Hearing God

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The amazing discovery. I can actually have a conversation with the Living God and HEAR what He says. Not audibly, mind you, but He provides the sense or thoughts. Here are two recent journal entries.

November 29

Since you are precious to me, you are honored and I love you…… Isaiah 43:4 God’s Word Translation

I was lying. To myself. About who I am.

Identity is foundational. Watching a Jamie Winship teaching on identity, I pressed myself to be honest.

Since I was 8 years old I have believed that I am one who is NOT enough. And in order to be liked, appreciated, needed, valuable, popular, chosen….wanted, I have to DO a lot for people.

What does someone like me who doesn’t feel wanted for herself, apart from what she does LOOK like?  Competent and driven.

In the training, Jamie had us close our eyes and offer that false identity up to Jesus and then ‘watch’ what He would do. ‘Okay….I don’t think anything is going to happen,’ I thought. But I complied.

Immediately, a picture came to mind:   Jesus gently sweeping that identity of ‘Unwanted’ out of my offering hands, breaking it up into many sparkly, glittering particles that floated off into nothingness.

I realized: This is fact!  I am not ‘Unwanted’. Nor have I ever been. That is a lie absorbed, encouraged by Satan and believed –  all from my child’s sense of events.

Who does Jesus, the only True and Living God, say I am?

“Precious, full of honor and loved”. That’s the Truth.

30 November

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace (Shalowm) to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Psalm 85:8 ESV

The text message arrived late. I didn’t want another obligation! Knowing I was to meet with Jesus in the morning, I nevertheless fell asleep quickly, having reminded myself that Jesus calls me ‘precious, full of honor and loved’.

This morning, coffee at hand, I read yesterday’s words in my journal (Psalm 85:8) – an invitation to confess my feeling of ‘resentment’ due to that possible obligation. Freely writing down how I felt, I next formed an ‘identity statement’:

  • I am someone who doesn’t trust You to supply enough time to satisfy me.

Then I asked Jesus: What do YOU say about this?

Closing my eyes, I raised empty hands to receive.

I penned what came to mind. The ‘bottom line’ was this:

  • ‘Connected to me, Eternity, I’ll always supply you with enough time.’

His words of peace satisfied – ‘Shalowm’.

Where’s my belt (of Truth)?

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Gizmo lost his collar in the house.

Our granddaughter Elizabeth with Gizmo

He also lost his identity when his collar went missing – that little tag that says WHO he is and WHOSE he is.

I keep losing my ‘collar’, too. That belt or yoke which joins me to Jesus and keeps me KNOWING my identity and who my God is. When I forget and think incorrectly about who I am and who Jesus is, I temporarily lose all my peace and contentment.  I start to feel either anxious or angry.

I’m sure you know that believers don’t lose that ACTUAL state of peace with the Father, once they have been transferred INTO the Kingdom through Jesus’ blood. But we can lose our awareness of peace, of connection with Jesus.

Do you listen to podcasts? I love them. News & cultural reports, interviews, stories, reflections are part of my daily routine.  But never have I taken notes from a podcast, nor listened to one twice!

However, when our son Graham described a couple of concepts he had learned on a recent podcast interview, I knew I wanted to take my time listening.to this one.  Not multitasking as usual, but actually sitting down and taking notes.

Jamie Winship, the interviewee, is a believer whose gift is storytelling. During the two-hour conversation he related a few experiences from the time he and his family had lived in the Middle East and he taught in a Muslim university. Listening to these accounts opened up and changed my understanding of hearing from God.

He also shattered some of my fixed ways of thinking about Jesus.

Let’s circle back to peace and what happens when I LOSE my feeling of peace and joy and fall into fear, worry or anger.

Since the podcast, I have been practicing what I learned.  That is, when I’m stewing in fear, anxiety or frustration, I am learning to STOP and articulate my emotional state.  Jamie calls this ‘confessing’.

