hymns she penned, He Hideth My Soul (below).  (Read about her life: Crosby's life )

"A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A tree always in blossom

1 Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

4 But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

5 They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6 For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1  New Living Translation

From Me to You

I find myself feeling a little awkward - and like a failure - as I write this post.  You see, when I started this blog I envisioned myself writing at least twice a week.  I would write with themes and depth and breadth; introducing you to great thinkers and writers; and most of all highlighting passages upon passages of Scripture that make my heart burn.

Enter illness.  It robs me of days on end and makes me feel "less than".  Sickness kills creativity.  When it lasts for more than a day I can start to feel panicky about all the jobs I'm not getting done.  And, worst of all, physical illness seeps into my spirit and my psyche.  Often, I fight anger at God and bitterness in the core of my being.

The specific implications of this to the present situation of my writing this blog, are:
     1) I need to cut myself loose from the grand project I started (the theme of my top "Ten Things that say a lot about Who God Is").  As I stated earlier, when I'm fighting illness, creativity hits rock bottom. I would love to pick up this theme again, but now is not the time.  (Obviously, I'm not out of the woods with the physical battle I'm in right now.)
     2) Instead, I hope to at least write short, random posts as different things pop into my head.
     3) Something God has been speaking to me in regard to all this is that this is really His blog, anyway.  It's not mine.  I thought I was entering the writing of this blog with that in the forefront, but affliction has taken "who owns this" to a whole new level.
It occurs to me that since my primary passion is to demonstrate why I love God's word so much, there's no time like the present.  The following words are a few that have given me either guidance or peace lately:

"...don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”  Joshua 1:8-9 The Message

Sometimes, it's not just a verse or two, but an entire book of the Bible, that gives me hope.  The book of Ruth contains a raw, real-life story of a woman (Naomi) who was "dealt a hard blow" from God, and struggled with bitterness.  I love the whole story - and the hope it brings.

And the anger at God?  There's nothing like the Psalms.  One hundred and fifty chapters of people expressing every feeling imaginable - unedited, unfiltered, right to God.  

Finally, this one nailed me this morning:  

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The God who Redeems

Redemption… someone stepping in and taking my deserved punishment, leaving me free of guilt.  It's a theme for thousands of movies, and something that each one of us can reach out and take for ourselves.

"...One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15 MSG

God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins… We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God."  2 Corinthians 5:19-21 MSG

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.  Ephesians 1:7-10 MSG

The burning question becomes "How am I living?  As caged, or free?"

If I've chosen to remain in the cage, is the cause of that choice worth being bound?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#2 - God is always about Redeeming, Restoring, & Reconciling

The last couple of days I've wrestled with the tension of wanting to stay in my #1 of the Ten Things that say a lot about Who God is:  That He Loves us and Cares for us, and then, on the flip side, desiring to march on ahead with my other nine.  I could probably write 100 posts on how much God loves each one of us!

Yesterday I read what I realize today is the perfect segue between God's unconditional love for us, and #2 in my Top Ten:  the fact that God is always about redeeming, restoring, & reconciling. 

"What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives.  The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created.

"Paul's letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world.  He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, "sets" this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones - belief and behavior - knit together and heal.

"…[Paul] ranges widely, from heaven to earth and back again, showing how Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together.  He also shows us that in addition to having this work done in and for us, we are participants in this most urgent work.  Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe (underscore mine), it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes (or not) to what Paul describes as God's plan worked out by Christ, "a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.""  - Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, Intro to Ephesians, page 2122

Reconciliation.  Going from far apart to close together, war to peace.  It is God's heart, always… not only between us and Him, but in every human relationship.

Incidentally, the book of Ephesians gives a distilled version of God at work.  If you don't have a Bible, you can read it here.  (I've linked the first chapter of six - just click the right-facing arrow at the bottom of the page to continue on with subsequent chapters.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Janelle's Journey in discovering how much God loves her

Sometimes, another person's story of how God rescued them is - well, there are no words.  I'll let Janelle take it from here.

Janelle's Story

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ten Things that say a lot about Who God is: #1 - God Loves You

How do you know someone loves you?  What are the tell-tale signs?

The list could be as individual as each one of us, and equally as long – but I would venture to guess that if we posed this question to fifty people, there would be some similarities, such as:  when you love someone, you want to spend time with them.  True love is not always feeling warm fuzzies toward someone.  Even if you don’t feel like it, you still do the right thing for them.  If you love someone, you will more than likely sacrifice something for them, somewhere along the line.

If we would take all the evidences of love, stand them up next to each other, and look for the one piece that stands head and shoulders above all others, what would that most prominent piece be?

