Show and Tell!

“The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky displays what His Hands have made.

One day tells a story to the next.

One night shares knowledge with the next.”   

Psalm 19:1-2

Did you realize how much celestial communication is going on all around us . . . day and night?

We’ve got the heavens shouting about God,   the sky showing off His artistry,

Each day telling stories of its day to the next,

And each night passing  to the next night all that it knows!

And I’ve just been enjoying looking at the moon, stars, clouds and birds!  (with thoughts of  how it might affect my plans…)

Our world is full of people who wish they could know God….hear from Him,  understand Him.   We tend to point people to read, or study, or take in written and spoken words to gain knowledge and understanding of God.   All of that is good.  Helpful. Enlightening.

But God has also designed a way of communicating beyond spoken and written language.  It’s something that is  accessible to every human being on this globe.  If we only focus on words, we are missing a galaxy of communications that God set in place to help us know Him.

So the next time you are thinking about God, or wondering about what is happening on this earth, or are struggling with questions about life, don’t forget to step outside . . . day or night . . . and look up.  Listen to the Conversations going on in the Heavens.  It may not involve spoken or written words.

It may simply go straight to your heart.

 

 

The Song

“No one could learn the Song

Except the 144,000

Who had been redeemed from the earth.”

Revelation 14:3

I have always loved music.  My mom often had music playing at home, and drew my sisters and I into singing and piano lessons.  It has always been a major part of my daily life,  surrounding myself with classical music, preferring instrumental over words.  It is a beautiful cushion of sound day and night.

Songs have been written throughout the ages, throughout the earth, throughout the nations and peoples who have walked Earth throughout Time.   Languages, melodies, rhythms, expressions, and sounds as varied as the people and places from which those songs have come, have covered the world, impossible to number.

But there is one Song yet to be sung.  It is “The Song of the Redeemed.”

The Song:

  • Is not written, not studied, nor learned from listening;
  • The Song begins when the unimaginable happens….at first it begins as a Whisper in the darkest night. . .
  • It comes unexpectedly . . .
  • It cannot be copied, or recorded, or planned.
  • The Song comes from deep within….from the Spirit of God into the heart of the crushed,…devastated….when all that was is no more.
  • When the Life that was has ended, or becomes a mere shadow, the whispered Song begins…
  • It flows quietly, no words necessary, out of the shadows of the broken heart.
  • Without any score nor recording to follow, the Melody begins to trickle from the wounds deep inside…inexplicably….quietly.….awakening New Life from the depths of mourning.
  • You will meet a stranger and detect the Song in them. There is no explanation, except that it has been written with the Pen of deep sorrow…sorrow that has somehow become unexplained Hope.
  • It is God’s Song . . . Who Was, Who Is, and Who forevermore shall Be.

His Spirit has come.  The Song is there.  We are learning to sing.  And someday, when we see Him, the Great Choir….all those who have been redeemed throughout Time….will assemble, each one singing their own unique melody and words. And as the Song of the Redeemed swells, all the Universe will begin a New Day, which will last for eternity.

 Inspired by and Borrowed from George Matheson (1842-1906)

Scottish Preacher, Author, Hymns Composer

Echo

Come.  Follow Me.”

Mark 1:17 

Think of a time when you heard an echo.  Maybe you were in the midst of mountains.  Maybe you were on a quiet lake.  Wherever it was, it probably stopped you…grabbing your attention…and fascination.

How often do little kids “echo” what they hear.  It’s usually delightful….not exactly what the original was, but recognizably an echo.  But it can also be embarrassing.

An “echo” involves an original sound, which travels to another surface, causing the sound to bounce in other directions, extending far beyond the original.

Jesus, while on this earth, created an original Sound….”Come, Follow Me.”  It began with one listener, then repeated to more and more listeners, and went on to echo throughout Time…generations, nations, and worlds.  It continues to echo globally….one hearer at a time.

