Thursday, October 20, 2016

Glory to God in the Highest

I've been getting into the Christmas spirit a little early this year.

I'm tackling an attempt at writing a Sunday School Christmas Play, one where all the children are angels, watching the Nativity story unfold from afar. This has me researching and contemplating the story a little early (it's only October, afterall).

Mary has caught my attention. Her response to Gabriel, to God is the most beautiful and relevant thing I've read in a while.

I've had a Psalm 142 kind of month. (highlights: v.1 "I cry aloud to the Lord...."; v.6 "Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need...") I mean, every aspect of my life was touched by tedious, overwhelming bad stuff. There have been lots of things to be thankful for - there always are if you look for them. But, my month has been a doozie!

Reading about Mary, as she responded to the news that would change her destiny forever, gave me hope. Sure, she had just found out she would be the mother of the promised Messiah, that she was above all women, blessed. But she surely would have known that her life would never be the same - that she was kissing her imagined future goodbye. Yet she trusted God. She believed that His future for her would be better than any she had imagined for herself. And she said,

"Let it be to me as you have said."

And this has become my prayer. I hold my hands open to God and repeat it aloud. I say it under my breath when I'm feeling overwhelmed for the 6th time since breakfast. I breathe it. I'm learning to live it. I want to sing it. I want it to burst out of my life like applause.

Let it be to me...

This week I took Ash to an orthodontist appointment. Ash has no simple need for straight teeth. He needs so much work. This year he will have bone graft surgery to put some bone from his hip into his jaw so they will have somewhere to put implants. The end results will be wonderful - Ash will have back molars for the first time since he was 6. Imagine chewing all your food with only your front teeth. This surgery, and all of the appointments surrounding it, is necessary. Ash can't even remember what it's like to really chew food. But the pain is so intolerable. And the prospect of the surgeries that he will undergo this year - he's really overwhelmed at the thought of it. The timing is terrible. Ash is in grade 12 and really wants to go to university next year to study forensics. But to do that he has to do well in his final High School year.  He is also dealing with side effects from the hormone therapy he needs. The dental surgeries seem to be just too much. Every appointment means he is missing school that he has to get caught back up on.

So this week, when he came out of the orthodontist office almost in tears, I had the difficult job of reminding him that all of this pain, all of this difficulty, is actually a gift! A gift because he will be able to really eat and enjoy food. Even though he is on soft food for the next 5 weeks, and has a couple of surgeries looming that will require liquid-diets, it is all for his good. He can't even imagine how thankful he's going to be that he had the opportunity for all of this work. The pain will be behind him and he will enjoy the results every day, three times a day.

And I heard God speaking to me through my own words to Ash. "I have a plan," He whispered.

I was able to sing, like Mary, "Let it be to me as you have said." Because I trust that every moment of pain is for a purpose of good. Good that is more amazing than I can even imagine.

I know someday I will "taste and see that the Lord is good," but for today it is enough to know He chooses my pain with care - planning for me a future of blessing I cannot imagine.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

the seeker

She ran. Heart pounding, she searched for the sign and clutched the paper tighter.  The sun was down, the sky still remembering its day, put on its nightdress.  Panting, eyes scanning, she paused to take in the street.  The old, weather-worn buildings pressed tightly together as if to show the street where to go.  This had to be done tonight. Relief for the pain consumed her every thought.  Turning the corner, she raised her eyes and skimmed the store fronts. There it was - the little Rx symbol. Adrenaline gave a surge of energy and she bolted for the shop. The bell jingled loudly, but she hardly noticed as she strode toward the counter at the back.  She held out the paper, crumpled in her desperate grasp. He looked up, smiling at her warmly. She stopped. His eyes were the most piercing blue she had ever seen. She had to look away - there was something unnerving about those eyes. Unnerving, and yet amazing.
"Can I get this filled right away?" she mumbled, looking down. Gently, he took the sweaty paper from her. She could see the one word as he lifted it - "Revenge" it read, coldly.
"I'm sorry," he shook his head, "I can't give you this." Fear flooded her, and anger.
"Why not?" she raged, "I deserve it! It's on the paper!"  He looked at her sadly, kindly.
"This isn't something we dispense here."  Her shoulders slumped. She had been through so much; now this. She could feel the desperate hope just slipping away and she panicked at the thought of remaining as she was. She looked up, her eyes pleading with the stranger. He had set down her paper and reached to touch her hand. There was something comforting in his manner.
"Please," she said.
"I only dispense one thing here," he spoke softly, "but it will cure all sicknesses."
She was frustrated. She must have accidentally come to one of those quack-shops. "We can cure anything," they always boasted. Everyone knew they only made things worse. People who got addicted to the quack cures lost everything in the end.
"Oh, thank you," she pulled away. She had to get out of here. Turning, she wondered if she would find the right shop before closing time.
"This is yours," he held out her paper. "I hope you find what you're looking for. You have been searching for a long time." His expression lacked pity, but she could feel the empathy in his words.

