Holy Bird Feeders!!

“…Hide beside the Cherith River, 

which is east of the Jordan River.

You can drink from the stream, 

And I’ve commanded ravens to feed you there.”

1 Kings 17:4

I know what you’re probably thinking…..“Yikes! She is loosing it!”and that may be…  But . . .

The story comes from my favorite, wild Prophet of God – Elijah.  He was quite the guy. . . “out of the box” Prophet of God.  (my favorite kind of people….entertaining, world-shaking,  but challenging to live with.)

Elijah had recently come on the scene, a follower of God.  His life would be extraordinary, as would his mission:   God’s “Prophet of the Times” for the nation of Israel.  Little did he know, there was MUCH MORE TO COME. . . very soon.

Yet, he was still just a human.  A single man.  Homeless.  Often delivering “downer” messages to people in high places. . . a non-paying job.  Hearing God’s Voice, usually unpopular messages, he had to deliver them, uninvited.  He was just starting out in his assigned role as Prophet of God.

But God was with him.  He was doing what God was telling him to do.

So, what does this have to do with us?  In these most extraordinary days in world history, God has His people.  People who LOVE GOD, and choose to hold “MINE” loosely, giving higher priority to actively following Him, listening to His Spirit, and willing to step outside of “what was” to obey what His Spirit puts in your heart to do.

Even “bird-brains” can do it.  It’s not rocket science.  God will provide, even out of nowhere, for you to do what He puts into your mind and heart to do. . . like the ravens that brought homeless Elijah some bread.  They didn’t make the bread, nor buy the bread.  But their Creator gave them their assignment (which made no earthly sense), provided what was needed to do it, and they did. 

So can we.

Your Fragrance

If you were to describe your life’s fragrance, what would it be?   How would the  people in your life describe it?  Like a rose?  A lily?  Stinkweed? (Sorry!)

“Awake, north wind, and come, south wind!

Blow on my garden, 

That its fragrance may spread abroad.”

Song of Songs  4:16

The “Song of Songs” book of the Bible is a very sensual book.  (OK…how many of you have just put it on the top of your reading list?!)   It is full of examples of all five senses.  The writer here, a woman in love,  focuses on the sense of smell.   She invites a process that will change her life.

The process of capturing the fragrance of flowers involves cutting . . . crushing . . . drying to a crisp . . . burning, and a lot of waiting for the fragrance to be extracted from its beautiful  flower.  That process sounds like a lot of “pain” and “dying”, and “waiting”, doesn’t it?  But in the end, the very essence of that flower is captured.  It is then that it can be shared with others, and spread.

From my high window, looking over a park and strong, steady river, I now see hints of Autumn, with the subtly changing colors of leaves.  The coolness in the air is coming from the North.  Yet, the South Wind still breathes over my garden, and the flowers still bloom.  Their fragrance is at its finest, as if they know their blossoms will soon be gone, and with them, their fragrance.  

What fragrance do people catch from you?  Your life?  Do they wish they could “bottle” you?  Or cork you?  The process of capturing the fragrance of flowers involves cutting . . . crushing . . . drying to a crisp . . . burning, and patiently waiting for the fragrance to be extracted from its beautiful  flower.  

May we sense what our Creator-Gardener is working in our lives to draw from us a beautiful fragrance that is not only a delight to the people whose lives we touch, but may our Gardener be pleased and proud.

Training a Child

“Train a child in the way he should go, 

and even when he is old he will not turn away from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

I will soon be the grandmother of 12 (plus 2 in Heaven.)  I am the mother of 3.  All of them have become an integral part of my heart, my thoughts, and my emotions.  Each is so very unique, and it has been a wonderful highlight of my journey to see the individuals they have become, and are becoming.

This “Wisdom Verse”, so ancient, is yet so timelessly appropriate for parents today.

I was thinking about what is involved in “training”.   I remembered an experience

from my early adult life, when I worked as a sign language interpreter.  I was called to a welding business, which was an entirely new experience for me.  I was soon in the welding area with my deaf client and his job trainer.  After some introductory conversation, we all put on our “welding helmets” and then we had to lower our  dark face shields.   I heard the trainer begin his training, and within seconds realized that I couldn’t see a thing, except the shield-darkened welding fire.  My deaf client quickly realized he was in the same predicament, but far worse in that he couldn’t even hear what the instructor was saying.  Deaf people, having no hearing, rely heavily on their sight.  But here he was, without being able to hear the instructions, now  cut off from “seeing” the signed instructions as his sight was cut off by the dark face shield.  

The one being trained was completely “in the dark.”  He and I were soon doubled over in laughter as we realized our predicament.  We couldn’t even see to sign to each other.   The poor trainer (also literally in the dark) had no idea what was going on that we found so funny.  We had to re-group, and figure out a different way to “train” this man. . . a way that would lead to his understanding and success.

