Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Will

When I chose 'believe' as my theme for the year, never in my wildest imaginations did I ever suppose it would come to this.

At the end of last week, my health coach called and ended the conversation with, "How can I pray for you?" I almost broke down in tears while telling her, "Courage.  Pray that I will have the courage to believe that this goal is possible."  While believing would result in a good end, at the same time it was too awful.  For to believe would require hard choices. 

I always wanted someone to come alongside me and help with my physical health, a personal trainer or a diet that I could actually keep.   Though I was finally getting what I wanted, at the same time, it was painful to admit that I could not do this on my own, that I needed a health coach.  It was, in fact, required, and not even an option, since I was the only one in my family who failed to meet the standard.

Recently I've heard snippets of the radio speaker and pastor, James MacDonald, who just finished a series on "Humble Yourself".  Jesus, at the last supper, took up a towel and served his followers by washing their feet.  That was his last message to them.  Humble yourself.

When I don't know what to do and my heart is overwhelmed with unrest, I'm reminded that those two little words, "humble yourself" is the best thing I can do to resolve the conflict.  

In all my life, I have never before had to fight with health.  Strength comes natural to me, genetics hearty, and numbers superb.   Now as I seek to meet the requirement, God has opened my eyes to the immense and overwhelming beast this is to tackle.   I have gained a renewed compassion for those who've struggled in this area their entire lives.

Our culture has a prejudice against 'the wrong shaped' people.  We sneer down our noses at them and mutter simple solutions, as if we are somehow superior . . . as if we do not have our own issues we fight to control.   Some weaknesses are better hidden than others, but that doesn't make them any less severe.

It is so easy to put on our false fronts and throw that image out to the public.  We don't want them to see the real person inside, the person that struggles to overcome in an area, or that fails time and time again, who is crying out for help, but too ashamed to ask.  

Lately, God has been laying bare my heart, showing how desperately I need Him.  He looks deeply into my eyes and says, "You can.  Now believe it, and act."  I know, that doesn't sound like right theology.  In actuality I cannot do anything.  It is God in me that gives me the strength, discipline, and power to overcome. 

Yet, all my life I have beaten myself up to the point that my focus was all on my weakness rather than on God's strength, a backwards sort of pride.  To get past myself is to say with confidence, "I can".   It seems a paradox, but it actually turns the focus away from myself and onto Him.  By God's strength, I can, because nothing is impossible with Him. (Matt. 19:26)  He asks me to simply believe. 

If the truth be known, it is not that I cannot, but that I won't.  It comes down to obedience and not so much an, "I can", but that "I will".  I have to want the right choice even though my flesh screams against it.  When I truly desire it, then the fight seems won before it begins. 

When Jesus went to the cross, much of the battle was fought in the garden.  There he surrendered his will to the Father's will.  Am I above Him to think that I will not have to go through the same surrender, the same aligning of my will to my Father's

Humility sweeps over me when I realize my heart is prone to wander and that deep down I do not really want to change.  But far off in the distance I see a light of hope, and I fix my eyes on it.  That light is the courage to believe which moves my heart toward the will to obey.  And so forgetting what is behind, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  (Phil. 3:14)

 I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  (Phil. 4:13) 

(Pictures taken from the Bible camp my brother manages, Camp Morrow, in Wamic, OR)  

Monday, April 28, 2014

High Tide

Seeking to be heard above the roar of the waves, I shouted, "Get back!  Run!" but to no avail.  I could only watch helpless as an angry ocean swept against my husband and youngest daughter, soaking their jeans.  

This all began after we first walked through an open cave, (which I told you about in my last post), and headed north along the Oregon coast.  At the place where we entered the tunnel, it was dry, but the other end was wet, emptying onto a beach quickly filling with water.  Making a run between waves we made it through, knowing full well we were now at the mercy of the tide.  There would be no turning back.

Driftwood clung to the steep bank, a warning that the waves could reach us if they felt so inclined.  The rocks trapped us from escaping north or south, and I began to feel claustrophobic.  Should the tide come in too far, it would engulf us.

My family was not worried, but I panicked.  Urging them along with me, I clamored up the steep sides and found a safe perch where we could watch the show. 

After a time, my husband and youngest daughter felt brave and decided to climb down from the bank and sit on a rock just below the driftwood.  It was as if the ocean felt threatened and took the challenge, for on the very next wave it reached out and grabbed them.   Summer clung to her dad with all her might, but both managed to hold their anchor on that little rock.

While it gave me an adrenaline rush to watch, it also triggered a longing.  Secretly I wished I had been down there, water moving dangerous, exhilarated by the thrill, a participator rather than an onlooker.

Then the realization began to sink in.  Though my respite from the blogging world has been refreshing, it has also been safe.  Too safe.   I hear God calling me from the high bank and into the action.  So the breakers might engulf, I might feel terrified, and I might worry at the tide.  But clinging to my Savior, nothing can truly harm me.  I would rather be in the waves, enjoying life fully, than watching from the shore and missing the growth.   

The network is swamped with bloggers, many already saying what I mean to say. . . only better.  I get discouraged thinking, Why does the world need yet another blogger?   But, as I'm sure you've heard it said, just because the lilac next to me blooms profusely, doesn't mean I should not stretch to the Son with my own pink blossoms.  To hold back is to deprive others of beauty and blessing in a way that only I can give. 

I admit, it is hard to be vulnerable.  To click the publish button always gives me second thoughts and some self doubt.  At the same time, I'm learning that it is good for me, because in the place of risk and inadequacy is faith and God's enabling.  I want to live in a realm where life is at its fullest.  In the process of blogging, I'm forced to lean hard on the Lord, yet, always find His grace sufficient.  And that, coupled with the thought that I might encourage someone out there, even if only one, is worth it all. 

