Sunday, August 13, 2017

Something extraordinary is about to happen

There is a swath across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina 50 to 70 miles wide,  awaiting in breathless anticipation for what is about to happen in another week.  On August 21, a total eclipse of the sun will appear in the skies, plunging a bright day into utter darkness, when the moon comes between the earth and sun, blocking out the light.  In Nashville, where we live, it will occur precisely between 1:27 and 1:29 in the afternoon.

Image result for total solar eclipse

Tens of millions of people have purchased special glasses to observe this extraordinary event. Without protection,  eyes are permanently damaged.  Even school children in those regions have been dismissed from school to witness this once in a lifetime event. It last occurred in Nashville in the year 1478  -- 539 years ago.  None of us will be around when it visits Nashville next.

My husband and I attended a lecture about the eclipse at the Vanderbilt University observatory. The precise mathematical details were incredible, calculated and analyzed and studied by prominent PhD scholars and scientists.  Our lecturer had either his doctorate in astronomy or astro-physics (or maybe both).  He had mapped out the facts and figures in colorful charts and graphs, pointing out the exactness of this spectacular event. 

A total solar eclipse does not just suddenly appear, but can be calculated exactly in time and place, far in the past and into the future, down to the second, even where to stand along its exact path, a thousand feet on either side altering one's vision of it.  We were supplied facts on what, where, when, why, and how.   People in the audience were quite excited, peppering the lecturer afterwards with questions for clarification. The lecturer was energized by their curiosity.  He was prepared by decades of study and detailed information.

Towards the end of the question and answer period, a little three year old girl raised her hand. She said into the microphone in her tiny little voice, "But WHO made the sun and moon?"

It was as if all air had been sucked out of the room, along with all the facts and figures and models and knowledge.  The answer for "who" had been left out of the discussion, the answer for "who" was so obvious in that silence that no one -- believer in God or not-- had to answer.  The evidence of God, as Creator and designer, was blatant before us.  His Presence resounded in that room.

The lecturer was speechless.  That little girl's question hung in the air, seemingly printed in bold type and CAPITAL letters. In all of his study and deep research, he neglected the question "who.".  It was almost as if after his hour long lecture about this phenomenal eclipse, a tiny pre-school girl had set him up for this question.  The answer was obvious and profound:  God.

The lecturer stood at his podium, silent for the first time in almost two hours.  He stumbled and fumbled -- this man of elaborate explanations and equations -- and finally spit out, "Well, that's rather complicated."

Even the audience chuckled at the irony.

The presence of God is so complex, there is no end to discovery. The evidence is so obvious, even the smallest child can recognize Him.

All the calculations are incredible, because they are so seamlessly woven.  But don't forget the awe. What we recognize as beauty and wonder are only His fingerprints all over it.

So in a week, when this extraordinary event in nature spans across the skies, may the majesty of God rise up in the heart of every observer.  Things like this don't just happen.

There is design to it, nothing has changed, all the way to the beginning of time  "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis 1.1.

Last week, I asked our four year old grandson, who is already mesmerized by study of astronomy, "So Adri, who made the sun and moon?"  He looked up at me and laughed out loud,  "God, of course!"

...let all the inhabitants of the world
     stand in awe of Him!
For He spoke,
and it came to be;
He commanded,
       and it stood forth.

                   Psalm 33. 8-9

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The only thing pathetic was my attitude

It was a long and upward trail on the side of a mountain.  There was a way through this wilderness that had been faithfully trod by those who went before me, be it rocky and full of roots that tried to trip me up.  But there was a path engraved.  I just had to follow it.

I kept my eyes to the trail.  And all I could see was dirt and gravel and roots and an occasional low spot of squishy mud.

Kind of like an ordinary day, I thought.  Keep your head down and you'll get through this.

But as I hiked, following Bill up the mountainside, my senses began to awaken to what was around me.  And I realized that the only thing pathetic was my attitude.  Because when I lifted my eyes, God astonished me. 

I glanced to my left, and God took my breath away.

And then, I looked up and saw a million trees singing praise.

