The Whisper

“After the earthquake came a fire…

And after the fire came a gentle Whisper.”

1 Kings 19:12

I live in a very quiet setting, by choice.  But the world around me seems to be shouting.

We are in the midst of an historic pandemic.  It began rather quietly . . . something happening far, far away.  But its echoes have spread and grown to a deafening volume.

Our world has been shaken.  Our lives have been impacted, on a daily basis.

But though the world shouts, God often whispers.

Elijah, one of God’s most powerful Prophets, lived in an extremely difficult time in history.  He feared for his own life.  Powerful, evil voices were dominating and threatening his very life, as well as the existence of his nation.  He was on the run.  His life was full of dama, earth-shaking, life-rocking experiences.  He was in great danger.  But in the face of BIG….LOUD….Earth-rocking events going on around him, God came near…quietly.  A Whisper.

To be able to hear a whisper, you have to find the quiet.  It’s impossible to hear a Whisper when there’s loudness and noise all around.  God will allow the chaotic noise into our lives, but when we begin to long to hear His Voice, we need to position ourselves in  Quiet.  

It seems to me that God has pressed a global “PAUSE” button.  What “was” has greatly changed. . . and not by human orchestration.  It’s far beyond that.  God has things to say.   He’s taking our faces in His Hands, so that we will look into His Eyes, and LISTEN.  

God will use the ‘earthquakes’ and ‘fire’ in our lives to get our attention.  But to actually hear God’s still, small Voice, we need to get quiet, and listen.  

Listen for the “Gentle Whisper.”

RUNNING With PATIENCE

 “Let us run with patience.”

Hebrews 12:1

Does the word “patience” connect with “running” in your mind?   It doesn’t in mine.  When I am in the act of running, it’s probably for only a few reasons:

                                    ~          I’m late

                                    ~          I’m scared

                                    ~          I’ve forgotten something urgently needed, or

                                    ~          A grandchild is escaping

Every Saturday morning, I see quite a long string of runners coming down the hill that levels out in front of my home.  Then they run up the next hill and continue on their way.

They’re not running from anything . . . they’re not running to anything, except for a finish-line I’ve never seen.  But they are running for a purpose which is personal to them.   And they are running in a way that is intentional, measured, disciplined, and meant to be sustainable for the long haul.

As they run, I cannot tell what is going on in their lives…in their hearts…  There may be pain, sadness, grief, . . . or joy.  They just keep on running toward their finish line.

When we choose to turn our lives over to God, we enter His Race.  It doesn’t really matter who runs the fastest, or reaches the finish line first.  What matters is that you have joined the Run.  You have set your mind on the Finish Line, even if you cannot see it or know exactly where it is, nor how long it will take to reach the end.  

What we can know for certain is that it is His Race, and He alone knows the Finish Line.

We can be sure that He knows every inch of the Race we run, and that He is with us….in the weariness, the stumbles, the pain that arises, and the limited vision we have of the Finish Line.  He promises to be “There” when we reach it, as well as with us each step along the way.  You may have thought this was just a sprint.  But you’ve come to realize this is a Marathon.  He joins you in the run, and will be right alongside you. You and He will be doing it together.

He has the Purpose in His Mind, and sees the Finish Line.     So, “run… with patience.”

Not Safe . . . But Perfect

“God’s way is perfect!

 The promise of the Lord has proven to be true.

 He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 18:30

I used to address a church leadership class as the senior/founding pastor’s wife of the church we established together.  I had also been in church leadership positions within the church my mom and dad founded and led throughout my growing up years.  So my perspective from personal lifelong experience in church leadership was rather unique.

Yes, I could present Biblical principles and examples to the classes, as well as stories from my own experience.  But what I really wanted to say was, “RUN!”  I also had suggested to my husband that the leadership class be given a T-shirt upon  completion of the class, printed with a big target printed on the front and back, with the word       

RUN!!

(He agreed, but not on a T-shirt.)

Leadership is brutal.  Were it not for “the promise of the Lord”  to my own heart, with repeated reminders from Him throughout the years, I would have loved to run away many times.  “God’s way is perfect!” had to become the foundational Truth that was rock-solid in my own heart.  There is a choice in that: choosing to believe it or not.  It has to be intentionally separated from the actions of people, who are not perfect, nor are their ways. 

