This bears repeating: The Tree Swing

Ruth's Blessing

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: _________________________________.

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A Butterfly on Half Dome

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I walked into the customer service waiting area at the car dealer’s, waiting for an oil change for my car. Ah, American that I am, with people in nearly every chair in the waiting area, where was I to sit? Sitting down next to a complete stranger seems like an invasion of their privacy. I looked around, then did the un-American-cultural act and sat down next to woman who was watching the television screen on the wall to our right.

Local morning news, a reporter interviewing a botany professor at the community college. I helped myself to the  free coffee, then picked up the book I’d brought, but the video of a monarch butterfly on the news caught my attention, and I casually turned to the woman sitting to my left and said,”Wow, the migratory story of monarch butterflies is incredible.”  I shared what I knew from my time working at  the zoo, and she  agreed with me that the fourth generation of monarch butterflies traveling from their winter birthplace hundreds of miles back to the place where the first generation great-grandparents had started was nothing short of miraculous.  I ventured,”I KNOW that’s no accident of evolution;  that’s the hand of a Creator.”

She smiled and readily agreed, and that began a forty minute conversation that turned deeper than either of us expected, I’m sure, when we drove to the dealership that morning.  She’d grown up in Phoenix; me,too. Shirley is part Native American and part Hispanic, married to a man from Kokomo, Indiana.  Hmmm….. “We were just in Kokomo  two months ago  for a wedding,” I commented. More  commonalities emerged, including butterflies and beauty in nature that points to an  intelligent, loving Creator God, and before we  knew it, we were talking about deep things of our faith in Jesus. I held her hand and prayed for one of her family members, and she received the prayer gladly.

The service  person returned to tell me my car was ready, smiled, and added,”But you two ladies can continue with your conversation!” She stood as I got up and we hugged each other, knowing full well  that our meeting wasn’t accidental. I didn’t get her phone number, but I know we exchanged something  more  valuable that morning. Both of us felt God’s deep love and presence, and I felt the Holy Spirit leading me higher in  my climb with Him up steep slopes of God’s path for me, “Hind’s Feet On High Places.”

I’m always floored by God showing up through the “cracked pot” and ”empty hose” that I am, and I always know it’s ONLY God who’s doing the connecting and work. Often I marvel and wonder that a Holy, Righteous, Almighty God somehow chooses and desires to move through the mass of organic matter that is me. It MUST ONLY be because I/you/we invite and welcome and, many of us, desperately long for, God’s very own Holy Spirit to  come indwell me/you/us. I generally don’t “wax religious,” because repetitious religious ritual means next to nothing. My faith is relationship with my Creator andSavior. Still today I proclaim”Solo Deo Gloria”, to God alone be the Glory!

 

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LordRepeat them in our day, in our time make them knownin wrath remember mercy…Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3: 2, 17-19 NIV

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
 he shields all who take refuge in him.31 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?32 It is God who arms me with strength    and keeps my way secure.33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;    he causes me to stand on the heights.34 He trains my hands for battle;    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.35 You make your saving help my shield,    and your right hand sustains me;    your help has made me great.36 You provide a broad path for my feet,    so that my ankles do not give way.  Psalm 18: 1-3, 31-16 NIV
In the often barren, rocky places I’ve walked in the past eight years (including the times I’ve wandered off the easier path He had for me), God  has continually come alongside me to refresh me with His Presence, His “winks,”  and I am  grateful every time! Shirley at the oil change was another “kiss on my cheek” from our faithful,  ever-present Lord, King, Friend, Savior, and Guide.
Then Job answered the LORD and said, 2″I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42: 1-2 NAS
Dominion and awe belong to Him Who establishes peace in His heights. Job 25: 2 NAS
Whew, am I glad for this promise! I do NOT have the power to mess up God’s plans for my life! I may – make that certainly –  have delayed them, or  taken a harder road than I  needed to, to come into God’s plans for me, but no, neither you nor I have wandered so far from God’s path and purposes, power and loving care that He can’t come beside you, rope Himself to you, and lead you even up on the steep, high places safely.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33: 1, 4-11, 16-22  NIV
Surely, Shirley was God’s  reminder to me of His  ever-present, ever-powerful love. Eight years ago I began a long journey with this song, believing  then for a quick, victorious end that I have yet to see, and here I am again, leaning into the ONE who’s roped me in with HIM as I climb to higher places than I can see, even now.
A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord God, I admit I’ve probably made my journey harder.  I know I’ve lost sight of You when ______________________________________________ BUT You’ve never lost sight or track of me, and I can see you carried me when _____________________________, so I will to will, I want to want, what You  know is best for me. Lead  me, Savior Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father God, and help me to stay close to You behind Your shield and to hear Your voice and follow where You long to take me. In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening __________________________________

 

 

 

Just Giving God Glory!