This was not a path through the woods, but the main aisle in one of the world's greatest cathedrals.

God does not transform the mundane and ordinary.  I am already walking through the extraordinary, and I don't even know it.  Even now.  Even today.  Even in what only appears like gravel and mud, He dazzles me with His Presence. 

I just need to lift up my eyes and see what He has wrought.  Look where I am.  Look where I am going.  Look at what is before me.  I don't want to miss out on His resounding faithfulness, bombarding all my senses. How majestic is Your name in all the earth.

I will not just get through this hard gravelly place. Things will not just be OK.  That would be missing the point. That would be missing the awe of God in this.  Because God is not all about outcomes and destinations, but the incredible journey of knowing Him more.

Where is this hard path going?  You wouldn't believe.  Don't miss the wonder along the way.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From whence does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
     who made heaven and earth.

                       Psalm 121.1-2

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sometimes take your stand, sometimes run for your life

It was late afternoon, the house was quiet, I was at a pause in my work.  I checked the forecast. The sky was overcast, but no rain was expected.  I drove over to the park to hike my favorite loop.

I started up the big hill and had almost reached the border of deep green trees standing like a sanctuary with its doors wide open, when I heard a noise I could not immediately identify.  It was not a chorus of angels.  I listened as I walked.

And very suddenly, an audible alarm resounded in my thoughts. I realized that whooshing noise was not a tractor in the distance, nor a plane flying overhead, nor the innocuous invading vibrations of a leaf blower.  It was the sound of rain rushing my way, so heavy, pounding down so incredibly hard that it appeared to be "white noise" on the highest volume, literally sounding like an ambushing army, violently coming my way.

RUN, my brain shouted.

I turned immediately and ran as fast as I could, back to my car.

Walk in the strength of the LORD.
Take your stand for righteousness.
Recognize your refuge in Him.
But also know,
                when to run for your life.

No temptations has overtaken you
  that is now common to man.
God is faithful, and He will not let you
be tempted beyond your strength,
but with the temptations
will also provide the way of escape,
that you may be able to endure it.

                          1 Corinthians 10. 13

Listen for His voice,
    be aware of the exits,
look for the pass in the mountains,
be faithful in what God places on your path,
but be willing and ready to turn on a dime.

And flee when God says to.

If I had hesitated,
    even but for a moment,
I would have been caught by it.

Know when to run for your life.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

But something else does

The first time I picked up a book by author Annie Dillard on recommendation from a friend, I rushed into it, only to find myself deep in a bog, barely able to pick my way through.  And then, I began to walk at her own slow pace.  And a whole new world opened.

Sometimes an entire essay of hers doesn't move but an inch or two.  But profound truth, so embedded in creation, peeks shyly through the trees and astonishes me every time.

"Muskrats are cautious.  Many, many evenings, I wait without seeing one.  But sometimes it turns out that the focus of my waiting is misdirected... For when the muskrats don't show, something else does."  (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

And from her writing, I learned how to meander in my own life. Stop, stand still, and study what is all around me, to cease from always moving, always rushing, always looking for the next big thing, always watching for something else, always seeking another open door, a fork in the road, a different trail, or a path through the thicket or the miry bog. 

Having done all, to stand, right where I am, no need to go somewhere else.  What is right here, right now, right in front of me. An entire universe is under my feet, and I am looking everywhere else.  I have learned to be silent, and to realize only then, that nothing is silent, watching for what moves, studying what does not.  To watch the clouds creep across the blue and change their personalities, and look slowly like an elephant on its back, or a duck holding hands with a flying dog.

The brook does not gurgle, but it breaks into a million different levels of sound, the voices of its chorus rushing past the rocks that fail to stop the ongoing requiem.  And ten feet away, on the other side of the wooden foot bridge, the moving water sounds like a foreign language, a strange country from where I was, an entirely new section of the symphony.

We drove past a black bear the other day on the side of the road.  This huge lumbering pitch black marvelous creature was skirting the edge of the deep forest where she would become invisible, suddenly passing from one dimension to another.

