Sunday, June 24, 2012


Many of you know that much of our state is on fire.  It is merciless, even encroaching into our national parks and snatching homes.  The rivers of western Colorado are at their lowest, yet it was only last summer that we had flood waters overflowing their banks.  I remember because it was at my son's graduation that the rain never stopped . . . drenching, pouring rain.  But last year's rain will not do for today. 

We often make our plans and want the weather to cooperate on our conditions.  Lord, send rain, but wait until I get the house painted and certainly not during our camping trip.  I wonder if God gets tired of our complaints about the weather, as if we know better than He what the earth needs when in fact, "all of creation groans with eager expectation" for the day when human hearts return to their Maker and all is made new.  (Romans 8:22-23)

As we earnestly long for rain to quench the earth, I've become keenly aware of the greater need of our souls . . . Living Water.  Without the life giving Spirit of God, our lives become harsh, parched, and barren, a place ripe for fire.  But this fiery trial, this longing for rain, does it not point our hearts toward heaven?  And in the fire, given time, renewal does come as hearts return to their Creator.

This morning a Scripture was read which greatly encouraged me.  Actually it was accidentally misread, a blooper, but one which turned my heart toward God's control over the fires burning our state.  Psalm 95:3-4 reads, "For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him."   But what I heard was, "the mountain parks belong to him," and I thought of our national parks burning.  Yes, the mountain parks do belong to God.  They are His, not ours.  Surely He is seeking our attention through His creation, even in the destruction of it.  The eyes of all look to God, for only in Him is our deliverance.  (Psa. 145:15,16)

We do pray for rain, not just rain to water the earth, but also rain to water our souls.  How desperate we are for God's continual flow, the out pouring of His Spirit, which sustains us moment by moment . . . the very air we breathe.  But how easily we take Him for granted, to think we can get along fine of our own strength, until the drought points our faces toward heaven and we fall in complete dependency on Him.  Yes, Lord Jesus, you are all we need.  Our soul thirsts for you. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From the Kitchen

I had worked hard all day, on my feet, up and down stairs.  But the day was not yet over and there was still work to do.  Dinner was finished and I'd assigned my youngest girls to wash the dishes.  I thought I deserved a little down time, a pick me up rest before tackling my evening projects, and so went to veg in front of the TV.   

I had just gotten settled into a show when from the kitchen I hear praise music.  I try to ignore it but the Holy Spirit won't let me.  I try to tune into my program and block out the music, but my ear and heart can't help but be drawn towards it.  The dish washing crew was playing my favorite cd, one I often use as a wake up call on our youth retreats.  And with the familiar songs, all those memories came flooding back, lyrics about how God is holy and thirsting after God, stuff like that.  I'm suddenly aware at how unholy is the content of what I'm watching and that my thirst for entertainment at that moment was greater than for the Lord.  But I also realized how empty and unsatisfying was the TV show and how my heart was pulled toward the music in the kitchen.  The heart knows where it belongs.

Now, I'm not saying to watch a movie or a TV program is so bad for relaxation, but I am saying that I have to keep it in its place and in its right priority.  Last weekend God encouraged me in His Word,  drawing me into His presence so tenderly.  The words popped off the page at me and I knew the nearness of God.  So why was I looking to entertainment to quench my thirst?  How quickly I fall!  God was calling me close and I was purposely trying to ignore His voice.

Switching through channels on TV trying to find something acceptable to watch wears me out.  I keep hoping there will be something worthwhile and there just never is.  Even watching a movie can be exhausting when I'm expecting it to fill that hunger for God.  We are called to look to Jesus for only He can truly refresh us.

As I read Proverbs 5 this morning I saw it in a way I'd never seen before.  The entire chapter speaks of the steps which lead to immorality, but these steps could be applied to any sin, such as gluttony, gossip, ungratefulness, etc.  The desires of my own heart seduce me into wrong doing, smooth and sweet as honey, causing me to believe they will satisfy.  But these steps lead straight to the grave.  In defeat I do not really live, though alive.  Therefore, I need to avoid sin like the plague, not even going near to the door of its house. 

But the real clincher is when the passage speaks of "rejoicing in the wife of your youth," and "may you always be captivated by her love."  I thought of my relationship with God, that I am to rejoice in His presence and not go after "other loves".   Am I truly captivated by the love of Christ?  Does He have my undivided heart?  But it is mutual.  God also takes great delight in me.  This thought blows me away!  Really?  God wants to hang out with me so intensely?  Yes, the communion I have with Him runs deep, which is why His heart hurts when I resist His voice.

Today I've made a point of looking only to Jesus and its been a good day, a really good day, even though I did laundry, watered plants, made dinner, washed dishes and cleaned up messes, some pretty mundane things.  But God gave me strength to overcome some of my own pull towards sin as I focused on Him and it has made all the difference.  I pray that every day I will find refuge under the shelter of His wings, for that's what makes it a really great day. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Everybody Duck!