Here’s what I noticed and worked through on Wednesday, writing it all down in my journal:

  • Jesus, I’m feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the number of people in my life who need my encouragement and prayers.

Next, I confessed the ‘identity’ these feelings revealed.  Jamie describes this step as formulating an ‘I am’ statement.

It took me several attempts to articulate this functional identity, to get to what I thought was true about me, what fed my feelings of unrest and churn.

(warning, what you read is very ‘stupid’ and not at all true, but it’s what brought on ‘burdened and overwhelmed’ Maria)

  • I am one whose prayers tip the balance in whether people receive God’s blessings.

There, it was out, on paper in front of me.  Even as I penned the words, I knew ‘this identity’ was silly and not at all true. But ‘confession’ is an important step to being cleansed, to being restored.

The next step was to ask God: ‘What do YOU have to say about that?’

I didn’t ‘hear’ God…but He was revealing in my thoughts, what actually IS true:

  • Maria, you’re not me – God!  It’s not up to you how I act in the lives of your friends and family.  I have invited you to participate in their well-being.  Do you really think I won’t do what is best for them? Do I stop being all-powerful, all-good, all-wise, just because you don’t pray?

What was my reaction?  A ‘sheep’-ish realization of how I had been misrepresenting God!  And relief! No, it is NOT up to me!  Yes, I’m one of Jesus’ little lambs, part of His flock and I get to help out.  But I’m not the only one who has received the privilege of praying for certain people in my life.  Besides, if all of us little ones fail to pray, there is still the Holy Spirit who, together with the Son of God at the Father’s right hand intercedes ALL the time.

What happened next?  Amazingly, and immediately the burdens evaporated. Peace and calm came over me. I was back to knowing my true identity and thanking God for who He is.   That is what Jamie calls repentance – a returning to my identity and my God.

Just as Scripture teaches, fear and anger are where Satan abides.  Peace and joy are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The simplicity of this ‘tool’, this listening prayer dialogue stuns and excites me.

I’ve been taking advantage of the rhythm of noticing what I’m feeling, confessing it through words in my journal and then asking God for His input and waiting and listening for His answer.  He has not failed to respond to me, sometimes just in thoughts that occur, often through Scripture that just ‘happens’ to pop into my mind.

Joy awaits!

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Genesis 1:3 And God said, ‘Let there be light!’

Psalm 119:130 Understanding your word brings light to the minds of ordinary people.  (CEV)

Explosive joy filled me the other day!

I speak French and am now working daily with Spanish.  But decades ago, when I arrived at university, I started Russian and kept at it for 3 ½ years.  Unfortunately, I have barely used it since.

Yet, 41 years later, God dropped a joy bomb into my lap when I read and understood a short text in simple Russian, forwarded on by a sister language coach. She’s writing a reader for her Russian learners and offered to gift me with the first 4 short chapters, together with a glossary. With dubious expectations of what I would be able to understand I sat down before dinner one afternoon to have a go at it.

To my shock, I understood the first page and a half!!! I could actually still read Cyrillic and comprehend the story line.  The sheer pleasure of reading in another language and understanding it shocked me. I think it’s because I have scanty Russian and as such, assumed I would struggle.

Au contraire!

Not only has the delight, the pleasing surprise stayed with me, this experience has confirmed the necessity of encouraging my English and Spanish on-line students to read in their second language.  Of course, I must curate the texts to ensure success and JOY for my learners.

That’s the goal – giving delight to another student, just as I, a re-invigorated Russian language-learner, received and was able to exult in reading with understanding. But this joy is not limited to second-language learners.  There’s joy to be had in reading and understanding God’s Word

Do you remember the exiles who returned from Babylonia to rebuild the city wall surrounding Jerusalem? The book of Nehemiah tells the account when Ezra read the Scriptures to the people. It goes on to say that the teachers of the law, the Levites, systematically explained to the people what the text meant.