King David certainly lived a life of extremes (little brother, shepherd, giant-slayer, national hero, future King, man-on-the-run for his life, personal failure, song-writer (Psalms), and ultimately the King of Israel…God’s nation.)   Yet David could declare, “God’s way is perfect!”   He certainly had great cause to doubt that throughout his life. As a great leader, he wrote this looking back from the perspective of having doubted God’s promises in the midst of tremendous pressures, temptations, failures, gut-wrenching losses, and miraculous victories.  

King David cites the experiences in life when he needed a shield . . . needed a refuge . . . needed to feel safe.  God had chosen David when he was just the little brother who had to miss all “the action” with his big brothers, to stay home and watch dumb sheep.  It wasn’t safe, but it was his training ground in experiencing the only truly safe place in this world:   God Himself.

Ride Through the Desert

“Sing to God; make music to praise His Name. 

Make a highway for Him to ride through the deserts. 

The Lord is his name. Celebrate in his presence.

 The God who is in his holy dwelling place 

is the father of the fatherless

 and the defender of widows.”  

Psalm 68:4-5

A camel race in the desert!   I was in the Saharawi camps (Sahara Desert) when there was an actual, competitive camel race . . . something that I will never forget.  The camels, decorated with traditional saddles, brightly colored fabrics, leather reins and tassels, were a stark contrast to the endless beige landscape of sands, blazing sun and clear blue skies.  The camel riders wore flowing white robes and black head-dresses, covering everything but their eyes.  I had not realized what was about to happen as I stood with a large gathering of people all around me.  

Then I heard a sound I’d never heard before.  The desert floor began to tremble and the crowd began to cheer.  All the women raised their voices in their ancient, spine-tingling sound of celebration,  exploding in high, piercing tones of excitement and joy.  I felt as if I’d stepped into the old “Lawrence of Arabia” movie!

The ground shook.  The sands created clouds of dust around the thundering camels with their colorful, intense riders shouting them on.  Goose-bumps instantly covered my whole body as I stood in absolute awe and wonder  of those powerful beasts thundered to the finish line.  The great burden-bearers were doing what they were created for….perfectly suited….to be able to withstand the intense heat of the blazing sun, their feet fitted to engage with the sand and push themselves forward with tremendous power and thunderous speed.  The thrill of the drama mixed with the awe of these powerful animals left me breathless.

The writer of this Psalm passage knew what it was like to experience the power of the desert beasts who were created to move through the ever shifting sands.  The desert Psalms (Songs)  have a role to play as God’s Spirit moves through that dry land.  Some of our earliest experiences in the desert refugee camps centered around listening to worship music during the long, unbearably hot afternoons.  The music carried words of Love from the Heart of God to that dry, thirsty land, and began to open a Road in the desert.  Built by the Spirit of Jesus,  the Road led to the Father of the fatherless….the Defender of widows, left alone by war to raise their fatherless, vulnerable children,  desperately longing for the Father-heart of God to come near. 

Even There

“He [God] found them in a desert land, 

In an empty, howling wasteland.

He surrounded them 

And watched over them;

He guarded them as His most precious possession.”

Deuteronomy 32:10

The first morning I pushed open the heavy old iron door, the incredibly hot blast of  burning desert heat literally took my breath away.  The light was blinding.  Having arrived in the dead of night, completely exhausted and disoriented, my waking exposure to this desert place was absolutely shocking.  Shielding my eyes, all of my senses were assaulted at the same moment, I remembered thinking, “What kind of hell is this?!!!  NOBODY should have to live here!”

I was in a massive refugee camp in the Sahara Desert of North Africa.  My home in my beautiful, green dairyland in the USA seemed as if it was not even on the same planet as this place I had landed in the night.  

Then, in the distance, I saw the black-covered figures . . . people leaning into the harsh wind, black robes blowing and faces covered against the stinging sands.  Black-robed figures,  a sea of tents and sand stretching as far as I could see.     I will never forget that shocking scene..

That place . . . those people. . . have been in my life, my heart, for over two decades now.  They have changed my life.    I am SO thankful.

