Monday, August 31, 2015

Lions and Tigers and Bears...

Oh, MY!

Driving through the woods last year, on a vacation with my daughter and her husband, I sat in the back seat enjoying the beauty of God's world all around me. Looking out the window lazily, I was startled to see a huge black mass of fur strolling through the trees, sure enough, as if he owned the place! Right in front of me was a living, breathing, black bear, on whose land I believe we were trespassing! 

I had seen wood carvings in all of the tourist shops in the area that proudly announced to the tourists, "You are in BEAR territory!" As a city girl, I found it mildly amusing, didn't take it too seriously. I had heard many a bear story, but, to me they were little more than myth. Until I looked one right in the eye. I held my breath as he stopped the traffic while he sauntered across the road. Crossing directly in front of our car, he turned and looked in the front window, as if sizing us up as tourists not worth eating today (thank the Lord!). I believe he was more interested in going fishing in the twinkling waters of the stream that wound itself around the trees and rocks that were strewn like so much confetti all along the side of the road. This was God's creation, A world of extravagant beauty splashing and shouting its abandon all around us. 

That's me in the back seat!

I treasure the memory of that sweet interlude in my life, provided by God through the hands and generosity of my daughter and her husband. I delighted in the beauty of the world they had given me an opportunity to see. The gorgeous beauty of the trees, changing their clothes to fit the season - sometimes, ruby red, sometimes glittering gold, sometimes fading green, or popsicle orange, on their way to the forest floor to sleep before the winter snows blanketed the world. 

There were only about 3 or 4 of us in the church as one of the ladies visiting, like us,
sat down at the old, rickety piano, and sang Amazing Grace with the voice of an angel.
I remember thinking of all of the believers who had worshipped and died and were buried in the back of the church, who were now in heaven witnessing that their church is still being used for God's praises, hundreds of years later.  Amazing, indeed...

I remember with great affection the loveliness of that sweet vacation. The beautiful little church from the 19th century where I was one of a tiny gathering of spectators to a choir of one who sat down at the old church piano and filled the hills with her beautiful voice, singing Amazing Grace. I treasure the memory of the evening my son-in-law drove high up into the hills on a night that showcased the stars like diamonds freely thrown about against a blackened sky. Simply breathtaking is the beauty of the world God has created!

"The heavens declare the glory of God
and the firmament displays His handiwork..."
Psalm 1:1
There are countless memories I have from that time with my children. But of all the memories and wonders I treasure, the one that warms me like a fire on a cold and snowy night, is the memory of the love so freely and joyfully bestowed on me with such abandon. Loving each other extravagantly, and letting their love splash all over me, was really the greatest gift I received from these two co-conspirators in love and generosity toward me.  

Many are the wonders of God's creation.  From the breathtaking beauty of the world He created and freely gave to us, to the beautiful voices raised to sing His praise, to the majesty of the wildlife, fish jumping in the sparkling spring waters, black furry bears strolling on their way to somewhere, yes, of all of these wonders, there is one even more captivating to me. The wonder of love that bursts out of our hearts for another.  The sweet, life changing gift of love, from the One who says He is Love itself.

What a joy to have sat down at the banquet table of the Lord with my daughter and her husband, who served me up heaping portions of His love, and never left a tab.  Yes, I enjoyed everything I saw. But, mostly, I loved watching you. Sharing with you.  Being loved by you.  Did you know you are, to me, a reflection of the best there is in this world?  Did you know, I was basking in your love?  If not, I'm telling you now...

Amen... :)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

If There Be Anything...

Think Upon These Things...
Lately, it's becoming harder and harder to obey this scripture. Judging only by the headlines on the evening news, one is tempted to believe there just isn't any longer anything true, honorable, right, pure, or lovely to think about.  We see babies being dismembered and their tiny little body parts sold to the highest bidder.  Politicians are labeled liars and who cares - its what we expect anymore.  Terrorists commit crimes against humanity that are unthinkable and yet, tolerated by the world - there seems to be an international conspiracy of silence against the truth.  In some universities, students are no longer allowed to use gender based pronouns, as if there is no such thing anymore as male and female!  