Like a duck in the water, that's what I was thinking as kids sloshed down the slip-n-slide.  Today was the last day of Vacation Bible School and this, along with a picnic, was the after event.   I know.  I might be prejudiced having roots from soggy wet Oregon, the land of the ducks, but really, there's a spiritual application here and one of my favorite illustrations.
I love the Psalms of Ascent and have come across them once again in my personal Bible study.  But one Psalm that never made much sense to me was Psalm 133.  It speaks of oil being poured on the head and then running down onto the beard of Aaron, the priest.  Then it runs down on the collar of his robes.  It actually sounds kind of icky and messy to me.  And what, pray tell, does it mean?

But as I've come across oil in other places in Scripture, I see that it often represents the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives.  There was Elisha and the widow with her sons who received more and more oil for their provision, as many jars as they could fill.  And whenever a king was chosen, he was anointed with oil.  The oil in the lamp of the temple continued day and night and never ran dry. Each of these incidences studied in detail are rich and full with meaning, especially as they relate to the Holy Spirit.

When there are fights in the household there is friction, strife, and soured relationships.  This is common to most of us and so sibling rivalry is a popular topic.  Any mom can tell you that peace in the house is worth millions.  My oldest daughter has it figured out just right.  She will be leaving for college at the same time her sister starts middle school.  So she will not be home much for the middle school years of her younger sisters.  Whew!  She sighs with relief.

If peace is so desirable in our homes, how much more so in the household of God!  As my church has just completed a week of VBS, I am amazed at the teamwork required, like a well oiled machine.  Each part contributing to the whole, and as an onlooker this year all I can say is wow!  You all have done a great job!  Thank you for giving your life and time for the sake of a child, precious in the sight of God.
 The body of Christ, hard at work, rubbing shoulders with one another, also reminds me of a duck.   The water surrounds the duck continually but is no big deal, not even an issue, because of the oil in its feathers.   Likewise, when we have friction with one another we need to let it slide right off our backs.  We cannot let it soak in or take it to heart.  And the more we live by the Spirit of God, the more that oil can be worked into our feathers and the less they will be ruffled.   We then thrive in our immersion with other believers as we live in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 133 begins with that thought, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters] live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head..."  And it ends with "...the dew...falling on Mt. Zion.  For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore."  Dew is such a gentle, ideal form of watering the earth.  And how refreshing is the unity of believers, peace in the household of God.

As our church prepares for the next close encounter with one another, a missions trip to the Apaches of Arizona, where there will be uncomfortable conditions and tight spaces, I'm reminded of the oil of the Spirit which needs to permeate our being so we might know the refreshing dew of heaven.  Everybody duck!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Groom, A Bride

I love love love the picture of the body of Christ, as the bride of Christ.  Last Sunday, during a moment of worship called communion, a song was played.  The song swept me away to a different time and a different place where I was given a vivid picture of this reality.  (The term "body of Christ" is what God calls the Church and consists of all those who have put their trust in Jesus as the sacrifice for their sin.  Communion is a symbolic time where us followers of Christ eat a piece of bread to represent His broken body and drink a small cup of juice to represent His blood shed for our sin.)

It was many years ago that my sister was getting married and had asked me to be her matron of honor, but I had one problem.  At the time of her wedding I would be six months pregnant with my daughter Ivy.   I don't think it bothered my sister at all, but it made me a little self-conscious.  I had never been to a wedding where a bridesmaid was so very obviously full with child.  I have always had this image of beautiful thin young women as bridesmaids to complement the beauty of the bride.  And here I was, being asked to walk down an aisle, all eyes staring at my bulging belly.

For one thing, it did a number on my pride that I didn't feel as attractive as I wanted to be, but mostly it brought home to me the beauty of this song which has a double meaning.  It is speaking not only of Jesus, but also of believers in our function as the body of Christ.  As we become His hands and feet, caring for one another and working together to get His message out, we are beautiful.  The song was sung at my sister's wedding while they took the communion sacraments as bride and groom.  And it was absolutely beautiful, searing the image of the words onto my heart.  I've never seen this done at any wedding before or since. 

How beautiful the hands that served,
the wine and the bread
And the sons of the earth.
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads
And the hills to the cross
How beautiful...
How beautiful is the body of Christ.

How beautiful the heart that bled
that took all my sin
And bore it instead.
How beautiful the tender eyes
That chose to forgive
And never despise
How beautiful...
How beautiful is the body of Christ.

And as he laid down His life
We offer this sacrifice
that we will live just as He died.
Willing to pay the price.
Willing to pay the price.

How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
With his light in her eyes.
How beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives
So that others may live.
How beautiful...
How beautiful is the body of Christ...
(by Twila Paris)

It was Jewish custom at the time of Christ for the groom to offer his prospective bride a cup of wine.  If she took and drank from it, she accepted his hand in marriage.  Likewise, Jesus offers us the cup of "the new covenant in His blood" as a marriage proposal to His bride, the Church.  (1 Cor. 11:25)  And as I think of the precious oneness we have in Christ through our worship of Him, I am blown away with the wonder of His presence and what a glorious offer He has given.  The physical body of Jesus was marred so badly that He was beyond recognition as He gave His life . . . and that was not a pretty sight.  (Isa. 53) Yet it is beautiful because with His death He purchased our life.

