Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Maker of Mountains

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1,2

I've always loved mountains -- from the time I was a little kid I loved going up into the mountains for a picnic or a hike or a snow day. The air was so clean and the sky so blue. At night the heavens would be like black velvet painted with bright swatches of shimmering stars. I read stories about persecuted Christians who hid themselves in mountain caves, places of solace and safety. Visually mountains dominate the skyline and shape the view like nothing else -- symbols of strength and permanence. It was in the mountains that I came to believe in the real presence of God.

David loved the mountains -- he spent lots of time leading his sheep up and down desert mountain paths and writing songs inspired by his lofty surroundings. They became his hiding place when King Saul was trying to kill him. But mountains are really just big piles of dirt and rock -- inanimate variations on the earth's crust that, despite their attraction or symbolism cannot do anything to help, nurture, support or rescue. 

That's the conclusion David came to in his song we know as Psalm 121. He asked, Can the mountains help me when I am in trouble? Can the mountains give me strength when I am weak or refuge when I am in danger? His answer was a resounding, No -- but the Maker of mountains can do all that and more. It is God who is our hope and help -- stronger than granite peaks, more permanent than ageless summits, more reliable than rugged slopes. While the hills and mountains just sit there, God is constantly watching over His own.

I have always loved mountains in their beauty as well as what they represent. But my very real help comes solely from the Lord who made heaven and earth and all the mountains that surround me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Something Good For You

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  Lamentations 3:26

Standing on the balcony of a friend's house some time ago I noticed these two birds just sitting on the roof of the adjacent home. They were all fluffed up, though It wasn't cold, just a mild ocean breeze in the early evening, No, I thought, these guys aren't cold, they're just content to sit here and wait for something good to come along.They're not bored or impatient, just quietly expectant.

Yesterday I looked at the picture for the first time in over a year and decided I need to take a lesson from my tiny feathered visitors.  How many mornings have I rushed into the day fretting over what I needed or wanted to happen, worried that things might not go or come my way. Wasting my energy and time trying to manipulate outcomes and anxiously pursuing my own agenda without consideration for God's graciousness. I need to learn to wait quietly as Lamentations says for what God has in mind to bring to my life -- wait with hopeful expectation that whatever He brings to me, however he leads me, it will be good.

What good things will God bring to your life today? Will you wait for HIm with quiet trust and eager anticipation?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Morning Prayer

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory...  Psalm 115:1

My reading this morning brought me across this quote from Anne Lotz Graham -- part of a prayer she wrote in her book, The Daniel Prayer:  "We’re so sorry for spending the majority of our prayers thanking You for what You have done for us, and asking You to do something else for us, as though You exist for our personal benefit."

It struck me how true that has been of so much of my praying. I am usually the center of my prayer, asking God to bless me, bless my family, bless whatever it is I care about or need or am trying to change. But what about God? What does He want? What is He already blessing? How does my life align with His purposes and projects?

So this morning I pray: God remind me of my tether, that lifeline that connects me to the Almighty Mind and Will. Nothing spins around me. Everything is centered on and flows out of You. So God today let my life be an expression of Your intent, not a manipulation of Your grace. Show me what You are already blessing, and help me modify my "want-list" accordingly. Keep my eyes on Your glory, keep my heart on Your desire, keep my mind open to Your direction.

Today Lord, let it not be about me but all about Thee. Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Have Mercy On Me

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress... my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.  Psalm 31:9,10

I can certainly relate to David's anguish in this Psalm, though his distress was probably more the emotional result of hiding out from someone who was trying to kill him -- my trouble has been from being sick in bed. But when it comes to failing strength and "weak bones" there's little difference between the attack of a virus and the attack of an enemy. Sleepless nights filled with aches and fever can bring us to face the same angst as the stress of terror and fear -- it's that dark hole where the lines between physical and emotional meet in the spiritual. The same questions badger:  Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Will it ever end or is this the end? Where are you God?

