Light for One Step

 

panoMingusLookoutSome things we learn theoretically when life is going smoothly are the things we’ll need to apply practically for getting through the “test” successfully when life throws ugly curves at us. I still clearly see in my mind the dark night we were walking back from the overlook  on Mingus Mountain to the youth camp. Because the ground was uneven, strewn with rocks and fallen trees, I had to shine my flashlight directly in front of me, not out ahead of me, to see what  I needed to step over or around. It occurred to me that all I needed was light for the next step. I shrugged off the knowledge that a skunk could be anxiously poised  two feet away from me, unseen in the dark, and planted each step in the patch of light I had for it.

Oh, Rose, remember! Believe!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Easier said than put into practice and lived, BUT, nevertheless, regardless, God has been that steady mini Maglite on my path the last eight years, even though I confess I’ve tried to shine it far ahead of me, scanning the future to see where God’s blessings might lie, and yes, missing two that were right under my feet. Did that mean God stopped loving me? Does that mean God stopped blessing me? NO!

If you’ve read this blog or look over posts of the past eight years, you read how God has been faithful to me even while the winds and waves thrashed around and towered over me. Just as He led the Israelites across the Red Sea on a miraculously dry path, God has led me into His blessings and goodness, even though I’ve wandered around as much as  they did, partly because I listened to well-meaning but unwise advice, and simply because God’s blessing didn’t look like I thought it would. Truly, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”… Lamentations 3: 22-25 NASB

Twice in the last five months GOD has brought HIS opportunities directly into my path. I didn’t  scan the horizon looking for them; God simply put them “right under my feet.” People came looking for me. Now it’s my job to use what God put into me, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to make the most and  best I can for God’s Kingdom purposes and victories from them.

As my friend Donna Partow wrote, “This Isn’t the Life I Signed Up For.” Hmm, well, maybe it is, and I just didn’t know it at the time I “enlisted.” What I DO know is that God IS good all the time (ironically and NOT coincidentally the title of a women’s devotional gift book I  was just asked to write for Christian Brands). O Lord, how You love me! I do call it irony, but lovingly – and firmly -You’re reminding me that 1) YOU are in charge, and 2) You love me, and 3) You see value in me, and 4) You WANT to accomplish Your purposes in me, and 5) You are good all the time and Your will for me is good, and 6) You aren’t done with me yet!

I lean into God’s Word every day because I NEED to! I NEED Jesus to be my loving Lord, Guide, Shepherd, Sword, Shield, Father, and Almighty King.

Oh you foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3: 1-9, 14 NIV

Yesterday as soon as I awoke, three songs came into my thoughts in succession:

  • Holiness, Holiness Is What I Long For
  • The Strife Is  O’er, the Battle Won
  • Lead, Kindly Light

Holy Spirit of the Living God, speak to me (loudly, please, with mercy for my sometimes deaf ears) what You are saying in those songs, and help me to walk in the one foot of light You give me today. I pray you help my emotions, my over-active brain, and my spirit to rest and trust in the Light of the World, even twelve inches at a time.

Simply Amen! In Jesus’ name, God, get YOUR glory!

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Pepper Jelly, Patronymics, Pennsylvania, and Passionate Papa

Over the kitchen counter at the Christmas party at a friend’s house, now about100 miles from where I live, Doug asked me about the cream cheese spread I’d made. I told him the ingredient he wondered about was pepper jelly, something I’d first tasted in Pennsylvania Dutch country and enjoyed so much that I bought a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook to get the recipe. He said they’d lived in Pennsylvania, asked if I came from Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry, and when I told him I did, he asked my maiden name. ‘Van Curen,” I replied, and his wife Janet’s eyes widened.

“That was my grandfather’s middle name!” she said, as amazed as I was.

Given what I knew about the history of the family name, and that part of the family had moved from New York, where the family started as Van Keulen (meaning “from Köln”) in the early 1600’s, on the ”Island of Man Hats”, moving to Pennsylvania before some ventured west to Ohio and Indiana, I replied in surprise, “Then I suspect we must be cousins, several times removed!”