Everyone involved had “done it right,” but it did not work because of the one unique aspect of  the “trainee’s” reality.

It’s similar to training a child.  We (“the trainers”) have a God-assigned responsibility to train the child He has given us.  Children do not come pre-trained, and each one has so many unique characteristics to which we have to pay attention and adjust our training.  He/she is not like any other child.  He/she does not learn in the same way as another.  

But they always learn best by watching the living example of those into whose care God has entrusted them.

Christianity 101

“God so loved the world. . .”

John 3:16

In these present days, the world I’ve known has dramatically changed.  If someone had told me a year ago what my world would look like in 2020, it would have sounded unbelievable to me.   A global plague, unprecedented numbers of deaths . . .even in the most remote places on earth.  People jobless, homeless, and unable to even be together without risk.  Mob violence on the streets.  Our nation polarized . . . our “One nation under God” spiraling down to “Two Parties Under ???.”  (For me, there’s little “Under God” about it these days.)   And sadly, His People are part of it.

Perhaps the most powerful prophet of God in all of history, Isaiah was also living in a time of great turmoil.  God’s own people had turned their life focus on themselves and what they wanted, not looking to God for His Presence and Leadership in their lives.  

God wanted them back.

The governmental leader in Isaiah’s time is not even clearly identified. Governments come and go. It was the hearts and lives of God’s people He was talking to.  God can use anyone He chooses to use . . . even mules and birds.  

God’s consistent call is for His people to return to Him.  Jesus, in coming to our world and making the ultimate sacrifice for us, said, “God so loved the world that He gave His Own Son  . . .”  John 3:16  

As HIS PEOPLE….HIS CHOSEN [spiritual] NATION…His authentic followers around the globe, including those in my country, our highest mandate here on earth has nothing to do with a nation’s political leadership. 

It has everything to do with Whose we are.  That’s squarely on each of us to carry out, no matter what government is in the power seat.

Heart check.

Different Worlds

“I will give thanks to You

    as I learn Your regulations,

which are based on your righteousness.

I will obey your laws.

    Never abandon me.”

Psalm 119:7-8

If you’ve ever spent time in a foreign country, you know how much goes on in normal life there that seems strange.  You’ve stepped into “their world” and it may take a while for you to even realize how different that world is.  For example, you may rent a car from the airport in London, but you quickly notice that the steering wheel is on the “wrong side” of the car, and everyone there is driving on the “wrong side” of the road. Unless you make a very quick course adjustment, you’ll soon find yourself on the “wrong side” of the law. But it’s their world,and YOU are the one who needs to make the course adjustments.

God’s Kingdom is completely different from our world on this earth.  But it’s HIS World, and guess who needs to make the course adjustments when you enter into it!!

The first few years that I stepped into the desert world of the Saharawi, I was not thinking about how their world operated.  I was operating in my world.  I couldn’t understand why they did the things they did, especially because I thought myworld, myways were better.  I would usually end up standing before some leader there in tears, because nothing had worked out the way I had planned.

Guess who needed to adjust the plans???   I had come with all the details worked out of how this would go. It was a GREAT plan!   But it was as if, in showing my plan to God,  He patiently looked it over, then kindly crumpled it up and tossed it over His shoulder.  With a wink and a smile, He took my hand and proceeded to walk me through the Plan He was already unfolding.

I not only had to look to Him for His Plans, but I had to become a “learner” of the Saharawi’s world….how they did things….what they valued….how their world worked.  And after many years of frustration, I began to discover the wisdom and realities of their world.  Life became much less stressful and much more fruitful.

God’s regulations are perfect.  Period. He put it – and us – together in the first place.  He knows how it – and we – best work out on this globe and in His World.  To run around in this life, doing what we think is best . . . what we want life to be, how we want things to go, will most likely not go well.  As we live in His Kingdom, we must be willing to learn. Life in His Kingdom is SO different from the kingdoms of this world.  We don’t know how to do it. We need to posture ourselves as “learners” of His Kingdom.  His ways, His Laws, His regulations will be absolutely perfect, as He is Perfect.  And as He kindly gives us understanding, insight, patience, and countless “2nd,3rd,4th, gazilian” chances, we begin to understand the incomparable benefit of following His Ways.

Notice how this verse ends. . .  a plea for what matters most:  “Never abandon me.”   There is no comparison of this world to His Kingdom.  He promised to never leave us….never abandon us.  Stop fighting what He has set up for our good.  Hold tightly to His Hand, as He holds to ours, and trust Him as He shows us, step by step, how His Kingdom works….the Kingdom into which He has invited us.