Maybe I'm being too dramatic to compare my current bout with respiratory flu with David's mortal struggle -- after all I was able to go to urgent care and get some meds -- he could only hide out in a cave and hope that king Saul would give up his murderous pursuit. But in the middle of the night when conscious logic gives way to subconscious fears and feelings that erupt in a raging battle that feels like a life and death struggle, I can relate to his agony as I face my own.

Something about sickness takes us down to the basics of life -- the tension between power and helplessness, between cause and chance, between innocence and guilt. It's enough to make us cry out, as did David, "Be merciful to me Lord for I am in trouble." The good news is, God did deliver David, and thankfully He has been gracious to me -- I'm finally getting some sleep and I feel my body healing.

I hate being sick as much as David hated running for his life -- but if that's what it takes to keep me focused on my only Help and Hope, then Lord, bring it on, bring me down -- but please be merciful to me in the process.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Fear or Faith?

The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, "Move!" and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.  Matthew 17:20

If you knew that you could not fail, that success for your venture or direction was guaranteed, what would you do? If you knew that all the resources necessary to carry it out were available and you would lack for nothing, how would you proceed? If you knew that you not only had God's approval, but His backing, what would be the next steps of your life?

Most of us live our lives out of fear, not faith. We are afraid of what might happen, of what others will say, of doing the wrong thing. We think it might cost us too dearly if we followed the desire God has put in our hearts or the path He is pointing us to. We think the "right thing" must be that which carries no risk, no negative possibilities -- we equate "right" with "safe".But what if you had the assurance of God Himself that He would provide, that He would see you through? What if you had His promise that He would take care of the outcome?

Funny thing is, you do have that pledge, that backing, that Godly guarantee. Jesus said if you have faith, you can move mountains. Faith is not a commodity, it's a connection of trust. Do you believe Jesus or your own feelings? Do you believe the promise of God or what appears to be reality? Fear is exactly what the recovery acronym says: False Expectations Appearing Real. 

So will you live your life out of fear or out of faith? 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Privilege of Praise

The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence; it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD.   Psalm 115:16-18

God has given this earth to us to enjoy and care for. But He has also given us the privilege and responsibility of being the creatures that sing His praises. It isn’t the rocks, trees, mountains and skies that sing praise to God; or the living creatures that articulate His goodness, though we see evidence of His handiwork in all of these. It isn’t the legacy of those who have gone before that give God glory, though their stories remind us of how great God is. It is you and me that give honor and glory to God through our prayers, through our songs, through our thanks, through our obedience. 

In all of creation, we are the ones given the task, we are the ones who can make the choice of telling the whole world – “Our God is in the heavens, and He does whatever He chooses to do, and He has chosen to give us His Son Jesus Christ as the saving grace for the human race."

How will you choose to praise the Lord today?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Beautiful Stain

You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.  Psalm 85:2

I've been refinishing my sister's floors this summer and I was thinking yesterday about the stain. The wood floors I'm working on are old, marred and full of scratches and spots. But they are oak so we decided to try and "reclaim" them. I say "we", but that's me, the amateur floor refinisher. To do the job right is quite labor-intensive -- first they had to be cleaned, then sanded two or three times. Once the sanding was done it was time for stain followed by multiple layers of sealer coats. The floors were in bad enough shape that they could have just been covered over with new tile or laminate or hardwood. But there was enough potential in them that we took the chance to see if all the scars and marring could be transformed into something beautiful. It was the deep rich wood stain that did the trick -- a rich, reddish brown color that made all the ugliness into a gorgeous vintage floor.

Like the blood of Jesus. Mostly the Bible talks about how the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, and it does. But His blood also covers our sinfulness and transforms our broken imperfect lives into a work of divine art. His sacrifice takes our character flaws and creates in us a strength and purpose that attracts rather than repels. The stain of the cross penetrates deep into our souls and reveals the grain of God that we were created to show. And under His masterful craftsmanship, our lives become a thing of beauty.

Looking at my sister's floors now makes me want to have floors like that. When God's work in applying the passion of His Son to your heart is done, others will marvel and say, "How did he/she turn out like that? I didn't know it was possible."