Little Boxes on the Hillsides

IMG_1135So began an irreverent song in the 60’s, but as I walked back down the hill toward my house in the foothills today, a thought I’d had  earlier in the week driving home struck me again. What are the conversations going on in the minds of the people in these  custom and semi-custom houses? In reality, all they are is boxes.

Unvoiced perhaps, but perhaps subconsciously thought, going up from these boxes: “ My box is bigger than your box… My box sits higher up the hill than your box…. I’m glad my box isn’t down there below the river …My box is full of more stuff, fancier stuff than your box… My box makes me important… My box tells the world who I am and why I’m important…” and perhaps some voices  down below the  river: “I wish I had a bigger box up on the hillside … I deserve a better box than this … .” Surely, and true, many people may be grateful for the boxes they have, that they have a box lid over their  heads, that  they have a place to sit and eat and sleep.

Yet up here on the hillside (and even down below the  river)  nobody asks who the real lien holder on the land is, who holds your hill in his hands, who created the minerals in that mine far in the background, who can call in the loan at any time.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Psalm 33:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 24:1
A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Psalm 50:10-11
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to Me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heavens is Mine.

Nehemiah 9:6
“You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.

Haggai 2:8 —

” ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

John 1:3

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 — “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God in your body.“

Colossians 1: 15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…

Walking down this hill that my mind and hand could never make, that no land developer or geologist or  architect or construction engineer could ever create from pre-existing molecules,let  alone from nothing. I bow in holy awe of the One who spoke, “Let there be earth,” shaped these hills, spun the earth to create day and night, gave me cells and DNA and breath and life, because without His Spirit and breath, I’m the same as the sand beneath my shoes.

“Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades! Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all things! And the cry of my heart is to give you praise – from the inside out, Lord, my soul cries out to you… consume me from the inside out.” Be all you are in me,and how totally implausible is that for me to ask of God Almighty? I have no right to ask that, EXCEPT that through Jesus I am adopted into God’s family,called his own,  filled with his Spirit, loved, no matter  what  size or shape box i live in, how it is filled, how empty it may be, or who shares it with me.

And when I stand before Jesus, I wonder, will he ask me how big my box was, how much I had in it, how high on the  hill it sat? Or will he ask me  what I did with the time and the life and resources I had, all that He  gave me, while I was here? Will He ask,”Who did you love? How did you love? To whom did you reach out? To whom did you give a ride to their job? To whom did you give a loaf of bread? Whose child did you clothe? Who did you comfort in their grief? Who did you share me and my love with?”

“‘When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:38-40 NIV

Jesus speaks a sobering word as I sit in my box and  look out at  the boxes around me down the hill:

Matthew 25:15-29English Standard Version (ESV)

To one he gave five talents,to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

I hope, I pray, I have answers for those questions that  will gladden the heart of God.

Lord God, I am eternally grateful for a roof over my head, a place  to sleep, food to eat,clothing to wear, family and friends  to love, and, improbably, for my very life, a  gift from you. Help me to manage all that you give me with love and faithfulness,  out of love for who you are and all you’ve already given: the priceless blood of your son Jesus as a  ransom for my life and soul, my righteousness, my life  forever with you in your house.

Coming home into my box, I fall on my face on the floor in reverent awe of the Holy One who created, differentiated, gave life to, and sustains it all and us all.

 

A”…BUT…” to pray: God Almighty, I may not have much in the sense of possessions, or I may have more than enough, BUT no matter what I have or lack, I have YOU as my Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Provision, Father,  Savior, Loving Lord,and that give me  value no one can take  from me. You say I am yours, and that alone makes me ___________________________________________________________________ and I thank you for your Spirit within me! Holy Spirit, I’m listening, and who can stop the Lord Almighty?

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I’ll Never Find Another You

Gosh, my age is showing here, but I heard this song in my head this morning and amazingly remembered the name of the group, The Seekers. Hmmm… God speaks throughout culture sometimes in ways we only recognize later. In 1967 I/we thought this song was about that true, starry-eyed, Prince Charming/Cinderella faithful human love we’d find, but now after experiencing the if/because/when/until transience of conditional human love, I hear it more as a song about Jesus and God’s love for us through him. Now we’re – or some of us are – old enough to that know His, or human love fueled by His, is the only love that won’t walk away or fail us when we mess up.