A little further down the one lane gravel road, we stopped the car on the border of a field of tall prairie grass, so deep, if full-grown lions had passed in front of us, we would not have seen any more than a breeze rippling over its surface.  I reached for the binoculars which we usually forget to bring.  I scrolled along the huge trees on the far side of the field, one tree dead and barren, one smaller tree reaching up to the sky, and another next to it, its ancient limbs raised like an  enormous Y.  That is where I stopped moving the binoculars and watched and waited and focused and refocused on a dark spot I saw there, a shadow, I surmised, just a murky swath of bark.

But then I saw it move.

"I think there's a bear in that tree on the right," I said as I passed the binoculars to Bill.  I was a bit skeptical that it was.  Not likely.

Yet there was not one bear, but two.  In a tree where, with my naked eye, there was nothing but green, way too far for me to see anything on my own.  But with a deeper vision, there was the wonder, the reality, not at all a figment of my imagination, nor conjured up from all the years of nights my grandma told me the make-believe story of the three bears.  They were real as life.  Because they were real.

I was not looking for anything in particular.  But as Annie says, "when the muskrats don't show, something else does."

I just couldn't see it before.  And the people parked around us in their jeeps and minivans and sedans  were oblivious to this astonishing sight, as if in an invisible dimension right next to them.  How many hundreds of times I have passed that way and not considered it as much as an empty field?

That kind of vision, that kind of insight, does not happen on its own.  And that is why I read the Bible, because it matters, to see the supernatural all around me, not to make connections but to realize them, to be sensitive to what only appears invisible, to know, to stand still, to stop even before the day begins.  I don't want to miss any of it.  I don't want to miss the wonder.

And something always comes I never saw before.

The heavens are telling the glory of God,
and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech,
    nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

                                 Psalm 19. 1-6

Friday, July 7, 2017

Even today

Even today, in what only appears as ordinary, or what looks like an impossible wall or harrowing abyss, even now, even here, God does not just suddenly show up. But we --the myopic people --slowly realize God does not just run ahead of us, His designs and purposes are already rooted and bearing fruit.  

God never works in singular outcomes. His faithfulness springs up from the very ground (Psalm 85. 11), even what is impenetrable to us.

Fifteen years ago, our family was in a tough spot. "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (2 Chronicles 20.12) became our daily cry. We were six months into praying, reaching the critical path of ceasing to seek the answer, but seeking God in it and seeking Him through it. 

A huge turning point came in an unusual way, which is almost always how God breaks through.  I had taken one of our girls back to college, attending a morning church service with her before I headed the five-plus hours back home.  James MacDonald was preaching on the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament.  He directed our attention not just to the plight of the Israelites, but to our own. God is at work, he said. "And when you get to the end of this, you will have a story of God's faithfulness."

I couldn't write down those words fast enough. His phrase engraved itself with a promise that God would bring us through.

Those words resounded in my heart all those many miles home. As soon as I arrived, deep in the night, I jotted down that quote on an index card and set it by the kitchen sink as a reminder through the day.

Early the next morning, our youngest daughter rushed past to grab a bite of breakfast before she caught the bus to school. She hesitated a moment to read what I had written down. "That's not true," she said, rather shocking me.

And then, she spoke words which carried me through the hard places I couldn't even see yet, words that God continues to remind me through all these many years:

"No, Mom, every day is a story of God's faithfulness."

God is not just delivering an answer, there is not just an outcome, but God is bringing me through the story of His incredible faithfulness. 

Every moment. Every day. Even in the unexpected. Even in this place.

Even for you.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In the middle of the whatsoever

Perhaps you have awoken this morning after the Fourth of July to a hard task, in an impossible place, all rain, no shelter in sight.

What am I going to do?  Apply His Word, let it seep in.

I don't think I can do this. "Good, because I can," says the LORD.

I don't know what to do. "But I do," He reminds me.

"I am with you."  God's Word does not just comfort, but directs me into His purposes.