An Echo is not selective about the hearer.  Anyone who is listening can hear that simple invitation. . . whether an echo through sound, or written words, or through the life of anyone who has heard the Echo and chosen to not simply absorb the Sound, but reflect it.

From the time I was a little girl, I heard the simple Message, “Come… follow Me.”  It echoed through the lives of my parents, my grandparents, and many, many people who passed through my life.  But some of the most amazing Echo experiences have been when I’ve heard the Echo reverberating from the lives of people with whom I don’t even share the same language…yet their lives echo the Spirit of God that carried the Sound to their hearts.

I want to be an Echo. . . simply reflecting what came to my ears and went to my heart.   Not complicating or changing the Sound…not muffling it…not selective of who, when, or how the Echo catches their attention.  May the delight of that Sound be reflected  . . . echoed . . . through my life to the world around me.

WHAT A MESS!

“I will climb up into my watchtower now

And wait to see what the lord will say to me

And how He will answer my complaint.”

Habakkuk 2:1

Habakkuk (imagine the nicknames!) was living in a very messed-up world.  A string of wicked leadership had left his world, and his people, under oppression, lawlessness, and immorality.  People were living in fear.  What had this done to them as a nation?  Would they ever get past what life had become?  Their “new normal” was far from what life used to be.

Habakkuk, a Prophet of God, needed to get away.  He longed to get perspective…. God’s Perspective.  He had poured out his complaints to God, and needed to hear back.  People looked to him for answers, for help…anything they could grab onto to get through these very tough times.

But first, Habakkuk  needed to hear from God.

I was married for 36+ years to a “prophet”….who had courage to speak Truth, whether popular or not.  When times were especially troubling, he would head out the door wearing his rattiest old hunting jacket, an old holey pair of jeans, hiking shoes, and his favorite old hat.  One look at him told me that he was going to the woods, and into an old tree stand.  What was designed to watch for deer became his “watchtower” to get perspective…a higher view of realities.  God had placed him in the role he carried, and he needed to be attuned to His Voice.  He felt closer to God up there, more focused, and tuned his ear to hear whatever God had to say.

Habakkuk headed to the watchtower.  It had been built so that any danger to the people of the region could be detected as early as possible.  From its higher view he could see  any threats to God’s people that were undetectable from the ground.  For this prophet of God, it enabled him to see many things more clearly…to identify the nearby dangers, and gain clearer perspective.  Demanding and fearful voices of those under his care were not usually accurate.

Habakkuk waited with expectation to SEE from a higher perspective what God would say, and to HEAR the Answer …. What was TRUE….in the midst of all the mess.  He waited for God’s Word to him first, personally.

After my husband went “Home”, I moved into the 3rd floor of my youngest son and his wife’s old Victorian home.  The day my furniture was to come, I took time to walk to each window and pay attention to the full view.  As I slowly moved from window to window, I realized that from that place I could see most of the key points of Bill’s and my story together.   The park of our first “date” where he kept throwing me into piles of Fall leaves….The university parking lot where passionate new Believers would gather to pray before going out onto College Avenue to talk to a lot of troubled  youth about finding new lives;  the “Office” we used for the growing street outreach that had been birthed from his heart … the Salvation Army space where young people crowded in every Friday night to celebrate their new life with Jesus…The first church building the thriving new group of young Believers would use to gather for weekly Sunday worship.  The park beside the river which had been the favorite one for our 3 boys.  And the beautiful old cemetery along the river beside  which he had often spent time praying…and which had become his final earthy resting place .

As I moved from window to window….memory to memory, God was right there with me…reminding me of the Story He had written through our life together.  He had set me in a place that would be a constant reminder of His faithfulness…still actively with me each day…each moment…always.

My unexpected “watchtower” was truly a place of God’s Peace, His Presence, and His Perspective throughout that very tough season.   He was there.  And now I live beside that river, bordering the park where our family played together, adjacent to that same old cemetery.  From my 3rd floor window I can always see that steady river, flowing north, reminding me always that the course of this life goes on (often in uncommon ways), and that God surrounds me with His Love and Presence.  He sees….He knows….I can rest in that.

