Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome Back!

The dog days of summer are melting into the cooler days of autumn.  Family reunions, vacations and road trips have come to an end. We almost look forward to fall as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of trying to squeeze in every possible summer activity. And when we finally stop and take a breath we realize something is amiss. There is a certain emptiness that cannot be filled with more activities, a longing for something that got left behind when the calendar page turned to June and the last school bell rang. Can it be that we forgot Jesus in all of our striving to grab every brass ring of summer? It’s a common predicament that we can find ourselves in. In our good intentions of spending quality time with our families and friends, we can easily forget to let the Lord refresh us.We forget to carve out time to be with Him.

The good news is that He doesn't give up on us. Psalm 34:8-10 say’s “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” We have the privilege to be able to shut out the ruckus of this world and commune with the Most High God, to bask in the splendor of His Holiness where He allows us unlimited access.  We can “come boldly” to His throne of grace and obtain mercy Hebrews 4:16 promises. We can have our minds renewed Romans 12:2 tells us. We can be made whole in His righteousness when we walk into His throne room by praying and meditating on His word. And when we do we will find our Abba Father, waiting patiently with open arms, saying “Welcome back.” 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Facebook Experiment

     Remember MySpace? Long ago in a faraway galaxy, or at least five years ago anyway, it opened up a whole new way for people to get and stay in touch. When Facebook first came on the scene as the big brother of MySpace I was reluctant to get involved with it. When I finally did create my own page a friend posted "Welcome to the biggest time-vacuum in history". Yeah, that was just what I needed, being organizationally challenged as I already was. I pretty much stayed out of the "news feed" and away from the stream of chitchat because, admittedly, I thought it was a huge waste of time.
     Lately, I've been getting more and more "friend" requests and last night I decided to go on a Facebook expedition to try and understand why all the frenzy over what amounted to me as nothing more than a way to legally spy on people.Viewing probably 25 "friend's" sites I saw every kind of cause known to man represented, every philosophy, religious persuasion, environmental fear and political push. I realized people have the ability to portray themselves in whatever way they choose by way of endless photo opp's, profile exaggerations, and "news feed" updates (no matter how trivial the topic). I wondered, how is it that so many females look like they just emerged from "America's Top Model" and why anyone would feel the need to talk about how bored they are at the moment and why they thought anyone would even care. All these things were the things that made me rebel against getting involved with Facebook from the first time I laid eyes on it.
     Now that I've managed to offend all Facebookers, let me go on to say I also learned something else about this cyberworld that I didn't realize before. As our actual world has become more technologically advanced and we've begun to communicate in tweets, texts, emails, and news feeds we've isolated ourselves more than ever in "real time".  I see Facebook as a way for many to feel connected with old and new friends, opening a window on their personal worlds, without time and space barriers. It feels good to look good and with Facebook that's possible too. We can upload our best photos and people can see us in our best light. If you need a little encouragement you can easily comment in a feed and within a day find 20 favorable responses waiting to perk you right up. You can find long-lost friends and mesh all the era's of your life together in one box, sort of like a virtual amoeba strip of your lifeline. Granted, all these "abilities" can have negative impacts as well, if misused, but I finally get why people join in and jump on the Facebook bandwagon.
      I still probably won't be a regular user, I still prefer flesh and blood interaction with my friends over cyber-friending, but at least now I see why it has become so popular. We all have a basic human desire to know our lives have value and worth. To all my Facebook friends, you are each special in your own God-given way's and the following scripture is just a small snapshot of how much God loves you as expressed by King David, a chief musician in the Old Testament book of Psalms. 
     "You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. 
       How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake I am still with You. "~Psalm 139:13-18. (New King James Bible)

Crumbling Sandcastles, Heavenly Mansions

Walking beachside at dusk, a distant mound catches my eye; an unexpected beacon on the flat sandscape. Sunset oozing into ocean cloaks the bump in long shadows. Several feet wide, remnants of a washed out sandcastle materialize up close. Skillfully carved turrets have melted in high tide’s ebb and flow. Seagull feather flags withered on outposts of shell-dotted ruins.What architect overlooked the trespassing floodwaters’ path? How many hours were spent forming, shaping, scooping, smoothing? Once elaborate, this prime “surreal” estate was dissolving back into the sand it was molded from.

Life is like that. Man is no more the architect of his own destiny than a sandcastle builder is of a lasting homestead. John 14:1-3 say’s “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”(NKJV) God’s Word is the original blueprint by which all our days are designed.  Jesus Christ bridged the gap into eternity with Him; we need only to believe and entrust Him with our best laid plans. While manmade wealth and security fade away, God is closing escrow on the heavenly home of our dreams. Open a Bible; your key’s inside.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Orange Blossom Special

Every morning I wake up to a vision of God’s faithfulness. The first thing I see when I open my eyes is a beautiful leafy green tree weighed down with great big, juicy navel oranges shining through the open shutters in my bedroom.When we moved into this home five years ago the tree was only about four feet tall, plain and barren. It grew a little more and suddenly after three years one perfect orange grew. Our family was so proud of that orange, we split it four ways. Last year there were four delicious oranges, one for each of us.This year the tree has exploded with over 50 orbs of citrus-y goodness.The amazing thing about it is that we did nothing, outside of waiting and watering it, to bring about the crop of overwhelming abundance. We didn’t prune, feed, shelter, or whisper sweet nothings to it. It’s breathtaking each morning to see what God has created in our humble little fruit tree.

