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 __________________________________________________________

 

 

 

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A point of clarification

In case  anyone wonders about my motives in posting this blog for the past 8 years, after today’s Worship Intercession group – anywhere from 15 to 30 of us from across, and I mean ACROSS,  denominations and ages –  where we sing intercession for three hours over those  who don’t know  Jesus as LORD and Lover of their souls, I earnestly want everyone to know that this is about what GOD does in my life. It’s not about my power or glory or fame, but GOD’S.

I truly am blessed by Robin Mark’s music, and this song expresses my desires in writing:

We passionately sang this today, some of us on our feet, hands lifted, in joy!Those who can’t stand worship just as passionately from their chairs! No formula, no “liturgy,” no right way or wrong way or tradition, but simply passionately prayed intercession and love.

I’ve never before been part of group of people so dedicated and committed, earnestly desiring what God desires: that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE,  comes to know the great, unsearchable love He offers us through relationship with Jesus as Redeemer, Savior, and LORD!

What a blessing to join our hearts, spirits and voices every week! Loved ones, friends, organizations, churches, states, nations, our “enemies” – Three hours of loving prayer isn’t enough, ever! Enough said. Solo Deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Gott Sei Dank

One  thing almost intrinsic in me that Daniel and I do NOT share is a fondness for German music. I’m guessing I began appreciating it, and the country, the year my family spent in the small town of Enkenbach when I was ten, my father’s company sending us over there. In my fifth grade class in the Army school my brother and I attended, we had German language instruction. I don’t honestly remember if Frau Schultz came in daily or once a week to teach us, but, perhaps incredibly, I do clearly remember a song  and a poem I learned that year. (And why, I wonder, can’t I remember how to differentiate and integrate sines and cosines, something I learned much later?)

My memory  actually was useful two weeks ago, when I was getting up to move from the lateral machine to another in the recreation center. I started  toward the supply of disinfecting wipes, but the woman approaching the lateral machine told me not to bother, as she had her wipe handy. I detected an accent in her voice and asked where she was from. When she replied German, I said , “Vielen Danke. Voraus stammen Sie?” That began a conversation – auf Englisch –  and we quickly found in common that we’d both worked at a zoo, cared about the environment, and loved God! I gave her a copy of my book that I “coincidentally” (as if there are coincidences with God!) had in the bag I’d brought with me.

Earlier this week I saw Ilse at the rec center again, walked over, said hello, and again began a conversation. That silly song I’d learned in fifth  grade came into my head, and I began singing, “Fuchs du hast die Gans gestholen, gib Sie wieder her …” and Ilse joined in the song. The song about a fox  that stole a  goose isn’t important, except to lead into the truth today that all around you are absolute gems on two legs,  treasures in the people around you.

Ilse has been a gymnast, dancer, model, actress, music instructor, composer, and zookeeper! On Friday I called her and popped over to her house  for a short visit. That’s when I discovered so much inside this amazing woman.Most importantly,though, we shared our hearts and from  our  spirits, connecting at a personal level so quickly because we both knew God had been instrumental in our meeting.

Though the precious people of Zion were like fine gold, how they are valued like clay vessels, the handiwork of a potter!  Lamentations 4:2 NAS

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 2 Corinthians 4: 5-14 NIV

Money and power or influence seem to be the things we value and treasure in contemporary American culture. Too often we view other people for what they can do for us, how they can help us get ahead. If I see someone on the street who’s dressed poorly,  do I automatically assume that person has no worth? Conversely, if I see someone dressed in nice clothing, and for women, with dangling earrings and fingernails and toenails painted to match her outfit, do I attribute more worth and value  to her as a person? How clearly I see the rampant narcissism in our society, see how easily I myself am prone to make value judgments based on appearances! Lord God, deliver me from such materialism!

Two weeks ago Ilse was dressed in ordinary exercise clothes, just as I was, just as everyone else in the rec center. If I hadn’t thanked her and asked her a question, I would have “robbed”myself of a great blessing in getting to know her as a unique person created in God’s  image, created with gifting and talents and kindness and a longing, as we all have, to be known,valued, and to know and value others.

What value does God place upon us?

