Sweet Rest

“You will feel confident because there’s hope, 

and you will look around 

and rest in safety.”

Job 11:18

This morning I had a truly precious experience.  God has been giving me glimpses of what it means to be one of His Own, using children and sheep as His primary “visual aids.”

I had made my daily morning trek out to the sheep pasture.  In the past six months it’s become a very sweet venue for God to speak to my heart.  Experiencing real sheep in a real pasture was never in my plan, but it was apparently in God’s Plan for this chapter of my life.

Maneuvering through the fence of the sheep’s field, I was greeted as usual by the two little orphaned and abandoned lambs for whom I’ve helped care since they were born.  I headed to a rickety old wooden “spool” I use as a table, and set up my weathered old chair.  Taking out my notepad and pen, I was interrupted by Easter and Autumn calling their “Maaaa’s” as they headed to my humble ‘writing table.’  One on each side of me, they nudged my legs, waiting for me to scratch their soft ears and wooly faces.  

Trying to focus on thoughts toward my Good Shepherd, I was being interrupted by the insistent nudges of the two lambs on each side of me.  Finally, I laid down my pen and just focused on scratching the two sweet faces resting their heads on my knees.  As I rubbed their wooly faces, I surveyed the scene that surrounded me: large mama sheep munching grass, and then lying down in a tangled pile of old logs, ewes, branches and lambs. Birds, butterflies, and flowers  

drew my attention as I rubbed the soft heads.

Then, I heard a new, quiet sound beside me.  Easter had fallen asleep with her furry head resting on my knee as I scratched her nubby neck and head.  Standing, she was leaning into me, her dark brown eyes closed. She was asleep.  

That simple, touching moment caught my heart and I sensed a Whisper of my name from my Good Shepherd.  He was near.  He was with me.  No words necessary.  My soul could be at rest with that.

Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ…

       “Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ…”

                                                  1 Corinthians 11:1

He’s 3 years old, and loves to hang out with his “Omi”  (Gramma….me.)   He wants to do what I do, “help me”, and be close.   He loves to ‘nuggle’ with me and has a funny little compulsion to slip his icy little fingers up into my warm armpit whenever he can.  (It always evokes a spontaneous “AAAHH” of surprise from me!)

This morning, as I was having my quiet time, he slipped into my room to see what I was doing.  I had to leave for a minute, but when I came back, I found his little rocking chair had been carried by him and placed next to mine, and a little footstool beside it with his drawing papers, a crayon pouch, and his little grey, plastic “alien-buddy” waiting for him.   He was ready.  Although uninvited, and without a word, he was ready to join me in my daily routine of “time with Jesus.”

The sweet simplicity of his quiet preparation for our “quiet time” together was so sweet!   I chuckle every time I think about it.   There was no “lesson preparation” on my part for having a

Devotional time with him.  There hadn’t even been a thought on my part to include him.  Yet, here he was….ready to join me in my time with God.   

May my eagerness to “do what Jesus does” be as pure . . . with the childlike simplicity He taught us:   “Follow Me . . . Come near to Me . . . Do what I do . . . Love like I have loved you.” 

Eva’s Prayer

My Grand-daughter Eva is constantly leaving me notes . . . I never see her writing these, nor know when she delivers them. They’re just there…. 

Dear Jesus our God and Savior, 

   who brought light and love 

         to this world.

You are my Lord God and Savior.

You keep me safe. . . 

You gave me more than I need.

In Heaven’s Name,

Amen

Here’s one Eva left on my desk the other day.

When It Just Gets Worse

Now you will see what I will do.”

Exodus 6:1

Moses had just walked into a lot of ‘hot water.’   He had done what God had told him to do, and everything was getting worse!   An enraged Pharaoh was now breathing down his neck . . . making threats, and heating up his cruelty to  God’s people.  Moses began  doubting God.   I can imagine his questions:  Did I hear God wrong?  Is this some kind of Divine joke?  I must have been crazy to go to Pharaoh and tell him to “…let my people go!”   

Everything just got worse.   God’s people  . . . slaves who had put trust in the reluctant Moses,  were now in a worse situation than before!