There aren’t that many of us ”Van Curen,” ”Van Keuren,” or any other spelling of the name in this country, about 381 families in the 1990’s according to another distant cousin. What are the odds I’d run into a distant cousin in the Southwest nearly 400 years after our mutual ancestors set foot on American soil? The British, in charge of the census and taxation in the country in the early 1700’s, wanted to do away with the Dutch custom of ”patronymics,” naming a son with his father’s first name as the child’s surname. For example, a man whose name was “Mathijs Jansen ” would have a son whose last name was “Matthyssen.” The family went back to the name “Van Keulen/Van Ceulen” in 1715, changing the ”l” to “r”. Hard to keep track for taxation, so the British anchored the surname as Van Keuren and the spelling became Anglicized to Van Curen.

Three hundred and two years later, on the other side of the continent, Janet and I realize we’re related! And what was God showing me? That nothing is impossible for Him, that He is still here for me and with me, that His love is unfailing, that he is my Father, and that in Christ Jesus Janet and I are related TWO ways! The Bible, and Jesus himself, make our relationship with God, and to each other through Jesus, crystal clear:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 1 John 1: 12-13 NIV

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3: 25-29 NIV

But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12: 48-50 ESV

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14 NIV

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:9-17 NIV

So what? So even if you don’t have a single living blood relative, even one removed by several hundred years like Janet and I probably are, you have millions of brothers and sisters in the Family of God. And that tells me I should have kind regard for my sisters and brothers in Christ, and more than that, I know my “Papa” would love for me (yes, and you) to encourage people who don’t know the love and relationship Abba offers us through Jesus to come to recognize him and receive him as the ONE who makes that very real relationship with Almighty God very real and very possible.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145:18

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 3: 19-23 NIV

So what business of mine is it if people don’t hear about relationship with God through Jesus? Is that my concern? I’ve heard a lot of sisters and brothers in Christ say, “My faith is a very personal, private matter to me…” Well…. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable telling people about your Savior Jesus, or maybe you don’t want to risk ridicule and rejection, BUT I’m thinking If it concerns my Father, it oughta concern me! Here’s why I believe I do have a responsibility to “let my LIGHT shine” (and by “my light” I mean let Jesus shine through me with HIS light so the focus is on HIM, and be quick to say it’s HIM, not me, as the motivation to do good)

 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 2 Peter 3: 8-12 NIV

Maybe my discovery with Janet came at Christmas time because God wants to remind me to show grace in the aisles of the crowded grocery store, thank clerks and other service people for their help, and wish them “Merry Christmas”. Maybe just as importantly, God wants to remind me (and yo9u by this post) that he IS my loving FATHER, my PAPA, who gave me the greatest gift I ever could receive when he sent Jesus into this world as a helpless infant, feeling and knowing what it is to be human, with the purpose to give his life for mine so that I can live forever as God’s chosen, delighted in child. THAT is something to joyfully celebrate! And hey bro, sis, let’s celebrate the daily chance to help this family grow!

 

Here God is again …

IMG_1778God surely knows how much I/we need Him, His Presence,  His affirmation,  His love in my life/our lives.Today again, perfect timing in the midst of a “goof” I made in the time of an  appointment. Being over an hour early, I decided to run to the bank to take care of something I’ve needed to.First the map app on my phone directed me toward  the wrong bank (and my duh, when I didn’t see the first entry was an ad, not the search I’d  put into my phone). I did a quick course correction, found a branch of my bank, and met with a friendly, positive banker, then had to leave the bank while the request was being processed to go back to the appointment, which was a great connection with an accountant who is a man of faith.

An hour there, then back to the bank, but the banker I’d worked with was at lunch. Okay, pop across the street to Taco Bell, and oh look at that: the second bank I needed to visit had a branch right on the  same corner!  Check off that from my list, hop across the street, meet quickly with the banker with the change all finished.