I HAVE to share this. God IS Love, and powerful kindness. He did a wonderful, incredible thing for me yesterday to prove it again to me.

When I was in high school, my family bought an acre of land in the mountains, and my father built a cabin on the land. It took two years to build, driving up on weekends, and I have many happy memories of helping him. In 1984 my dad and mom had to sell the cabin, because the high altitude bothered my mother’s blood pressure. I was married, but we didn’t have the extra money to buy the cabin, so it went to another owner.

In 2005, before my older son and his family moved to Asia, we drove up to see the cabin. A new owner had purchased it, and it was his wedding day, but he let us walk around inside, renewing my son’s memories of good times there. I was amazed to see two of my Grandmother’s kitchen chairs in the kitchen. I told James, the owner, how I sat at her kitchen table when I was four and she taught me to play a card game called gin rummy. He said he really liked the chairs, too, so I thought I’d never see them again. Because he wanted to know about who built the house, I made him a photo book of pictures of my father and us building the cabin. Two months later a truck came to my house and brought me the two chairs!

Yesterday “we” looked online at some pictures of land up in the mountains to hopefully buy. About twenty minutes later I got an email from James, at my new email address. He said he needs to sell the cabin, and he had been searching for a month to find a way to contact me – I no longer have the same phone number, last name, or email address – to ask me if I would like to buy it back! He found my blog by searching for my name online and found my new email from that. How amazing is God’s love, to care so much! Even if it is too expensive for me to buy, I am filled with knowledge of God’s great and compassionate, affirming love for me.

James told me yesterday that he could feel love in the house when he bought it. God is gracious, powerful love!

Pardon the King James version here, but 1 John 4:8 – He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:16 – And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/20-inspirational-bible-verses-about-gods-love/#ixzz4nrKXqmTj

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, sometimes it seems, it feels like, You are far away and unconcerned about me, because ______________________________________________BUT YOU promise me YOU will never leave me and never forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8), and You put Your promise in writing in the Bible, so I’m going to dare to ask YOU to “Show me a sign of your goodness, that those who hate me may see it, and be put to shame, because you, Yahweh, have helped me, and comforted me.” (Psalm 86:17) And I will let YOU choose the way, God, You show me Your love, because You know my deepest heart, so I’m listening now for Your voice above every other noise and voice in my life, InJesus’ name, amen!   _____________________________________________________________

BECAUSE I believe, I see …

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“Seeing is believing,” so goes the old saying, but is that true? Yes, I wanted to see that my students had finished their homework.  Yes, if the package of lunchmeat I had thawing on the kitchen counter was missing, and I saw my dog  licking her lips and paws …. But when it comes to things spiritual, things of and about God, are we supposed to wait until we see Lake Michigan part or the old city  walls of Chiang Mai implode before we assume that God is in our midst? Do we hold out for absolutely unexplainable by anything other than a miracle events in front of us before we’ll begin to give slight credence to the “remote” possibility that God exists, much less loves us and wants to be in relationship with us?

I could re-title this blog “Because I’ve believed, I’ve seen ….” and I’m not frivolously connecting random events in my life to the presence of God in my life, as some might think,”to tell myself a story to make myself feel better.” Some people think the Bible is a collection of fairy tales, but millions of lives transformed by the presence of God’s Spirit in their existence down through thousands of years, even giving them the strength to face death for standing for the One in whom they believed,  tell me what they haven’t “seen”  is more real than what we trust in because we can see it.