And what does Moses – their leader – do?   He goes to God with frantic questions, fear, and even accusations for the predicament they were all in now.  Not only was Pharaoh (with all the power of Egypt) against him, angry and breathing threats to Moses and all of God’s people, but  their whole nation-in-exile was angry with him as well.

God knew.  He saw exactly how this horrible situation had unfolded.  He was there.    And surveying the chaos, He said, “NOW you will see what I will do.”

Can you relate?   You have taken risks, stepped out of your comfort and onto a limb, because you believed that God had asked you to do so.   It may not have made a lot of sense to you, or to the people around you . . . those looking to you with trust.  Hope.  And then, . . . everything goes haywire.

And God says, “NOW you will see what I will do.” 

When I followed God’s Call to me to become involved with my desert nation, all Hell broke loose in my life.  There were vicious attacks on our church, on my reputation, on my husband and family.  Most devastating was that it came from Believers.  The Enemy of our souls does not want God’s people to move into the Darkness with God’s Light.  There will always be great resistance.

When we come to the end of ourselves … our confidence, skills, education,  passionate desire to do great things for God, He patiently watches it unravel.  And as we stand there watching all our great intentions, hopes and plans crumble, He Whispers, “Now!  See what I will do.”  

In my early years in the desert refugee camps, we came to them with great plans, with passionate hearts . . . and a lot of great people sacrificing time, skills, and their own comfort.  I’d submit the written, organized, agreed-upon “Plan” to God, asking Him to bless it and make it all happen.  I could swear that I would hear His Soft Chuckle, then crumpling it up with a wink and a smile He’d say, “Now!…Here’s what we’re going to do…“   

And it was ALWAYS far better than what we had come up with!  That realization may have taken some time to become clear to us, but His Plan was always the BEST!

Eva’s Gift

A surprise ‘condensed’ Bible was slipped into my purse by my 5 year old granddaughter.  A priceless Christmas gift!

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.

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.

Schlepping Thru the Desert

“Your clothes didn’t wear out,

and

Your feet didn’t swell . . . “

Deut. 8:4

I bet you’re thinking…”WHAT??!!   Is that in the Bible?”

Well, not the schlepping word exactly, but I have been focusing on the incredible stories of the 40 years journey of God’s people in the desert. I’m contemplating the former Hebrew slaves of Egypt, God’s people, “schlepping”  through the desert, learning Who God is, who they were, what it meant to be free, and what it meant to become a nation. (‘Schlepping’ is an old Yiddish term that just seems appropriate to use in this context.  It’s kinda walking, trudging, dragging along on foot.)  They could have completed their “desert experience” in a year, but their desert “classroom” period lasted 40 years…..  They had a lot to learn.

A million people, having lived as slaves for centuries, had a lot of hard work to do to begin living an entirely new life as a nation… as free people.  It would have been a tremendous challenge just to change their mentality in becoming free after centuries of forced slavery.  But to become a nation . .regaining their identity as people, as a nation  . . . yikes.  That’s a LOT of emotional, mental, and relational adjustment.

But these were God’s own.  He was there from the Beginning.  His Plan had not changed.  The desert years were His Time with His people.  The former slave nation needed to learn what it was to be God’s People. . . to learn what life as a nation and as a Family would be.  He gave them the “Family Rules” – 10 of them . . . the guiding principles for how they would live with Him and each other as His Family.

Imagine your entire extended family traveling through a desert together.  Even for a day, much less 40 years!   The bickering, the whining,  the “pit stops” in the middle of nowhere,  an extremely limited food selection – SAME THING EVERY DAY!  No shade.  No map.  No Kwik Trip. “I’m HOT!”…”Yeah….Live with it!” No showers.  No air conditioning.  Every day the same. . . pick up the blanket, drag it along, find the sandals, find the kids, eat the manna, spare the water, check on Gramma,  drag the “stuff” you’d grabbed on your way out of Egypt.  Argue again about “why did you have to bring that!? You carry it then.”   “I’m sure we passed that same rock 3 months ago!”   “Who’s reading the map???”   “Is there a map?”   and “If Gladys tells me that same story one more time . . . I’m gonna smack her!”