Nehemiah 8:10, 12 (Nehemiah said)…..“This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

When I teach Spanish and English, I make it my goal to clarify meaning and remove obstacles so that my students can acquire a language with joy.  Our Holy Spirit of God acts similarly, moving in us, shedding light and understanding so WE can experience great joy.

With joy comes strength. Strength to endure hard work, whether learning a language or overcoming sin, the world and the devil through faith.

Is there someone you can guide side-by-side, moving slowly through some Scripture, showing her that with the Holy Spirit’s help we children of God CAN understand what God has said and done? What a privilege!  What joy awaits you both.

When we gave up our rights, we gained privileges

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I’m down in Tampa caring for Chloe and Vera while my son and our daughter-in-law enjoy an anniversary trip to Tucson.  The girls attend a Christian school about 40 minutes away. This morning, I tuned into their radio station of choice, Joy FM, for the commute.

Songs filled the air, as melodic lyrics wove truth, planting seeds of life, hope and beauty about Christ.  During the chat segment one of the radio hosts recounted a profound reminder from her pastor that obviously resonated with her: “We gave up our rights at the Cross!”

Too bad we Christians haven’t fully absorbed that reality!  We have no more rights, but we do have PRIVILEGES that came with our adoption into God’s forever family.

One gift accompanying our new birth is spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith/ fidelity, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Yes, this harvest is ours for the taking as sons and daughters of King Jesus.  But there is a catch. We have to submit to the discipline and practice inherent in mastering any skill before we taste and savor the sweetness of the fruit.

Here’s what I mean:  Let’s say you have always wanted to ride a horse. In your Father’s stable you are free to choose and enjoy any horse you want.  But first you’ll need a horse-riding instructor to teach you the basics.  But that’s not all.  You’ll have to practice and do the kinds of exercises this master horseman recommends.

Acquiring any skill is hard work and demands hour upon hour of practice. Well, how many hours?

Have you ever heard of the ‘10,000-hour rule’?  Malcolm Gladwell popularized it in his book Outliers.  It goes like this: to become an expert or master at anything, you need to rack up that number of hours.  The Beatles did just that, prior to hopping over the Pond from Europe.  Violin virtuosos, ice hockey players, chess maestros, chefs de cuisine and even second language learners like me. (I’m only up to 1659 hours working with Spanish, the reason why my spoken Spanish still feels halting!)

But what is so great about reaching the goal of expert?  MUCH!  You get to enjoy, finally, the fruit of all those dedicated hours of hard work and practice. Scales for a violin player are probably no fun, nor are sweat-producing drills for athletes.  Do you remember ‘wax on, wax off’ from the 1984 movie The Karate Kid?  (look it up if you are too young to know this movie!). Those hours that Daniel spends painting Mr. Miyagi’s fence and waxing his car build muscle memory that translates eventually into winning karate skills.

So, what is the spiritual application?  Just this:  The 9 ‘flavors’ of the fruit of the Spirit are ours, too!  But just like the novice horse-rider, it takes hours of practice and discipline to become skilled enough to enjoy the freedom that comes with having paid one’s dues to become a master.

What is the equivalent of our practice and the fruit of the Spirit?  I think it’s our obedience and submission to God. Each time we obey God’s commands, we are chalking up one more hour of discipline toward eventual delight.  Think flavorful peaches, sweet but tart apples, refreshing grapes, juicy strawberries.

Submissive obedience with cheerfulness to God’s commands like:

  • Don’t fear, grumble, envy, covet, worry, hoard, criticize a person behind their back, place any created thing above God, think more highly of yourself than is true……

The list goes on.  You get the point.

To sum up the payoff – obedience and submission to King Jesus (with His supernatural help!) grow our holiness which creates our genuine happiness.  And true happiness looks like love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Boasting in the wrong thing

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John 5:44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

John 5:41 (Jesus said) I do not accept glory from men,

John 12:43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

Pricked by the Holy Spirit and convicted!

