The Shadow Tells All

Cover off, God’s parable on!

Child of the 50’s that I am, I still remember the radio (what’s that, you ask?) detective program titled “The Shadow,” and the slogan that came at the beginning of every program: “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? The Shadow knows!” This morning I finally went out to the back yard to hit the elliptical on the porch around 7:15, already warm with the sun rising above the mountains. As I “loped” along to my inspirational music on my phone, I noticed the shadow of something long and thick in the pool. Hmmm…what could that be from? Peering intently into the pool, I saw a small twig floating. Aha! Not a snake or a log after all – just a small, twisted twig.

Two thoughts immediately came to me :

1: Sometimes people like to “cast a large shadow” before others, looking larger than they are, and I know that’s out of an actual sense of inferiority/invalidation/lack of importance. When you examine that person, you see the truth that they aren’t as “big” as they like to project they are. Hmm… have I ever done that, Jesus?

2: I’m a pretty small twig in the grand scheme of things, as are my sisters and brothers in Christ, but even a twig, with the Light of the World behind it, can make an important “reflection” and impact if and when the shadow we “cast” is the shadow of the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross. Hmm… does my life really count for you and your Kingdom, Jesus?

Fast forward two hours to the Monday worship intercession group. Today we’re very much in 1 Corinthians 2: 2-16 (Amplified Version):

“As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God {concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men} in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom, for I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified… So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God….For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.”

I realized God’s thought to me through that stick fit with what we were focusing on today: our own humility and “twig” stature, and yet God loves us so much that HE gives us thoughts from HIS own mind, heart and being, so the “shadow” we cast in our thoughts, words, and actions bears, conveys, and prayerfully reveals the mind and heart of Jesus to others! We all agreed we’re quite happy to be “twigs”!

Fast forward to one o’clock, after the meeting, when I zipped down to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Yay, I found a parking space under a tree, and I waited for the young man gathering up the shopping carts to walk across the lane and get to the side of the building. For whatever reason (nudge), when I walked to the sidewalk, he was still there, going back for a few more carts. I told him thanks for doing his job and getting carts for us in the hot sun, and that began a small conversation about working out in the heat. I shared about a job where I had to do that, and said again I appreciated his work. He told me he doesn’t make much money at the job and rarely hears thanks, and I went on my way.

But that nagging nudge inside me told me our conversation wasn’t over, so after shopping and checking out, I saw him again pushing some carts toward the storefront. I turned my cart and walked toward him, and gave him a single dollar, telling him it came from Jesus, small as it was. He expressed his appreciation, then said, “This isn’t the job I want to have forever. I actually studied music in college, and I write music.
That’s what I want to do for a living someday.”

I asked if I could pray with him, and I did, asking the Creator who put that gift in the young man to open doors of opportunity for him to walk in his gifting and calling. He said, “You must be a hard-core Christian,” and I just smiled and told him I love Jesus and like to pass God’s love along to others. Oh, kind Creator God, I truly hope and pray what that young man, whose name I don’t even know, saw Jesus, not me, in that brief shadow this twig prayerfully, hopefully cast today! I may never see him again or hear the outcome of the words I know God’s Holy Spirit gave me to encourage him, but that’s okay. I’m a twig who casts a shadow of the Cross of Jesus, and that’s all that matters.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father… FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU TO WILL AND TO ACT ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PURPOSES.” Philippians 2: 1-11, 13 (NIV)

A “… but God….” for you to pray and think about today: Father God, I am just a small twig in the great scheme of things, BUT you’ve invested some of yourself in me, in my abilities, inclinations, gifts and heart. It’s really YOU living through me anyway, so help me feel YOUR nudges and know that being “just a twig” is meaningful when YOU’re with me and love through me. Give me courage to know and simply live before others, so YOU can __________________________________________________________________________, and remind me always that it’s YOU behind me, casting the powerful, meaningful, purposeful shadow! Jesus’ Name, with thanks, by the Holy Spirit, for God’s Glory and victories and transforming love in the lives of others AND me, amen!

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A Smidge of Midge

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This would likely be a Midge-ism too

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I’ve probably known Midge since 1992 or so, when she almost certainly  became the favorite “Aunt” figure of every woman at the Joy women’s retreats. Midge worked for a Christian publishing company as a representative, and boy, did she have the stories to tell when she spoke on Friday nights or Saturdays, giving a short devotional talk before our sessions that moved us every time. Midge’s voice was and is warm with a twinkle, gathering you into what you knew must be a great secret she was about to share with you. I still remember, though the details are sketchy so many years later, Midge talking about walking one day up on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona and the eagle she suddenly saw flying high above her, a sign from the Lord she loves that He was with her.