In the midst of this cultural moral decay and cowardice, I often think, is there anyone willing to speak the truth? In the filth and garbage that is being celebrated as the new normal, is there anything pure, anything lovely, anything honorable, anything or anyone worthy of praise?  This beautiful little scripture, like so many others in the Word of God, directs our steps, in a world filled with horrors and evil that threaten to drown us in the muck and garbage that surrounds us. 

God is not surprised by what is happening in our world today. He knows full well the evil that assaults us from every side. Like a loving daddy who knows what His child will see and hear in the world as he grows up, He gives us clear and pointed direction - "if there be anything...think upon these things." He seems to be saying, "Look for these things. Dig them out. Savor them in your heart and in your mind. Hold on tightly to these things. Discipline your mind!" He is teaching us what He already knows.  The battleground over our thoughts is won or lost by how much we choose to obey this scripture.

We can choose to dwell on the ugliness and the evil that is out there.  Of we can choose to savor that which is beautiful, lovely, pure, true, honorable and worthy of praise.  Not sure where to find it?  Sink yourself into the Word of God and let it wash over you like a refreshing spring rain.  It will give you hope, peace and joy that cannot be found anywhere else.

Does any of this really matter, in the big scheme of things? Oh yes.  I believe it does.  I believe that what we choose will determine our destiny, spiritually and emotionally.  It is really our very life that is at stake...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Press on to Acknowledge the LORD!

Press on...

Lately things have been pretty tough in my little corner of the world.  Maybe compared to some others, my troubles would seem like nothing, but, to me, they have brought me down, fried me, inside and out, and left me feeling like a kissing cousin to Job.  I won't bore you with the details of my trials and tribulations, because I'm sure you have enough of your own. But, suffice it to say, I have struggled to put one foot in front of the other lately. Sometimes, I was so miserable, I couldn't see the truth of God's love surrounding me.  I couldn't hear His voice calling out to me to come and rest in Him.  I forgot my identity as a treasured daughter of the Lord.  In many ways, I was numb.  And that was a better alternative than feeling anything. Because then, I felt the pain.  

I thought it was the pain of the loss of a loved family member, followed by the pain of family wars that divided us further, followed by the loss of a dream I was treasuring that fell by the wayside, followed by housing problems where I live that made me not even want to go home, followed by financial stress brought on by the housing problems and on and on and on.  Job, I decided, had nothing on me.  I knew exactly how he felt.

In the midst of all the struggles just to get up in the morning, God sent me a tremendous blessing through the hands and love of some of my children.  It amazed me and touched me how tenderly God ministered to me through the love of my daughter and her husband. But, almost as quickly as the blessing came, I fell back into a morose, dark foreboding, as if God had abandoned me.  In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I knew I was all alone and nobody cared.  Where did I get that idea?  Whose voice was I listening to?

Mercifully, God breathed His love so directly on my face, I could not miss the sunshine of His grace. I finally realized that God was loving me through it all.  He had never lost sight of me, abandoned me, thrown me overboard, or left me for dead.  He hadn't done any of that.  I had.  I had decided that I would listen to the wrong voice, follow the wrong signs, go in the wrong direction, abandon the lessons He has so lovingly and tenderly taught me.  I chose to leave Him, not the other way around. When I read the book of Hosea, a picture of God so patiently and painfully calling out to Israel to return to Him, I hear Him calling to me.  It's still the same today, thousands of years later, isn't it? We are so capable of leaving Him behind when we are hurting, to seek comfort in the wrong places.  

How lovingly, how faithfully, how constantly, how patiently, how tenderly, but, firmly, He called to me by name and drew me back to Him.  As soon as I turned toward Him and saw the beauty of His face smiling down on me, all of the pain dissipated.  It was Him I needed, plain and simple.  It was Him.  His presence. His love. His tender mercies.  Nothing else comes close.  Nothing else.

I have not enjoyed the storm I have been through.  I really haven't. But, I am learning to be grateful for the rough winds and the turbulent sea that brought me to my Savior.  "Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee..."