I think we all have a natural inclination to doubt. Thomas, one of the twelve men closest to Jesus, saw miracles: the blind given sight, the lame walking, bread and fish multiplied, lepers cleansed, and the dead raised. He SAW these miracles come by the hand and person of Jesus, yet after Jesus was crucified, Thomas wasn’t sure Jesus was truly the promised Messiah, God in the flesh.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20: 24-29 NIV

BECAUSE I believe, I’ve  seen:

A miracle of healing in my own body; a child after it looked like I’d never have a second one; a chance to use my writing gifts (I didn’t make myself a writer!) to help, incredibly, write books that went around the world; saving the lives of all four of us from a plane crash on August 16, 1987; saving my husband from a fatal fall at the Grand Canyon in 1988; the certainty wo days before he died that my fathe’r spirit was still fully intact even though he had Alzheimer’s and hadn’t spoken in two years; a connection in a move across the country that I’d need ten years later to help me connect with my family during an emergency they had across the world; the card-making”girls’ night out”  workshop my buddies helped me create to take to a conference blessed SO many more people than I expected; the rescue of my trip overseas when the carrier changed a flight schedule and the agency I booked my flight through wanted to cancel my trip; a stranger behind me at an airport on my way home from Asia to, out of the blue, show me the van I needed to take in a sea of vans in the parking lot; another stranger at an airport in Asia, behind us, to out of the blue help us find our way to the terminal we needed to reach to board our flight on time; the couple – who didn’t even attend our church – in the row in front of us, there just to see a friend baptized,  and as we introduced ourselves after the service, Kate told me about the amazing Monday morning worship intercession group I’ve been blessed to be part of for two years; the perect person to meet to donate the tandem to the perfect non-profit; turning back from my walk route to say hello to the woman with her back turned to me who was standing in the cross street, only to meet Jessica and Brian and the improbable connection we discovered, new neighbors there to plant a church  …

 

“GOSH, Rose, there are a lot of coincidences in your life!”

Coincidence my eye! Go ahead and read my old blog posts back from 2008 to the present. Everywhere along my journey, God has put people in my life to remind me He loves and cares for me, connected me with people who needed to hear something from Him, done incredible things I never expected from the little things I did to try to show Christ’s love to others. If you think for a minute I think those things are accidental, please try computing the probability that any one of those things happened “by chance.” Then compute the probability that they ALL did!

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’[a]

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,  and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” Luke 7: 24-25 NIV

So who do you think the man Jesus was, and IS?

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.Philip once said,”Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).

Jesus said,”Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! …believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen Me do” (John 14:9-11).

My whole purpose in writing this blog, in putting together the book that came out of it, has been and is to show you through my own life that GOD IS REAL! GOD IS ALIVE! GOD IS LOVE! GOD CARES ABOUT YOU! JESUS DIED TO GIVE YOU – OUT OF HIS SACRIFICE – THE WAY TO COME INTO RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD! YOU MATTER TO GOD! GOD’S SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WILL COME INTO YOUR LIFE IF YOU ASK HIM! HE WANTS TO DO WONDERFUL THINGS THROUGH YOUR LIFE, YES, YOUR LIFE, BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU!

Down off my soapbox now, but I wish I could convey to you the passion, the sense of urgency I have for everyone who reads this to know, truly KNOW, God who is your Father in Heaven, come to Him through His Son Jesus, and live in fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit every day of your existence on Earth and every day forever after! Who He is for me, He will be for you, too.  God wants you to know that, and that’s why he nudges me and some days pushes me to write; it’s evidently part of my purpose here on Earth.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7: 7-11 NIV

All of you, my friends, who do know Jesus as theLord of your life and lover of your soul, please tell someone else who he is and what he’s done in YOUR life. Risk it, because you and all of us only have a short time to truly BE disciples and make disciples! And any of you who don’t yet know Jesus – Just ask Jesus into you life as your Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and yes King; seek, knock, believe he’s real and he loves you, and I can promise you, YOU WILL SEE!

Today write your own “…BUT…” prayer for God Almighty to move through in your life. In Jesus’ name, by the power of God’s Spirit, amen!

WHOSE Blood Bought Me?

 

Four years ago I first posted this, and on this Palm Sunday I feel the need to repost what I wrote then. This first came to me in the teachers’ workroom at school, then exploded in me again the following Sunday, when the enormity of what God did for us in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus rose like a  fountain of passionate love in my heart. It’s still true, and though my heart fell to fear of man and grief of loss a month after I first embraced this enormous truth, the GOD of grace, mercy, compassion, and love has walked with me steadfastly even as I slipped along the journey that led me here and, in some ways continues through a dark valley toward God’s goodness. I know a fraction of the price GOD paid for me, and in truth he never needed to send me any greater other proof of his love, for  nothing more could possibly measure up to this undying incomprehensible gift. Yet out of love, he shows me his love so tenderly and powerfully. I pray it speaks to your heart today.

