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 __________________________________

 

 

 

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One Thing I Know

One Thing I Know

 

This is just a quick post, but so important for all of us. 

 Two weeks ago God woke me in the morning with the words “You are worth fighting for!” immediately in my mind and heart. So true, not just for me as a woman in terms of relationships, but for all of us as the chosen and won by Jesus. God fought for us with the greatest,most powerful weapon in His arsenal: His love for us incarnate in Jesus!

 Those words were on my lips when a friend called not two minutes later – literally just after I turned my cell pone on -to cry out to me with a desperate need that had her ready to take her life.  Thank you, Jesus, that you made the connection between us and gave me resources to help! Yes, when we call to Him, He will answer! And we,set free, are his answer to another’s cry for help to know they matter to God.

 Isaiah 62:4-5 tells us: No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her) and your land Beulah (chosen, married); for the LORD will take delight in you . .. as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

 To say I am worth fighting for would sound arrogant except for this truth from God’s own mouth! He backed up this word with his own blood, Y’shua, Jesus!

 Knowing my value, I can give value extravagantly even to those whose actions toward me don’t put them in the “deserve it” category. Because I am fought for and won, I can fight for the value and validation of others. In terms of marriage, this is what gives a wife the power to love with unquenchable fire.The way to the depths of a woman’s heart is not through gifts and dinners, but through valuing and honoring her as someone worth winning and protecting. Men,this gives you a woman whose heart will never fail to support, encourage,and fight for you as the warrior heart in her rises. 

 It amazes me how God fashioned us for each other – yet it’s only out of knowing how GOD values us that we are truly set free to be what He means us to be to and for each other. I embrace this truth as my identity, an identity no one’s actions or words or attitude toward me can take away. How that sets other people free from the requirement to be my validation! 

 We give each other a priceless gift when we take our identity from God.Not arrogance,but bought and set free receiving!

My “. . .BUT . . . ” to move: Other people have failed me, cut me down, and rejected me when they placed their demands on me to be their source of value. I’ve done the same thing to others, BUT GOD you tell me I am worth fighting for, and because I embrace your truth, I am set free to _____________________________________________________

Take to Make My Dad Glad

Take to Make My Dad Glad

Overcome with the holiness of God so powerfully that I almost had to pull off the freeway. It’s funny how God sneaks up on you and takes your breath away. The only analogy I have is the science experiment I’ve seen at several science centers where sucking the air out of a chamber causes a floating feather to fall to the bottom as though made of lead, but that analogy completely fails in this instance. I suddenly felt I wanted none of me, but all of him filling me. His presence so spilled over that I had to find someone or someplace to share it.

The trail that led me to this moment began last week in a Christian singles course. The topic this month was the differing brains of men and women and how that shapes our differences and understandings of each other. The guys shared what men valued about being male, and the women shared what they valued about being female. Men truly enjoy being leaders, action, results, and success oriented, taking the point position, carefully calculating risk versus outcome when it comes to the people and things they hold in their care. It was an “Oh my gosh, it’s who they are, what they need, and how they’re validated” eureka moment for us women. Then one man raised a question about Jesus: he was a man here on earth, so did that mean his male brain bound his thinking and relating with others? A quick and passionate debate erupted about both male and female qualities emanating from the totality of God, ending in our admission that all we can see from the Gospels is that Jesus was a man of action and purpose who was totally relational, leading yet nurturing, analytical and yet completely integrated between the hemispheres of his human brain – the answer beyond our knowing.

But it set my mind musing two days later as the reality hit me: for a man to take on the responsibility of providing for a wife and family is a huge act of courage and commitment, all our cultural expectations aside, and at its purest core completely selfless. ”That’s God!” I realized, and extrapolating from the light bulb moment in the singles group when the truth hit us all that we actually value the differences in each other, it dawned on me that the part of God from which masculinity was birthed actually delights in courageously, faithfully and selflessly providing for his children.

“You mean you LIKE to be Jehovah Jireh, my provider, my healer, my strength, my wisdom, my life-giver? It rocks your socks, God, to be my source, all I need, more than I expect or can ask for?”

That’s when his holiness hit me: a pure love that doesn’t need anything from me or anybody else to be completely whole, YET who chooses to give to me just because of who he is. And I had to look for the nearest off ramp – encounters with cosmic reality distract my driving – and like a child bouncing eagerly and trustingly for another ride on her Daddy’s shoulders ask for more, more, more of who “I AM” is and wants to be in my life to give him the greatest pleasure possible.

“Fill me so there’s none of me and all of You!” I cried, responding in my usual over-the-top passion when I realize anything new about God.

I am not being sexist: when I read “son” in the Bible, I recognize it means “child,” I know many women provide for their families, and many men are nurturing. And yes, I know men can flake out and abandon and abuse their families, and yes I know women can grasp and cling and nag, but that’s the twisting power of that archaic-sounding word called sin that perverts in us the best we were created to be out of a heart so whole, so vastly secure, so deeply loving that He wants us to be the best and all we long to be, an accurate, powerful reflection of who our Father is. The Prodigal (meaning lavishly bountiful) Father painfully permitted the Prodigal (meaning extravagantly wasteful) Son to run out the full extent of the consequences of his folly, but the Father’s heart was always set, bent, intent on and committed to welcoming his son back to the fullness of his identity in the family. And how the Father rejoiced when his child returned! Now he could bless again!