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29-31 NIV

You are treasured by God your Father in Heaven! And – perhaps amazingly to you – so is that person next to you on the bus or at school or at work or in the grocery store. Treasured not for their net worth, but treasured because they, and you, are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared to be part of your purpose before you were even a glimmer in your father’s eye, for good works, for  advancing God’s Kingdom, for sharing the Good News about  Jesus, for being a reflection of HIS love and mercy and caring and forgiveness, healing, deliverance,  and HIS grace and HIS Truth on Earth. Ephesians 2: 10 Rose’s Paraphrased Version

Sing, Daughter Zion;
    shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
    he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
    never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
    they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
    do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3: 14-17 NIV

Gott Sei Dank! Thank God that he opens our eyes to each other, and to the treasure He  has deposited in each one of us. YOU are a treasure, and if you take time to open a conversation, so, I’ll bet, is that person next to you! Use things, LOVE people!

A”…BUT…” to pray: God,yes, I admit  I’m shy, or afraid, or not caring enough to really notice the people around me and consider that You’ve deposited something priceless into them – not something for me to USE,  but some treasure within who they are for me to discover and value. Even the ones not dressed like me, not driving a car, not  in the same church I attend, from another country or neighborhood or ethnicity. Help me,LORD, to see others as YOU see them, and help me overcome my own _____________________________ to know that YOU value me just because I’m Yours! Holy Spirit, who do I need to notice in a new way today?” Lord, I’m listening _________________________________________

 

Marabel or Jezebel Or God’s Total Woman?

I’m thinking about the misguided advice in Marabel Morgan’s 1974 book Total Woman, which came out in 1974. Those were the days of tumult over feminism versus traditional womanhood, both rather muddled and culturally driven concepts. Quite a few of us young military wives on the base read that book, touted as it was as a Christian perspective, and young and naive as we were, I know some of my friends and I adopted some of her suggestions. But the book always smacked a bit to me of manipulation. Responding to a nudge today, I looked her up on Wikipedia, and this is a quote they had from her book, and reading it now makes me shudder at the downright ungodliness, not of her suggestions in and of themselves, but of the motivation behind them:

“It taught that “A Total Woman caters to her man’s special quirks, whether it be in salads, sex or sports,”[2] and is perhaps best remembered for instructing wives to greet their man at the front door wearing sexy outfits; suggestions included “a cowgirl or a showgirl.” “It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him,” Morgan wrote.

So … my husband is so brain-dead and flagrantly self-indulgent that the only way I can appear beautiful to him is if I make myself scantily clad slave Princess Leia on a chain to Jabba the Hut? That’s disrespectful to genuine, upright, mature, strong in their character men! I remember something in the book alluding to the way to get your husband to buy you new luggage, or whatever you wanted. Manipulation, idolatry, demeaning, slavery, groveling, demanding, treating men like craven infants, yech!

Where is true love, loving and honoring each other for the person on the inside? Where is challenging eachother to be the best person each can be, the truest, bravest, most honorable and caring? Where was Marabel’s truly biblical advice – rather God’s commandment – to worship and revere God alone, and serve God first and before all? Out of loving God, honoring and grateful for the sacrificial love God showed us in Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, we give love and honor to those around us, not to manipulate them or finnagle their love, but to truly love THEM as unique individuals created in God’s image, valuable because they are, and loved by God. I was willing to serve my husband, but not willing to enable or encourage him to do what God’s Word calls sin. I’m sorry, Marabel, because I was the tastefully creative one in the intimacy department, but if personal integrity made me “unattractive” to him, then was his love truly love, or was it also self-driven manipulation for selfish motives?

The Bible’s ”poster girl” for self-driven unscrupulous manipulation is Queen Jezebel. From her example, her name now means a conniving, seductive, manipulative woman.

King Ahab, indifferent to God’s commands to only marry a Jewish woman who worshiped God Almighty so he would not be led to worship false gods, married a foreign woman who worshipped other gods than the God of Israel, Yahweh, Olam El, the Lord God Almighty. Here is a summary of Jezebel’s life, from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-jezebel-2076726

Jezebel‘s story is recounted in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, where she is described as a worshiper of the god Ba’al and the goddess Asherah — not to mention as an enemy of God’s prophets. As King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel mandated that her religion should be the national religion of Israel and organized guilds of prophets of Ba’al (450) and Asherah (400).

