Monday, April 25, 2016

A Day with God

The sun is out, the breeze is cool and it is a beautiful spring day. Every couple of years I repost this poem. Be still and know that He is God! Enjoy!

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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

I'm Going

Yesterday, a young woman came to our church to tell us about how God is calling her to go to Ireland as a missionary. She’ll be working for a pastor of a church plant as his Administrative Assistant. It sounds strange that Ireland with all its rich history in Christianity would need a missionary but who am I to debate God on where he wants his people to go. In listening to her I could hear the affection she has for the people of Ireland and smiled when she talked about how God’s going to put her organizational skills to good use in her new position.

It’s as if God were putting flesh onto the sermon we had just heard about the Great Commission. The preacher passionately expressed that Jesus commands ALL OF US to GO and make disciples. He explained that we are already going…going to work, going home, going to the store, going to school, going to all kinds of places and as long as we are going, we might as well take Jesus along with us because he’s already there anyway. The mandate to GO doesn’t mean we all have to buy a plane ticket, charter a bus or boat to obey. We just have to go where we are already going and work with the talents and abilities God gave to us to further his kingdom where we are.

I have a friend who is touring Israel right now. Last week he posted a picture on Facebook of the beach on the Sea of Tiberius and commented “This is where Jesus told Peter, ‘Feed my sheep.’ What is your God-given mission?” I replied, “To rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, encourage all and write the words he gives me to write.” In my heart and soul, I know that this is God’s plan, God’s mission for me. I don’t have to learn a new language or move away to a foreign country or adapt to new customs and traditions, so sometimes I’m fooled into believing that I’m not doing enough. I’m not really spreading the Gospel because I’m not halfway around the world dedicating my life to the sick or building a schoolhouse in a newly discovered African village.

God went through a lot to make me just the way I am, delicately balancing talent, experience, healing and growth so that we can work together to further his kingdom in a very precise and unique way. I didn’t pick my mission or my mission field—he did. Who am I to debate God on where he wants his people to go? My only job is to GO—to follow his lead and work with him to complete his mission of bringing reconciliation to his creation.

So what’s your mission? Where are you going today and are you going with Jesus?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Audrey's Legacy

A friend of mine died last week. I met her years ago in a writers’ group I was part of and after we both left the group, we kept in touch on Facebook. I admit I didn’t know her as well as I could have. But I knew enough to know she was a good woman and one worth knowing. She used to read my blog and so many times, just when I needed encouragement, Audrey would post a comment –a hug from my sister in Christ. I remember her asking me to pray for her – not because she had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) but because she was seeking a deeper more intimate relationship with God. She never talked about her disease and only once in a while would admit to have a “bad” day.

I’ve heard it said once that everyone you meet has something to teach you. Audrey taught me anyone, no matter their circumstances or ability, has something to offer and she reminded me that the most important thing in life is my relationship with God whether that life is all I would want it to be or as horrible as I can imagine. As afflicted as she was, Audrey held me up with affirmation, encouragement, and prayer with herculean-like strength even if she was unable to lift her own arm. Next time I start feeling like throwing myself a pity party, I will think of Audrey and look for the good I can do.

Too often I hear people say they can’t. They can’t give. They can’t help. “I don’t have enough. Enough money. Enough time. Enough ability.” So many people I know want to reach out in God’s love to their fellow man but think they can’t because they’re too old, too young, too afflicted, or too busy. In light of Audrey’s legacy, I say—nonsense! We all have something to give. God created each of us specifically just as we are to work together for his glory, to bring about his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. There is a need out there that I can fill just as there is a God who created me to fill it. My constant struggle has always been—what will I do with the opportunity?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Who Am I Really Saying He Is?

“Who do the crowds say that I am?” It’s a question Jesus asked his disciples to which they replied, “John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets come back to life.” The general populous had heard and seen for themselves what Jesus said and did and had concluded that he was most certainly a great man of God. Some even begun to hope that maybe, just maybe, this Jesus was the promised Messiah—the one they’d been waiting for to change their lives.

Then Jesus asks the disciples, “And you? Who do you say I am?” The disciples had witnessed even more than the crowds. They’d followed Jesus from town to town and even helped him in his mission to preach the Good News and heal the afflicted. They most certainly believed he was a holy man. Maybe a few of them silently began to wonder, as did some in the crowds, if he was the Promised One who would make things right again in Israel. Only impetuous Peter had the tenacity to blurt out what some were thinking: “You are the Messiah” with such conviction that it could only be an understanding given him by God.

That’s usually where that story ends. But let me tell you my part of the story. Last year I picked up a book at a used book fair entitled “Who Do You Say That I Am?” The book is a collection of answers written by a priest in his personal study time to each question asked in the bible. His family found his work as they were going through his belongings after his death and published it. I began to wonder how I would answer those questions:  Who do those around me say that Jesus is? And who do I say he is?

Today’s society is a mishmash of coercion and public opinion of the cult of fake tolerance. Tolerance is preached and revered as if it were god but is not practiced for all. This tolerance is reserved only for the popular opinion or the perceived underdog of the day. Don’t believe me? Post on social media that you are pro-life or believe only in a strict definition of marriage and see how fast you are no longer tolerated—or worse, how quickly you are attacked. Who would most people say Jesus is today? I believe they’d say that he’s either good or bad, holy or evil, real or myth, God or imposter. Pretty much what the world thought about him 2000 years ago.

But me—who do I say he is? Let’s be careful here. I’m not asking myself about a verbal response to this question. I’m asking what do my character and my actions say about my understanding of who Jesus is? Does my character and life reveal him to be a good teacher, or merely eternal life insurance, or perhaps a version of a holy Santa Claus who keeps track of all my naughty and nices? Or do they reveal to the world that with all my heart and soul and mind, I know him to be the Son of God who loves us to the depths of his own sacrifice? If I buy into the whole Son of God, died for my sins, rose from the dead thing, does my life show it? If the Holy Spirit is indeed in my heart leading me, changing me, sanctifying me, and marking me as his own, does what I do and say exemplify that? Let’s get specific here—when I get cut off in traffic, what do the people in the cars around me know about Jesus by my actions? If you looked at my checkbook journal, what would it say about who Jesus is? When I speak, what do my choice of words and conversation say about who Jesus is? What does how I choose to spend my time say about who Jesus is? Make no mistake—everything we do and say speaks volumes of who we believe Jesus to be. In 1 Peter 2 we’re told that we are his chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. We are God’s special possessions declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We are his embassaries, his image bearers to the world. We are to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse us of doing wrong, they will see our good deeds and glorify God.”

So perhaps the better question to ask myself is, “who would others say Jesus is when they look at me?” Is there enough evidence of his grace, love, and power in my character and my life that they might begin to wonder that maybe, just maybe, there’s something about this Jesus and they want to know him better.