I don’t name drop.  I book-title drop. I’m here to fess up to a recent display of my pride. It happened at a mid-week prayer gathering at church.

Arriving a few minutes early, I strutted over to where our pastor was setting up chairs and struck up a conversation. Purposefully but casually, I mentioned having finished a book he had recommended from the pulpit.  Then, wanting to impress Joe with the quantity and rigor of my deep reading, I preened, just like a peacock. I unfolded for him a few of my favorite authors.

I remained blind to how blatantly I craved his praise until a certain church member arrived, one who likes to show off HER knowledge of learning. Suddenly God reminded me how I don’t like this gal for this very reason. I know, another sin! You can guess what followed next.

“You are the woman!” came a Holy-Spirit insight, recalling Nathan’s confrontation with King David. Shame filled my heart.

It’s been a few weeks and I have already confessed my lack of hunger for God’s praise and received His forgiveness.  But just this past Sunday, my co-teacher for middle school girls’ Sunday School praised me out loud to the gals present.  I piped up, “Suzanne, you don’t know me well enough, yet!” When she objected, I simply mentioned my pride which shows itself in boasting.

Now, to this morning. The first truth above in John 5:44 popped up in an old prayer that came up in my Prayermate app. This verse punched me in the gut, for Jesus calls craving the approval and praise from man – UNBELIEF!!

Does that seem harsh? Not to me. I simply felt sadness seeing my appetite for human recognition from God’s point of view – a subtle but ever-present hunger for public recognition.

I know that we believers mingle trust and unbelief in polluted and stained hearts. And that God is working all things, including one’s sin and contrition, for our good, for the purifying of these corrupt, world-focused desires.

Seeing my sin – my boasting, embarrassed me and I felt shame. I had displayed this ugly to my under-shepherd and pastor.

But I thank the Father that He is SO gentle with me. Yes, He rebukes me, but only to cause me to repent and desire to grow more holy, more like Jesus.  I recognize that in my own strength I can’t kill this lust for applause. I even lack the desire to put it to death. So, I join Paul in rejoicing:

But thanks be to God, for….. “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom 8:37

Do you ask questions of a verse?

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Isaiah 43:20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland

And just how do animals honor God?

I must have ‘run through’ this verse numerous times without ever stopping to consider, to ponder, to PICTURE just what animals do with the water. Just how DO they drink, so that the Lord calls it honoring to Him?

The wilderness is not a place known for abundance of water. That animals and people alike all need water to live is a given. We can’t create water OR food for that matter out of nothing. Only God can.

So, what is the big deal about this particular verse that the Holy Spirit directed Isaiah to pen? It’s that I paused long enough to ask a second question. What kind of animal would balk at drinking water if he were thirsty? None.

When the Lord provides what the animals need, He is pleased when they USE His gifts. That’s what He wants. This is how they glorify Him, how they give Him honor (giving ‘kabod’ in the Hebrew) for His provision.

What about us, what about ME? Do I always honor God for His provision? Well, when I don’t use His gifts for their purpose, I can see that I DIS-honor Him. Not submitting to His wise gifts, ignoring them is a way of denying God’s provision. It’s a withholding ‘the glory due His name’ Psalm 29:2 Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

Last Sunday was one of those days when I flatly ignored God’s provision. And He, my good Father, let me ‘thirst’. I was working on a blog post, something I have tended to do on Sundays. But I was craving rest. All I really wanted to do was SIT DOWN and read. But I kept pushing, pushing to edit well and ‘cross the Ts and jot the Is’. You know, those final details that go with uploading a post.

Standing at my computer elevated on a high table in the kitchen area, I realized I had to stop. The time had come for our beloved evening ritual of talking over the day, discussing what we had read while I prepare dinner for us. I tried to gather 5 more minutes for the post, by asking Mike to empty the dishwasher. When he moved on to fixing me a drink, I knew I had to close my laptop. I finished after dinner.

