Knots & Tangles

I enjoy discovering tangible visible pictures which are able to point us to spiritual truth, so sometimes I worry I fill my blog with these too familiar analogies that have been heard over and over. The image to which I am referring, I first encountered in a book by Corrie ten Boom. She was sewing an intricate needlepoint design. When she worked, if she looked at the back, it was a bunch of knots and tangles that made no sense. When she turned it over, varied colored threads and stitching were interwoven to create a beautiful picture.

In this present life, we may only see the tangles and knots, but God knows how everything will appear once the tapestry of our life is turned over. The black grief and trials that crisscross and obscure our understanding of the here and now are merely the background of our eternal future where the gold thread of grace and the red thread of redemption triumph.

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him. – Author Unknown

GODISNOWHERE

Many of us are muddling through these days feeling helpless, hopeless or as if life is out of control.  As we view our current circumstances, do we believe “God is nowhere” or are we able to perceive “God is now here”? What we feel depends on perspective. When I think God is distant, I lose hope. When I forget God is sovereign, things seem out of control.

Where is your hope? If I could sit with you, I would want you remind you that God is now here in this very moment. Sometimes our vision becomes cloudy, as if we have spiritual cataracts, and we require surgery from our Great Physician.  Unfortunately, this process of gaining spiritual sight is not as quick and uncomplicated as having a cataract removed from our physical eyes. The process may take an entire lifetime… until we see Jesus fact to face. If 20/20 spiritual vision is seeing people and circumstances with God’s perspective, we have a long way to go; however, as our vision becomes unclouded, our hope grows.

It may be hard to hold onto hope, but you can always hold on to Jesus. Even better, He is holding fast to you and nothing can snatch you from His hand.

May the God of HOPE fill you with all HOPE as you trust in Him Romans 15:13

41 Wolves

I came across a fascinating article about Yellowstone National Park.  In 1995, forty-one wolves were re-introduced into the environment. Within a few years, many changes occurred. More beavers populated the streams and rivers. The waters were clearer. Flowers that had not been seen in many years appeared. A small number influenced a whole population.

I find encouragement in considering this. Just a few of us can change the world. Unfortunately, this this is frequently evidenced as darkness, evil, and disease multiply in this world. But we are the light! Our pinpricks of light can and will influence the darkness. Our acts of love, kindness, faithfulness, and truth cascade into areas we cannot imagine.

In social work, it is called the systems theory. If one element of the system changes, the whole system is impacted. I encourage you to be a world changer! The Lord God told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because I, the Lord am with you!”  Displaying courage and strength in the Lord during challenging times becomes similar to the 41 wolves. A small number of faithful believers, fully trusting in the Lord changes everything.

Image result for google images wolf

https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem

Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:15-16 Be careful how you walk not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil. Don’t be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.

How are we able redeem the time? We have been given long quantities of time at home. What are we to do to wisely make the most of our opportunities? How can we invest in eternal things? How can we work within the limits imposed upon us?  What seeds can we plant that will bear fruit over the weeks or months or years?

We can be inspired by Paul’s attitude as expressed in Philippians; he realized that even though he was imprisoned the gospel was not. That truth remains. God is not limited, and His purposes will prevail. Instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I want to look for open doors.

How many times have I thought,” If only I had more time to pray and study God’s word”?  Now, I am gifted with the opportunity to delve more deeply into God’s word and draw near to Him. I can pray more intentionally for missionaries, persecuted believers, our spiritual and governmental leaders, and my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

I can worship our Everlasting God, our Creator and Redeemer. I can sing praises.  I can fix my eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.

I am able to think on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. If there is anything excellent or worthy of praise, I can dwell on those things.

I can still write blogs and send texts or make calls to encourage others.

I have wanted more time for painting and to learn a language.

There are closets and garages to clean.

Now I can even take a nap.

We can ask the Lord to show us how to leverage this time for His glory. The answer will be unique for each one of us, but when we trust in the Lord and do not depend on our own understanding, God will guide us in all our ways.  

Immanuel

Photo by Inactive. on Pexels.com

A friend and I were discussing the manifest presence of God. She had been reading and hearing messages, and she wondered what I thought. At that time, I was not prepared to answer, but her question has had me mulling over this for several weeks.

In Exodus, God presented Himself to Moses in the burning bush and later to the nation of Israel as the Shekinah glory of the Lord hovered over the community appearing as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God hid him in the cleft of the rock and the Lord’s goodness passed before him.

When Elijah asked for a sign from the Lord, it was not given in the earthquake or fire, but in God’s whisper.

