Writer, teacher and Public Speaker

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life's "If Nots"

A few weeks ago, I finished reading the book, “Aggie: a girl without a country.” I had read it many years ago, but the recent reading affected me in a profound way. The first time I was inspired and awed by the story of a little Norwegian baby who was left orphaned in the Belgian Congo by her missionary father. He left the country a widower, bitter and faithless.  

Recently as I read the book,  I thought of several friends whose faith has failed. They were my peers: pastors, missionaries and lay ministers. When they reached midlife, it seems their theology fell apart, and they abandoned the very faith they had built their lives upon.

I can relate to disillusion and anger we feel in life. I lived with the deep undercurrent of frustration for many years. While my friends were all in Bible School, I spent most of my young adult years angry with God and the church. I had no interest in its seemingly empty creeds and doctrines. I explored the world’s alternatives and pleasures, and in the end they left me bankrupt. I decided I'd rather live this life, its pleasure and pain, with Christ rather than without Him. 

I’m grateful for the book I read soon after I made that commitment. I was living in Texas, and for my thirtieth birthday I took myself on a personal retreat. It was in a tent near Fredericksburg, Texas that I read Oswald Chamber’s book, “Baffled to Fight Better” – a study on the life of Job.

The words that stuck with me most was the quote, “Job had an implicit hold on God, not an explicit hold on God.” When all of Job’s pre-conceived ideas and creeds fell apart, he never lost faith. For a lifetime Job had been faithful and true, yet his world still fell apart. In the midst of the storms, he made bold declaration. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away - Blessed be the name of the Lord.” “Though he slay me, I will serve him.” While his friends quoted creeds and theologies, Job held on to the only truth he knew, “I know my redeemer lives.” *

As I observe the lives of friends who have abandoned their ministries and faith, I think perhaps they too lost their explicit hold on God. When life and theologies no longer made sense, all they could do was drop out of the battle. Perhaps their struggle was for a kingdom and not the King. I do not think this is the end of their stories. Every day I pray they will have a face-to-face encounter with their King 'who is the lifter of their heads.' *

I want my faith to be strong enough to handle the "if nots." As the three Israelite boys in the book of Daniel said. “Our God is able to save us, but if not, we still will not bow down.” As the apostle Paul said, “I want to know him, the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.” I refuse to ask for one and hope to be exempt from the other.

May we be so baffled by His presence that we will fight better. "May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven." 

* Job 1:21, Job 13:15, Job 19:25  -- * Psalm 3:3

Saturday, September 22, 2012

All that's Left

The sky is falling, or so they say
Those pundits who pontificate
Today it fell, and
Beyond the sky was
A kingdom with no end

Today, the earth shook,
It crumbled beneath my feet
Beneath this terra not so firma
I found a Rock – a Cornerstone
No thing on earth compares

When the fabric of life
Unravels, I discovered a
Thread that has carried me along

He’s more than a verse
Or even a song
He’s all that’s right
In a world gone wrong.

When all life’s an illusion
A ridiculous sham!

He remains
the great

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cathedrals of the World

Melk Abbey Austria ©
Once we travelled the rails and snaked our way high into the Swiss Alps to Andermatt. On our way back to the station we found a small church with huge wooden doors. Together my husband and I sat in the holy hush of candle light; surrounded by murals and sculptures from another time. I imagined the workers who built this haven so high on the rocky peaks.

I have walked cobbled stoned paths in Israel, Austria, Germany and Pompeii. I've bathed in light that danced its way through a million stained shards of glass, and rested in the splendor of places with domes covered in gold. I've watched the tourists with their careless cameras disrupt the faithful few. And listened to the walls hoping to hear the prayers of a thousand years. I eavesdropped once, though the language I did not know, to the prayer of one broken heart. Once I found an empty space, and risked singing an anthem of praise just to hear it echo off the ancient stones. When the tour ended, I filed out in hallowed silence, though my heart hungered for more.

But there's a faraway place that I hold so dear. A place that fills my heart with unspeakable delight. It has been the most magnificent cathedral of all. The artistry and worship were more than my senses could bare. No murals crowded my view of the sky, the walls were mud, but draped in vibrant cloth. I hold this place close to my heart, and think of it when the difficult days come (and trust me they do). 

The rhythm of their praise still echoes in my ear -- These were the songs of joy Christ must have heard as he endured the cross. Every tribe and tongue singing praises to their King. -- I remember that place and the sounds of their song. 

I remember their smiles and the way the children danced. The dust covered faces and ragged clothes. Nowhere near were there domes of gold. 

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God" Matthew 5:3

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fickle Hearts

I'm so glad God has used earthly relationship to explain His love for us. He uses all of the earthly examples, A father, a mother, a brother, a friend, a lover and an eternal bridegroom.

My husband and I are in our eighth year of marriage - I lift my glass, or tip my hat (whichever you prefer) to those who are decades ahead of us in your matrimonial journey. 

Trinity Church 2004
In our few short years, one of the more important lessons I have learned is you fall in love with the person you thought they were, but you grow to love (and commit to love) them for the person they really are. "I love you, not for who I thought you were, or for who I need you to be, but I love you for who you are."

Unless we go into marriage with this type of commitment then we may have the tendency to bail.