In His Word is how to walk through this miry bog, up this mountain, knee deep in mud, tangled by the thicket, bushwhacking in the wilderness where sometimes it feels like there is no air to breathe. There, in that very place, you will find the faithfulness of God, beyond all explaining away.  And as the old hymn says, in the bottom of the pit, I find my Savior there.

Despair only blocks out any available light.

Have no anxiety about anything,
but in everything
by prayer and supplication
      with thanksgiving,
let your requests
  be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
  which passes all understanding,
will keep your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren,
whatsoever is true,
whatsoever is honorable,
whatsoever is just,
whatsoever is pure,
whatsoever is lovely,
whatsoever is gracious,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything
           worthy of praise,
think about these things.

              Philippians 4. 6-8

Whatsoever is good,
even that little crumb,
      focus on that.
If there is anything to praise,
       seek it out.
God will bring you through.

An exit sign may not suddenly appear,
          but just the next step emerging,
another direction unfolding,
a strength in the staying.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What I almost missed

We hiked through God’s glory yesterday, through gates of splendor, trekking through the grandest of sanctuaries.  Sixteen miles was a long hike by any measure, an uphill climb that seemed to go on forever.  

And I almost missed it.

At first suggestion of this particular hike, my reluctance surged into full defense mode. It is going to be cold, hot, wet, hard, long, and steep. Probably, said God.  

But on the other side of reluctance, whoa, I realized I’d be the loser if I didn’t go.  I am old enough to know that the uphills and hard places don’t even compare to the good stuff that emerges, not even on the other side, but along the way.  

Be prepared, and leave the “what ifs” for God to carry.  Those phantom fears and often ridiculous inconveniences, most of which never even show up, will weigh you down and wear you out.  Alarm bells should have blared and red lights flash,  when I discovered that two of our trails were named Long Hungry Ridge Trail and Twentymile.  There are reasons for those names...  and stories behind them.

We took along peanut butter sandwiches, bandaids, and an extra-large backpack of humor.

As in any daunting task, as I climbed upward, I could not look too far ahead.  Don’t think of it as almost 16 miles, I thought.   Divide it into a do-able half, and then cut it into bite-size pieces.  And as my grandmother always advised me, “Count down, not up.”  Not “you’ve gone 13 miles. You must be exhausted.”  But “You only have three to go.  God is bringing you through.”

Those who blazed the trail ahead of us, sometimes hundreds of years before, applied liberally switchbacks on the steepest inclines.  Back and forth, back and forth, degree by degree to the top.  This is a journey, not a race.  Wild flowers we could not even identify decorated our way, unexpected cool breezes ambushed us when we needed them most, and that sliver of light up ahead through the trees was not the sky, but deep blue hope.  At one point, we observed an almost invisible nest by the side of the trail, two tiny eggs nestled like a precious treasure inside. 

I thought of things on my plate right now in life and on my radar and on my heart, those things that I have been asking God,  “Why am I doing this?”   And in those mysteries , God reminds me even those are not an endless trudge into nowhere.  God is going somewhere with this.  “Trust Me.”

The end result of our hike was a big bad blister on the back of my right foot….  and a heart filled to overflowing with the incredible, impossible things God brings to whatever we do.  It was not wonderful.  It was full of wonder.

So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer nature is wasting away,
our inner nature is being renewed every day.
For this slight momentary affliction
is preparing for us
an eternal weight of glory,
      beyond all comparison.

                 2 Corinthians 4. 16-18

A blister will heal and disappear.  But I will never forget what came with it.  

And when we reached the top of the mountain, where we stopped and enjoyed lunch in a field of tall grass and enormous bushes of flaming azaleas, well, a different view emerges, and there are no small victories.  Too much to even grasp.

The end of the trail is never the end of the trail,
        because we are changed by it. 
                       We are changed by Him.
            God just opens up another dimension,
                     not necessarily wide-open doors
                     but His vision to see
                              the hidden ones all around us.
    God builds His strength in us
              to take us past the slightest momentary affliction
                        to spheres we cannot even imagine
                                        beyond all comparison.

