Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who Am I?

Who are we?  What are we doing here?
In all the wide universe, what is humankind's place?

We sit here in a vast cosmos, sandwiched somewhere between quarks and distant galaxies, on a single planet between viruses and blue whales, and amid all of them, I am transfixed by what we are.  Ants don't care.  Dogs don't care.  Oak trees don't care.  Neither Venus nor Mars cares.  But I do.

I look at myself, feeling the life and strength, seeing what I can do.  By simply living, I influence my world.  I mold, build, destroy.  I grow stuff and I think stuff up. I know power in all of this, flexing and moving, and the excitement at my abilities in this world grows.  My own image casts itself against the great backdrop of heaven and earth, and I cry, "I am woman!"


Then I remember:
What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?--1Corinthians 4:7

For everything I build, God first made the building materials. For everything I grow, God first made the seed.  For every thought, God provides the inspiration.  It is His.  It is all His.

Who am I in the universe?
I am the image, the flesh and blood reflection, of my Creator God.  

I walk with arms and legs that came from His very thought.  I think with a brain, a mind, modeled on His own. I manipulate a world conceived and made from nothing before time began purely from His imagination. 

And this does not make me less, it makes me more.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them...--Genesis 1:27

Sunday, August 26, 2012

All the Little Foxes

Blooms are so tender. 
Fragile Spring flowers hold such hopes for ripe fruit. 
The grapes yielded now, at the end of summer, were sown many months ago, when sweet petals unfolded, beckoning the bees. 
But if blooms fail in the spring, if the flower withers, all is ruined.

Predators threaten the promise of fruit.
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.--Song of Solomon 2:15

While we live, our own harvest, like that of the vineyard, is not sure.
Little foxes stalk our faith, our life in Christ.

Union with God is not complete in this world.  It can't be.
We are constantly distracted by the fox--the fox that is flesh and blood and, by nature, partially broken.

The danger is not in the part of us that loves God, the part in bloom, but the part not yet subject to Him.
If we are to see fruit, we must protect the bloom, that is, give to God ever-increasing portions.
We cannot rest on the part of God already blooming in our hearts.  We must stalk the fox in us, and chase him out. In doing so, we yield to Christ's promise, and make ways for the complete work of the True Vine.

We must resolutely grow in God.
If you think you stand firm, be careful you don't fall.--1Corinthians 10:12

Don't kid yourself.  The fox lurks.  Weakness and sin threaten.
But Christ brings the promise of a harvest.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Forget the Pool

Thinking today about the lame man sitting beside the pool at Bethesda, waiting 38 years to be healed.  Jesus, knowing everything about him, asks the man,
Do you want to be healed?--John 5:6

Obviously, waiting at the pool was not getting the job done.
Jesus wanted the man to reconsider his position.
Jesus did not just want to heal him.  He wanted to show him something wonderful.
He not only wanted the man to walk, He wanted him to see.

When Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, restoring his mobility was not the point.
Jesus did not want to give him only legs that worked.
He wanted the man not to walk, but by walking to see real power.

The man had waited vainly for so long because he looked for the wrong thing in the wrong place.  He looked to get well, not to find God.

Where do I look? 
Do I look for relief?  Do I look for a spot of water to bring it?  Do I look to someplace else on the planet or to something of flesh and blood?  Do I think these can enact rescue, provide comfort?

Or do I look always into the eyes of my Savior?  Do I see His extended hand, offering more than the world, more than legs that work, more, more, more?

Forget the pool.  I want the power.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Going Home

Life gets tough sometimes and, when it does, I just want to go home.  Home.
But at this stage of life, where is home?
Not where I grew up, certainly.  Too much water under the bridge for that.
Not even where I currently park my hat--this place is complicated, expects too much.

I want to go where I am protected, where I am safe, where I am not in charge.
And I only know of one place.

The Lord is my Rock, my fortress and deliverer.  My God is my rock in whom I take refuge...He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior--from violent men You save me.--2 Samuel 22:2-3

Funny thing about my home, though.
I have to go there.
The refuge does not come to me where I am.
If I want its safety and protection, I have to surround myself with its parapets and gates, with its unyielding stone and battlements.  They will not form themselves around me.

God's strength is only available to someone willing to uproot from her normal dwelling place and travel what sometimes seems like a very long way.
And the trip is sometimes hard.
But protection and safety wait at the end.
Where all things turn out right.  Where someone bigger than me is in charge.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Can't Get No...

"I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God...."  We sing it every Sunday, shoulder to shoulder with dear, familiar faces.  We know their children, their sorrows, their prayers.  We share their lives, and they ours.  The song makes a sweet confirming concert, a satisfaction of belonging.

But God does not want us satisfied.
All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.--Ecclesiastes 1:7
As the deer pants for streams of waters, so my soul pants for you, O God.--Psalm 42:1

My union with believing brothers and sisters cannot calm my yearning for God Himself.  
I cannot rest in familiar flesh and blood arms.
We can love our family, but like in the whirlwind, God is not there.
He waits for us in the quiet place of solitary devotion, in the whisper of His Word, in the pillow talk of prayer.