But I was all out of sorts. My mood plummeted. ALL was wrong. That night I lay in bed creating imaginary scenarios, all because I had not allowed myself to rest. My mood poisoned Monday, made worse by the restless night.

Finally it hit me…..as much as I ENJOY writing, it is still work. And I ‘work’ the other 6 days of the week, whether it’s my language tutoring, volunteer gig, household chores, cooking, keeping up with friends who need a word of encouragement or even going to the gym. NONE of it is restorative. I enjoy those activities. But they aren’t rest.

Lightbulb moment! That’s it, I needed a day of rest! Not just one day, but weekly, as something to look forward to.

And He has already given it to me. That is what I saw this morning, reading about the very smart wild animals who make use of the provision that God supplies. Our Creator KNOWS just what we lack. We honor Him by taking up His gifts and enjoying them. By drinking deep. By resting.

So, today is Saturday. If I finish this post, great. If not, it can wait until Monday. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, to my Sabbath rest. Just thinking about sitting out back and reading makes me happy!

I hate tech issues!

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Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:7 Amplified Bible

Okay, I teach languages on line. I tutor students individually and in groups as well as create content YouTube videos where I tell stories in simple, slow English with lots of images. Each time I upload a video to my channel I create a WordPress post at www.englishwithoutfear.com

Well, yesterday something went wrong, I couldn’t insert the video into the post in the usual way. I spent about an extra 20 minutes trying this or that, to no avail. Then I had to leave it because something was more pressing.

This morning, in my little old school ‘To Do’ flip notebook, I wrote down as # 2 priority: Try again to insert video into post.

It didn’t work. Again, I had to put it aside for my 1 pm tutoring session with Veronika. It’s 8 pm in Moscow when this 10-year-old girl and her mom meet with me on Zoom for a weekly English lesson.

Lesson over, the tech issue with WordPress still loomed. Do I tackle it now or wait until tomorrow?

If I can’t get it to work, then I’ll have to find some contact or help number and hope to get a live person whom I can understand! As I was pondering the situation, ALL OF A SUDDEN (but not out of the blue!) came this thought……………..Problems are the prelude to praise.

I don’t think I’ve read that recently, it just popped into my mind. ‘How perfectly true!’ I responded. Then smiled. Okay…I WON’T put it off until tomorrow. Let me sit down and see if I can find a contact number and talk to someone.

Searching the WordPress site, I noticed the indicator of 10 new plugin updates. I usually ignore those. But this time I said to myself: ‘What the heck, I might as well…….’ There were some other feature updates that I took care of, too.

‘Huh’, I wondered, ‘what if by doing all these updates the site would work as it was supposed to, allowing me to insert my video into the post? Wouldn’t that just be like the Lord!’

I prayed. I went to the bathroom. Got some water. Then tried again. It worked!!!!

And I praised Him. Problems ARE the prelude to praise. What else but problems force us to depend on God? But it’s not like I DON’T ask His help each time I’m about to tutor a student or plan a lesson or conduct a difficult conversation. “Father, I need you!” frequently comes out of my mouth as I acknowledge my inability to do X without God’s help.

But it’s those dreaded inopportune problems, the painful situations, and the decisions with no apparent good options that cause me to cling all the more to Jesus. The tech issue of today was just another pop quiz GIFT sent my way, reminding me of my helplessness and lack of control over any outcome.

Thank you, Father, that this was a gentle reminder. Your mercies never cease, they are fresh every dawn, ready and waiting. (Lam 3:23)

Last week’s birthday present from God

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Last Thursday was my birthday and it ranks the best I’ve celebrated in a long while.   One I won’t forget, for sure.

What made it so meaningful? Was it the fact that when I walked into my Orange Theory fitness class, the manager had written a ‘Happy Birthday, Maria!’ message on the tripod chalk board?  What a way to kick off and energize MY day. I felt special, being made much of by the staff

Was it that I got to tutor a 10-year old Russian gal in English and we had a breakthrough in how best to learn English?  No…although that was very satisfying.