As a result, Jezebel is described as an enemy of God who was “killing off the Lord’s prophets” (1 Kings 18:4).  In response, the prophet Elijah accused King Ahab of abandoning the Lord and challenged Jezebel’s prophets to a contest. (Elijah and the One True God won the contest, and fire from Heaven burned up the prophets of Ba’al)

Although Jezebel was one of King Ahab’s many wives, 1 and 2 Kings make it apparent that she wielded a considerable amount of power. The earliest example of her influence occurs in 1 Kings 21, when her husband wanted a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. Naboth refused to give his land to the king because it had been in his family for generations. In response, Ahab became sullen and upset. When Jezebel noticed her husband’s mood, she inquired after the cause and decided to get the vineyard for Ahab. She did so by writing letters in the king’s name commanding the elders of Naboth’s city to accuse Naboth of cursing both God and his King. The elders obliged and Naboth was convicted of treason, then stoned. Upon his death, his property reverted to the king, so in the end, Ahab got the vineyard he wanted.

At God’s command, the prophet Elijah then appeared before King Ahab and Jezebel, proclaiming that because of their actions, “This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood — yes, yours!” (1 Kings 21:17).

Elijah’s prophesy at the end of the narrative of Naboth’s vineyard comes true when Ahab dies in Samaria and his son, Ahaziah, dies within two years of ascending the throne. He is killed by Jehu, who emerges as another contender for the throne when the prophet Elisha declares him King. … According to 2 Kings 9:30-34, Jezebel and Jehu meet soon after the death of her son Ahaziah. When she learns of his demise, she puts on makeup, does her hair, and looks out a palace window only to see Jehu enter the city. She calls to him and he responds by asking her servants if they are on his side. “Who is on my side? Who?” he asks, “Thrown her down!” (2 Kings 9:32).

Jezebel’s eunuchs then betray her by throwing her out the window. She dies when she hits the street and is trampled by horses.”

Uh, it’s clear to me that God is serious about being the one and only object of our worship, reverence, and first obedience. Bad things happen when we put anyone or anything else on the “throne” of our lives! And no, God is NOT a narcissist; God is the Creator, Author of the Universe, Holy, Good, Righteous, Merciful, Powerful, Authority, Kind, Just, and Loving, all together and no aspect of His character ruling out the others.

You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.…Psalm 145:16-18

Righteous and Kind, Just and Merciful, Holy. Here are clear directives from the Bible on Who is to come first in our lives:

And he (Satan) led Him (Jesus) up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” Away from me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'”

… Luke 4: 5-8, 10

“I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20: 3

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. Deuteronomy 6:13

–for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—Exodus 34:14

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you,” Exodus 6: 13-14

Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7: 3

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Psalm 96: 4-5

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. John 4: 23

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 9-11

Yes, I am to love my husband and respect him. Equally true, my husband is to love and respect me as his wife. Mutually we submit ourselves and our wills to God and what He wants for our marriage and family. That’s the way God intended marriage to reflect His unity, integrity and upright love that calls the beloved to purity and righteousness.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped… Philippians 2: 3-8

So Marabel, no; husbands should not seek to be revered and worshiped and served, but as Jesus showed us all to serve one another out of humility and giving love, and wives should do the same.

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Jezebel-No-1

“No matter from what angle we approach the life of Jezebel she stands out as a beacon to both nations and individuals that the wages of sin is death. Further, from this great tragic figure of literature and of history we learn how important it is for the influence of a wife and mother to be on the side of all that is good and noble.”

If I truly love another person, I ought to be about encouraging and enabling the best, truest, noblest, most upright, God-honoring choices and attitudes in them. I go back to 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 to the definition of genuine love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

So, Truly Total Woman, honor and worship God first, and your respect and love for you husband will fall into proper place. Total Husbands, same goes for you. Total Singles, same thing: call forth, encourage, support and enable the best and truest, most righteous and kind and good in others. That’s what we all should be about, regardless of relationship to each other.

 

 

 

BECAUSE I believe, I see …

princeofpeace13

“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!

“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.

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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!

 

 

“You Will Hear a Voice Behind You…”

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Ethan and I in Nanning – we made it!

Sometimes, sometimes God’s Word rings true right in the middle of real life. It’s always true, of course; I just don’t see it in action up close and personal every day, but at Christmas in 2014, God certainly proved his Word – and his Love – very true to me.

