Friday, September 24, 2010

A Day with God

Let the ocean’s rhythmic whoosh linger in your ears
     while you dance with the sandpipers to the seagulls’ song.
Sway to the water’s gentle lap upon the smooth worn rocks
     that wade just beyond the shore.
Your toes sink into the cool wet sand where the water’s edge
     plays its perpetual game of tag with the land.
Abandoned by the water’s retreat, shells and sparkling seaglass
     glisten as they dry.
A wash of colors layers the horizon where water and sky touch, never to part.
     You can almost see where the waves began their quest
     to briefly touch the sand.
Breath deep the salty breeze of the ocean’s kiss.
With a word, I created this.
Be still and know that I am God.

Come with me to the mountain range rising from the earth to touch the sky.
See the river waters stampede over rocky cliffs
     and wind through the lush valleys below.
Drink in the rainbow of wildflowers shimmering like rare gems in the sunlight
     blanketing the hillsides.
The insects’ hum swells as the orchestra for the animals’ choir that echoes
     through the rustling leaves of their forest home.
Hear the moose and coyote harmonize while the eagle sings his solo.
Each bird adding its own sweet trill and in the distance rises
     the bass rumble of the bear.
The fragrance of wood, animal, and flower permeates the air
     and you can taste the aroma.
A cool breeze rushes down from the snowy peaks to greet you.
With a word, I created this.
Be still and know that I am God.

Walk with me as the setting sun shimmers off the golden sea of prairie grass.
A tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows weaves through
     the endless evening sky
And the fading sunlight glistens off of the network of spider webs that connects
     each blade of grass.
The swish of the wind combing through acres of grass and wildflowers rushes
     to your ear
as the soft graceful sway of the rolling waves of flora waltzes
     across the landscape.
The scent of animal and wildflower carried on the breeze tickles your nose.
Rising up out of the distance comes the lonely howl of the prairie wolf
and the screech of an owl echoes from a single tree on the horizon.
As the day fades, the air begins to cool and the grasshoppers’ lullaby
     rises up around you.
With a word, I created this.
Be still and know that I am God.

I've deliberately not included any photographs with today's post. My hope is that the poem will bring the beauty of God's creation into your heart and your mind through your imagination.

Friday, September 17, 2010

When I Can't Open the Door

A father and his toddler are exiting a building through a triple set of heavy doors. They come to the first door and the little boy pushes with all his might but nothing happens. The door doesn’t budge. He backs up a few steps and runs toward the door hoping that the momentum will help push the door open. Again it doesn’t open. Then he sits on the floor and tries to kick it open with his feet unsuccessfully. Admitting his inability, he turns to his father and asks him to open the door. His father easily pushes the door open and they walk hand-in-hand through the open doorway.

They reach the second door and the little boy tries again to no avail. Again he turns to his father and asks him to open the door. His father says that they will do it together. So they both push on the door and it opens. Again they walk through hand-in-hand.

They come to the third door and the little boy doesn't even try to open it. He turns to his father and asks his help. His father encourages him saying, “Why don’t you give it a try yourself? After all, you might be surprised at how strong you’ve become.” The boy begins to push with all his strength and the door open a little. His father continues to encourage him and the boy keeps pushing until the door opens wide. If the boy had looked up in his struggle, he would have seen his father’s hand higher up on the door pushing it open. Celebrating the boy’s victory, they walk hand-in-hand through the open doorway.

This story relates so well to my faith journey. The first door is a great picture of my attempt at personal salvation and how I failed miserably to secure it for myself by my own power. No amount of penance, or good deeds, or any ritual performed to the best of my ability was going to bring salvation to me. Only the power of the cross is able to redeem me from my sinfulness.

The other doors represent those times in my life when I’m facing a struggle. Many times I will try to overcome life’s challenges myself and only turn to God when I’ve failed. How much time do I waste not turning to him first? And how long will it take for me to learn to ask his help when the challenge first presents itself? God doesn’t abandon me though. He waits patiently for me to ask and then helps me through without condemnation. Sometimes I actually have the presence of mind to turn to God immediately. I don’t try to accomplish on my own what I know only he can do. That’s usually when he surprises me and encourages me to pour all my effort into facing the challenge that lies ahead. The sweet victory of confronting those challenges and making it through always surprises me. But then I look up and I see that his hand was there all the time guiding me and providing the strength I don’t possess.

In the end, that’s what faith is all about. I am limited and powerless to overcome my own sinfulness and the challenges in life. God’s love, power, and wisdom know no limits and lack nothing. He is responsible for all victories in my life from the first to the last and he chooses to share the celebration of those victories with me as if I had some part in them.

About the Pictures:
Deer Lake Park (August 2009)

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Conversation with God

Today’s post is a little unusual. For the last month, I’ve been aimlessly wandering through a dark forest of low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority and insignificance. My thoughts easily drifted from a solid reliance on God’s love to living in fear that maybe this time, he’s just had enough of me and my problems.