“’My son,’ the father said, ’you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:31-32

I’m re-reading Cindy Jacobs’ book on intercessory prayer Possessing the Gates of the Enemy. Zephaniah 3:17 leaped out to me in the chapter on the power of praise: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy (the Hebrew word gwul, meaning to spin around under the influence of violent emotion) over thee with singing.” Cindy writes that as she thought about why God commands us to praise him, “Right in the middle of my thoughts came the words, Am I selfish? I  sensed this question was from the Lord. I replied immediately,’ No, Lord, You are never selfish. It is impossible for you to be selfish.’  Then why do you think that I desire to be praised?  I considered this for a while. Before I gave my answer He went on, Cindy, I want you to praise me because when you do, I become what you have praised me for . . . I come into your situation and meet your needs.” (Jacobs, Cindy, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy, Chosen Books 1994, 189-190)

I want to drink more from a deeper well till I’m filled and washed, inside and out, with Living Water. I want to find and be filled with the best of me, and I know somehow that comes only from the fullness of God in me, so I’m going to ask big time. I hope that counter-cultural need and desire in me gives my Father pure happiness to meet!

A “. . . but . . . ” to move:  Father God, my life doesn’t look like you want to bless me right now. I see a big circumstantial disconnect between the reality I’m living in and what I believe your Word says you want for me, especially in ___________________________________,  and frankly I’ve sarcastically said, “Oh, really?” to you more than once. I’m driving down the freeway at 75 mph trying to make good things happen out of my own sense of responsibility for the outcome,  BUT I will believe you’re more ready to give good things to me than I am to receive them, so I dare to ask you now to ____________________________________________________________________________________ to make my life a victorious, glorious reflection of who you are!

And how I want my Heavenly Dad to pack my life with all he wants to give me.Do you think I look like my Dad? I hope I do!

God of My Steps and Missteps

(entering the cave before descending to Mooney Falls, Havasu Canyon)

“Who would have thought,” I mused, “that parking at the wrong end of the mall would turn out to be so much fun?” What a morning of mistakes and missteps! They started when I read the wrong appointment card for my hand surgeon and missed a day of work, cutting our dogs’ walk short by 20 minutes so I could fly out the door, leap into the car, and speed to what I thought was a 9:00 am appointment. The puzzled look in the receptionist’s eyes morphed into a bemused grin of “Oh, this poor confused old lady” as she sadly informed me that my appointment wasn’t until four that afternoon. Wrinkles from too many hiking trips move younger people to see senility instead of a love for the outdoors in my appearance!

“Oh, crumb!” I chided myself. “I must have read the ‘4’ I wrote as a ‘9’!” Quickly shrugging off the $72 I had just lost in missed pay, I opted to make the best of the situation and save gas by popping over to the quick-fix jeweler in the nearby mall to get two bent prongs on my engagement ring repaired.

June in Arizona marks the beginning of the season when one is willing to walk from the farthest spot in the parking lot as long as it’s under a tree or even a healthy bush offering a spotty patch of shade, so I rejoiced in finding a parking space not only close to a mall entrance, but also beneath a leafy canopy of shade. Imagine my consternation to discover that the store whose entrance I parked near didn’t open for another hour! Grumbling at misstep number 2, I tramped back to my car and drove around to the northeast side of the mall, where surely the generic mall entrance MUST be open at 9:00 a.m. And true enough, it was.

Misjudgment number 3: the jewelry repair shop was in the northwest corner of the mall, so I had to walk the entire length of the mall!

“I needed the exercise anyway,” I philosophized, still leaning into optimism – or at least leaning away from mounting frustration. That meant I had to hike the length of the mall again at 10:00 when my ring was fixed, running the gauntlet of the now-open kiosks that flanked the food court.

“Have you heard of Dead Sea Minerals?” a young man called as I attempted to zip by.

“Yes- are you Ahava?” I shot back breezily, hoping to brush him off.

“No, we aren’t . . . ,” he replied.

“Oh, what the heck?” I thought, “I might as well get the nails on one hand buffed.” That’s fully what, and all, I expected to happen. Twenty minutes later, though, I wonderingly waved good-bye to Avi and Elan after chatting with them a bit, sharing what I recently learned of the meaning of the Hebrew letters Yud, Heh, Vav, Heh (the hand of grace nailed in grace), Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions . . . ,” and praying for the success of their little stand and for peace in Israel.

Elan was genuinely touched that I would pray for them. Yes, I walked away with a nail care kit, too, but I walked away with an awed joy that Jesus continues to use me, even in my brokenness, to touch other people’s lives with his love. After the person you’ve trusted the most tells you that you are worthless, hearing from Jesus that you are precious enough for him to speak through absolutely rains down worth, dignity, value and a joy that sets your heart dancing!

Oh, those blessed missteps that led me to a God encounter! Abba, can I dare to believe that even this trek through a valley of shadows deeper than death is, in fact, a pilgrimage under light I simply can’t see – a journey to a victory more beautiful than I can imagine?

Some days – days of mistakes and missteps – my heart dares to trust this is, in fact, the truth I can hang my heart on!