Could it be that my husband Mike planned, shopped for, prepared, and plated a delicious steak dinner for me? A first in our 40 years together? We WILL be calling this a new tradition, adding it to our treasure chest of cherished rituals.  I ABSOLUTELY loved this gift, because Mike had announced to me more than 2 weeks prior just what was in the works.  The anticipation of my meal gave me great joy as ‘my day’ approached.

All the above delightful activities marked my celebration.  But the ‘highlight’ was how my heavenly Father humbled and rebuked, via my hairdresser.

Every 8 weeks I sit for 2+ hours in Shannon’s chair.  She ‘refreshes’ my color, washes, conditions and trims my hair.

The salon had rescheduled last week’s original appointment two times. They didn’t check with me first to verify that the new times would work with my calendar.  They just shifted them, notifying me by text.  The new time of 10 am left me with little margin to eat lunch and tutor the Russian gal.  This TIME boundary directed my thoughts and words.  Once the receptionist verified my normal temperature, my first words to Shannon attacked:

” I have to be out of here by 11:45 at the latest because I have another appointment…AND…. (intended to punctuate my seriousness) YOU ALL moved my time twice, putting me in this position!”

Shannon shot back, “Well, THAT’s aggressive!”

Bulls eye!  Her rebuke penetrated my heart. The LORD got me! The Holy Spirit convicted me in meteor-like speed.

Shame filled me!  She was right.  I hadn’t even greeted her with a friendly, “Hi, Shannon. How are you doing?”

Had I treated Mike that way….. launching into a blame-wrapped demand for something from him…….well, I like to think I wouldn’t have.

Yet, here I was entering Shannon’s salon and treating her like a machine, not another human being.

Profuse apologies poured from my mouth as I told her that I was SO sorry and that she was SO right to call me on that.  I knew this was from the Lord.  What kind of ambassador for Christ am I with that kind of interacting?

So, what I did next, was to ask her: “Shannon, can we rewind the scene and start over?”

Desire granted.  I backed up 5-6 feet and walked up to her with a smile: “Hi, Shannon, how are you? Thanks for fitting me in, today.  I know scheduling with Covid restraints is a challenge.”  She played the part with warmth and proceeded to seat me in her chair.

What a gift from my heavenly Father, to see how my self-preoccupation led me to sin. Human beings are all image bearers of Almighty God, worthy of respect and kindness.

I will not forget THAT reminder.  On my birthday, too.  Conviction and the ability to ask pardon and receive forgiveness from the offended, hurt person is a gift.

Oh, Father, take not thy Holy Spirit from me! Thank you that You forgive me when I sin. Because of Jesus. Keep me meditating on your kindness, rather than my schedule.

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man You discipline, O LORD, and teach from Your law,

 

 

 

Do you use reason to strengthen your faith? God does!

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Isaiah 1:18-20 Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

As the plane rumbled through the sky, I asked myself: Why did you EVER want to come and do this crazy thing, Maria!!!!

Helmet on, hooked up, ‘trapped’ in a shuffling line of other scared young men and women moving toward the open backside of the C-130 military cargo plane, I was about to step out into the air from 1500 feet above the ground.  Trusting that the parachute would open.

Tears stained my sweaty cheeks, but no one saw. I didn’t care, anyway.  I had to make a decision. And I did.

By force of will, I shifted my thoughts AWAY from the terror of stepping out into nothingness and focused on facts:

  • Most people DON’T die when jumping out of planes
  • This is a static line jump; my chute WILL open.  I don’t have to deploy it.

And you know what?  I made it!  The next 4 jumps that week were not nearly as scary. I successfully completed the Army’s Airborne School at Ft Benning, Georgia earning my Parachutist Badge.

I was thinking about that first jump last night when I couldn’t sleep. How I had to simply stop looking at my fears and focus on statistics, on facts.  Immediately I saw the connection to the life of faith over sight.