I flew my younger son Ethan with me to China to spend Christmas with my older son, daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren. Ethan had never been to China before and I thought it would be a fun way for him to see where his brother has worked for the last ten years. I’d taken four trips over there by myself, and yes, on the last two I had run into several snags in airports, but God had orchestrated help for me. Ethan was going to get to see God in action, and I was going to get a powerful reminder!

We flew into Beijing to catch an in-country flight to another city, arriving on a large. full plane early in the morning. We had about 90 minutes between planes, which I thought was adequate time to transfer, that is, until saw the line at the customs station in the Beijing airport. Ahead of us in line were roughly 200 people! It would take a small eternity to clear customs, and at 6:30 in the morning ….

A woman pushing a cleaning cart came up behind us as we were eyeballing the roadblock of people in front of us, and seeing our confustion, suggested in her limited English that we go through the diplomatic line over to the right. Could we do that? I decided it was worth a try, so, clock ticking,  we walked over to the  diplomatic line. A family was in front of us, and the father was methodically handing over eight passports to the agent. Sloooowwwwly the agent looked through them and stamped them, and sloooowwwly handed them back. At last we were next, and there was no problem evidently with us going through that line, even though we weren’t diplomats, when I showed the agent our departure time.

We sped off to the inter-terminal train, hoping to quickly go from Terminal B to Terminal D. The train zipped along to Terminal C, people exited, doors closed, and then the train zipped right past Terminal D to Terminal E! Whaaat???!! We had no choice but to exit the train, and ahead of us was yet another checkpoint. Beginning to feel flustered and anxiety creeping up in me, we began walking toward the checkpoint when a voice in perfect English behind us inquired, “Are you going to Nanning?”

I turned to find a young Chinese woman walking toward us, smiling. “Yes, we are,” I replied, amazed that of all the cities she could have named, she named the one we were going to. She walked withs through TWO checkpoints: the one into the terminal and the one on the other side of a stairway to catch the train going back toward Terminal B. She was a Mandarin instructor at a university in Texas and just happened to be from Nanning!

That wasn’t the end of our trials in departing the airport, and I will spare you the cliff-hanging terror of the accident when a bottle of taco seasoning my son was carrying as a Christmas gift flew out of one of his shoes as the FOURTH security team looked through his backpack, shattering and spilling spices all over the floor. (Frankly, this has been the story of my life for the past seven years!) Suffice it to say they held the gate open just long enough – and I’m talking ready to roll the jetway back – for Ethan to run to it and all of us board the connecting flight. Whew!

As we plopped down in our seats on the plane, a verse from Isaiah ran and leaped on the jetway of my consciousness: “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” Isaiah 30:21-22 NIV

Praise God, praise God, from whom all blessings flow …. I absolutely knew God had directed two people, perhaps women who didn’t even know him, to help us make our connection that morning.  Four years earlier I’d faced a similar dilemma when I arrived at another airport in China, this time on my way back home,. I needed to catch the bus to the ferry that would take me to the Hong Kong airport, but what met me in the parking lot was a sea of vans whose only signage was in Mandarin. Behind me was a voice on that morning, too, asking me if I needed to find the bus to the Hong Kong airport ferry, and who should God have sent that morning but a pilot for Air China!

If you look back to my posts in 2013, you’ll find one that’s titled “God of my steps and mis-steps.” Boy, have I taken some mis-steps since then, out of sheer grief that sometimes rose like a tsunami to drown me. I would much rather tell you that I’ve trusted God serenely with my whole heart, but in all honesty, and because I’m sure someone else who’s goofed, staggered, and fumbled their way  through grief or PTSD needs to hear this, GOD has remained completely faithful to me despite my staggering!

Some days I still do, finding it hard to believe even now that a person I trusted completely would prove utterly untrustworthy, BUT God is trustworthy in spite of my wavering trust in him.