Your Name

“ . . . the sheep respond to his (their shepherd’s) voice.

He calls His sheep by name. . .

The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.”

John 10:3-4 

Like it or not, we are the “sheep” in the Bible.   For most of us, that’s an unfamiliar reality, and not an image with which we can truly connect.  Thankfully, sheep haven’t changed much throughout world history, and we can still learn and see what that imagery entails.  Most of us flash back to the children’s song, “Mary had a little Lamb…”   which she did!

I was struck recently by another Mary who was in Jesus’ earthly adult life.  She had quite a story, and would not have been the kind of woman anyone would expect to see in Jesus’ life.  She had followed Him, literally, after her first encounter.  She had watched Him and the way He lived, interacted, loved, and taught in daily life.  She had heard so many of the things He said…to His followers, to strangers, to huge crowds, and all levels of society.  She had watched and listened, and was often part of His circle of friends.  She had learned so much from Him. He had changed her life.

She had also watched Him die.  She was there.

In the following days of utter shock, she went to the place where Jesus’ body had been laid.  Sitting quietly nearby, her mind and heart must have been consumed with her shock….sorrow….life-shattering loss.  She was weeping.  Then, Jesus came.  Mary saw Jesus standing there.  So absorbed in her own thoughts, her own deep sorrow, she did not recognize Him.

Then, He said her name.  “Mary.”   And she knew.  She knew His Voice.  No more was needed.

We, like sheep, can be so familiar with “the flock,” with the quiet security of our pasture, our safe place that is “home,” and the care we experience every day from our Shepherd.  It all can blend together to be “normal life.”   We, like Mary, can become so absorbed in our present realities, be it pain or joy or sadness,  routines. . . or just “life.”   We easily miss the fact that our Good Shepherd is present.  That Reality can simply become a part of everyday life.

And then, He says  your name.

In all of the daily life, through the blur of familiar activities and routines, He speaks your name.  Do you hear it?   Are you familiar enough with Him that you recognized That Voice?  Have you spent enough time with Him that you know His Voice?  Do you recognize when He says your name?  He has things to tell you. . . personally . . by name.  He wants you to know His thoughts toward you.  He wants you to know His Presence in your life.  You . . . by name.

Standing

 “….after you have done everything,

to stand.”

Ephesians 6:13

Paul was not one to just stand around watching life happen.   He was famous for being a man on the move.  His introduction to us in the Bible was in the context of being on a horse, in deadly pursuit of followers of Jesus.  He was on a “mission” . . . to stop these crazy followers of Christ from spreading their “Good News” about Jesus.  God literally “knocked him off his horse” to get his attention.  From that transformational moment in his life, Paul used all means of transportation to bring the Good News of Jesus to his world.  Except for his frequent prison stays, he was a man with a mission… a man on the move.

His words to the Believers in Ephesus (Ephesians) were written while in prison, because of his passion that pointed people in his world to knowing the Good News of Jesus.  But a prison could not keep him from sending his Message.  He even mentions in his letter that he was still speaking . . . to those inside and outside of his prison cell.

When I think of someone “standing,” there is still a sense of action . . . Paul wasn’t just sitting around, probably in terrible physical conditions, feeling sorry for himself. There is no sense of Paul having given up on his mission.  He was simply in a new setting… and continuing on with what he had been doing before this latest “disruption.” The mention of his imprisonment was one of the last notes in his message….as if it was an “Oh, by the way, the reason I’m sending this message is because I am in prison…(again!)”  He doesn’t even seem to take a breath.

When we find ourselves in a place of feeling “confined”…whether by natural circumstances, or by human actions, think of Paul.  Prison was like a little blip on his radar.  He barely even mentions it.

May our “confinement”  be like the heart of Paul’s.  Yes, there are limits of our physical movement, but may we take the opportunities at hand to speak encouragement and hope because of the Living Savior we follow.  Standing…alert, aware, poised to move!

*Written in the time of Covid.

Ancient Three-Point Checklist

“Give thanks to the Lord.

Call on his name.

Make known among the nations what he has done.”

1 Chronicles 16:8

We all have busy lives . . . even in the middle of a pandemic.  In the midst of so many changes to what had been our “normal,” it’s always good to “check in”  and see how we are doing.  This ancient checklist is just the thing, I think, for a heart-check that helps us to pause and check-in on how we’re doing in this new reality in life.  Though it’s thousands of years old, it’s surprisingly current! 