For all of us Seekers, one of my favorite promises from God are in the words Moses spoke to Joshua:

Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”Deuteronomy 31:7-8 NIV

The Lord appeared to us in the past,saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. Leviticus 26:13

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49: 13-16

And Jesus was and is God’s love incarnate, made flesh. He told his followers, “I am the gate for the sheep… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the  good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ” John 10:7, 10-11 NIV

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you…as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”  John 15:4,9

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:16-24 ESV

I’m dumping “limerence” (that little “tingle in the belly” and stars in the eyes) that we so easily mistake for true love, putting it in its proper place as a temporary hormonal response that depends on the limbic system, and holding out for Jesus’ kind of courageous, marathon, forgiving and unflinching love. It’s the only kind worth giving, too, so that’s my aim and target, to be that kind of love for another/others.

No ejection seat, no parachute … just always, “forever and a day.”

True confession: I have the purple mini skirt dress I bought with my first paycheck in 1968, Carnaby Street look with a vest to go with it, and I can still wear it. I gelled and scotch taped my bangs, as all of us did back then, but my hair never would stay straight and flat ….. and still won’t. Older and hopefully wiser, my feet feel the”pony” coming on while my wavy hair does the same thing it’s done since 1968: wave. Somethings never change: my wavy hair, and, more importantly, God’s love and faithfulness.Let me dance for YOU, Jesus, and as I walk through the storm, you’ll be my guide, for I know I’ll never  find another YOU.

Can you lift this song in thanks to God for the unchanging, timeless, unconditional love he sent through Jesus? Let these words speak to you too, about his love for you:

There’s a new world somewhere
They call the promised land.
And I’ll be there someday
If you could hold my hand.
I still need you there beside me
No matter what I do
For I know I’ll never find another you.
There is always someone
For each of us, they say.
And you’ll be my someone
Forever and a day.
I could search the whole world over
Until my life is through
But I know I’ll never find another you.
It’s a long, long journey
So stay by my side.
When I walk through the storm
You’ll be my guide, be my guide.
If they gave me a fortune
My pleasure would be small.
I could lose it all tomorrow
And never mind at all.
But if I should lose your love, Lord,
I don’t know what I’d do
For I know I’ll never find another you.

A “…BUT…” to pray:  sometimes, God, it’s hard to believe that you can love me. People sure don’t love me, or act like they love me, when I mess up. I know I’m all too often the same, getting angry when others don’t meet my expectations, yet wanting mercy from those same others when I mess up. BUT here I am, Father God, standing in need of you more than anyone else. Remind me who I’ve failed and should ask forgiveness from _____________________________Remind me who’s failed me,  and I should extend a loving hand to anyway_______________________ Most of all, today, remind me of who YOU are to me ________________________________________ and who I am to you, Jesus ____________________________________________________

Not a post, just my favorite new praise and worship song

Yes, you may see my candle held high in the sequence with Bill Bright and Billy Graham at Explo’72 in the final scenes in “Woodlawn,” and somebody else was there  with me, too,holding a candle high right after we mutually said,”I do … till death.” Well … I tried to keep my promise.The bigger truth is that the ONE who loves us with relentless, fiery, passionate,never-ending love, the One we were holding our candles high for, still loves me and gave a piece of His heart to love with everlasting love, so in a  way,I win even in my loss.

Johnny Cash sang several times at Explo ’72. Boy, I admire his faith ands and June’s lasting love. Yes, self-confessed Jesus freak here, and even though Country music isn’t on my iTunes playlist, a few weeks ago I woke up with this song going through my head. Instantly I  realized it’s a wonderful  song for  worship, everything  true about twelve Johnny sings about being truer still about the two-way love affair we’re meant to have with God through Jesus.

So,  for all of you Country fans out there,and for  those of you who aren’t, here’s a new way to look at Johnny’s immortal ballad:

I Walk The Line

By Johnny Cash
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line
I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line
As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line
You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line

 

Yes, I did, and would have eternally with the first one,  will with a new one, and thanksgiving ever to the ONE who’s always walked with me, Yeshua,  Jesus,  however you speak  his name in your language,  still the faithful Lover of  our souls.7701932_SMK5n

Motown Jesus

everlasting love_t_nv_2In 1967 Robert Knight recorded a song written by Mac Gayden, lyrics by Buzz Cason. For those not born in the United States within the 1940’s through 1960’s, Detroit, Michigan was noted for two products: automobiles and music, gaining it the label of “Motor City” and the rock and blues music that came from Detroit “Motown.” I’ve loved their song ever since I first heard it. Teenage girls could weep thinking of finding a love like this song proclaimed. Then some of us discovered that the Prince  Charming who found us was really just another wounded human being searching for, but unable to give, the same thing we were searching for and longing to be part of, the song’s name: Everlasting Love.

Buzz Cayson said he was inspired by the words of Jeremiah 31: 3-4: The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.