How I treasure those brief flashes of deep, gut insight that hit me much less frequently than I long forDo you know what I mean: times when you feel for a Nano-second that you’ve touched a deep truth about God, and you wish with everything in you that it would engulf you so you could immerse yourself in its power? Frustratingly, those moments never linger long enough.

The latest one that grazed my consciousness on Palm Sunday, March 24th, 2013, entered the orbit of my subconscious during the week before as I searched YouTube for some exciting video and information about relative sizes of objects in space for the third grade class I assist in. Some facts about VY Canis Majoris absolutely astounded me: a red hypergiant, it’s one of the largest stars we know of, with a diameter of 1,227,000,000 miles (that’s billion, if you don’t want to count the place value yourself), or 1,975,000,000 kilometers. Take a look and be astounded:

 

To give you a better sense of that immensity, if VY Canis Majoris was at the center of our solar system, its surface would extend at least beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and perhaps as far as the orbit of Saturn. What grabbed my attention in the video was the comment that if you could fly in a jet at 900 miles per hour, it would take you over 1,000 years to fly around the star! It’s so distant that the light of VY Canis Majoris takes 3,9000 years to reach us.

I sat in bed at 5 a.m. that Sunday and tried to cold-start praise to the King of Kings as Holy Week began.  A realization rose slightly above the horizon of my consciousness: WHOSE blood bought me? WHOSE blood?  Yes, Jesus’ blood – that rolls of my tongue almost tritely sometimes – but WHAT blood is his? WHOSE BLOOD?

“And God said, ’Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night,’ . . . And it was so. God made two great lights . . . .  He also made the stars. . . . “  Genesis 1:14-16

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”  Job 38:4, 7

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . .. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John1: 1, 3

“I, Jesus, . . . am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

The “gestalt” of the immensity of VY Canis Major created by Jesus himself fused with these Bible verses and blazed into a whole much bigger than the sum of its parts. The Blood that bled for every speck of sin in my life coursed through the veins of the ONE whose voice spoke the inferno of VY Canis Majoris  and every blazing star, asteroid, comet, planet, and moon into existence. THAT blood! The most precious fluid and outrageous gift in the universe because it was the Blood of the ONE who imagined life, then spoke blood itself into being, and who bound the vastness of HIMSELF within the confines of a completely human body to spill HIS BLOOD instead of requiring mine. Let that sink into your heart for a minute …

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!….For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.         Hebrews 9: 13-15, 24-28 NIV

princeofpeace13JesusChrist with crown of thorns

And HE, THE GOD OF CREATION, PURE RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURE HOLINESS, PURE MAJESTY, PURE LOVE willingly gave it for me. I – like every oneof us – was  bound for Hell until I saw and reached out for God’s merciful gift of love, Jesus.

Oh, I wanted to grasp the enormity of that love in every cell of my body and neuron of my understanding!  Like a meteorite, infinite love tore through the atmosphere of my finite comprehension. Why in the world do I think I’m not loved? Why do we think we have to, or ever could, earn that love? And engulfed by that love, why in the universe am I ever afraid?

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns . . . and his name is the Word of God…. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!” Revelation 19:12,13,16

Even now I feel like I’m writing an ionic plasma breath of truth with hands and understanding of concrete, but O God, let me burn with that reality one day! Brand my heart with it now: I AM YOURS! YOU SOUGHT AND BOUGHT ME  WITH THE COSTLIEST TREASURE IN ALL TIME AND UNIVERSE, YOUR OWN SON JESUS!

I  worship you, LORD Jesus! You alone are worthy of true worship, and in this I lift up my love and thanks and wonder:

Therefore, so, because of this incredible gift God gave us through Jesus:

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord:I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10: 12-18

A “…BUT…” to pray: LORD GOD, ABBA, Father, I may think I understand what you did in sending Jesus to pay for my sins and bring  into loving righteous relationship with you, BUT LORD, my heart longs to feel this powerful, transforming reality.  I AM a sinner, saved by your grace and unmerited mercy alone, and I do feel sorrow that my sins put Jesus on the Cross, evenas I feel joy that his Blood erased them all forever, completely. Holy Spirit, pour this truth of the priceless gift poured out for me into my spirit and into every fiber of my heart and being today, by your grace __________________________________ (And God smiles and replies, “I was hoping and waiting for you to ask me for this… it’s yours!) Holy Spirit, LORD Jesus, here I am thirsting to receive your priceless reality into all of me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!  Holy Spirit, speak:  I’m eagerly listening ________________________________________________________

Hide and Seek

 

God of My Steps and Missteps

Hide me in THE ROCK!