Not necessarily in that order
    and sometimes simultaneously.
It was the perfect day.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This day

We are heading on an adventure today, off the grid, taking a trail that is new to us, into what only appears as a wilderness to us.  But to God?

He not only knows our way, God has intricately designed our every step, every moment in this day.

I don't want to miss His wonder in it by my premeasured ideas.  I want to seek Him and be wrapped and enraptured by His glory. Even in this. Even on the mountain ridge. Even through the miry bog. His glory is the same both places, wherever the LORD leads me this day, however He unfolds it.

I have no idea what to expect today,
but it is no mystery to Him.

Do I seek His blessing in it?
Or seek to bless Him?

One and the same.  Wherever, in whatever, among whomever. Even in this.

Every day is a story of God's faithfulness.

Happy is he
whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
    Who made heaven and earth...

                     Psalm 146. 5

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Other Side

Early this morning, I posted on my other daily blog ( a passage of Scripture that is one of my favorite accounts in the Old Testament.

I love the Bible because it is not only the Word of God, but it relates the real stories of real ordinary people and how they come to realize who God is and what He can do in their lives.

And through my reading His Word this morning, God reminded me:
                The circumstances are not the main event.

When the servant of the man of God
rose early in the morning
and went out, behold,
an army with horses and chariots
was round about the city.
And the servant said,
"Alas, my master!
      What shall we do?"
Elisha said, "Fear not,
   for those who are with us
   are more than those
   who are with them."
Then Elisha prayed, and said,
"O LORD, I pray to You,
open his eyes
      that he may see."
So the LORD opened the eyes
   of the young man, and he saw,
and behold, the mountain was
full of horses and chariots of fire
                        round about Elisha.

                   2 Kings 6. 15-17

(Feeling that kind of
"Then Elisha prayed..."
It is not that
    "God will show up,"
but He opens our eyes
           to see He is already here.
The LORD is my strength.
Even in this.)

Enlarge our vision, O LORD,
that we may see
    what is really going on.
And that we may know You
even more in this
and through this impossible situation.

God never works in singular outcomes.
His faithfulness stretches
   even beyond the heavens He created.
And surely,
                  a lot more than this.

Feeling overwhelmed?
   Look to the LORD
                who overcomes.
There is another side to this.

For we are powerless against this great multitude
that is coming against us.
We do not know what to do,
         but our eyes are on You.

                             2 Chronicles 20. 12

Monday, June 19, 2017

Because, quite frankly, there just might be a reason for it

The clock was ticking faster than it should.  I needed to bring something awesomely chocolate for our daughter's birthday lunch.  And I didn't have the time to drive to the store to even buy a box of brownie mix.  A bizarre idea flew across my thoughts.  After checking with the book The Joy of Cooking, all the ingredients for its brownie recipe were waiting on my pantry shelf.

I could make homemade brownies in the oven faster than it would take to drive to the store and back.

I followed the recipe up to the point of greasing the baking pan lined with foil. "And why exactly would I do that?"  I thought.  Lining a pan with foil doesn't sound necessary.  I had never heard of doing that.  This recipe is from the original 1931 edition of this cookbook.  Things are different now, I tried to justify my own defiant heart.

And then, the conversation in my head reached a new level, "And who exactly is the resident expert in this situation?  Who wrote the cookbook?  And of course, there is a remote possibility that maybe she might know something more than me?"

Ok, ok, I'll follow the instructions, the rebellious chef within me finally resigned.  Because, quite frankly, there just might be a reason for it.  

(And if you have followed this blog for very long, you are familiar with my long saga of culinary misadventures which could be entitled, "Yes, you need to follow the directions.")

The recipe came together quicker than I could have imagined.  And the brownies were SO good, I made another batch for our small group meeting the next day.

"Why would it call for lining the pan with foil?" I later asked my husband with his engineering mind.  He didn't have to think twice about it.  Because the foil reflects the heat upward and bakes the brownies more evenly, decreasing the possibility of the brownies overcooking or burning on the bottom of the pan.

So, there IS a reason for it.

And when I read Scriptures, there are verses in which God calls me to do something quite counter-cultural like loving difficult people and going the second mile in a hard situation and listening to His way in the impossible places.  And stuff even harder than that.

