Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Far Side of the Sea"

Larry is following a "Heart of England Way" footpath through a farmer's field.  The mile long path also led along a flower bordered walkway and beside a person's sheep pen before ending up at the small village of Broad Campden where the only business there is Baker's Arm Pub where we had a nice hot cup of tea and shepherd's pie.  It was a cold, windy walk through unknown pathways that felt like a real adventure and we loved it!

It was not until afterward that it dawned on me that no one in the whole world knew where we were as we wandered through the countryside, nor did anyone there know who we were -- in case some misfortune had befallen us.  No sooner had such thoughts flitted into my mind than the wonderful promise of God in Psalm 139:9 reminded me of His great promise:  "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your right hand will hold me fast."  When you are winging your way here and yon on the far side of the sea as we were, what an absolutely wonderful assurance to know that our heavenly Father knows our every footstep and every breath.  It gives me a warm feeling and makes me smile just to think such incredible thoughts.

Psalm 139 is another one of my favorites (I told you I had a lot of favorites!).  How I love the entire chapter - except for verses 19-22, which don't seem to fit with all the good stuff, but God has a reason for everything -- I just don't dwell on them.  Here's a few more of the verses that thrill me:  "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you" 17-18.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jars of Clay

One of my favorite verses (and I have quite a few favorites!) is found in 2 Corinthians 4:7:  "For we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." I love this verse!  It's a powerful statement that has meaning for every Christian.

The photo of lovely, colorful pots above was taken some years ago in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Even though these clay pots look sturdy, every one of them can be broken -- that's a common problem with clay pots.  Some of the pretty pots and jars in the picture were probably already chipped.  We share a similar problem with our bodies, which are the jars of clay referred to in the scripture.  No matter how strong a body might be, it can still be broken and many of us already have a chip here and there.

These jars of clay that we walk around in have a couple other things in common with the pretty clay pots.  Like clay, our bodies are also made from the elements of the earth, and were also fashioned by a master potter's hands according to a pattern he had in his mind.  Some day, the inner self that comprises each of us will leave our jar of clay and rise into the loving, waiting arms of our Master Potter.

Until that day though, we should rejoice in the fact that we are filled to the brim with the priceless treasure of the all-surpassing power of the Holy Spirit that is from God (and actually IS God) and -- as we need to be constantly reminded -- not from ourselves.

This reminds me of the two sides of the "strength coin" as I call it:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" versus "Without Him I can do nothing."  If we could just remember this in our everyday lives as we rest and rejoice in the all-surpassing power that abides within us as Christians, it would make our lives much less stressful.  A jar of clay under stress is much more likely to crack -- and we don't want to be a cracked pot, do we (:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Demon of Apprehension

This goat-like demon sculpture is perched on the edge of the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.  He is one ugly piece of work!  I will never understand the proliferation of demon look-alikes scattered around on so many churches.  It makes absolutely no sense!  But, that's not what I'm writing about here.  My subject today is Apprehension.  Is that something you ever suffer from?  Well, it seems like the Demon of Apprehension has pitched a tent inside me and I'm sick of it!

"Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted within me?" Psalm 42:5.

Lately, I feel like I live in a state of apprehension far too much of the time.  It consists of an unsettled unease that lodges in the pit of my stomach and the back of my mind.  This uneasy state of mind colors my life with a swath of muddy gray.  Why is it lodged in my heart and mind?

I realize that I have not been spending enough time with my Lord lately.  Life has been so very busy and as I slip further away from personal communion with Him, the Demon of Apprehension has insinuated himself in my life more and more.  I've let myself become too burdened by the cares of this world and others, and not rested in the bosom of my beloved Father as I should. 

Sarah Young writes, "Do not miss the joy of My presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Rather, 'take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.  My yoke is comfortable and pleasant; My burden is light and easily borne'" Matthew 11:28-30.

I love the words of Jesus when He says to me (and you), "Let not your heart be troubled...."

Oh, to rest in the loving arms of my Savior, and let Him cast that old demon from the parapets and crush him underfoot.  "Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You" Psalm 40:16.

Thanks you, O Father, and bless your holy name!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I'm standing beside a tall, well-trained guard in front of the Greek Parliament Building in Athens, Greece.  This guard is armed with a rifle with bayonet attached.  He could do some damage to an intruder.  Since I'm obviously no threat, he's effectively ignoring me.  That's fine with me -- all I wanted was a picture.

This guard represents strength in a man or woman and how people so frequently depend on their own strength to get them through difficulties.  I think as Christians this is one of our biggest failures (of course, there are many more biggies out there too).  The "Do it yourself" mentality is pervasive and persistent.  Sometimes the Lord will make a point with me.  I'll be trying and trying to take care of a situation or do something in my own strength.  Then, it will dawn on me, "Oh, I should ask Jesus to help me," and I do.  At such times, the Lord makes His point by immediately answering my need. 