Hmm… now can I go to the county offices to see about getting a new passport? I slip right in, find out what I need, and the clerk tells me that there’s a Costco just down the street where I can get my necessary photos at one-third the price of the drug store. Super! Drive down to Costco, have the (why are they always so unflattering?) photo taken, and then I dutifully stand at the corner of the counter, right at the entrance to the store, while I wait for the pictures to be processed. Less than five minutes into my waiting time, who should come pushing a cart  right past me but Kate, a friend from a Christian singles group and Sunday School class whom I haven’t seen in three years!

Coincidence?  All of those other errands and timing, my mistakes included, had to happen in exactly the  right timing for me to be there when Kate came into the store!

Yes, it was wonderful to see Kate, catch up with her, share a hug and how tightly we’ve both had to hang onto Jesus through troubled times. but the deeper message to me was God’s reassuring message, “I’m still here beside you, with you, still in control, and I still love you deeply! And yes, I  am able to lead you even in what you think  are your ‘mistakes!’”

Oh, thank you Jeremiah for speaking the truth: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

And thank you, David:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!  Psalm 32: 8-11 NIV

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:8-910 NIV

I take to heart today the acronym I heard on the radio yesterday: I truly am a DORK –  Daughter Of the Risen King!

God Almighty, good Holy Spirit, again and again shows me he’s doing exactly what he says he will do. God keeps his promises, and his Word IS his true and faithful promises!

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, Holy Spirit, sometimes I think I must be the biggest  goofball on the planet, and often I  don’t feel your presence or your love, BUT you promise to lead me, so help me FEEL you in my heart, because you know how much I need that reassurance, help me trust you even when I don’t trust myself and can’t feel you beside me, and help me know you keep your Word and ___________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________, In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, today HELP me to listen and hear you _______________ ____________________________________________________________________________________.

 

 

Reminding Myself: The Bug Brought Blessing

IMG_5383I’m reposting this today, five years later, because I still need to remember how faithful God has been to me. Every time the enemy of my soul tries to slam me, God comes through with goodness. Truly, greater is HE who is in me than he who is in the world.

