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.

Family Resemblance

Family Resemblence

 

“God had Christ, who was sinless,

take our sin

so that we might receive God’s approval

through him.”

2 Cor. 5:21

 

Have you ever met a child or close relative of someone who is/was dear to you, and instantly recognize your dear one in the face of the stranger before you?   When that has happened to me, there is an almost automatic affinity that I feel towards them.  Without even knowing this new person, I immediately am reminded of the person with whom I’d had a relationship, including the emotional joy or delight or sweet reminders of their relative.

It’s a frail human example of what may hint at God’s response when he looks at one of His earthly creations…..anyone who has chosen a personal relationship with Jesus, and God sees His Dearly Beloved’s face in ours. What a thought!  Does His Heart leap in joy…love…delight when He recognizes Jesus in us?

Though we have fallen so far short of who we were created to be, so frail in our earthly, human condition, God’s desire and love for us never changes.  Encountering Jesus, and choosing to walk with Him throughout our days, changes us . . . and changes the way God sees us.  No matter the mud we’ve been splattered with, the darkness we’ve lived with, the dust and rust that has settled on and in us, and the brokenness we carry, our sinless Jesus draws us to Himself.  He dusts us off, washes away the mud, gives us brand new clothes, transforming us inside and out.  And we begin to look like Him.

In the desert, in my early years of being among the people there, the few of us who would come were the first Jesus Followers they had met.   One day, a beautiful young woman who was sitting beside me noticed that the room had cleared of any other people.  It was just the two of us.  She leaned in, and in a hushed voice whispered, “Do you know Jesus?”  I wasn’t sure if this was some sort of “trap” or not, but I nodded in response.  Her eyes immediately lit up, and she whispered, “Tell me!”   What followed was a life-altering hour of telling her stories of Jesus, and of how He had become the most important relationship in my life. How did she know?  Family resemblance, I believe.  Over the years this has happened time and time again. If God has put His thumbprint on every soul He created, it should be no surprise that people can sense that Spirit in one of His Family, even if they don’t know what it is. 

Through the miraculous transformation that only Jesus can bring about in our lives, we begin to reflect Him in the way we live out our days on this earth. We need to hold tightly to His Hand, walk closely, listen carefully, talk with Him daily, and allow His transforming Presence to continue to change us to be more and more like Him.

May the Family resemblance become so evident that we can respond in delight when it is noted by another.  Especially by our Father.

Practical Love

“Love is patient.

Love is kind. 

 Love isn’t jealous.

It doesn’t sing its own praises.

Love isn’t arrogant.

 Love isn’t rude.  

Love doesn’t think about itself. 

 Love isn’t irritable.  

Love doesn’t keep track of wrongs.” 

                                                                                                 1 Cor. 13:4-5

Let’s get practical.  Love is practical.   So…..

 

  1. Read each description from Paul’s writing.
  2. Note a person that you know has been difficult for you to Love in each particular way.
  3. Ask God to give you one of His Thoughts toward that person.
  4. What practical action can you take that demonstrates that facet of His Love for him/her?

 

 

 

Morning Song

“But I will sing about your strength.

In the morning I will joyfully sing about your mercy.

You have been my stronghold and a place of safety in times of trouble.”  

Psalm 59:16 GW

David was absolutely freaking out.  Although he was destined to be King, he was being viciously targeted by the current King Saul.  Saul wanted David dead, and he had sent his top henchmen to do the job.

Yet, in the midst of David’s panic and well-warranted fear, knowing the absolute reality of what was intended as his physical demise which literally surrounded him, he looked Up.  What is it about those nighttime fears that can send us into a tailspin of hopelessness?   It seems that the Enemy of our souls does his best work in the night.  It’s his primary domain.  He loves the darkness…hates the Light.

BUT, thinking of “morning” literally, it begins at 12:01:01 AM.  It’s the official start of a new day.  Though everything seems to look and feel worse in the darkness of night, it’s all “Light” to God.  And it’s in the midst of that darkness of a new day that God’s Strength, Mercy, Stronghold of Safety and Protection become the most critical place for us to be.

It’s definitely something to sing about, right through the darkness and into the Light.

Gentle Reminder

 “Ask, and you will receive.

Search, and you will find.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Everyone who asks will receive.

The one who searches will find,

and for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8

 

I have known this verse since I was a child. Sometimes the most familiar things lose their meaning.  Today, this was one of those moments….

What strikes me today is the gentleness of the tone of the passage.  Yet, there is power behind each phrase….There is a Response following each one-word instruction.  The Response is from God.  There is a tenderness here.  There is a Listening Ear.

It’s the way a child would be spoken to….taught something very simple, very basic.  The simple repetition of each, and the subtle re-wording is as a teacher would use when speaking with a child.

What if it’s this simple?  Uncomplicated?  Clear and straightforward?

There is One on the other side of the Door, ready to open it.   Ready to give what we need.  Ready to reveal what we can’t find.  . . . He’s just on the other side of the Door.

Ask…………       Search………….        Knock

Measuring Faith and Love

“We always have to thank God for you, brothers and sisters.

It’s right to do this because

 your faith is showing remarkable growth

and your love for each other is increasing.”

 2 Thessalonians 1:3

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What do you usually thank God for concerning your spiritual brothers and sisters? What do you look for in them?  Often, we focus on ways they have impacted our own lives.

Paul is noting something special in his spiritual family.  It does not seem to have anything to with himself personally. He notes two specific characteristics(measurements) he sees growing in their lives in regard to their relationships with God and with each other.

  • Their faith is showing remarkable growth;
  • Their love for each otheris growing.