No matter how much we love the people around us, while we live, we can never have all that God intends for us.
Now we see as through a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face.--1Corinthians 13:12

I need to be troubled if I do not want more. 
The solace of companionship of family and friends was never intended to do more than bring a short moment's ease.  It is a shallow pool, a pause while I search for the never-ending stream.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.--Luke 6:21

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Out of Orbit

I love my church family.  Don't you?

Every Sunday, the same dear faces, smiles of recognition, hearts that have prayed for whatever concerns cloud my heart, sweet familiar voices lifted all around in songs repeated so often they seem gentle friends themselves.  A refuge of common faith.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!--Psalm 133:1

We stay together; we pray together....
But we can also stray together.

The Ephesians discovered this when John warned them:
You have forsaken their first love.--Revelation 2:4

The believers in Ephesus started out fine, just like us.  They cared about one another.  They prayed.  They ate together.  They did good works together, but somehow, they ended up off course, out of orbit.

This didn't happen all at once.
It happened in a slow creep away from the light, step by small step.

The church--every church, your church and mine,--can walk into darkness together, feeling perfectly fine about it.  We are still in unity, we think.  Surely, we can't be too wrong.

But we can.

So how do we test our church?
We do it by remembering that our church is not our church.  It belongs to Christ.
God placed all this under His feet and appointed Him head over everything, for the church, His body.--Ephesians 1:22

We do it by growing closer to Him individually and so maintain our rudder corporately.
Whatever binds us together as a church must take second place to what binds us to Christ.
The most important commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.--Matthew 22:37-38

Our love for one another can push us out of orbit.
We can travel safely together only when we look primarily not toward each other, but toward Christ.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting Burned

The sun rose red this morning.  It crested the horizon in stunning pageantry, shining with glorious promise, and by its gentle light, I welcomed a new day.

But I would not have found the sun so hospitable from a closer vantage point.

The temperature on the surface of the sun is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  It doesn't glow; it explodes in blazes of fierce fire.  Anyone drawing near would burn up before they got within 3 million miles.

God created the heavens and the earth to display Himself.
Our God brings life and warmth, but at the same time burns white-hot and dangerous.

Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before Him and around Him a tempest rages.--Psalm 50:3

We draw near to Him with warning, but cannot resist His call.
I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless.--Genesis 17:1

The sun, now warm and nurturing, now a destroying furnace, stands inexorably above all things, every day reflecting its maker.

The closer we get to the sun, the more we are aware of its power.  Like God, it only seems friendly from a long way off.

I cannot know the sun's physical touch, but I can feel its influence.
To approach would mean death, but to witness and experience is glorious.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Who Really Rises

The sun does not rise.
Just saying.
That big yellow ball on the eastern horizon every morning is not the one moving.
We are.  The earth.  The blue marble.

Now, intellectually, we already know this.  The earth revolves around the sun, not the sun around the earth, but when I look out of the the window at 6AM, I think, "The sun is coming up."
But it isn't.  Instead, I am on the earth, and the part of the earth I occupy is turning to face the sun.  Every day, my patch of earth slowly rotates relative to our stationary sun, then turns during the night away from it.  Our dawn is simply my face turning into the light.

Now, when you think about it, this makes perfect sense.
God made the world to reflect Himself.
He is the sun...constant, glorious and full of light.  We are the earth...vacillating, moving now toward Him, now away. 

You remain the same, and Your years will never end.--Psalm 102:27
I, the Lord, do not change.--Malachi 3:6

God finds delight in us as we seek Him, as we turn from dark to light.
He does not move.
Luckily, that makes Him easy to find.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Who Is My Enemy?

It's hard to think about having enemies. 
I have family connected by blood, friends connected by heartstrings, and acquaintances connected by circumstance, but enemies?
Nobody is shooting at me, cursing me, or actively blocking my progress, are they?  No, not really.

But God thinks they are.
He keeps telling me that He will defend me from enemies as though He assumes I have them.
What am I missing?

I think it is this:  My enemy is not a person.
My enemy is blindness.
My enemies are the people and things I bring close enough to block my vision, to distract me from God.

The Lord said to Moses, "When you cross the Jordan, drive out all the inhabitants before you.  Destroy their images and idols and demolish their high places.  Take possession of the land, for I have given it to you."--Numbers 33: 50-53

The territory I have to conquer is not only physical, it is the ground I have given to an enemy in heart or action.  
What habits do I maintain that come from former times? They are my enemies.
What thought patterns placate or distract me?  They are my enemies.
What plans and desires derail God in my life?  They are my enemies.

Just as I can't know salvation until I know I am a miserable sinner, God cannot destroy my enemy until I acknowledge its identity. And the enemy often comes from within.

God reminds me that I more often embrace my enemy than engage him. 
But when I do choose to stand my ground against an enemy, the fight is God's and I am guaranteed victory.
In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.--Romans 8:37