Feeling my way from chair to chair in the darkness, I sat down next to someone in church on Wednesday night, perplexed by my phone’s cryptic voice message from the bargain travel site: “Go online immediately to view your reservation.” I was set to fly to Thailand the next Tuesday with a suitcase stuffed with donated card-making supplies to take to a missionary conference. I’d done the same thing two years earlier, intending to give a “girls’ night out” to women from all over the globe, but the response from men, women and children who flooded the dining room and cut, glued, and stamped with delight had absolutely stunned me.
Set and eager to reprise the blessing, I suddenly sensed my body’s churning “voice message” alerting me that lunch wasn’t the only thing in my stomach; an unwelcome “bug” was growing. Oh, no! Not the flu a week before my flight! Nausea growing, I left the service and called my boss on my way home, “Dean, I won’t be in first thing in the morning. I’ve come down with a bug and may need to come in late.”
Once home, I quickly brought up the email and, to my confusion, read two conflicting flight times into Seoul: one arriving 45 minutes before my connecting flight, but another arriving just 15 minutes before the flight to Bangkok.“Maybe,” I thought, “my head and intestines will be calmer by morning,” so I curled up with a hot water bottle and prayed for healing.Morning was worse, but I called the site. What I heard filled me with panic.
“The airline changed flight times, so we’ve cancelled your itinerary.”
“No!” I blurted over waves of nausea. “I made the reservation months ago, and I have to be in Bangkok for a conference.”Oblivious to my alarm, the agent said I could rebook my flight for only $3000 more. “That won’t work,” I replied in calm I didn’t feel. “Can you call the airline?” That began a four-hour fencing match, the agent thrusting they were only a broker, me parrying with, ”Please call the airline,” and I prayed ferociously between holds and offers, declaring every scripture I knew about God being my shield and sword of victory. Could I leave next month? Could I leave in two weeks? Could I go to another destination? No, no, no!
During the hold times I lay on the floor and prayed, decreed, over myself:
It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” 2 Samuel 16:12 NIV
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV
Her insensitivity churned frustration in my stomach on top of the bilious “bug,” and her tide of consternation rose higher with my relentless requests to try again. Desperate, I finally pleaded, “Let me call the airline then; just don’t cancel my reservation!”
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 NKJV
The agent, glad to get rid of me, gave me a phone number, which turned out to be the airline’s air cargo line. They transferred me to an agent, and twenty minutes later God air-dropped a miracle into my lap: the airline took responsibility for the schedule change and offered that, if I could leave on Monday night and stay one extra day, they’d put me up for the day in a hotel in Seoul so I could make my connecting flight to Bangkok!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV
Hooray for God and an upset stomach! I needed those four morning hours to battle bureaucracy and for God to bless me via the most unusual means He’s ever used in my life. The “mess” made a miracle that blessed me with time in Seoul to walk, shower, eat lunch, and nap before my flight, a day to get over jet lag, and a day on the end of the conference to stay with friends I hadn’t seen in over ten years!
In one more miracle, the “body” I sat beside in church when the battle began was my friend Judy, who asked if the missionary ladies would like bracelets. “I couldn’t help you the last time you went, so I’d like to help you now,” she’d sweetly offered. Two days later I discovered a box at my doorstep containing 50 lovely costume jewelry bracelets for the missionary women and girls, and $500 for my trip costs.
“Oh, God,” I gratefully cried on the other side of the world as again women and girls – with beautiful bracelets adorning their arms – and men and boys stamped, glued, cut and created wonderful cards and bookmarks, “you did so much more than I could have ever dreamed, done or imagined!”Thank you, God, for the bug in my belly that brought blessing beyond belief!
A “…BUT…” to pray: Most Merciful God! How many times, I wonder, have you diverted a scheme of Satan in my life and I never even recognized your hand was in the blessing, even if it looked like a calamity? Remind me now of a time when things looked black, BUT YOU my God came through for me and made a wonderful way for me to prosper _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________. Thank you, thank you, Loving God, and help me to trust you in days ahead that you CAN cause all things to work together for my good. In Jesus’ Name, amen. Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________________________________________
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Bougainbiscus, Butterflies, Silly Songs and Jesus Loves Me

He shows up where and when I don’t expect Him!

It turned out to be just Sandy and me  yesterday, off to “hike” (definition: walking leisurely, talking about the Lord, and interacting with docents and people on the trails) at the botanical gardens and then the zoo, taking advantage of our respective memberships. We walked unintentional circles at the garden, enjoying some funny pumpkin “sculptures” like the poor guy painfully covered in cholla and a couple of gourd-os sitting at a logs only  campfire  toasting s’mores. One of the docents who struck up a conversation with us didn’t even know  the pumpkins were there, so we pointed her to, it turned out, the tail end of the pumpkin walk.

In our conversation there I shared a possibly too true insight a friend made in a Bible study group several years ago. He suspected one of the things that went unobserved and unwritten about all the times Jesus went off by himself to pray was (no disrespect intended) Jesus slapping himself on the forehead and crying out, “Oy vey,  these yutzes! Father, how am I supposed to work with these yutzes??!!” The fact that we’d steered the docent in the wrong direction only emphasized the likelihood of the Lord’s possible prayer …..

We  passed a beautiful red-flowered plant unknown to either Sandy or me. It looked like a cross between a Bougainvillea and a hibiscus, and though I don’t remember it’s scientific name, we decided it must be a bougainbiscus.  We listened to another docent manning a table of blooms, and he pointed us in the right direction to go see the butterfly pavilion, which was wonderful. Fluttering, flitting beautiful wings were all around us, and I state publicly that the fact it  takes four generations of monarch butterflies to make the round-trip migratory journey, and the great-grandparents of the returning lepidoptera aren’t around to tell their great-grandoptera where “home” is, clearly tells me there IS a Creator,Intelligent Designer, and Architect of all the wonders in the world. We wandered around trying to find our way out of the wildflower loop and drove down the road to the zoo.