He is talking to them as family….as his brothers and sisters.  And the growth he notes is combined in the same breath. They go together…..faith growingand growth in loving each other.    

How is faithmeasured?  It is deeply personal…an internal thing.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faithisconfidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Paul had been seeing this increasing faithin the lives of his spiritual family.  How does that look in someone’s life?  It is a growing confidence in what we hope for, and growing assurance about what we don’t even see yet.  There will be more confidence as we step into the future…more surety with each step forward….not fear that stops us.  One will not fear for what is ahead…but rather, hope.  There will be a willingness to take the risk, even if other voices are telling us “you can’t.”  You will cling more tightly to His Hand as you move forward, trusting Him more with each step. It’s like trusting your GPS to be guiding you to your destination rather than guessing your own route.  Except that this GPS is perfect.  “God’s Perfect System”

Paul’s other measurement is seeing the lovethat is growing for each other.  Whereas faithis more connected to personal relationship with God,  LOVE is evident in human relationships.   It is very “normal” for there to be challenges when strangers begin to move into relationship.   It is significant for Paul to see noticeable love growing between people who were not in relationship before becoming part of the Family of God.

What would Paul note if he had been watching us?  What areas of growth would he notice about our faith?  What would be the evidence he’d see concerning our love for our spiritual family?

Keep It Simple

“You mortals, the Lord has told you what is good.

This is what the Lord requires from you:

to do what is right,

to love mercy,

and to live humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8   GW

I don’t know about you, but I think I hear a little frustration in this short message to us. We mortals have a lot of issues concerning how to “do life” on this planet, don’t we?   We love to make things so complicated…to try to understand all the details and implications as they will impact our lives.  We are our #1 concern, after all!

I almost chuckle as I read these key points that God gives us through His Prophet Micah.

“You mortals…”   Reminding us of who we really are…finite, tied to this earth, made from “dust”, having a beginning and an end in regard to this earth.  We are not God, though we tend to think that we are when it comes to who’s in control of our lives….

“…the Lord has told you what is good.”    God has told us in so many ways….through His Word, through His Spirit’s presence in our lives,  through nature itself,  and through the words of those who have gone before us, are currently with us. . . people who have experienced God and are much further down the road than we.

Here comes the simple, basic reminder of what we should already know: 

  1. “Do what is right.”  Actions….my actions….whether toward another person, or towards no one at all…  simply making choices, dwelling on thoughts, holding attitudes, or making decisions that perhaps no one at all will know about.  This focuses on the internal thoughts that lead to actions.
  1. “Love Mercy.”    Mercy is not dependent on being deserving, nor earning, nor “rights.” Mercy chooses to do good to another, whether known, seen or deserved.  Mercy is a heart condition.  Mercy holds my hand back from doing what may be deserved…what might be justified in the opinions of others.  Mercy bypasses reason and logic, and     comes from ones very heart in situations we face that, in the natural unfolding of events would result in a natural suffering of another.  Mercy chooses to withhold the “judgement” or natural consequences, and instead offer kindness, forgiveness, softness. 
  2. “Live humbly with your God.”   When we put God in His rightful place in our lives, we can take a step back from putting ourselves in what should be His rightful place in our attitudes, thoughts, and actions.   It’s remembering Who He Is, and who I am.

The perfect “3-Point Sermon”….keeping it simple, open-ended for personal applications, and easy to remember.   These are not points that are focused on the “me.”  It’s all for “the other.”

God knows all too well who He’s dealing with!

 

Something New Coming

“The Lord makes a path through the sea and a road through the strong currents.

Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago.

I am going to do something new.

It is already happening.

 Don’t you recognize it?

I will clear a way in the desert.

I will make rivers on dry land.”                    

Isaiah 46:16, 18-19

Do you ever feel like you’re floundering in a sea, unable to make headway, fearing that you will be pulled under at any moment? Perhaps you’ve had tragedy, or past trauma that has power in your life which you can’t escape?  God has something wonderful to say about that in this ancient passage.  He has set a Plan in motion for your life. . . He is beginning a change for the future. Watch for it….pay attention.

First, He refers to something He did in the past….

“The Lord makes a path through the sea

and a road through the strong currents.

Forget what happened in the past,

and do not dwell on events from long ago.

 …..does it not sound like the miracle of parting the Red Sea, and the road His People were able to follow through that impossible, deadly situation?   Yet we do not have to only hang onto that!  He is still working…still doing the impossible….now.

In the Sahara Desert, where I have spent much time, I can look as far as the horizon, in all directions and see nothing but the sand.  Traveling through the sand is difficult at best.  The dangers of being lost are very real.  You long to see tracks of any truck that has passed through, but the winds quickly cover tracks.  You long for a path or road to follow, always with the nagging fears of the absence of any water.

In that reality….the harshness of a desert. . . the Promise of God in these verses is truly life-saving.  Not only does He provide a clear way, a road through the vast, unbroken desert in our lives, but He makes a river.   Not just a cup of water, or an underground well.  He promises to make riversthat flow on dry land.  What a picture!   What an impossibility by human effort.

What HOPE He gives us in our desert experiences of life!

~Janet

Surprise

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The young soldier came through the gate with books in hand.  He enjoyed the quiet, early evening hours in our schools listening lab to work on his already fluent English.

Stopping to greet me, we began to chat.  I have read the Injil (New Testament) five times.  It is very interesting to me,he said.  Curious, I asked him, What story have you found most surprising?”   It took only a moment for him to respond, The story of Jesus bringing a dead man back to life.   Anyone who has the power to do that.!”  

Power had infiltrated the evening air.