In our neighborhood when I was a child, one of the favorite games of the kids on my end of the street was hide and seek. Our house was on the corner, and anywhere in the front yards of the eight houses was fair game for hiding.  The object, of course, was NOT to be found by “it.” It was much more fun hiding than seeking to most of us.

In some ways, I think we carry this game into adulthood when it comes to our flubs, mistakes, and outright sins, regarding God and even others as “it” and aggressively  hiding anything that  would reveal our true, simply flawed human, identity. God/They might look down on me and reject me  if  they knew I  ________________.  It’s as childish as that childhood game, for  certainly Almighty God knows even what we effectively conceal from other people – even what we try to conceal from ourselves!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 NIV

Jesus also said to them, “Does anyone bring in a lamp so he can place it under a basket or under a bed? Doesn’t he set it on a lampstand? For everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and everything concealed is meant to be brought to light. Mark 4: 21-22 NIV

“Uh-oh,” we think, “here comes God’s flyswatter …..” That thought is based in, bluntly, a lie. yes, God is holy, and yes,  sin is abominable  and separates us from a  righteous God, as  well as each other, BUT God is not waiting to gleefully lower the boom on fallen humanity.To believe that is to NOT know God, not know his heart, not know his love.

I had  in mind  to write this post today on my way home from church, and lo and behold, when I opened a letter  from Charles Stanley, he was speaking to exactly the same thought I had.  Charles Stanley writes,” Parents are appointed by the Lord to represent Him to their children. A child’s first concept of God comes from the example of his/her parents. If a father or mother is harsh and hard to please, the  child realizes that no matter how good  he/she tries to be, he/she can never measure up to his/her parents’ standards. Then when he/she learns about God, he/she  sees Him in the same way – as a disapproving authority figure whom he/she can never please…. God never intends for His children to live under a cloud of condemnation.He clearly says in Romans 8:1, ‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ To be condemned means that a sentence of guilty has been pronounced and punishment is imminent. If we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, then we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ and are not under God’s condemnation.”

There is a condition in that last sentence:  IF we  have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and  Lord,  THEN ….

Truth is threefold here: 1)yes, we all are naturally self-seeking, self-preserving, self-serving:

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  as it is written:“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3: 9-12 NIV

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 5-6 NIV

Well, if that’s true, then why does God care  when we  blow it? He cares because blowing it separates our heart from his, leads us to hide from him and from each other, and, truth 2)  that  denies his desire to be in intimate relationship with every one of us as our loving, HOLY Creator Father. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, BUT whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Proverbs  28:13 NIV

Hiding from God isn’t healthy!

“But I can’t help myself,” we assert, and that is painfully all too true. We can’t help ourselves in our human,flesh-driven nature, BUT God made a way to give us a brand-new nature, truth 3) God continually seeks us, despite our sin, not to punish us, but to  welcome us into his family, IF we don’t try to live in our sins and hide from him so we can.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5: 17 NIV

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 3:5-9 NIV

This morning in our Bible study we contrasted the Old Covenant, the law God gave to his people through Moses, with the New Covenant of the Holy Spirit. given by Jesus. The law wasn’t inherently bad; it pointed us in the  direction of right living and right relationship, but it couldn’t change our hearts. The New Covenant,  the covenant God made with us through the atoning death of Jesus, is a vitally living covenant with the power to truly change  our hearts.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4: 12-16 NIV

Wow, is THAT a relief to me! Back to Romans 8, the verses following verse 1  are REAL FREEDOM!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans  8: 1-6 NIV

Jesus didn’t come to save the already perfect (which would have been none of us!) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” When the tax collector Zacchaeus met Jesus, he was changed from the inside out.