Spirit of the Living God

Swirling, whirling, soon discovering
Above the waters, Spirit hovering
Living, moving, power thrumming
Song of nature singing, humming

Voice and Word and Spirit dancing
Never aimless, nothing chancing
Intently, steadily, world creating
Full of patient, active waiting

Powerfully, and from nothing, forming
Surely dwelling, filling, swarming
Breathed by God, igniting man
Diligent, creative artisan

Breath of everything we see
Now becomes a guarantee
Sealed against Redemption's day
Hidden in these jars of clay

Friday, April 15, 2016

desire of all nations

Haggai 1:3 - 11

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

Chapter 2:1 - 9

 on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak,[a] the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
In our passage, the prophet Haggai is calling the Jews to come return to their spiritual heritage. They would have to leave their comfortable lives and face opposition as they worked to restore their place of worship. It was a physical enactment of a very common spiritual happening. And right in the middle of this call to return to God, we find this title, “Desire of All Nations.” It speaks of all good things – good that comes to people of all nations who turn their hearts to receive Jesus.
At the beginning of his prophecy, Haggai tells the Israelites, “You work for your own wealth and comfort, but have nothing to show for it.” How this could be said of the nations today! – whose majority work and struggle, but it is the top 1% who reap the wealth.
Haggai reminds them to “come work for what is truly important. This is not a time for you to dwell in paneled houses, while God’s house lies in ruins.” This is where it gets personal for me…How much time and effort go into my physical pursuits, while my spiritual health suffers?
“Work!” Haggai tells them, and reminds them of their covenant after God brought them out of Egypt. It was a promise that God would be with them – the promise of His presence. And now they had neglected the place of His presence. Where is the symbolic place for the presence of God in your life? For me it is an early morning quiet. A cup of tea with the God of the universe. You’d think this wouldn’t be an easy thing to neglect. But physical comforts are compelling in the early morning. I can relate all too well to these Jewish Exiles.
Then, through Haggai, God tells them, “I will shake all nations, so the desire of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory.” And, yes, the desire of all people, of all time and place, would come – born of a virgin, wrapped in swaddling cloth; born to redeem all people of every nation, every tongue.
But also, the desire or treasures of every nation would come into this new temple – the temple that is Jesus’ body – the body of Christ. Jesus said, in John 2, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And so he did, bringing into the temple treasures of all the nations. We are those treasures that God has brought into His temple through the shaking of heaven and earth.
Revelation 7:9 reads: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Have you ever imagined what it will be like? To worship as one with all of the beautiful cultural gifts of the nations? I have an Irish heritage and, even though we didn’t listen to Celtic music when I was a child, or explore Irish culture at all, there is a part of me that thrills at the sound of traditional Irish music. It is part of who I am. I can’t wait to join in worship with the rhythms of the redeemed from Botswana, or the throat singing of the Mongolian mountain people. The musical gifts represented by every nation, every tongue, every tribe, are ancient gifts given by the Creator. They speak to our soul on a level we can’t yet articulate. But in Heaven, we will join the everlasting song in praise to the Lamb who was slain. It is a song that has been in our hearts, thrumming through the universe itself before the foundation of the world.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

broken vessels; cracked, chipped, and worn pots

What our souls believe:
To be happy, we must polish up the vessel that is us - certainly fix any crack, repair every chip - become new. To be fulfilled, we need to find some amazing thing to do with that polished, painted, beautiful pot - on display for all to see.