Aha! i always thought I heard God speaking in that song! Something in it called to me when I was just 17 and lodged deeply in my heart. I knew Jesus because I grew up in a church-going, God-loving family, but my knowledge became full-blown love in our tiny church on February 20, 1972 when I “heard” Jesus say to me,”You know I died for the world … but do you know I died for YOU?”

Wow! Chosen! Beloved! I was going to need that deepest love inside me to carry me through the shattering of my world decades later. Rock solid, Jesus’ love for me, passionate and burning, tender and embracing. Why do we demand from each other the unconditional love that only our Father Creator God can give us through himself made flesh and blood in Jesus? “Hearts go stray, leaving hurt when they go …” Our hearts get wounded, we close them up to keep from bleeding, or to keep the world from seeing our bleeding and the depth of our need. Being “needy” isn’t cool, but in reality, we all are.  Wounded animals do the same thing: conceal their pain and vulnerability so predators won’t single them out for a meal.  I suspect we humans do the same thing.

“Nobody is going to ever talk like THAT to me again!”

“I won’t let anyone treat me like THAt again!”

“No, I’m fine, really, I”m just picking myself up and moving on ….” bleeding all the way. We close off our hearts from the ones who have hurt us, but brick by brick, does that wall keep out the very love we need, and does it keep out the love Jesus may send through others?

If it’s true “you can’t heal what you don’t reveal”, it may also be very true that you can’t heal what you don’t let yourself feel, or more accurately, how can Jesus heal what we aren’t willing to feel? Feeling hurts, we feel because we care, and the ones we care about the most are the ones whose wounds hurt us most deeply. The truth hidden there is that we/I/YOU  hurt  because we/I/YOU DO have a heart capable of knowing and wanting love, empathy, a consciousness of and conscience toward others’ feelings, and we expect others to be wired as we are. Sadly, tragically, not every person is, BUT amazingly, incredibly, JESUS IS!

Whatever else happens to us in this life amid the wounded, predator and prey and innocent bystanders minding their own business and trying to live uprightly, we do well to remember we “wrestle not against flesh and blood.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13

Paul goes on to describe the helmet of faith, breastplate of salvation, belt of truth, shoes of the readiness to preach the gospel, and the sword of God’s Word. That  brings me back full circle to Isaiah 31:3 and the promise god can’t possible break, that he lives us/me/YOU with an everlasting love and draws us to himself with kindness. Can I dare, can you dare, to open up your heart and feel that you’re part of everlasting love? Can we wear that love like chain mail to protect our hearts without walling them off from the lives around us who can, at best, love us despite our, and through their, limitations?

I know this: I can only approach feeling and living out unconditional love for others when I let Jesus into my heart to heal the wounds in me and then to love others through me, even while I’m healing. The Motown song implies we can find this love in other people, but it’s truly only God’s love for us through Jesus’ love that is, and enables, everlasting love.

Unlike the lyrics, Jesus never will leave us:

For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!]  Hebrews 13:5 Amplified  (from Deuteronomy 31:6)

Jesus promised to embrace everyone who comes to him with everlasting love: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:37-39 NIV

Had Motown been around in those days, Jesus might have sung it, rather than say it. Can you hear his call to you in this song? More importantly, can you hear the voice of “Motown” Jesus calling to you in his song for you today? Listen to it online, and as you listen, underline the words that God’s Spirit speaks to you, about you, in the song.

Hearts go astray, leaving hurt when they go.
I went away just when you needed me so.
Filled with regret I come back beggin’ you,
Forgive, forget. Where’s the love we once knew?
Open up your eyes, then you’ll realize here I stand
With my everlasting love.
Need you by my side, girl you’ll be my bride.
You’ll never be denied everlasting love.
From the very start, open up your heart,
Be a lasting part of everlasting love.

Your love will last forever.
Your love will last forever.

Where life’s river flows, no one really knows
’til someone’s there to show the way to lasting love.
Like the sun that shines, endlessly it shine,
You always will be mine. It’s eternal love.
When other loves are gone, ours will still be strong,
We have our very own everlasting love.

Your love will last forever.
Your love will last forever.
You give me, you give me, you give me everlasting love

A “…BUT…” to pray: Jesus, I’m going to be very honest. I need your healing touch and everlasting love. It’s true that I’ve ___________________________________________, and it’s true that _______________________________________ said _________________________________________________ to me. It’s true that ____________________ did _______________________________________________ to me, and if I’m really honest, it’s true that I said ________________________________________________ and I did _________________________________________________________ and I wish I hadn’t. I could easily wall of my heart, BUT Father God, you love me with an everlasting love. You said it, you promise it, you mean it, so I will let you come into my heart and _______________________________________________________________________________. Help my unbelief, and help me to feel your everlasting love. Can I dance with you to this song today, and when I do, please help me feel you with me. Amen!