More natural wonders awaited us on trails there: Komodo dragons, whose bite is venomous, so all they have to do is bite their prey  and wait for it to die; orangutans strong  enough to rip your arm off, but who spend their lives in the wild high up in trees and make “nests” in the  branches for sleeping; giraffes, and enough said about their incredible design. I truly enjoyed my two years of  working at the real zoo, after thirteen years of  substitute teaching in a very different ”zoo” setting. We encountered Hannah, one of Sandy’s friends from her church who works at the zoo while she’s attending seminary,  and since  she was being trained to drive  the  train (yes, pun intended) I told her about the songs I wrote for about ten animals the train passes. She said she’s be glad for me to send them to her.

We bought sandwiches for lunch, sat down on the benches around a shaded table, and continued sharing about some of the”God-incidences” in our lives., when an older woman pushing a young child in a stroller politely asked if she could shar our table, and we replied we were happy to share the shade.Since I know personally about the early childhood programs there, I asked if the boy was her grandson, and then told her about the wonderful breakfast programs that are an adult’s “ticket” to get up close to  some  of the animals in the zoo’s collection. I asked Paul, who’sfour, if I could sing a song for him, and commenced into, ”Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ in your muddy hole ’n’  keep your body rollin,’ warthog ….” to a tune only older adults always laughed at.

Being a bit humorous and silly seems to break the ice. Noting the cross necklace the grandma wore, I asked,”Are you a Believer?”

“Believer in what?” she replied.

I held up my own cross necklace and said,”In this.”

“I sure am!” she smiled, and a new door opened up for us to share about our  faith. Even though we are in different denominations, Jesus’ sarificial death on the cross – God Himself paying the horrendous penalty for humanity’s rebellion against God’s Holy authority and Righteousness AND love for us all – unites Christians of every “flavor.” So together we said the opening line, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible  tells me so!”

And here’s what it says:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

BUT “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And expanding on Romans:23 “Forallhave sinnedandfall short of the glory of God, AND  ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He (God) did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have  faith in Jesus.” Romans 3”23-26

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  Romans 5: 5-11 NIV

God is Just, AND God is Love. Neither cancels the other. Only one unites them both perfectly: Jesus,Y’shua, however you say his name in your language. Jesus said:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23 And after a long passage of “Woes,” Jesus cried out to Jerusalem with fierce love and longing to  bring everyone there into his loving, sheltering arms.

It’s BOTH Justice AND Mercy, in one perfect person to satisfy both. And how utterly amazing, relentless, selfless, pure and passionate is the heart of God who Himself teaches, leads, forgives, heals, bleeds, rises from death, justifies and redeems us!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace  with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need… because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God  through him, because he  always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 4:15-16, 7: 24-25 NIV

In Jesus we can drop the censure we hear and feel from ourselves and from others, and become, in praising and thanking God for his incredible gift of love, the incense in the censer held by our Great High Priest Jesus, rising up in a fragrant offering to the One who makes us pure, loved, and joyfully pleasing to God.

The pumpkins and butterflies and orangutans  and squirrel monkeys were fun, but sharing with “Mimi” and little Paul was pure joy!