It has changed the way I read God’s Word, too.  God, too, “found them (His chosen people) in a desert land…an empty, howling, wasteland.”  His love for them was deep, and His plan for them had been so different than this.  But God’s response was that of the Loving Father, “surrounding them. . . watching over them. . . guarding them . . . “   They were His most precious possessionthe “apple” (pupil) of His Eye, through which all that is  seen directly enters His mind.  

I, too, have tasted that from my Loving Father.  His lovingkindness stands out the most  when I am in the harshest of life’s “desert.”   How I got there, it seems, is secondary.  

As our own world moves through these most unusual times, “even there” He sees, He  knows, 

                                                         He is present.

                                                            Even there.

Down in the Ravine

“Hide in the Cherith Ravine.”

1 Kings 17:3

I live at the bottom of a long ravine.  A river that flows north cut through the earth ages ago, creating a long ravine at the lowest part of the long, long valley.  There is a lot of life in and along the river, and in all of the cities and villages that have grown up along its banks.

Elijah, one of the most colorful Prophets of God, had again stirred up trouble by dropping a “God-bomb” message to the King at the time.  After delivering his unpopular message, Elijah literally ran for his life.   God told him to “hide in the Cherith Ravine.”

God knew what Elijah was dealing with.  He knew what it cost Elijah to be His Prophet in those days.  And He knew Elijah needed a break.  God was there in that ravine, and provided the rest and refreshment that was so sorely needed.

When mortals step out at God’s bidding, there is an added cost because of the increased spiritual battles that rage when we “mess with” the Kingdom of Darkness.  God’s Kingdom is in deadly conflict with the kingdom of this world, and anyone  God calls into that conflict becomes a living target.  It’s as if they are handed a t-shirt with a big bulls-eye target printed on the front and back.  And the Enemy of our souls draws his bow.  

Elijah was a major target for the Kingdom of Darkness.  I’d say he had a full bodysuit with the targets plastered all over it. (It seems that part of his special toolkit also included being an extraordinary runner as well.. . running the other way.)

God was with Elijah.  He knew every detail of the evil Battle that swirled around Elijah all the time.  God knew his exhaustion: Physical, emotional, and spiritual.  When God drew him to the quietness of the river ravine, He provided the much needed rest. Ravens brought his bread and meat beside the stream of fresh water . . . morning and evening, every day.  There was much more drama ahead for Elijah, but God provided the simple daily refreshment for His faithful prophet.

God knows what we need in our humanity.  When we faithfully follow His plans for us, He faithfully provides what we most need. . . for the next step in our journey.

When God Gets Pushy

“He guarded him  . . . 

like an eagle

that stirs up its nest 

and hovers over its young,

that spreads its wings to catch them

and carries them on its feathers.”

Deuteronomy 32:11

I tend to avoid pushy people.  They ruffle my feathers.  But when God gets pushy,  . . . I’ve learned that I’d best pay attention.   I know I’m not going to win that fight.

There’s a huge old gnarly tree about 3 miles from my house, and in it is a massive  nest.  Eagles.  Every year, the eagle pair adds to the huge thing, and soon I  begin seeing the babies being cared for by the attentive parents.  They truly do “hover” over their little ones, and continue to stay with them for the entire summer.  It isn’t that long before the young eagles are nearly the size of the parents, yet they continue all sharing that family nest until late Fall.  

God takes care of us that way.  Nurturing, protecting, and staying very near in our beginning stages of being His.  Then there’s a gradual “weaning” us off of our total dependency, and we have to learn some lessons from experience.  

When it comes time to begin strengthening our wings and learning to fly, God begins to get ‘pushy,’ like the eagle parent.  He starts moving us to the edge, and with a nudge…we’re out there.  Over the edge, flapping like crazy.  As the free-fall begins, He swoops in and carries us away from the pending crash.  Again and again, we get the nudge, without our permission, and freak out in panic.  Again and again, He catches us on His wings…and we grab onto His feathers, gradually learning how amazing it is to be flying with Him.  The landscape broadens . . . the sky beyond our branches is amazing, and the wonder of the ride draws us into venturing out on our own.  Scary, but we begin to learn how to “do it better” next time.  