I quote Charles Haddon Spurgeon from a sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, July 23, 1882:

I invite you to notice first of all THE POSITION OF THE WANDERER to whom this special blessing comes. How does God find men when he declares that they shall hear a word behind them? First, he finds them with their backs turned to him. This is clear enough, if you remember that the word is to be heard “behind” them. The sinner has gone away from God, and God calls after him from behind. He has turned his back upon his true Friend, his best Friend, his only capable Friend, but that Friend does not therefore change his temper and resent the insult; nay, he is provoked to a love more pleading and persuasive than ever, and calls to him to come into the right way. After having transgressed wilfully and wickedly, the rebel now distinctly turns his back on God and truth; according to the Lord’s complaint, “they have turned unto me the back, and not the face.” He turns his back on the law, on the gospel, on mercy, on eternal life. He turns his back on the adoption of the great Father, on pardon bought with the blood of Jesus, on regeneration which can alone be wrought by the Holy Spirit: he turns his back upon holiness, happiness, and heaven. He turns away from sunlight, and wanders down into deeper and yet deeper night, striving to get away from God and holy influences. Yet the Lord follows him, and with a voice of touching love and tender compassion he calls to him, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The word of warning, instruction, and entreaty follows the wanderer, and with ever-increasing pathos beseeches him to turn and live. Again and again the wise, earnest, personal voice assails his ear, as if love resolved that he should not perish if wooing could win him to life. The wanderer seeks not God, but his God seeks him. Man turns from the God of love, but the love of God turns not away from him. What matchless grace is this, that God should thus call after sinners when they openly renounce his rule, and flee from his mercy.  http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1672.php

This reminds me of one of my favorite songs, both in English and Chinese: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not; Thy compassions they fail not. As Thous hast been, Thou forever will be.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I wonder how much different my life might have been, how many potholes and how much quicksand I might have avoided if I could have done just that: trusted in the Lord with ALL my heart? Oh, people advised me to, but the problem is, nobody tells you HOW to do that, and the people telling you TO do that have very likely never gone through gut-wrenching tragedy to give you some helpful advice. Well, I have gone through it, and I’m still alive, and God is still showering his goodness on me despite all the (probably, definitely) needless angst and craziness  in my life since 2009. THAT is the message I have for you, dear someone who feels like a flop and failure for not being able to pull yourself up all by yourself and nobly trust in the Lord with ALL of your heart:  “Yet the Lord follows him (YOU), and with a voice of touching love and tender compassion he calls to him (YOU), “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The word of warning, instruction, and entreaty follows the wanderer, and with ever-increasing pathos beseeches him(YOU) to turn and live. Again and again the wise, earnest, personal voice assails his (YOUR)ear, as if love resolved that he (YOU) should not perish if wooing could win him (YOU) to life.”

As the trite saying of the 1970’s went, God ain’t finished with YOU yet! I don’t know what you’re going through. Some light is shining in my life at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, and I’m deciding maybe God wanted good for me all along! That’s who God is: goodness, love, mercy, kindness, power, provision, grace.

BUT God is also HOLY, Righteous, a Refiner’s Fire, PURE, and we do ourselves a mischief if you and I don’t remember that God is not to be trifled with in terms of the way we live our lives when we know better from God’s Word. So here is the rest of the passage from Isaiah 30:

Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. Isaiah 30:22-24 NIV

Pretty graphic warning, isn’t it? I am/you are to regard everything we cherish, value, fear or reverence above God Almighty as unclean, unholy, un-holdable, untouchable, not to be done, thought, said, valued, or worshiped.

You are radiant with light,
    more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered,
    they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
    can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
    both horse and chariot lie still.

It is you alone who are to be feared.
    Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
    and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
    to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
    and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
    let all the neighboring lands
    bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers;
    he is feared by the kings of the earth. Psalm 76: 5-12 NIV

In our “God is our buddy” culture that I see all too often in the church in America, we need to remember that the voice we hear behind us speaking in mercy is also a voice of PURE Holiness from the ONE who has a right to judge every useless thought, word, attitude and action, and let us, sisters and brothers, live our lives wisely and care-full-ly in REVERENCE and Holy Awe, too, of the incredibly just and righteous God we dare to call Father.

A “…BUT…” to move: Today, God, show me how you’ve been there for me before. Remind me of the times you broke into my life with your love and guidance, even when I wasn’t looking for you: _____________________________________________________. And show me, please, yes even this: show me YOUR HOLINESS so I have the proper respect and awe of you, Olam El, Everlasting God Almighty ___________________________  In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, please, speak to me know in a way I can hear and understand. Correct me where you long to and need to, and lead me in YOUR righteousness to make YOUR way plain before my face __________________________