All of this going on day in, day out.  Weeks…months….years….  And they were going around in a massive circle, basically.  Lots of grumbling about that, too !!!

But recently, re-reading that ancient story, I noticed a sentence I’d never caught before.

Deut. 8:2  “Remember that for 40 years the Lord your God led you on your journey in the desert . . (:4)Your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t swell these past 40 years.

(Note:  SWELL … not “smell.”)  

Those little details spoke volumes to me.  God’s kindness and attention to details that matter to us is so sweet . .so personal . .so practical. . . so loving.   I can definitely relate to the detail of swollen feet from schlepping through hot sands every day.  Trying to find a stable surface to put my hot, swollen feet and ankles up against to try to relieve the effects of gravity was a constant longing.   Without enough water to drink, it seemed a dream to use precious water on my feet. . . or clothes.

For many of us, the thought of wearing the same thing EVERY DAY sounds horrible.  But despite the circumstances, their clothes lasted.  Miraculously.  40 YEARS!   (I realize that for most of us, even if we’re crazy about a piece of clothing, we don’t get excited about it lasting for 40 years!)

God, Who was caring for a troublesome nation He dearly loved, had all the major, national needs covered for all those years.  Despite their complaints, rebellions, and failures, He still attended to the details of their everyday struggles.  It gives a glimpse into His love and intimacy toward His People…His Family.  He was “in the details.”

As we schlep along through our days, may we take note of all those kind details that He cares about in our daily lives, too.  And be grateful.

POPULARITY?… NOT !

“MY SPEECH AND MY PREACHING

WAS NOT WITH ENTICING WORDS.”

1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-5

Paul would have never been asked to give seminars or conferences on “How to Grow a Church” or  “Who Put the ‘P’ in Popular” or  “Laugh Your Way to…. Anything.”   He was hardcore.  He had been busy hunting down Christians,  terrorizing and killing them.   Then came the day he was literally knocked off his horse by the One Whom he had been so viciously working to destroy the memory of. . . Jesus.  And everything changed.

Paul was the guy who made things happen.  He was brilliant.  He knew how to powerfully influence people (especially successful at hunting down and killing Christians.)  He had become a famous man in his country, having not only his own Jewish identity, but he had learned well the mentality, beliefs,  culture and even literature of both the Greeks and Romans who had gained power in his nation.  He understood how they thought and how they lived.  He had moved into places of power within the “New Order” of government that now controlled his nation.

At the height of his success, he encountered Jesus, as dramatically as he was living his life.  Literally blinded by “The Light” and knocked off of his horse, he was called by his birth name with a question that went straight to his heart: “Saul!  Saul!  Why do you persecute Me?”  From that moment, everything changed….even his very identity . . . now Paul.

The passion and brilliance with which he had made his mark on his nation . . . hunting and killing those who followed that “dangerous” Jesus, now turned completely around.  All of his knowledge of how his world “worked” was now put into operation to introduce and influence that world to come under the Lordship of Jesus in their lives.  The passion with which Paul had fought against Jesus now was turned to presenting Him, literally, all over the map.  It became what he lived and breathed.

His was not a popular message.  When Paul wasn’t traveling throughout his world of many nations, he was often in chains . . . imprisoned . . . alone.  He experienced a lot of forced isolation, in very tough situations.  Still the words flowed, often on paper.

If Paul was with us now, I wonder what he would think of us . . . Christ followers.  How we think, what we believe, what we talk about, how we live our lives as followers of Christ.   What ignites our passion?  How do we live out our faith in our current world…tasting an isolation we’ve not known before?  Our town?  Our neighborhood?  What consumes our thoughts?  How abandoned are we to speak about the One we have personally encountered?  The One we have come to know.  How do our lives reflect Him?  How uncomfortable are we willing to become for His Cause to be presented in our world?  What has it cost us?

We have this time of global “isolation” to deepen our own faith, for the purpose of telling others, as did Paul.

Let us not waste this season in our lives.  May we listen more closely, think more deeply, pray more often, and not hold back on introducing the Light of Jesus we’ve encountered. . .  to a very dark world.