May we look up for God’s Perspective in our troubled days,  and listen.

FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM – Part 2

JOHN the Baptist

 “You yourselves can testify that I said,  ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.”   John 3:28-30

[NOTE:   John, one of the 12 disciples, is telling this story…it includes a story of John the Baptist (JB),  and his (JB’s) encounter with Jesus near the beginning of Jesus’ formal ministry on earth.)

 John the Baptist knew who he was.  Before he was even born, his mother Elizabeth, with John in her womb, had been not only Mary’s aunt, but an unlikely mentor to her.  Both miracle baby boys, cousins, had “met” before they were born…still in their mothers’ wombs.  John became a famous prophet, a one-of-a-kind proclaimer of the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus.  John courageously, fearlessly spoke of the Messiah’s arrival on earth.  He grabbed his world’s attention,  announcing the One Who had stepped onto this planet to fulfill the Plan God had set into motion “in the Beginning.”

 John understood who Jesus was.  He also knew who he   was, and lived out his part in the Plan that was unfolding before his eyes.  John embraced his assigned work with his whole heart, mind and strength.  John also understood and embraced his role of being the “friend of the Bridegroom.”  Though he had drawn many followers through his powerful message, John was waiting and listening for Him [the Messiah]… the Bridegroom who was about to step into the spotlight.  

 Then came the day when Jesus asked John to be His “Baptiser”, as John had been for all who had heard and believed his message to repent and turn to God.  John baptized Jesus.  The Holy Spirit of God visited the event, appearing as a dove, announcing that Jesus was God’s ‘beloved Son, in whom He was very pleased.’  John had always known who Jesus really was.  But in that moment, God’s audible Announcement began the turning point of John’s life. 

Jesus, the Bridegroom, had come.  John had been waiting … listening…and preparing.  At that moment in time, John stepped into the role of “Friend of the Bridegroom,” and embraced it with great joy. There was no sense of resentment, competition, jealousy, or disappointment.  John embraced his role, stepping into the background to watch the Groom bring His Bride to Himself.

 John proved to be the perfect “Friend of the Bridegroom”….stepping aside, out of the limelight of the spiritual fame he had been given throughout Israel.  John had been worthy of God’s choice of being “friend of the bridegroom.”  He had the Bridegroom’s trust, as he had powerfully prepared the way for the hearts of the people – “The Bride” – to turn to the Bridegroom when He came on the scene.   John had faithfully set the stage for the Bridegroom to arrive and gather His Bride.

When that moment came, John  gracefully and intentionally moved into the shadows as  Bridegroom Jesus  stepped onto the Stage of Earth with the Good  News that He was ready to take His Bride into the Kingdom of God,  paid for by His own Blood, laying down His life for His Beloved. 

 Are you a Friend of the Bridegroom?  Has He entrusted His heart…His commitment, His Love to be communicated to His Bride through your life?  It is a precious responsibility He has entrusted to mere mortals to be His trusted friends.  As the Wedding Day approaches, are we listening intently, staying near to the Bridegroom, and actively involved in relaying His Heart to His Bride? 

 May we, the Bride of Christ, be ready – “without spot or wrinkle” – when our Bridegroom comes for us.   He has been preparing our Home…..His coming could be at any moment. 

  

“You are . . .”

 Today is my wedding anniversary….February 27th, 1981….the day I became his wife.  But he is not here…I remember alone.

…and then my Groom came.

Earlier in the day a friend had come to my door, handing me a beautiful bouquet of yellow tulips, and a small note.  She told me of how she had begun her day as usual, in her car driving to her job.  Turning on the radio she had heard the words, “You are….” 

Later that day, she again turned on her car radio, and again the first words were “You are…”  Remembering the morning’s first words, her attention was peaked.   Twice in the same day, the first words out of the radio were exactly the same.  “You are . . .”  Each a different context, but exactly the same two words. She turned off the radio, sensing that God was the one saying those words… she was listening.