I don’t know how long Midge has been a widow, nor do I know how many grown men look to her as a truly loving Mother/Grandmother figure who very likely touched and turned their lives around while they were incarcerated in the city jail. That’s no doubt where Midge’s humor, common sense, and deeply faith-filled light shone the most brightly, as light does in the midst of darkness.

I thought of tiny Midge going into the jail, sharing her faith with criminals, and I was amazed. She went where we suburbia-chained girls feared to tread. Oh, we’d make up food baskets for the needy, sew clothing for orphans in other countries, but GO THERE? Go to the homeless, the hungry, the dirty, the war-torn, the drug addict, the time-serving burglar or grand theft auto thief? No, no, no, that was for trained seminarians and counselors, not for us clean-living ladies. But hmmm…….

…. Where did Jesus go?  I honestly admit it took tragedy in my own life to help me accurately answer that question by driving me into the arms of Abba God when nothing I could do could change my circumstances. The ocean of love I found there, passionate, fiery, giving, relentlessly forgiving, gave me new eyes to see others, I hope,  as Jesus sees them, and the weird thing is, that takes away your fear of the “differences” between you and them and closes the distance between you.

Midge, you inspired me! You are one fearless lady, powered by the love of God, and you showed me that age is no definer of purpose; God’s purposes throw off the “be sensible” constraints of “age.”

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;

Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you….

Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ Isaiah 46: 3-4, 8-10 NIV

So gray hair doesn’t mean sidelined, benched when you’re on God’s team?  MAYBE it also doesn’t mean I’m “entitled” to simply sit on my lawn chair on the beach at Club Med and watch the waves roll in or play Bocce with buddies  in my comfortable 55+ retirement community in while people whose lives matter to God sit discouraged, angry or filled with shame in the city jail, while shoeless children have to stay home from school in my own town, while the hungry homeless sit on park benches and wonder if they matter to anyone, while kids in the neighborhood of my church flounder in school because their family can’t afford a reading tutor?

Maybe my life can still have great meaning and purpose even after I qualify for the senior coffee at McDonald’s? Maybe my life can have great meaning and purpose BECAUSE I qualify for discounts at the movie theater. I think I know where Midge would NOT want to end up

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green ( full of sap and very green {NAS}, healthy and flourishing {KJV 2000}) , proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” Psalm 92:12-15 NIV

I didn’t notice that punctuation until this morning. Not “like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the LORD,” but “like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish ….” That sounds pretty doggone intentional to me, like maybe God meant for us to be vigorous, green, bending like young saplings when we need to, standing for God’s Truth when we need to, knowing the difference and speaking the truth always out of and in love, getting over ourselves to see others through YOUR eyes and rub shoulders and love them like YOU would. Sigh, even senior-coffee-qualifying I have been planted by the Heavenly Gardener in God’s garden in order to flourish and bear fruit even in (ugh to youth-conscious Americans) my old age.

When I interviewed for a night job at the zoo that was filled mostly by college students, I honestly offered, “I know I’m older than anyone applying for this job, but if it doesn’t bother you, it sure doesn’t bother me.” Oddly, I got along just fine with those men and women 40 years my junior, and we had fun together!

Oh, Midge, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as vibrant as you, unless it’s your buddy and mine, Sharon, who treks off to Guatemala with those cute pillowcase dresses for girls that the suburban ladies DO make out of love and plants herself into the dust of their villages with an infectious smile on her face. Midge, you rubbed off on us!  If I call you “sappy,” I know you’d giggle your giggle and get it and be proud to be “sappy” for Jesus!  Midge, Sharon, can I join your club? And hey you out there, the one with the cheap cup of coffee in your hand while you’re reading this, ask God if it’s time for you to be “sappy” for Him somewhere you didn’t imagine.  And hey you out there, young person, can you take a new look at those “sappy” old people you’ve been praying it will take you a LOOONG time to look like, and commit to God’s “sappy” purpose for your life right now?

I want a smidge of Midge in me forever! (And yes, I held snakes,cockroaches, skinks, and nice bunnies …. who’d a thunk?)

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will be full of sap and very green ), proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him…. For I am (HE is!) God, and there is no other; I am (HE is!)God, and there is no one like Me (HIM!), declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My (GOD’s!) purpose will be established (in YOU), and I will accomplish all My good pleasure (IN  AND THROUGH YOU!)’ the Rose Paraphrased Version

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, I know I’m __________________________ years old and not getting any younger, BUT that doesn’t mean my life is pointless. Right now put a “smidge of Midge” in me and point me to Your purposes for me, wherever and with whomever you plan to plant me, maybe ________________________________ to be “sappy” for Your Kingdom reasons! In Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _____________________________________________