The same is true with our relationship with God. Often times we go into this relationship because of who we think He is. And when He fails to meet our expectations, we have a tendency to bail, rather than stay in the relationship and love Him for who he is.

In our brokenness, we form the objects of our love into who we need them to be. It's what we do with each other, and it is what we do with God, but He refuses to fit into the molds we've created for Him. If He did, He would be enabling our idolatrous natures. Ultimately what God desires to do is to heal our brokenness. He alone can heal the voids and wounds of our hearts. His love is greater than any earthly example: He loves with perfection. Until we can love Him for who He is, we love with the selfishness of a child. 

Whether in our earthly relationships, or with the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, the greatest reward is to allow love to become a selfless offering, so that we might know and be known. 

1 Corinthians 13:12 - "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Windows of our Heart

The Windows of our Heart

I love to imagine the scene from 2 Samuel 6 as it describes King David bringing the ark of the covenant - God's presence - into Jerusalem. They escorted the ark with shout of joy and praise, and David danced before the presence of the Lord.

Melk Abbey © TLW
In verse sixteen it reads, "Michal, the daughter of Saul looked out the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before God; and she despised him in her heart." She despised his exuberant and expressive worship before the presence of Jehovah, the covenant keeping God. David danced before the One who had been faithful to keep his promises to a shepherd boy. He knew the One he danced for. But Michal was so far removed from God's presence that all she could do was criticize and despise.

The part of the chapter than stands out the most, is verse eighteen and twenty. In verse eighteen we read that David offered up a burnt offerings, and blessed the people; in verse twenty he went home to bless his household. Instead he was greeted by a critical wife, she attacked him with her words.

Her critical spirit caused her to miss the blessing; she remained barren for the rest of her days. 

My prayer is that I will never be so removed from God's presence that I cannot rejoice with those who rejoice. And may I never allow criticisms to deprive me of the blessings. Lord, defined my life with fruitfulness and not barrenness! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vito has Died

Vito died this morning.

He’s my husband’s barber – he just cut my husbands hair two weeks ago. He’s old fashion in that he used scissors and not electric clippers… I’ve always imagined him being a bit like Edward Scissor Hands as he cuts:

He was an Italian. I bet you didn’t guess that … short in stature, dark hair, and a believer in Jesus Christ. But he wasn’t a church going believer – he dropped out of church long ago. Something about it left a bad taste in his mouth.

But his faith was real. He kept original artwork in his barbershop. You could see it through the window, just past the revolving red, white and blue barber post. The artist’s name is Gaetano – he didn’t know he could paint till he was put in prison.
Gaetano Milano ©

Long ago, Gaetano was one of Vito’s clients, and Vito always spoke to him about Jesus. But Gaetano wasn’t interested; he had other things on his mind. That is until he got put in prison for being the trigger guy in a Mafia murder.

It was while he was in solitary confinement that Gaetano shouted out to Vito’s God. In his desperation, he wanted to see what Jesus had to offer. After he was released from solitary, he discovered he could paint. He’s been prolific. Most of his paintings are centered around the theme of Christ and the Cross.

One month ago, Gaetano was released from prison after more than twenty years. Vito travelled south to celebrate the day with his friend.

Today Vito died. He was released from this prison of this world …

Those who remain will miss him – his family, his clients. But to be absent from this body, is to be present with the Lord. He has entered a place of rest, a place where there are no tears or pain.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Husband's Heart

Durnstein, Austria 2010 © 
My Husbands Heart

My husband had an echocardiogram this morning. Sound waves echoed through the chambers of his heart -- I wonder if it picked up the echoes of the praise that pours from his mouth. 

I imagine the tech may have heard tunes of Worthy is the Lamb, or Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing ...  

We could have saved everyone the time and money. You see, all is well within the chambers of this man's heart.

There may be a few physical aberrations in his physical heart - but with the heart that beats eternal -- all is well. 

 "Grow a wise heart you'll do yourself a favor; keep a clear headyou'll find a good life."


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Yellow Labs - God's Glory

I take a lot of pictures of my dog as she sleeps. I try in vain to capture her contentment with each snap. She can follow me into a room, and within seconds she will find the perfect spot and close her eyes. I've often accused her of faking it - "You can't be asleep ... no way." She is stoic, not even a flicker of the lids... Well, sometime.

Oswald Chamber's is quoted to have said. 'The Blue Jay honors God by just being a Blue Jay.'

My paraphrase is that the Yellow Labrador honors God by just being a Yellow Labrador.
Each day she effortlessly glorifies God by being exactly what He created her to be

My prayer is that I might learn to do the same: 

Delight myself in God in such a way that He will be delighted.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Opening my eyes ...

Warning: If you ask for God to show you how the work of repentance looks, perhaps you should add this disclaimer - God show me, but please don't ask me to listen to Jackie Pullinger describe the work that she has done among the poor and destitute in Hong Kong. 

If you want God to reveal the sin in your heart... you may not be able to bear what he reveals... 

It is much easier to repent from obvious sins of passion rather than the hidden sins of the heart. But, then again "God desires truth in the innermost parts."

Our heart is hard. Our eyes are blind and we are poor and deaf... 

God help us ... 

61 Isaiah 61:1-2

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

"For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me..."     Jesus