God teaches us throughout his word to focus on TRUTH, that is ‘divine facts’, to reason FROM them to more truth. To move logically from the following two categories of truth:

  • Who he is, his unchanging characteristics or attributes
  • His promises, bought for Christians by Jesus

Plus, a third and growing category of unshakeable evidence:

  • God’s ‘record’ of coming through for me, in answer to prayer, time and time again.

How long have these 3 categories been my source of strength?

I believe that God swapped out my old heart for a new heart warm toward him when I was 24.  I didn’t grow much until I was 40 and started studying my Bible in Bible Study Fellowship.  I turn 63 next week.  Therefore, my Christian experience was Bible-bereft for 16 years, but now has been Bible-enriched for 23 years. These past 23 years have built my confidence in both our Triune God AND his word.

Even before I was a believer, I knew God answered prayer.  In that very same 3-week Airborne School experience, I called on God to help me. It was Day 1 and we had to run 5 miles and then pass a physical fitness test.  I failed the pull-ups. The next morning, an ‘airborne sergeant’ retested me and gave the green light.  I had been praying fervently.  God came through.  I wasn’t even a believer.  But I have never forgotten God’s goodness to this unrepentant sinner. It was the first time I had prayed a specific, measurable prayer and God came through, immediately, undeniably.

If I add the fears of these Covid times together with ‘normal’ fears, I am getting plenty of practice in CHOOSING to shift my focus from current circumstances to God-facts. I am obeying God’s inviting command to reason prayer-ful-ly with HIM and refocus my view of circumstances through the lens of Ultimate Reality and not through the looking glass of my fears.

This is the only AND sure way I find inner peace:  when I shift my thoughts upward.

 

The promise of beauty deceived me

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Decrepit tulips

The tulips never even opened.  Instead, they started to decay from the moment I placed them in water. The promise of their beauty on display at Target deceived me

I keep flowers all around the house.  This vase is sitting on my bathroom sink. Nearby on Mike’s sink, in contrast, sit some lovely Alstroemeria boasting in their fairness. But somehow the ugliness of the tulips speaks a louder message of truth and I am loathe to toss them.

I sense that I need to embrace the reality that these flowers represent.  This world, this Earth 1.0, IS decrepit, a crumbling place.  No amount of make-up or human enhancements can change this reality.  There IS a curse.

It’s always winter in Narnia – the power of the White Witch reigns. A fact, akin to my decaying tulips.

But just as C.S. Lewis penned, there IS a stronger Truth, an ultimate Power that is at work.  Aslan is coming and a warming, colorful spring heralds this Hope.

Resurrection Sunday, Easter, signals the same for us. A forever summer is drawing nearer. It’s different from summers we have known. Given our few senses, is it even a wonder that we CAN’T imagine a SUPERIOR-summer?

John, guided by the Spirit of God wrote in Revelation 21: 1-4: 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This renovated, remodeled, new and best of all possible Earths will be Beauty par excellence because the King of Beauty, the LORD Himself will be present with us forever to enjoy.

Since mid-February I have begun to daydream more about this promised future.  I’m beginning to look forward to it.

In the meantime, I thank God for glimpses of beauty, for tastes of goodness here on Earth 1.0. They DO cheer me and lift my spirits. No denying that.  Still, I am sobered by dying reality. A reality that hints at an everlasting Beauty but a reality that cannot hide decay.  Like make-up on a cadaver being prepared for a funeral home viewing.  I’m not fooled. No one is, if they are honest with themselves.

So, this past week, I have learned much from my aborted tulips.  By grace, because of the gift of God’s Word, I know Truth. Jesus.  Though appearing ‘ugly as sin’ because He was MADE to be sin, He was and is and will always Beautiful.

And we believers who, along with my tulips, are decaying, will one day change out our outer layer for new bodies, a final and permanent version 2.0, supernaturally perfect and perpetual.

Aren’t you glad that the best is yet to be?

 

 

 

 

 

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