When life seems tedious and our prayers remain seemingly unanswered, we can be sure that God is working behind the scenes to pour out on us a bounty of blessings in His timing. As Hannah waited on him year after bitter year, enduring cruel mockery from her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, because of her barrenness, she continued praying and asking God for just one son. 1 Samuel 1:20 say’s “…in the process of time…” she conceived and bore a son. God was faithful to hear Hannah’s prayers and in His providence bestowed on her the desire of her heart.When we don’t give up on God He is able to bring His plan and purpose for us into full fruition. 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord, for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7,8

Thursday, April 28, 2011

May The Morph Be With You

Butterflies are funny things. They seem to be God’s official greeters of spring. In lilting, carefree abandon, they embellish our world with joyful bursts of color. They seem to be all goodness and light. But there’s a dark side. The process requiring the plain little caterpillar to zip itself into a homemade sleeping bag and emerge a beautiful winged creature is well known. What isn’t often witnessed is the sacrifice involved in breaking out of that brown shell. The case is punctured and the moth’s wet body squeezes through a too-small opening, droplets of blood dribbling out. If the butterfly doesn’t go through this bleeding process it won’t survive. I discovered this once when I tried to assist a butterfly mid-hatch. 
For fun I purchased a butterfly kit one spring. As the butterflies began hatching, one by one they laboriously wriggled through tiny holes in their cocoons. To my dismay, not one of the insects broke free without bleeding. One seemed stuck and I watched it struggle for hours to flee its prison. When I couldn’t stand it anymore I gently pulled the sides of the cocoon apart to free it. “It can fly away now!” I thought. Nevertheless, it fell to the ground, trying in vain to stretch and dry its glistening wings. Within minutes it was dead. I was horrified! I suddenly noticed the inside of the mesh habitat was a gruesome bloodbath. The blood was the residue of their former wormy selves. It had to be shed to complete their transformations. 

We Christians are much like that. When we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts we begin a lifelong process that is beautiful yet often painful as He morphs us into His image. Our “wings” won’t be fully formed and perfect until we meet the One who shed His own blood, the One who gave up His very life to free us from our ugly cocoons of sin. The path to our eternal life with Him is a narrow one but He will give us joy in the journey. As we celebrate His rebirth this Easter and unwrap our gift of new life we can find great hope in His promise … “Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5.

Post Script-After writing this in December of 2010, I came across an entry in the Streams In The Desert devotion book written by Mrs. L. B. Cowman that was uncannily similar to my story. I hereby post this disclaimer that I did not plagiarize Mrs. Cowman, apparently we both had the same amazing experience trying to free a butterfly. According to others I’ve spoken to about this coincidence and much to my surprise, it is not an uncommon experience!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Raised By Wolves

Someone recently asked me, “What were your family’s holiday traditions when you were growing up?” I had to think about that for a minute. I wondered, “Does fighting count as a tradition?”  My running joke about my upbringing is that “I was raised by wolves.” Seventies-era “latchkey kids” of divorce without a church family or close relatives, our family was not exactly a nurturing environment. With our single mother struggling to provide for us, sometimes holding down three different jobs, holidays and birthdays were difficult. She did the best she could but there were few resources to foster traditions or togetherness. We were an untraditional family at best.

Jesus Christ rewrote my history when I was 17 years old. At a church camp, I found out that God loved all people so much that He gave up His only son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, taking the blame for our sins so we could have new life with Him. (John 3:16) I clung to His promises and my life has never been hopeless or empty again.  He made my life “…a new creation…the old things passed away...”(2 Cor. 5:17)  Now, blessed with a family of my own, I look forward to holidays and birthdays and we enjoy making our own traditions. Not extravagant, our focus is on modeling God’s love and just having great fun together. We laugh and play and I know our kids have great memories and enjoy the togetherness of family.

Family traditions can serve as vehicles to strengthen bonds and promote healing in areas of brokenness. They help sustain unity in good times and bad. Like a thread running through generations, they can knit families together with a sense of history, place, brotherhood, and continuity. They can be a catalyst for Christian growth when centered on charity and thankfulness. For the “untraditionalist” wishing to take their family in a new direction there are books, websites, and internet blogs that can help. Type “Christian family traditions” into a search engine and get ready to discover great possibilities! 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Screams in the Desert

     Does God hear our cries in the wilderness? My dear friend who in the past year has been laid off from her 19 year career, been diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy and is beginning reconstructive surgery, and awaiting a hysterectomy while she jumps through insurance company hoops and red tape, began to wonder about that the other day. We both love to read Streams in the Desert, a devotional book by Mrs. L. B. Cowman, and boost eachother's faith with the gems of wisdom printed there. She commented in an email to me on a particularly frustrating day dealing with doctor's answering machines, unresponsive receptionists, and overbooked operating rooms that she felt like her life was more a reflection of Screams in the Desert instead.  The poor thing probably felt like screaming considering the maze of gobbledygook she had to deal with in the medical industry. 
     Psalm 46 encourages us when we feel lost in the turmoil of living in this world to remember that..."God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."  It reminds us that we don't have to be bound up in anxiety..."even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling."  It tells us we can absolutely be refreshed in His streams in the desert..."there is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High."  And the best part about those streams is that..."God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn." When we feel like screaming at the top of our lungs there is a whisper that is louder than the terrible torrents...."Be still, and know that I am God;..." When His grace flows freely in our lives we can be assured that while we might be on a white water adventure He won't allow us to drown in the process.