My/your/our takeaway?  Jesus is wherever I/you/we go, and all I/you/we need to do is be open to him walking, sitting, driving, golfing, working, eating. being with us to share him with others.  That’s HIS joy! Behold what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God! And when Jesus drops into my life with connections like this, I feel the intense, outrageous love  that he IS! Love alive, love present, love embracing, love forgiving (oy vey!) and love overcoming.

a”…BUT…” to pray today: Father God, loving Lord jesus, sometimes I  don’t  sense your love for me. Sometimes I feel all too much my “yutz-ness” and all I sense is the censure of others, BUT you promise that your love never fails and you will never, ever leave me, ,so I’m asking you to show me your love, and you get to decide how, when and where. Feel welcomed into my life to surprise me,  Jesus! In your name I pray, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening, waiting AND watching __________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Silly Me, Short Question, Strong Answer

 

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On  Monday’s  for two years, I’ve been blessed to be part of a group of people from about a dozen different  churches who meet (and have met for fourteen years) in a home for three hours to sing worship songs and speak scripture, as they sense inspiration to read it, as intercession for  the salvation – true reverent, thankful relationship with Jesus as Savior, Redeemer and Lord of their lives – of loved ones, friends, organizations, governments, nations, and even terrorists. These very ordinary people are amazing, and we feel God’s Presence every week,powerfully. I know His heart is to see the lost brought into God’s great love and forgiveness through Jesus, so  it’s not surprising, I guess, when we share God’s heart and love what He loves, that He shows up.

Some days we are mostly about intercession. some day’s it’s mostly worship, and some days, God’s Holy Spirit makes it  about us and the changes and  truths we need to embrace. These people  are transparent,  openly admitting where we blow it, and the bond we feel with each other, as well as with Jesus,  is amazing. Last  Monday the morning flowed into the word that God wants to do something new in each of us. Several shared about “God-incidences” in their lives, with one woman saying with a  laugh that she knew what  she said to another person HAD to be God speaking through  her, ”Because I’m not that smart!”

While we were in a time of  silence and listening, I “heard” a brief thought, prefaced by  the difficulty I had that morning of getting an earring through the shrinking hole in my left  earlobe, while thinking how ridiculous (even though widely accepted as common sense) it is to think  I/we make myself/ourselves more beautiful by poking holes in parts of our bodies and hanging  jewelry in or from them. Does that make me more  beautiful to God? If it doesn’t, what does our Heavenly (and relentlessly patient) Father think is true beauty? Hmmm…. this is offered as a “whadayathink.” I heard it for me and share it with you for your own reflection:

The most beautifying “thing” I can put on is
complete reliance on Jesus to be my acceptance before God–
yes, my covering, but not just my covering for sin,
He is my cleansing from sin.
Just As I Am in Him,
renewed into the creation God intended all along in me;
I am beautiful to God.
My face is washed clean from shame BY the  Father’s Love.
am delighted in; I am chosen.
HIS  beauty becomes the radiance in me,
a mirror polished to reflect Jesus,
like a still pool,  a cup holding Living Water reflecting ABBA’s Glory. 
Lord God, Father, help  me  remember and believe who You say I am to you and what  You see and You place within me, so I know my true identity and what truly matters, in Jesus’ name, amen!

This bears repeating: The Tree Swing

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Grandma Ruth Miner,  and boy, did she  spread the love around on us!

Autumn and apple trees: caramel apples, bobbing for apples, apple pie all are practically synonymous with fall in temperate lands. But an apple tree holds a deeper meaning for me now.  Out behind the bedrooms of their tiny house,  in my Grandma Ruth’s backyard, stood a wonderfully full and tall apple tree. I can still remember the smell of green apples wafting in through the open window as I lay in the big old double bed with such a hollow in the center of the mattress  that I had to hold on to the sides of the bed to keep from rolling onto my younger sister. The best thing about the apple tree, though, was the rope swing with a board seat that hung from the thick lowest  branch. I loved to swing –  and in all honesty, I still do.  That’s why something the Holy Spirit gave me several years ago at the beginning of a long journey of loss is so precious to me.