At six months pregnant I did not feel like my body was very attractive, but knew that the wedding was not about me, but rather the bride and groom.  Yet, to think that God deems us beautiful as His Church amazes me for we are flawed, all our failings laid out in the open before Him, yet full of the fruit of the Spirit, God is honored and deems that beautiful. 

As my sister stood in glorious white before the altar with her groom, and the song mentioned above was played, my heart was caught up in the worship of my Savior.  What a picture of our relationship with Him.  How precious the intimacy and how beautiful is the body of Christ.

Then when our pastor had us turn to the book of Ruth last Sunday I was amazed.  Really?  That book?  Whoa.  I feel I'm being immersed in this little book of the Bible for a reason.  I'm all eyes and ears, for surely God must have something He wants me see if He's giving it to me once again.  But one thing I've seen already is that God desires our worship for this is what we are made for, to draw near to His heart under the shadow of His wings.

A few years ago when I first began my study on the book of Ruth, this was the point at which I found myself literally on my face at the feet of Jesus in worship, when Boaz covers Ruth with the corner of his cloak.   The tears were streaming down my face as I later sat down at the computer, trying to write it all down because I didn't want to miss any part of it.   I finally realized the depth of God's acceptance of me, how close He desires to be, and the complete fullness of the cross of Christ to cover me.  And how well this little book of Ruth fits into the song that was played last Sunday.  How beautiful, is the body of Christ.  How beautiful is His presence over us, in us, and through us.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rock of Fire

My oldest daughter has finally realized that she will soon be leaving her wild and rugged Colorado in exchange for the cornfields of Ohio.   And so climbing a 14,000 ft. mountain is on her agenda. Oh, she has been to the top of a few by car, Mt. Evans and Pike's Peak to be exact, but never conquered one with a climb.  And so we've begun training our bodies for such an event.

Saturday afternoon we set off on a four mile hike, no big deal.  We decided at the onset that this would be an exercise hike and so we planned to really book it.  No dilly dallying on rocks or stopping to smell the sage.  We've done this hike many times before, and so were taken aback when we ran into some difficulties.  Our town is littered with shade trees, irrigated lawns, and swamp coolers.  With all that we sometimes forget that we live in a desert       . . . an unforgiving and very harsh desert. 

Normally we would never think of venturing out on a hike at the hottest time of the day, but since clouds teased of cooler temperatures we thought nothing of it.  About half way up the trail we realized our mistake.  It was brutally hot and the trail we'd chosen provided little shade with massive, sheer, red rock faces.  The rock just absorbed all that heat, therefore emitting even more heat.  That's when Ivy came up with the term, "rock of fire". 

But the real danger came when we realized we were running out of water.  We brought what we thought was sufficient, but needed more than usual considering the conditions.  I secretly confided with Heather that we should reserve what water we had left for her younger sisters.  We gravitated to patches of shade along the trail, drawn to them like a magnet, and found ourselves lingering there, not very eager to venture back out into the sun and further down the trail.

I've been studying the book of Ruth through my writing and have come to the climax of the book, where Ruth comes to the feet of Boaz and he covers her with the corner of his cloak.  And while hiking I could not help but think of Jesus as my strong tower, just as those rock cliffs soared high above us, solid rock, fearsome in their fiery heat.  Yet when we hiked near their base, those same rocks provided a place of refuge, a shade from the heat of the trail, a covering, a protection from the elements.

There is no escape from God's powerful, all consuming holiness, the rock of fire, except near His heart where we find the shade of grace, soothing respite from the journey before us.  I have to wonder, do I long for His presence as earnestly as I long for shade on a blistering day?  I love to dwell in the shadow of His wings, in the cleft of the Rock, where I am completely safe to be vulnerable with God, yet hidden from the harshness of the world in which I live.  But how often do I really seek that place?

I've been acutely aware of the brash unashamed culture around me through some experiences with my daughter this week, assumptions of others that her college morals will be based on "what everybody does."   Even the manager of the pool where my daughter works expressed his frustration at trying to keep the pool family friendly.  Much of the modern secular music has swear words in their lyrics, so they cannot pump that out through their speakers.  A dilemma, the unforgiving heat of the day in which we live. 

Yet God has called us to travel in the midst of our culture that we might influence others to find their refuge in Christ Jesus, a shade from the grit and dust of the desert.  And for those that have known the shade of the rock, God sends respite. 

There was not even a breeze and by this time I had a headache, was nauseated, and concerned for my children.  I felt rather irresponsible for getting ourselves into this situation but still knew the mercy of God.  So I prayed.  God, could you send us wind?  And the wind came, cooling our sweat drenched skin.

God is full of grace and truth . . . holy, yet loving and good.  He is a rock of fire, terrifying, but offering intimacy near His heart, a shade from the heat of day, a covering of protection.  It is in this place that we are renewed and refreshed to face the heat of the desert.   I plan to rest there often this summer.  What say you?