My life experience tells me that no love last and all love will eventually end in pain so trying to get my heart to fully accept and live into the ultimate, unchanging, undeserved, eternal, abundant love of God is beyond my ability. Last night God led me to Romans 8:28-39 (NIV) in my search for a path through this wilderness. As I read his Word, it became a conversation between him and me. It ended with an amazing revelation for me and a very big first step to leaving behind this forest forever. I invite you to be a fly on the wall and hear our conversation for yourself.

God's Word (NIV) is in black. My words are in purple. Inserted into the last verse you will see words in green. These are the words the Spirit gave me last night to clarify what God has been telling me in his Word all along.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. I love you and your Spirit in me is proof that you have called me. You have chosen me just as I am to receive your love and grace.

29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. To be conformed isn’t a single event – it’s a process, a lifetime of experience that I will learn and grow from. I know I’m not good enough but that doesn’t matter because you are, Jesus, and I am being made like you at the pace you set.

30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. You had me in mind from the beginning, you reached out to me time and time again until I answered and then you gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever known – your love and your grace. That love and grace is transforming me and I will be the woman you intended me to be. You will not give up, nor will you fail.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Not even the prison built by the abuse of my past and all the pain that comes from it is stronger than you God. You will break down the walls. You will conquer the fear, enable me to see and live into the truth of your everlasting love. Your loving power protects me. Your gentle hand leads me out of the dungeon of my past into a foreign land that you are giving me as my inheritance – a land of promise where love, joy, peace and patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control grow freely and abundantly.

32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? I understand the pain of watching my child suffer and die. To give him up for someone I love would have been too difficult for me to do, but to give him up for someone who hated me is unthinkable. And yet, that’s exactly what you did. You gave up your perfect holy Son for me – a sinner. Your sacrifice came threefold – As Christ, you endured the pain of the cross, as Heavenly Father, you permitted this atrocity, and as the Spirit, you did nothing to save Jesus from the anguish so that I would have the ability to return to you, to love you if I chose to respond to this ultimate expression of love. How could I believe for a moment that you would offer yourself that fully in sacrifice for me and then decide you don’t love me after all or that you would grow weary of me over time? No matter what lies I believe about myself, you love me in the truth which will never change or die.

33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? The lies I hear in my head and hold in my heart are not from you God but from the enemy. Jesus, you are the truth and though I have been conditioned to believe these falsehoods from childhood, you will not stop until you break through the programming that the years of pain have imprinted on my heart and mind. I am not worthy of your love, and I don’t have to be for you to love me. Your love for me makes me worthy enough for you.
Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. I was under the sentence of death because of my sinfulness and rebellion and you, who could not bear to see me suffer the penalty, died in my place for my sins. Your resurrection is your pledge that we will always be together until the end of time. In that same love, you are bringing my needs and desires to our Heavenly Father and asking him to love me as he loves you and to provide for and protect me.

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? What is stronger than the power of the One who created all there is? No one can take me away from you and you will not abandon me even in worst of times. The worst doesn’t scare you, won’t make you change your mind, and cannot overcome you. In fact, it’s in the worst of times when I can rely on you all the more to show your love in providing for and protecting me.

36As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." There is no sin I can commit, no rebellion so odious that your love for me would die. You would still love me with the same love that led you to the cross for my redemption. The enemy will continue to attack as long as I am here on this earth because of your love for me. He will try to convince me with lies that I am separated from your love and I will need to stand firm in your power and in these mighty gifts you’ve given me: salvation, righteousness, truth, peace, faith and the Bible.

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Jesus, you have already won my heart and your patience will know no end as I learn to live into that indescribable love! God is love. You can’t and won’t stop loving me because it’s who and what you are. You are love and you have chosen to focus your attention on me. Why you picked me is not important—that you did is what matters! Your death on the cross and your resurrection ended for all time the debate of do you or don’t you really love me. That incredible act of love will stand for all time. It will not fade or decay or vanish. You will not grow tired or weary of me and you won’t “fall out of love” with me. You are unchanging. You are eternal. And you are love.

38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor any exceptions to the rule that Maureen can come up with, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [her] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so...

About the pictures:
North Park (11-10)
North Park (5-10)
Deer Lake Park (5-10)
Deer Lake Park (5-07)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Faithful Shepherd

He is my Faithful Shepherd
keeping watch over me each day,
and he looks until He finds me
when I turn around and stray.
Approaching the throne of Heaven
in repentance on my knee,
through blood-stained tears he reaches out,
in love, forgiving me.
Satan knows my weaknesses,
but Jesus hears my plea.
Though evil tries to chain my soul,
my Savior sets me free.
He heals my pain, my sorrow,
my shameful, sinful soul.
By God’s great love and grace alone,
I’m no longer Satan’s fool.
From mountaintops I speak my vow
of willing servitude.
My Lord, my God, dear Jesus my King,
forever I belong to You.

About the picture:
Blackwater Falls (May 2010)