If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t push us.  And we’d sit out our lives in the big old picky nest.  Not much of a view.  

But He wants us to experience the wonder of soaring high.  Where He is.

What’s God nudging you to do?  For me it has seemed like that cycle has repeated many times in my life.  And I am the richer for it.  Though those flight lessons are scary, very scary, the View from above … seeing what He sees … doing it with Him,  has been worth it all.

And best of all, . . . . He is there.

A Glow in the Darkness

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

 John 1:5

I planted the seeds in the Spring, and forgot about them.  I wanted to give a moonflower vine a try.  I had never done very well with planting vines, so I soon forgot all about what may have been going on in that little spot of earth.

Soon buds and blossoms began appearing from my annual favorites . . .always a delight for me.  Always a surprise, as well, because I  forget what  I’ve planted.  I didn’t even notice the small vine winding its way among the flowers that  began to open.

Then one day I noticed a strong vine that had stealthily been winding its  way up the simple trellis.  The long, twisted, closed blossom was a puzzle….I’d forgotten the vine 

hidden in all the flowers. Day by day I saw it, puzzled about what its tightly twisted secret held.  It looked so ready, yet it held tightly to its secret.

Then, one moonlit evening, sitting on my little balcony enjoying the cool summer air, I saw the secret flower, open and shining white against its vine.  Such a surprise!

The Moonflower!   Only appearing in the darkness, and closing in the light.

I don’t know how long this moonflower had been blooming.  I hadn’t watched for it in the night.  The darkness had kept its secret.  It had been holding its beautiful surprise throughout each day as all the others showed off.  The moonflower waited for the darkness to bring its soft glimpse of beauty, only seen by watchful eyes.  

Now, I see the tightly furled petals hiding among the leaves each day… knowing that in the night…in the darkness…its beauty glows.  Only watchful eyes will note its soft glow when my little balcony, enveloped in the quiet evenings,  has gone to sleep.  As the gentle moonlight touches the shy petals, its quiet secret is exposed.  My moonflower reflects the soft light of its name.  In the morning, it is gone.

Some of the most precious glimpses of the sun are those reflected in the darkness.

May our lives, with the Son in our hearts,  gently, beautifully reflect our beloved Light of the World and bring a similar glow in these dark nights.

Timeless Love

            “Even when you are old,   I will take care of you. 

                        Even when your hair turns gray,  . . .  I will support you. 

                                    I made you and will continue to care for you.

                                              I will support you and save you.”

                                                                                              Isaiah 46:4

I am getting older.  I’m not happy about it.  I am now relating much more to memories of my mother and grandmother than I ever had.  Things take a little longer, and I care about that  less.  I knew this season of life would come, but am not honestly ready yet.  

I had never pictured this season of life as being alone.    That reality makes me sad.

                                                            Yet, I am not alone.

The Forever Love of my LIfe is here with me.  Since I was a little three-year-old girl, I have been deeply aware that God has been near…ever present … no matter where in the world I have been.  

He has been there. 

Isaiah wrote throughout his own process of aging.  He had been walking through his long life with the Presence of God.  In his quietness, the seasons of being alone, Isaiah

focused on God and wrote.  Fully attuned to the Voice that he had learned to recognize and trust, Isaiah wrote.  God spoke to Isaiah of His love for the people of this earth, His thoughts toward humanity, His love and longing for all the generations to come, filling the earth.  Isaiah wrote for the people of his time and for the ages to come, including the world of our times.  The old prophet wrote of God’s plans for the people of this earth throughout the centuries.  He wrote of events of the ages past, and of this present age.  He wrote of God’s thoughts and plans for the ages to come.  He wrote of our world now.

Isaiah heard God’s Voice like few ever have.  

But Isaiah also heard God’s thoughts toward himself,  as a man.  He wrote of  God’s thoughts toward humanity, and toward you… and me.    He wrote tenderly, lovingly, intimately . . . knowing things we would not likely voice.  Fears, insecurities, doubts, even of growing old, he wrote honestly and as a man.

      Isaiah wrote that God knows…understands, is present,  and loves us through it all.

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.