Personally, the thing that would speak the most loudly to me would be whether someone would lay down their life for me… figuratively or literally.  Instead of being indifferent, they would be invested in me, to the point of sacrificing their life for me.

When I see my husband laying down his life for me – doing things my way, changing his behavior because he knows what I prefer, sacrificing his time for my sake – these actions speak far louder to me than the simple words, “I love you”.  I believe what I see.

When I read the following passage, and verify it against history, the same thing happens to me.  I believe what I see:

 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again."
John 3:16-17 MSG

If I believe that Jesus really was sent from God to die for me… to give me life… if I take that grid and place it over all of life… everything changes.  God is no longer the helpless bystander in a sometimes-ugly world, but now He is my helper in time of need.  He loves me.  He wants the best for me.  He longs to redeem the hurt in my story; the injustices of this world.  He loves.

This notion that God actually loves me is foundational to everything about God.  Imagine a God who didn’t love.  Would that be a God worth following?

Who Is God?

In My Vision, I said “…my greatest desire is to help myself and my readers to fall in love with God and His Word.”

As I thought more about that statement, it hit me:  What happens when someone realizes they love another person?  HOW does that happen?

If a friend of mine introduces me to one of their friends, the typical scene is for my friend to give me a biographical sketch of the stranger.  Through this brief biography, I gain some knowledge of him or her.  And, if my interest is piqued, I will find ways to get to know [her] more.  IMHO, “love” happens at some unexpected moment, when you realize this person is deepening the best parts of you; challenging, supporting, encouraging, loving you.  Love is a many-splendored thing!

But it all begins in getting to know this person more… finding out who they are.  What do they claim to be?  What do others say about them?  Do their own claims line up with their “known reputation”?  And finally, as I investigate this person, am I liking what I see?

If you believe God is worth investigating; if part of you is intrigued with the idea of the God of the universe loving you; if the possibility of having a personal relationship an omniscient, omnipresent being calls you to attention, then I invite you to stay engaged with this blog.  Over the next few weeks I plan to write on the “Ten Things that say a lot about Who God Is”.  These are my top ten; the most poignant characteristics that I see in the God of the Bible.  Hopefully, they’ll give you a little more than a “sketch” of Him.  Maybe they’ll even whet your appetite to get to know Him better…

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Falling in Love with God's Word

As I stated in my vision, my greatest desire is to help myself and my readers to fall in love with God and His Word. 

Often, as I’m reading through God’s Word, one verse or another will hit me between the eyes.  The following verses describe how & why that happens…

"There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us."

"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires."

"What a God! His road
stretches straight and smooth.

Every God-direction is road-tested.
Everyone who runs toward him

Makes it."

When I’m reminded of the usefulness, training, power, piercing ability, & truthfulness of God’s Word, I’m a little mind-boggled that I don’t make time every single day to take in deep draughts of it.  And then, I know why.  It is because we have a crafty enemy who has a thousand tricks up his sleeve to keep us from this Power.  Sometimes it takes sheer discipline and will to carve out the time.   When I do, I experience the free life, and it’s wonderful.

2 Timothy 3:15b-17 MSG, Hebrews 4:12 NLT, Psalm 18:30 MSG

Psalm 42:1-3 MSG, 1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT, James 1:25 MSG

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Vision

My vision, as I write this blog, is threefold.

 First, my greatest desire is to help myself and my readers to fall in love with God and His Word.  On a 38 year journey, God has taught me much about Himself and how He has ordered the universe.  I delight in sharing what I’ve learned, offering chunks of Scripture that “say so much”… and all the while exploring & finding more & more evidence that underscores that God is Who he says he is!

Secondly, I long to equip myself & whoever I come into contact with so that our lives become more full in purpose, joy, peace, and satisfying communion with God and with others.  I’m excited to share truths I’ve learned, whether they come from the Bible, present-day fellow sojourners in this walk of faith, or saints through the ages.  There are so many great resources out there!

Thirdly, I’ve seen far too often that people do not have safe friends and family.  They do not have a place to go where they can share their deepest fears and questions; where they can safely explore the terrain of what they’re going through.  We all need safe, wise people in our lives!  Safe people love and support others, helping them to be the best God made them to be.  I want to share with you what I've learned in how to cultivate safe places.

Two verses, when conjoined, sum up my vision:
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:32
My (Jesus’) purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life.  John 10:10

 I hope, in the upcoming months and years, to establish a rich dialogue with many of you.  My prayer is that as I continue to seek God and love Him with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27) that you will join me in that pursuit.  In the end, may we all become complete and whole - as God made us to be.