My natural self reacts with, "And why exactly would I do that?"  It doesn't make any more sense to me than lining a baking pan with foil.

Because there is something much deeper going on here, something incredibly supernatural.  God is the reality of this equation.  And that makes all the difference. 

I am not God.  He is the resident expert here in this.  And God authored the Book.

"And if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments...And all these blessing shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God."    Deuteronomy 28. 1-2

There is ALWAYS a reason for it, deeper and multi-dimensional and more generational, than I can ever know.  Even in those things I don't understand.  Even in those things I may find hard... or seemingly ridiculous in my myopic vision or stubborn way.  Even in the easy stuff no more difficult than as if lining a pan with foil.  There are no small acts of faithfulness.

Following God into it is not just because He says so. It is responding in love to Him.  It is because I know He bears His profound purposes in it. God never works in finite dimensions or singular outcomes. That which is unknown to me is no mystery to God.  I would be astonished by what the Almighty is doing.  He has seamlessly woven His glory into the most intricate details and His faithfulness into the bigger story.

And I can trust Him with my very life.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways,
                             says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.

                                  Isaiah 55. 8-9

My Very First Ever Homemade Brownies
          (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan, lined with foil.
Melt together 1 stick unsalted butter and 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan.  Let it cool before adding to the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat together 4 large eggs and 1/4 teaspoon salt
Gradually add 2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla while continuing to beat, until thick.
Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the cooled chocolate mixture, and add 1 cup flour.  If desired, stir in 1 cup chopped pecans.
Scoop batter into the prepared pan and bake 25 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan before cutting with a plastic knife.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A little message for Father's Day

Finally brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.

                        Philippians 4. 8

What are you going to dwell on?

Look for something good.  
And thank your dad for it.

And even when the relationship is rocky,
      there is another way in this.
God heals.
God redeems.
God is faithful.
Make sure those you know
and those who come after you
            know that God can create
a new story for His glory.

Let God redeem.
And think about these things.

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD,
                 and His might,
and the wonders that He has done. teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
      the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God...

                                  Psalm 78. 4, 6-7

Thursday, June 15, 2017

...because in him
there is found something
   pleasing to the LORD...

                 1 Kings 14. 13

(And that always looks very different
     than the ordinary response.
Help me, O LORD,
to seek what is pleasing
                 in Your sight.
Even in this.
Especially in this.)

Friday, June 9, 2017

What is draining my phone?

It snuck up on me without fanfare, as these things often do.  All of a sudden, I noticed last week late in the afternoon, my cell phone's power was balancing on the abyss of being entirely drained.  I had not done anything different, nothing unusual, but unless I plugged in, I was going to be done for the day.

It is easy to blame the "big rocks" for those things that decrease power, but most of the time, it is the silent drainers that deplete on the fringes - those apps I never use, those websites I forgot to close down, the little stuff that nibbles away at the fuel.

What is draining my phone's power?  What is draining my heart?

It is sometimes the big detours I make around God's way in something, a route that never quite ends up in the same place.  It is sometimes the little details -- the tiny knots of a rebellious heart -- that develop into a huge disobedience that is hard to unravel.

It is the little things that distract, the other voices I follow, the cumulative details that subtract, and the ways I am not seeking His strength.  And even little fears grow exponentially into enormous black holes, also known as anxieties.

Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel,
"If you are returning to the LORD
with all your heart,
then put away the foreign gods
and the Ashtaroth from among you,
and direct your heart to the LORD.

                                1 Samuel 7. 3

What are the things that get in the way of my relationship with God?  What do I need to haul out to the county dump and leave? 

The solution is not a matter of stuffing God someplace in a pocket of my day, but to direct my heart to the LORD.  It is not that everything will suddenly change, but God enables me to see all things differently.  I am running with Him.  I am running on the strength of the LORD.  His power is never used up.  His power in us only grows stronger.  He changes my vision.  He changes my heart.