Charity, the daughter of my dear friend Sharon, “took” us both on a “walk through the Father’s house” in a meditative inward reflection. The idea was to imagine you were in God’s house looking for Jesus. No way was I going to conjure up something from my own imagination; I wanted the Spirit to lead my thinking, or,I inwardly purposed, I would have no thoughts at all. Sharon was seeing a huge house with marble floors, gilded furniture, beautiful paintings; I imagined something like the Clampett’s mansion from the old TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but the house I saw had no furniture at all, and I felt very strongly that I was looking in the wrong place. Up the stairs I wandered in my imagination, but no Jesus. Sharon was out in a beautiful rose garden, then saw a stream filled with beautiful jewels. Heaving a sigh, I decided to follow my first inclination and go out the back door, which turned out to be the faded green wooden screen door of my Grandma Miner’s house. The next thing I sensed was me sitting on the old board swing, and somebody was pushing me. Up into the branches I swung as whoever was pushing me did a run-under – something my own sons called an “Underdog,” and I flew even higher, brushing green leaves with my toes.

I went on in my imagination to sit by the edge of my Grandma’s garden with Jesus, but the imagery of the apple tree stuck with me, so tender and personal.  Two months or so later I was reading the Bible in my morning devotions, curled up  sitting sideways in my favorite wing chair. Yes, guilty as charged, there is still a core of childhood in me and a bit of tomboy lingering from the close relationship I had with my older brother Dave. But there is grown woman in me enough that my heart raced as I read a passage from Song of Songs 2:3. The beloved speaks about her lover: Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade . . . .  I drew in an astonished breath remembering Jesus pushing me on the swing under my Grandma’s apple tree.  I know it’s debatable what sort of fruit tree the original Hebrew in that verse refers to, but to my heart, apple tree meant apple tree and the tenderness of a Savior who doesn’t discount or take lightly or dismiss as childish the things He knows touch our hearts so deeply, individually. I should say child-like rather than childish, and what could come more from the Father’s heart than something that delights his child?  At the same time, Song of Songs is a deeply passionate love story. Who loves us more passionately and fervently than Jesus?

Three years later I mentioned this experience on my Grandma Ruth’s swing in a morning devotional message at a women’s retreat.  I was amazed and humbled beyond words when one woman said during our closing circle, “I came hoping for God’s Spirit to move or speak in my life. It didn’t happen Friday night. It didn’t happen on Saturday. it didn’t happen until this morning when I heard the words “my grandmother’s swing.’” Jesus, you did it again: connected something so intimate in my life with something so personal in another’s! It isn’t just my heart you know; you know every heart in unique loving detail. Scandalous love!

My musings continued as I remembered my younger son  telling his Grandma, my mother, that he was going to take apple seeds with him to Heaven when he died so he could plant an apple tree there for her. My mother had such an intolerance to sugar that even eating the fructose in an apple would give her a migraine headache. Ethan knew she’d have no headaches in Heaven and knew how much she missed the sweet crunch of a ripe apple.

Will there be apple trees in Heaven? I don’t know. If Ethan has any say in things, there will be for Grandma. I do I know there are trees in Heaven: the tree the apostle John saw and related to us in Revelation 22:1-2:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

I know those trees – because, tomboy that I still am, I climbed a tree with Jesus that morning and realized with a sudden flash of insight just what tree we were sitting in. I realized just as quickly what tree we all stand at the foot of for our healing: the cross of Calvary. 1 Peter 2:24: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds we are healed.

I suspect it’s no coincidence that I feel such healing love when I remember sitting on the swing under that apple tree. What kind of god from any story of mythology, from any other faith, exudes such passionately personal love as the One God made flesh in Jesus, offered up willingly out of the greatest heart that beats at the center of all creation, for all of His creation? My heart, still so broken for my human beloved, finds healing from the Lover of my Soul under the tree.

A “. . . BUT . . . ” to move:  Jesus, people disappoint me, even betray my deepest trust and confidence. I betray myself sometimes and disappoint others, BUT your love for me is so intimate, so tender, so powerful, so profound, that I fall to my knees in humbled wonder saying ______________________________________________. Take me to that secret, special place you share in my heart, and I share in yours: _________________________________.