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”Matthew 19: 8-10 NIV

God doesn’t seek us to condemn us; God seeks us to FIND us, and for us to FIND HIM, and in that  finding, find a new birth and freedom to live what’s  right, in right relationship with God and each other, from our heart, because God has great purposes and desires FOR us.   Quoting Ralph Wilkerson:

“’For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God has not called us just to salvation, or to heaven, or to receive His pardon. Rather, these are benefits of our one true call — which is to be holy as He is holy.
Every believer in Jesus Christ is called to be holy — to be pure and blameless in God’s sight. So, if you have been born again, holiness must be the cry of your heart: “God, I want to be like Jesus. I truly want to walk holy before You all the days of my life.”

In this”game” I WANT TO BE FOUND BY GOD, even though and precisely because it means coming clean about my  flubs, goofs, mistakes, deceit, and outright thoughtless, selfish meanness, because I WANT to live a life that glorifies and honors God and  blesses others  to hopefully want the same for themselves.

Here goes, then, publicly, to  live out what  I’m writing: once in the past I was shopping at an outlet  store, found a dress I liked in blue,  but saw it was marked $3 more than the same dress in  orange  and pink. Did I ask the clerk about the price difference? No, I  swapped the tag and paid the lower price for the blue dress. Did I feel a great  victory in saving $3? NO, in fact I could never wear that dress without feeling a pang of conscience, and I ended up repenting  to God big-time and giving it to a non-profit that helped the poor. I blew it, and God’s grace is so great that even as I confess  this deed I’m ashamed of now, I rejoice  that  the Blood of Jesus has cleansed me  from ALL unrighteousness. God so changed my heart that after that, when I discovered the page of stickers I’d just bought was  actually two pages stuck together, I gladly hustled back into the store and gave the cashier the extra sheet.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning fromthe beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”  1 John 3:8-9

It feels WRONG, it doesn’t fit  with my God-given heart andGod’s desire for my holiness, for a Christian to willfully sin. It does feel SO much better to be and live in right relationship with God and  with others!  That means living rightly  myself, and it also means not condemning, but forgiving,  others for their  flubs,  goofs, and sometimes outright meanness. It means seeking to live like  Jesus. Charles Stanley’s letter, once  more, notes, “Based on Micah 7:19, Corrie ten Boom  once said, ‘God takes  our sins – the past, present, and future,and dumps  them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.’Once  we  have confessed our sins, we have no business digging them up  and letting guilt hang over us like an oppressive blanket.”

Sin brings conviction from God’s Holy Spirit, the mid-course  correction and redirection we need, but Satan uses it to bring condemnation and tell us we’ll never be “good enough” to merit God’s love. That lie puts the whole truth backwards! We  can’t earn God’s love, which he freely gives to us out of HIS  loving goodness, but we can and are meant to confess and lay our sin down at the Cross of Jesus and receive in that repentance a new heart and new life, the seed of God’s nature birthed in us through Jesus.

For believers in Jesus, a sense of condemnation for sins we’ve confessed and repented of (meaning thought differently about and no longer want to do) is a feeling, not a fact, and a feeling that is invalid. Repentance is FREEDOM, confession is FREEDOM, being found by God is FREEDOM because of the forgiving, cleansing, redeeming love God  pours out on us through Jesus.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to  be proud of, AND yet he had a lot  to feel ashamed of and certainly repented of. He wrote to the Christ followers in Philippi: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3: 7-9 NIV

Pretend I’m someone I’m not so people will like me? Pretend I’m flawless? Hide from God? NO!

Real? Revealing myself? Sought? Found? Made someone new? Given a new heart? YES, PLEASE  GOD, FIND ME IN MY FLAWED HUMANITY! YOU LOVE ME PASSIONATELY DESPITE  ALL OF  THAT! HELP ME TO LIVE CLEAN BECAUSE OF JESUS, OPENLY AND FREELY FORGIVEN BY YOU, BEFORE YOU AND EVERYONE, FOR YOUR PLEASURE AND WILL AND GLORY!

Ah, it feels SO GOOD to be FOUND! And where DO we get to “hide” then? “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17: 8

A”…BUT…” to pray: Father God,no more hiding. I admit  that I __________________ BUT I receive  Your forgiveness in and through  Jesus and I know you see me as clean, pure, good, beloved and wanted and cherished by you, and you say to me ________________. I choose to believe that YOU speak the truth over me, about me,  and I  run to you to be found by you,Father God! Thank you, Jesus, for making me new!