Even in this impossible place,
   even in this difficult relationship,
breaking into,
interrupting my own small rebellions,
      which are never unimportant at all.

What coveted things in my life are draining my energy and distracting me from Him?  Those things I don't want to let go of.  Those things that "aren't a problem."  Those things I can justify with a milliondy legitimate reasons.  Justifications should always send up a red flag.

For my phone, I plug in every night whether the device needs it or not.  For my soul, I plug in every morning, whether a day of big decisions or ordinary living, whether I think I need it or not.  There are no ordinary days in God's economy.

You never know what strength you will need.  Even those things which we deem insignificant are discovered the most profound of all.  And most crises are never announced ahead of time.

His power not dependent on circumstances or my own puny muscles,  but an empowering of the Spirit which transcends anything thrown along the way.  That kind of fuel comes from prayer and daily time in His Word.  That kind of strength comes only from Him.  That kind of life.

I don't want to miss a thing.

O Lord GOD,
You have only begun
to show Your servant
Your greatness and
    Your mighty hand...

                  Deuteronomy 3. 24

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Even in the midst of a mess

The place I was living my last two years of university was like taking an upper-level graduate course on navigation through stormy seas.  There were women from all different social circles and world views, and very few who stepped tenderly through that mine field.  Sibling rivalry in all forms looked like child's play, compared to this turmoil.

As far as I knew, I was the only Christian residing there, which placed me not in a realm of isolation but in a wide-open opportunity to love others.  After a year of living there, I was designated as the resident adviser which both paid for my room and placed me on the front lines of the battlefield, pointblank in the midst of squabbling, wounded feelings, and what appeared at times downright war between foes. Trust me.  There is nothing more vicious than vengeance among females.  I did not just pray daily for wisdom;  I continually prayed.  I never knew what a day might bring.

In one instance, food was being pilfered from the small fridge in the second floor lounge.  It didn't seem to matter that people wrote their names on their containers.  Any item seemed to be fair play. The mindset appeared to be, "what is yours becomes mine."  Coming down hard was likely to foster even more rebellion.  "O LORD, guide me."  I chose humor instead.

I merely taped a notice to the door of the fridge: "Certain items in this fridge have been laced with Ex-Lax.  If you take what is not rightfully yours, we will know who you are." The pilfering stopped suddenly and completely.   A bit of grace lingered instead in that space.

Shortly after that, early one morning, one of the renown ringleaders of trouble in that rooming house stopped me by the communal sinks in the bathroom. "We know you are a Christian," she said.  "And we are watching you."

I had no idea.  But I have never forgotten her words, now some forty years ago.  Others are watching, not to see if I am perfect or horribly imperfect, but to desperately know if God is real.  That does not just show when things are good and the skies are crisp blue, but when things go incredibly wrong and the storms don't seem to stop. What does my relationship with God mean then? Does my life look any different? Not to be impervious and detached in the midst of a deep mess, but responsive and living faithfully in it.

...and you shall be
My witnesses in Jerusalem
and in all Judea
and Samaria 
and to the end of the earth.

                 Acts 1. 8

There are no exclusions.  

Even here?  Maybe especially even here,
   strategically placed,
   divinely appointed,
the gospel livestreamed.
Being a witness
     underlies whatever we do,
     influences whatever we do,
               how we do it,
     changes who we are.
The concentric circles of witness
        have no boundaries
and run farther
          and profoundly deeper
than we can ever know.
A witness points to the evidence
      of a life changed forever.
What does that look like
     where I am today?

Excuse me,
   your witness is showing.
Even now.
Even in the midst of this mess.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bring your net

Yesterday, my husband Bill went fly fishing in the rivers and streams that meander along the mountain roads.

I tagged along, not to fish, but just to enjoy his company and being outside.  I finished up a book I had been reading.  I ran a gravel road through a cathedral of trees, their tender green leaves creating a visual masterpiece against a Hand-painted dome of the deepest blue. I hiked a trail that used to be a rail line for logging companies who robbed the mountains of its trees and left behind the marks of greed. But now, I hiked through a place so beautiful there isn't even a word yet invented for it.  Left for dead, I saw what God's redeeming looks like in a life. The forest didn't survive. It thrives. 