  1. Give thanks to the Lord.    How’s your attitude these days?  Are you able to pull your old head up out of the way your life has changed in 2020, take a step back and find some things to be thankful for?  Have you watched for God’s Fingerprint on your day?  It’s easy to see the things that are frustrating, disheartening, and downright scary.  Those are often knocking at our doors.  But where and what are the things that have actually been good in this new chapter in our lives?
  2. Call on His Name.   He is present.  He knows what is going on.  But whereas we mainly see the current realities, as compared to when things were better, He is   looking at all of the good things that He has planned for you including the sweet times that will come out of this world-changing season.   Talk to Him.  Ask Him to help you know He is near . . . He knows all the details…. He is fully capable to handle your heart and your life in the midst of all of this.  He knows you by name.  Talk to Him….one-on-one . . . by Name.
  3. Make known among the nations what He has done.   This world is as dear to Him  . . .  all the nations  . . . as is our nation to us.   Knowing Him, and His Presence in our lives, is not a shared knowledge nor experience in most of the world.  Yes His love for them is real.  At this moment, it is not even possible to physically “go” among the nations.  But our prayers can go.  Our hearts can go.  And God has brought “the nations” to us.  In our towns, our neighborhoods.  Having a conversation with someone from “the nations” is very possible.  Telling of His Goodness and Love is usually very, very welcome.  He will be right there with you. . . with His Loving touch to their spirits as well.

Where Are We Going?!?

“By faith Abraham . . . obeyed and went,

Even tho’ he did not know where he was going.” 

I was in an old car, late at night, being driven through the Sahara desert, returning to my “home” in the Saharawi refugee camps.   A friend and I had attended an event in a different camp, which had lasted long into the night.    The driver was new to me and did not speak English.  It was a very quiet drive.

The desert sky is spectacular in the night.  There are no electrical lights, nor cables or poles or trees to distract from the vast expanse stretching from horizon to horizon.  It’s just the brilliant moon and shimmering stars and galaxies filling the entire sky set against the black canvas.  I never tire of looking up, in awe of the display.

As I watched through my open window, the busyness of the day drained away, and soon I was nodding off.   Little did I know….my driver was having the same experience!

I don’t know how long I’d slept, but when I woke up, I noticed that the moon was shining through the opposite window from where I’d last seen it.   Strange.  After mentally rehearsing how to say in Hassanya,  “Where are we?”, I tapped the driver’s shoulder.   His head jerked up, and he began looking at the sky through his window.  Quickly stopping the car, he got out and stood looking up.  A  few moments later, he turned the truck around and headed a different direction, now extremely awake.   The moon was back in the place I’d seen it when I had dozed off.

He had fallen asleep!    No idea for how long, and I didn’t really want to think about that.   But that night sky was his map . . . no GPS necessary.  He knew his star map, and it worked the best in the dark!  (Most effectively with eyesopen!)

Abraham would have been following the same “map.”  Even though he “did not know where he was going,”  he at least knew, from his “sky map”, where he was and where he had been. God’s celestial map was in place, especially detailed in the darkness of night.  It was not Abraham’s job to plot the course, nor decide the destination.  That was God’s role.  But in His gracious kindness, God had provided (from The Beginning) an infinite expanse high above our earth-bound lives, affording us a visual Constant under which to live.  Especially in the dark.

“By faith . . . “   Abraham went.   Three wise men/kings went.   Prophets went.  Hagar went. Joseph and Mary, cradling their precious baby, went.  All of them, and so many more…went, because God told them to go into that vast desert unknown.  Nightly map provided.  His Presence provided.

That was what mattered most.

Rest

“Come to Me,

all who are tired of carrying heavy loads,

and I will give you rest.” 

When I picture an image of “rest”, I picture a sleepy child in the arms of someone who loves him/her.  It doesn’t really matter what had caused that child to end up on that lap.  But they had found it to be a place where they could become still, nesting within safe arms, their head near to a steady, beating heart.  Sleep came.

Our world is in the midst of turmoil and chaos, beyond what most of us have ever seen or experienced before.  Insecurity and fear has seeped into our homes. . . our families . . . and our hearts.  It becomes mentally, emotionally, psychologically exhausting.   We are “carrying heavy loads.”

But we have One Whose very make-up is Love.   He knows what life is on this old earth.  He experienced it.  His choice to take on human form and  experience ‘in His own body’ our daily realities is beyond my comprehension and reasoning.  He could have just “fixed” it, or ignored it. Instead, He chose to immerse Himself in this human experience.  There is a vast difference between gaining understanding through exposure versus  actually experiencing something personally.  On your own body.

Love does that.

So, in the stillness…in the quiet…when you allow yourself to feel the tiredness in your mind and heart, let His Words sink into your mind . . . into your heart.   “Come to Me….”   Let Him lift you up onto His lap, settle you in, gently press your head with all its worries and weariness, to His chest, where His Heart beats for you, and just let Him hold you.  Quiet your wiggles and words.  And in that quiet nest, hear His heart beating….for you.  Whispering your name, with love.

And rest. . . .