In the gospels, Jesus Himself is the manifest presence of God. He performed many extraordinary signs. In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples, “I will disclose myself to you.” Jesus then promises a helper, the Holy Spirit who will come make his home in us. From my understanding, it is not whether we will experience the manifest presence of God, but will we perceive it?

In Hebrews we are to boldly approach God’s throne where we receive mercy and grace in our time of need.  Every instance of God’s grace in my life is His manifest presence.

Yes, the manifest presence of God can be dramatic, such as a voice bellowing from the clouds. However, I think few believers experience God in that way, but each of us is gifted with experiencing the manifest presence in the sublime. Is it less spectacular that while reading His word, He whispers?  When the sun rises and sets, His voice goes out into all the earth. Hebrews describes the mature believer as one who has been trained to discern good from evil. Spiritual maturity also enables us to discern God’s presence and voice in the beauty of creation and in the mundane of daily life. Moreover, every believer, filled with the Holy Spirit manifests the presence of God. God chooses us, fragile, imperfect jars of clay to showcase Himself.

And where is God in our darkest times? Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. The more we dwell on this truth, the more we fine tune our senses to experience His presence. When we attune our ears to listen, we will hear.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Labels

A while ago, during the course of the week, I was called both a Zionist and a Yankee. I wasn’t sure what a Zionist is, so I came home to look it up. I joked with my husband that there are a lot worse things to be called, but still I felt misunderstood. Someone was putting me in a category simply because God has given me a love for the Jewish people, and I encourage others to pray for Israel. Another person thought my rapid speaking was an indicator I came from somewhere “up North.”

I decided to blog about this topic to challenge myself and others to be cautious in when using labels. Labels have power. For their own convenience, someone placed me in a category without really knowing or understanding me. It is all too common to label someone based on a cursory conversation or specific criteria. Our education system is filled with labels. Even in our churches, we tend to label and categorize. Whether charismatic or Calvinist, senior or millennial, these labels imply something the user may think useful, but likely the one labeled will feel unvalued or “put in a box.”

Jesus was familiar with labels. In John 10:20 Jesus was accused of being “demon-possessed and raving mad.” In Mark 3:21, Jesus was labeled, “out of his mind.” In Matthew 11:19, Some said, “Here is a glutton and drunkard.” Obviously, all those labels are clearly incorrect!

Labels limit. Someone mentioned to me that she could not find a small group to attend because none of the labels fit – She felt excluded rather than connected.

Jesus came to tear down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and woman. He made us one in Christ. He removes our labels but gives us a new name. What ultimately matters is not how we are labeled by men but that our identity is in Christ as forgiven, redeemed children of God. Even so, take care not to employ careless labels which could lead to hurt or misunderstandings we never intend.

Job’s Friends

As I was reading through the book of Job, I noticed a prayer I had written in the margin, “Please, Lord, keep me from being like one of Job’s friends.”  As Chapter 2 explains, his friends started out well. When they saw Job’s great suffering, they sat silently with him for 7 days.

Unfortunately, they decided remaining silent with Job was not enough. They began offering advice and spiritual “wisdom.” They blamed Job for his condition and made suggestions what he should do to get right with God. Even when they spoke truth, their timing and motives were skewed.

I have several wonderful friends. One quality they all share is their compassionate ability to listen.  Yes, they challenge me and remind me of truth, but they are more interested in being there for me than providing me with good advice.

Over the years and moves, I have known people who mean well, yet with them, I felt guarded with or even misunderstood. When Mike was gone for a year in Korea, I can’t tell you the number of people who said, “The time is going so quickly!” For me the year did not pass quickly! Every day seemed long, so I felt even more alone when people said that.

Another time I don’t feel heard is when someone offers a spiritual platitude or verse in response to deep grief or disappointment. For example, when someone says, “God’s timing is always right” or “God works everything together for good.” Without a doubt these are true, yet I think when someone has been waiting a long time for God to answer a prayer, and sees God more quickly answering the prayers of those around them, these truths may not bring comfort, but doubt or confusion. A friend will remind them how precious they are to God even if He seems silent. Until the suffering one can see God’s light shine forth, a friend “bears all things” remaining with them as a reminder God will never leave them or forsake them. 

People who have not experienced depression, grief or chronic illness may not realize the tentacles that strangle out joy and energy from everything. To recommend a simple answer like a book or sermon, exercise or change in diet trivializes the suffering someone faces. To suggest that the person move on or not dwell their condition is as impossible advice as suggesting they grow 6 inches taller.

Sadly, texts and e-mails may enable us to be more like Job’s friends. It is too easy to write off a quick response and without really hearing what our friend is saying.