As we arrived at one trailhead, two fishermen were packing up for the day. How were the fish? Bill asked. "Not much," one grumbled. As we moved toward a foot path down to the rushing stream, he added, "You're not going to catch anything down there."  We proceeded anyway to check out the flow.

As soon as he climbed down the bank, Bill cast his line into the water, and in one continuous movement, pulled out a ten inch trout.

You never know what incredible things flourish below the impossible.

As I returned from a run, Bill was walking up to the truck. "How'd you do?" I inquired.

"I caught some good ones," he said. "One of them was big enough I should have brought my net with me."

I had just been praying as I ran. For family members down to the smallest ones. For friends in impossible situations. For obvious needs of those I know. For the not so obvious wounds all around us. For help. For forgiveness. For practicing the Presence of God.

When you wade into the water, I wanted to tell Bill, bring your net. Fish expectantly.

And when we come before the LORD, pray expectantly. 

Bring your net.

So they cast the net,
and now
they were not able
   to haul it in,
for the quantity of fish.

               John 21. 6

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why did the chicken cross the road?

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"  the long-established riddle asks.  And amid the elaboration of creative answers, the original stands firm, that which states the obvious, "To get to the other side."

This past week, we explored yet another public playground with two of our grandchildren.  On such a hot and sunny day, an enormous tree held out its arms as a welcome refuge, shading most of the space, a prevailing breeze swirled around us, and the children ran up and down through the wooded structure, designed like a fort.

At one point, our four-year-old grandson, not more than ten feet away from us, stood on a strong beam a mere foot above the ground.  The beam was designed as a bridge of sorts, leading from one part of the structure to another, the literal way and means "to get to the other side."

With one hand on the support post, he took a few steps.  When he had to let go, he realized his vulnerability.  He was on his own.  There was nothing to hold onto.  He looked at us, not for direction, but for deliverance.

"Take one step, buddy."  And he did.  "And now, another step."  Which he also did.  He was making his way across.  One step.  And then, another.  The steps became smaller, until a single step began the smallest of shuffles.  At that point, instead of keeping his eyes on the beam or looking to us for direction, he looked down.  Big mistake.  That short hop to the ground appeared as an abyss to him.

Instead of taking another step -- which would have been the easier thing to do -- he balanced himself, bent his knees and reached down to grip the beam with his hands.  He crawled  the rest of the way.  And that was ok too.  He made it.  Steps, shuffling, and crawling, but he made it to the other side.

Oh baby, I thought, learn to trust God when you are only twelve inches off the ground and when you can see the other side five feet away.  Because not if, but someday, your lifeline will be trusting God across a literal tightrope when the outcome is not so obvious.  Someday you will be a long way up on a slender thread into unknown territory and that seems to go on forever.

Trust God on your beam in the playground.  Trust God with this.  This experience is not an end in itself, but a chronicle of His faithfulness to you... and exactly what you are going to need in your skill set in the years to come.

No matter the impossible difficulty ahead of you today, look to Jesus.  Eyes on Him, staying faithfully on His path for you, even the hard stuff, even that which may make no sense to you at all.  That's what trust is made of.  It may appear to look like devastation, but that is when His power and His grace break through. Take one step, no matter how tiny it may seem.

The first step of a long obedience in the same direction
       is simply that:
                  a first step.
God is faithful.  He will direct your path.

A couple of years ago, we were faced with some huge changes.  What do we do?  It was as if God whispered to us, "Take the one step in front of you."  And then when we did, "Do you trust me with the next?"  We were quite literally inching through the dark.  And even shuffling counts.

When we trust Him, it is not for our glory "Look at me!!!  I did it."  But for His glory,"Look at Me."  Because that is exactly how we get to the other side.

It is not necessarily that God takes us to another place.  The other side may just be a deeper intimacy with him. God enlarges our vision that we may see differently right where we are.

You gave a wide place
             for my steps under me,
and my feet have not slipped.

                         Psalm 18. 36