As she began her drive back home at the end of her work day, she again turned on the radio.  And  for a third time that day, the first words over the airwaves were, “You are…”   Now, her full attention arrested, she asked God directly….was this something she was being prompted to say to God? Something she needed to consider about His Character, or His Goodness, or…?

Then the sentence that had begun three times that day was completed . . . God finished.    “Tell Janet this message from Me:   

               ‘You are beautiful……You are Loved……You are Mine.’”

She stopped the car, wrote down the words, and bought a sweet bouquet of yellow tulips.  She delivered the flowers….and a simple card with the message.  A warm hug, and she was gone.

I contemplated the message for a while….it was familiar somehow.  I knew I had heard these words before, but…..

Then, it came to me!   Yes!  I had heard these words before….decades earlier.  It was a moment in time when God had shown me a picture of myself as a little girl.  A significant adult in my life  had said words to me that made me feel deeply ashamed for twirling in front of a mirror, delighting in the pretty, flowing dress I had been given.  Then, I’d heard the words, “Tsk, tsk, tsk,….vanity, vanity!”  

God showed me that in that moment, so long ago, it was as if a heavy black curtain had been thrown over me.   I could not see out, and no one could see me through it.  It was a curtain of shame …unjustified shame … that I had unknowingly lived beneath for most of my life.

Then, the “picture” had changed, and I saw Jesus standing at the altar…a wedding altar.  He saw me beneath that thick, black curtain of shame.  Effortlessly, as if it was a piece of tissue, He pulled that heavy black curtain off of me, flinging it over His Shoulder as if it was “nothing”.    Immediately, He held a pure, white veil…a wedding veil….and placed it over me.  It was the most delicate, beautiful, sheer white veil I had ever seen.  I could see through it. . . and He could see me, almost as if it was made of the most transparent crystal fabric.  I felt utterly beautiful beneath it….as a chosen bride. 

As He looked at me, He had said,  “You are beautiful.  

                                                               You are loved.

                                                                       You are mine.”

Today, the day of my 39th wedding anniversary, sitting alone in my living room I read those words again.  Those same words that had been spoken to me years ago by my Heavenly Bridegroom, and were now in writing on a simple notecard. Before me were 3 “timer” candles set around the vase of tulips.  As I repeated the simple words, “You are beautiful….” one of the candles came to light. “You are loved…” the second candle lit.   “You are Mine.” The third candle’s flame sprang to life.

 My Bridegroom had come . . . on this day that was the marker of the earthly bridegroom who had captured my heart for 37 years.  My Heavenly Bridegroom renewed His Promise….His forever Love for me.

 

 

 

Coming Near

“Draw near to God,

He will draw near to you.”

James 4:8

She was lovely, sitting on the floor in front of me, quietly coaching me on basic Arabic vocabulary.  Suddenly the room cleared and we were alone.  Leaning in, she quietly asked,  “You know Jesus?”   In this place where Followers were not welcome, I hesitated.  Was it a trap?

“Yes,” I nodded.

“Tell me!”

Without knowing much about her nation’s faith, I began at the beginning….where sin entered the world…distancing us from God. I touched on the many messengers who God had sent throughout time, longing to draw us back to Himself.  And then, choosing to “come Himself…”   She finished those two words along with me.  Tears filled her eyes.      “You speak of God as One so near to you.  We only know of Him as so high above us…so far from us.”

As our time ended, I prayed for her….that God would come near to her, and that she would come to know Him. . .as near.  With tears running down her cheeks, she quickly asked that I write the words I had prayed so that she could pray them herself.

A year later, we saw each other again.  She said,  “I pray this prayer every day, and my mom and dad like this prayer very much, so we all pray it together every day.”

 This world is filled with people who long to experience God coming near to them.  Yet, they have not known how that could be possible.