It is easy to let too many weeks or months or years go by without reminding someone we care.

It is too easy to assume the God would instruct our friend in the same way and on the same path He has led us.

Friendship is very rewarding, but maintaining true friendships take time and effort. Sitting with someone in their pain and waiting for answers from God is not comfortable. When I think about it, being a true friend is impossible. However, thankfully nothing is impossible with God. He can transform me from being a friend like Job’s to a friend like Jesus.

The Other Wiseman



I collect nativities and keep many on display all year long. I enjoy the reminder of the wonder and mystery of God becoming incarnate, of Jesus, the Creator, the King, born in an obscure village to poor parents.  When I consider the birth of Jesus, I wonder which person I would respond most like – hopefully not the innkeeper who failed to recognize the opportunity right in front of him. Instead. I would hope to respond like the shepherds who quickly hastened to follow the sign from heaven, seeking and finding the Christ.

I never really connected to the Magi, the elite of their society with resources to make an incredible journey seeking truth. Then I came across a story by Henry Van Dyke originally published in 1895. Since it is available free through public domain, I hope you will take time to read it. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10679/10679-h/10679-h.htm

Mr. Van Dyke chronicles the journey of another wiseman. He is delayed joining the others because stops to help someone in need. Even so, he doesn’t give up, but continues the pilgrimage to arrive in Bethlehem only to find he has missed the One to whom the star was pointing. Along the way this seeker is interrupted by many, yet he takes time to assist those who cross his path as he searches for the promised King. This wise man enters Jerusalem just in time to purchase the freedom of a young girl being sold into slavery, but not in time to see the Messiah before He was crucified.

I feel like that character. Every day, I get interrupted and detoured by little things.  I say, “no” to seemingly “exciting” or “fulfilling” things so I can say, “yes” to the people closest to me. Like the pilgrim, I arrive at what I perceived was the goal too late or never at all.

This wise man dies saddened that he was never a part of the big events, never reaching his quest, yet as he enters heaven, the one He was searching for joyously welcomes him. Jesus astounds him by saying, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

  Many keep the path, but will not reach the goal;

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,

  While he who walks in love may wander far,

  Yet God will bring him where the blessed are. Henry Van Dyke

The Greatest of these is Love.

Wait Training

Although we are in the midst of the Advent season, a time of waiting and anticipation, it seems that in today’s society, waiting has become a lost art. We don’t know how to wait in expectancy because we have Instagram and same day delivery. As much as I hate to admit it, I, too, have become terrible at waiting.

My friend Linda is a fitness instructor. As part of her classes, the participants use weights. Weight training builds muscle strength and enables us to stand taller and endure more strain.

I think our Heavenly Father also has us in a training program – wait training. His training builds inner strength, enables us to stand firmer in our faith and endure more stress.

Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired,They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

We often to quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope,” but this promise would take a long time to fufill. Verse 10 reads, “When 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fufill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” The people of long ago were able to wait patiently because they knew God had a plan.

How can I learn to trust God is He gives me everything I want as soon as I ask for it?

Perhaps one secret learned in wait training is knowing and believing the truth of His word. God has a plan and His plans cannot be thwarted. God never fails to keep any of His promises. Before the world was spoken into existence, the Trinity’s devised a master strategy for Jesus to live among mankind, to be brutally crucified, to pay for our sin, and  to purchase our redemption. Knowing the Lord’s design ultimately results in our good, we can wait for Him to answer prayers and reveal details to us. We understand with certainty His second advent approaches. When Jesus returns to reign, we will reign with Him and receive an eternal inheritance that can never perish or fade away. The Lord will fufill His good word to us and bring us to be with him forever.

The Unnoticed Commission

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to my brethren…” Matthew 28:10

I love Jesus with all my heart and soul and want others to know of His love, but I do not have the gift of evangelism. However, after reading these first words recorded after Jesus rose from death, I realize I have the same purpose which He gave to these women. Jesus was commissioning these women to go back to the people they knew and share words of hope. The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive! His promises are true! Furthermore, Jesus wants to meet with them.

We are more familiar with the “great commission” found later in the chapter where Jesus tells his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” I don’t think I will ever baptize anyone, but when I read Jesus words to the two Marys, I felt my heart leap. I can identify with the task He gave them. I go to my sisters and my brothers and share His words with them. It is one of my greatest joys to discuss a passage of the Bible and find God’s promises and hope. I know that because the tomb is empty, we have hope for the darkest situations. I can remind my brothers and sisters that the Lord wants to meet with each one of them. It comforts me to know that witnessing is not limited to church planting and explaining theology but simply testifying of God’s goodness and grace in my life.