Thanks for hanging with me through this journey.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Windows to Life

Nothing causes me to think about the power of God like the ocean. 

Alive with energy, it remains wild and unpredictable.  Recently my family and I visited the Oregon coast.  It was my request that we go out at high tide, but I was not prepared for such violent waves, nor that it could pen us in and pull us down under its force. 

Our cabin was very near the shore and I wondered, what stops the waves from sweeping us out to the deep?   I know it is God who commands the sea to roll or stop.  He sets its boundaries so that it comes only this far and no further. 

Yet, there appeared to be only a small grassy bank keeping that massive Pacific in its place.  How can a few bushes, a rail fence, and a slight elevation stop the sea?  The slope seemed dwarfed and insignificant compared to the mass of water. 

Since it is God who created the world and holds it in place with His sustaining power, could He not also bring life from the dead?   And why would I be surprised that He would move a heavy stone from a tomb?  Yet, Jesus, in His risen body could walk through walls.  What reason would God have to remove the stone? 

Simply put, it was for us.  He invites us to "come and see," because He wants to be known. 

In order to get from one beach to another, there was a tunnel through the rock, a narrow passageway scattered with these peep holes on one end.  They were about 4 or 5 inches in diameter, quite small.  But if you placed your face right to them, a pocket of ocean could be seen. 

My pastor spoke just this morning of how God is far greater than our comprehension, but sometimes the scope through which we are looking has made Him out to be small.  I could not help but think of these peep holes in the rock.  . .

And of that hole in the tomb, a window into the wonder of what lies beyond.  It was for us that God rolled the stone away.  He wanted us to peer deeply into life, to witness the power of God, to see the evidence and believe. 

Everywhere I look I see fingerprints of God's handiwork.  Yet, nothing surpasses the cleansing forgiveness and relationship our risen Savior offers to us.  There are times when waves and wind seem personal and call me to their enchantment.  But never can the creation lift me to my soul's true purpose like Jesus, the giver of life.

In this season of blossoming trees, springing flowers, and tender gardens, I cannot help but wonder at those who do not believe.  What are their thoughts on a dormant winter coming to life, of seeds set in the ground where silent and unseen their resurrection soon becomes evident? 

Surely, Jesus is God and is risen from the dead, just as He said it would happen.  He earnestly calls us to Himself.  May He give each of us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to respond.

Have a blessed Easter!


Friday, April 18, 2014

The Shepherd's Heart

The sheep came eager, supposing the rancher brought hay.

But he came instead, for a lamb caught in a twisted culvert.  And the sheep wandered off . . . no longer interested.

And isn't that like Good Friday?  Jesus miraculously fed the crowds and they came back for more, in search of a king.  But when He said, "This is my body, broken," and "this is my blood, spilled," they were offended.  The people thought Jesus unattractive, and hopeless as a lamb abandoned in a rusted out culvert.

Holding fast to a cross, Jesus bore the shame of the world, and suffocated under the wrath of God.  It was too ugly, too personal for the crowds to accept.  Yet, even in their rejection their cries spoke the way, "May His blood be on us and our children."  (Matt. 27:25)  If only they had known how rich were those words!  Indeed, unless His blood be on us we perish.

This wandering from the way, a curiosity leading to entrapment, the Lamb of God willingly bore in our stead.  We sought freedom through good deeds, but the culvert would not budge, the law, immovable.

There was no other way but for the father to send his own son.

God made flesh, fulfilled His purpose:  death on a tree, crying,  "It is finished!"

With grunts and groans, like birthing a child, the lamb is pulled out.  The God man raised to life, the first fruits of all who believe, born to eternal life.

In that moment, the shepherd holds the lamb tender, 

                                                                                  then sends him out to seek his own.

So too, for those who believe, God our Father holds gently, soothing our fears, and binding up our wounds.

For we were like sheep going astray, but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.                    (1 Pet.2:25)

It truly is a good Friday, a Friday like none other, and I am forever grateful.   

"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."  (1 Pet. 2:2-3) 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When Regret Overwhelms

I wanted Easter to be meaningful, but was not prepared for the way in which it was/is coming.  I am filled with such remorse that I can scarcely bear the weight of my own shortcomings.  I thought I was more grown up, that I had learned from past mistakes and would never let myself utter such harsh words again, especially to those so near and dear to me.

I believe that proclaiming truth is my greatest gift.  Yet, with that comes potential for greatest weakness, through the words I speak. 

I don't know if I dare say this, but I've always felt that Christians are fairly hard on Judas Iscariot.  To think that he would actually betray the Lord and then go out and kill himself.  We cluck our tongues in self-righteous indignation.  Yet, I find myself relating to this man more than I care to admit.  When I feel so awful about my sin, it seems others could never forgive me, let alone Jesus, and I am filled with sorrow. 

But then there is Peter.  He too felt unworthy to ever be called God's own.  However, instead of running to despair, Peter ran to the Lord, seeking His mercy and forgiveness.  And I am encouraged that Jesus personally brought him back, making him strong in the Lord.

This week God has brought me to my knees, keenly aware of my need for a Savior.  Not only have I felt the shame and sting of my own sin, but also the sting of death.  A shadow of sadness has come over me as I watch my Dad struggle with what might be his last days.  Friday has been here all week, and its only Wednesday.   Though I'm pulled to despair, I refuse, because Sunday's coming. 

Resurrection Sunday, where all is made new and the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin.
Resurrection Sunday, where death cannot win and I am made righteous in God's sight.
Resurrection Sunday, where I am accepted in the Beloved, where Jesus is not ashamed to call me His own, because "both He who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family."  (Heb. 2:11) 

Praise God for His indescribable gift! 

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  (John 1:29)