What is true:
To be happy and fulfilled, we must be gentle and loving with ourselves - cracks, chips, and all. And we must be brave and kind right in the middle of our brokenness...not waiting until the cracks are filled; not waiting until we can be on display. Truly, we must love ourselves - really respect and care for our own selves when it is not apparent that we are worthy of care. For our worthiness is sure - it is not based on beauty or usefulness. The love we must have for our own selves is not a feeling (arrogance), it is a verb. When we refuse to lovingly show kindness and acceptance to our own souls, it is the ultimate betrayal.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

you are the salt

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.  Matthew 5:13

Until I did a bit of research about salt, particularly salt in ancient times, I was unimpressed by  being called "the salt of the earth." Then I learned about the value of salt. In ancient times, entire kingdoms rose and fell because of salt. Our word "salary" is derived from the word for salt because Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. At times, its value has been more than twice that of the relative value of gold today. And, unlike precious metals, the value of salt is not because it is scarce. Salt is a naturally occurring resource that is a very important and common part of the earth. Its value is derived almost entirely from its usefulness. Salt can be used to enhance food and to preserve it. It is important in agriculture - animals who lack salt in their diets will not thrive and grow and produce like those that do. It is used in medicine and purification, as well as in many religious ceremonies. Salt is comparatively easy to find, but it must be harvested. This is how it becomes valuable. Because it is so necessary for daily life, salt accessibility was a great commodity that entire nations fought over. Many countries had a Salt Road that was the hub for trade and commerce. In short, salt is valuable because of its usefulness, but only once it has been harvested. The great Harvester of souls has given us incredible value. Our value is not intrinsic - we are common; a few among many millions who roam this earth - but our value is tied to our usefulness and the fact we have been freed from where we were in the earth for the purpose of being useful to the Harvester. It is the work of the One who came to free us from where we were that has given us great value. Praise to the Harvester of our souls!

One problem with this passage that I didn't understand was that Jesus talks about salt losing its saltiness. I have never experienced salt becoming unsalty. In fact, the chemical compound of salt, NaCl, is one of the most stable compounds in the world - it does not change readily. I am always intrigued by passages that don't seem to make sense at first, so I did a bit of research on the methods of harvesting salt in the Middle East. Interestingly, often salt is harvested from salt marshes and lakes that dry up in the summer. The white crystalized substance that is left has the appearance of salt, but it is partly salt mixed with many impurities. If this salt-like substance is exposed to the elements, particularly water, it loses its saltiness. This is because the NaCl dissolves in the water and what is left is mostly the impurities. The people who lived near Jerusalem in Jesus' time knew that this "salt" was not good for anything except to be thrown in the roadways - particularly because it was very bad for farmland - nothing would grow anywhere this white, salt-like substance was thrown. We could make many comparisons here to Christians who have become too diluted with impurities. Let's just say, though, that Jesus doesn't say this salt isn't good for anything - just that it is only good for the pathways - to keep weeds from growing in the road.

Monday, November 23, 2015

salt and light

veins of salt. ancient as the earth itself.
filling the ocean. deposits generously scattered.
so needful for these creatures of dust.
a reminder of origins. for from dust you came.
earthy. common.
all of creation holds its breath.
watches these salty, dust-creatures.
created of earth. destined for heaven.
earthen vessels carrying the glory of the Creator.
celestial lights concealed in clay pots.
trees and stars gasp in delight.
the One who named them submits.
the brightest light in the universe binds Himself forever to this earth.
True Light as an earthen vessel.

He is poor in spirit - He made Himself nothing.
He  is One who mourns - in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.
He is meek - becoming obedient to death.
He knows hunger and thirst for righteousness - He imparts righteousness to all through faith.
He is merciful - because of the great love whereby He loved us.
He is pure in heart - the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit.
He is a peacemaker - the Great Peacemaker, our peace, being brought near through His blood.
He is persecuted because of righteousness - bearing our griefs, yet esteemed stricken.

one living, breathing Mediator between earth and heaven.
join with all nature in clapping our hands at the majesty of His great faithfulness.