“Always take a baggie with you…”

When my two sons were young, I got into the habit of putting a plastic bag in my pocket or in my purse when we went for walks or on a picnic or camping, because I knew for certain  a son would find SOMETHING he absolutely had to pick up, take home, and keep as a treasure in a box:  rock, stick, bottle  cap, flower…. I remember making this analogy back in the 1990’s, again at Community Church of Joy (now Dream City Church) that we ought to approach each day with expectation that God would show up somehow  with something we’d  want to keep and remember as “treasure.”

This morning in the worship intercession group I’m an eager part of on Mondays, a group of  15-20 women  from 8-10 different churches who meet weekly, and have met for 14 years, to sing worship songs as intercession, read from the Bible as the Holy Spirit gives them a nudge,  and pray intercession over the unsaved.  I’d guess almost  every woman there has an unsaved loved one she holds dear to her heart and sings over for them to come to know the precious love God has for them in Jesus.  Today Libby “saw” in her spirit a treasure box, and  as that took on meaning both as our Lord’s treasure of relationship in our lives and God’s giftings that he wants each of us to boldly, lovingly use,  I thought again of what a treasure this weekly meeting and these wonderful women are in my life.

I started attending nearly two years ago,and  the conection that led me to the group was a  “treasure” I picked up one Sunday morning at church,  speaking to the couple sitting in front of us after the service was over.Cate asked me if  I knew about the group, and it  was in this “serendipitous” moment  that God deposited a truly wonderful treasure in the”baggie” of my life.

Yesterday I hiked up the hill to get some aerobic exercise, and as I walked back down,I saw  that the gravel heart God had lovingly arranged in the asphalt a month ago had indeed been washed away by rains,convincing me all the more  that the Lord himself artfully, intentionally, lovingly arranged that gravel in a place I’d notice after seeing the heart-shaped prickly pear cactus pads on my way uphill, obligingly carved by a javelina who took a strategically placed bite out of each one, turning them into the shape of a heart.

IMG_1479

The cactus and gravel are in my “baggie” now. So is the beautiful cloud I saw at sunset over a year ago, one”angel” facing south blowing a trumpet,and one, as my grandson observed,”on skateboard”heading north.  So is the amazing blessing I received in 2010 when simple”girls’night out” card-making evening at a conference in Thailand turned into an everybody-blessing day-before-Valentine’s  Day blessing to about 50 men, women and children,  bringing more joy to others than I’d ever envisioned when my girlfriends back home had helped me pre-cut and pre-stamp  and package up the card  supplies.

In fact, if I’d journaled every  blessing God has poured into my life in the past ten years, I know I’d  need a much bigger “baggie”to hold  them all.  A huge part of the joy I feel in receiving these treasures is being able to share them with you, so my “baggie” isn’t the  zipper lock kind, and the “box” of my heart that I put these treasures into isn’t hidden or locked. When I can share some of the truth of what a loving, caring, kind, graciously giving God we serve and heavenly Father we have honestly it blesses me  all over again, so maybe my sharing isn’t as “selfless” as you may think. I love it when God tells me or shows me He loves me, all the more given the dark valley the Good Shepherd has been leading me through in the last eight years (admittedly I made some detours  I didn’t need to make that led me into some darker gullies than I needed to, or the Lord wanted me to, enter). STILL, and here’s that …BUT…, God has sprinkled and poured His goodness, love and kindness into my life. I know enough about God’s character to brazenly suggest He wants to do the same for you!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure…. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:1-3, 16-18 NIV

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 NIV

The corollary to this truth (yep, I minored in math) is that God has a “treasure box,” too, and if you love Him, know Jesus as your Savior and God as your Heavenly Father, YOU are in GOD’S treasure box!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 37-39

Can I encourage you to “take a baggie” into your life today, tomorrow, and every day to collect the love God wants to surprise you with, and keep it open to share with others? Gosh, if we all did that un-selfconsciously, can you imagine the joy we’d spread and receive?

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Oh, gracious,loving Father,I’ll bet I’vewalked by treasures you had in my life many times.  BUT that doesn’t stopyour love, your heart to reveal yourself to me, so  help me bring a baggie into this day, and I’ll eagerly look for the treasure you have for me to see,hear, feel,know, keep  close to my heart and share. Holy Spirit,bring one to my remembrance even now __________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen and thanks, my loving, giving God!