We who have come to know Him as the One Who Draws Near to us carry the great privilege of knowing Him “near.”   May we live this . . . and share this . . .in our world, to our world, where so many have never known it was possible to be near.

Hears = Does

“I love the Lord

because He hears my voice,

my pleas for mercy.

I will call on Him as long as I live

    because He turns His ear toward me.”

Psalm 116:1-2 

In the time this verse was written, the word “hear” included “do something in response.”

It wasn’t just “listen”.  There had to be an action tied to the “listen.”   This writer loves God, and has clearly experienced direct interaction with Him.  There is a story here of talking to God and knowing that God has heard…and has responded.  The response shows that he (the writer) has been truly heard.

What would stand in the way of God “hearing” us?   I can promise this…..it’s not on His end.  His ability to hear is perfect.  There’s something on our end that would have gotten in the way of Him hearing me.

My youngest son had a hearing problem.  Literally, with his ears.  But in his heart/attitude as well.  The physical problem was easily solved with “tubes” when he was 17 months. The other “hearing” problem was not a physical problem….it was much more of a heart thing…even at that young age.  Anyone who has lived with toddlers knows what I mean! 

In the day-to-day, I would often have to get down to his level, face-to-face, take his little face in my hands and say, “Look at me. Look at me!”   His eyeballs were going everywhere except to my eyes.  We’d have to be so close that he had little choice but to be eyeball to eyeball with me.  The proof that he had truly heardme was when he actually didwhat I had told him to do. [NOTE: He hears me now….wonderfully!   Even when I haven’t spoken words. !! ]

It’s easily like that between God and me.   I know….I’ve listened….I’m awareof what He is saying to me…what He may be asking of me.   But without a change – a response – in me, whether an action or an attitude, I haven’t truly heard Him. 

 God hears you.  Not only your words, but what is really in your heart. He is ready to respond to us.  His heart of course is perfect.  Ours is not.  But when He pulls us close, we look in His Eyes, and we truly hear Him, things change as a result

Open Hands

“She opens her hands to oppressed people

    and stretches them out to needy people.”

Prov. 31:20

Sitting in front of my laptop this morning, in a clean, comfortable hotel room, my thoughts are still in the desert, from which I am returning home. I still have sand in my suitcase. Clean, hot water coming out of the faucet in the sparkling clean bathroom – including a flush toilet – have become a piece of paradise in my mind.

Such little things we take for granted in our personal worlds. . . take on new meaning and appreciation when Life’s path leads you to a different world.

The richness of these simple things has become profoundly clear in my life, as it is in striking contrast to the world I step into a few times each year in my “other world”. . . the refugee camps in the Sahara. 

This morning, this verse from Proverbs jumped out to me.  It is part of a description of a woman, wife and mother from long, long ago.  I used to dread reading Proverbs 31, because it was full of reminders of how far short I fall in comparison to “Mrs. Perfect.”    But, in the middle of the stellar description of her, this little piece of the chapter seems to have greater depth and significance today.

Open hands. . . not a clenched fist.   What am I holding onto that I need to offer to someone else?  What am I clinging to?  What am I holding back – keeping for myself, that would make a sweet difference in someone else’s life?   Someone who has been “pushed down” in life . . . someone who has lost the things that used to be in their hands?  What have they lost due to the cruel actions of others?  What would it mean to them to be handed something that I have been holding onto? 

Stretched out hands. . . There is a choice to not only open my hands, but to physically move toward someone who has need.  It’s much easier to send a check or support someone who is actively involved with helping people who are in need. . . suffering in some way.  It’s another thing to physically interact and help meet a need – especially of a stranger.  

How do I view the oppressed people in my world?   What am I doing to personally touch the life of someone in need . . . in need of what I have?

Jesus remains our greatest Example. . . He was so often personally giving, serving, opening His Hands to those who were suffering.  Whether it was children, the sick, the rejected, the poor, the dirty, the diseased, the unloved, He opened His Hands to them.  He stretched out His Hands to touch them in a way that touched their personal need….that touched their very souls.