On several occasions lately, the answer to my request for help is so immediate, I do a double-take.  By answering my need so quickly, the Lord also is making it very plain that it was He, not me, that took care of the issue -- and, thankfully, at such times, I'm very aware of that and I stop and praise Him for His amazing grace and answer to my prayer.

Psalm 33:16-17 says, "No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength.  A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength."
Similarly, in 44:3 says, "For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; but it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance."

Although these verses allude to pitched battles, they can be used to spotlight our dependence on human strength in any sort of circumstance.  God so wants us to be aware of His indwelling presence and His ability and desire to help us in every instance.  I like the verse in 34:10:  "The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing."

What a great promise for you and me.  The comparison between young lions in all their strength lacking and suffering, and those of us who simply seek the Lord and depend on Him lacking for no good thing -- now, that's a beautiful picture.  Next time you have a need, seek the Lord first -- and not as a last resort.  "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever" Psalm 106:1.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Donkeys...and Saul

Since I wrote about the last two donkey miracles, it reminded me of another yet another donkey miracle that I discovered in scripture a couple years ago.  It thrills me that I can see something in scripture that pops out at me as if it's totally new -- yet, it may be something I've read many times before.  It's such a God-thing - to bring out new information when His children are ready to receive it - I love it!

This photo shows a herd of wild donkeys roaming free in Custer State Park in South Dakota.  As you look at the picture, imagine this is a herd of donkeys belonging to Kish, the father of Saul in the Old Testament.  Also, imagine the setting as being in Israel which I think probably looks very much like what you're looking at in the picture above.  The story I'm going to relate appears in I Samuel 9-10.

The story involves the man who would become the first anointed king of Israel, Saul, but the truth I want to emphasize is not specifically about Saul, rather it is about the original king of Israel – God himself.  God was the director and producer of this story – Saul was merely an actor who played his part without even realizing he was doing so.
Before we look at the story, I want us to look at a section of verses in Isaiah 46 that relate to the amazing power of the sovereignty of God:  For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me; Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure, Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country.  Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass.  I have purposed it; I will also do it.”  (9-11)
These verses describe God in total control of the future as well as the present.  Notice the phrase:  Calling…the man who executes my counsel from a far country.”  That’s basically what this story of Saul is about -- and it's the part of the story that I find so fascinating – the part that gives us a perfect illustration of the sovereignty of God.  God is in control of all things and moves people and animals and nature at His will.  We’ll be able to look over God’s shoulder, so to speak, and see how he orchestrated this whole event with Saul to turn out just as He wished it to – down to the minute.
We begin our story in I Samuel 9:3 with a herd of missing donkeys:  "Now the donkeys belonging to Saul's father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, 'Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.'" 
At this point, Saul traveled through the hill country of Ephraim, then through the area around Shalisha, then into the district of Shaalim, and then the territory of Benjamin.  These men were covering a lot of territory in search of these donkeys.  By the time they reached the district of Zuph, three days had passed and Saul was ready to turn back.  His servant, however, said there was a man of God in that town who might tell them where the donkeys were -- that man was the prophet Samuel who, strangely enough, was waiting for young Saul that very moment.

Here's the amazing thing:  God scattered those donkeys at just the right time to cause Saul to frantically search for three days so that he would arrive at this particular town on this afternoon to meet Samuel who had been instructed by God to wait here for Saul.  On top of that, the people in the town were seated and waiting for the guest of honor to arrive at the feast -- that guest was Saul -- who, by the way, would also be anointed as the first king of Israel!  And all this happened without Saul having the least knowledge that all these events were being orchestrated that would totally change his life.

And what about the herd of donkeys?  Samuel told Saul, "As for the donkeys you lost three days ago do not worry about them; they have been found."  The missing donkeys had done their job and they were back at the ranch chowing down on hay.

I am thankful for this story where we can so clearly watch the hand of God in action.  The reminder that God is in control of every breath we take is loud and clear.  He who keeps the planets spinning and the sun shining at just the right distance, also watches over every step we take and gently nudges circumstances to create His plan for our lives. What a blessing to rest in His almighty, loving plan.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Forever Plaid

On Friday night we went to my son-in-law Derek's opening night for the musical play, "Forever Plaid."  It was great and we are so proud of the fantastic job he did as one of the four men ensemble troupe.

"Forever Plaid" is the fictional story of a 1950s quartet who were killed in a car crash one night on the way to one of their performances.  Although these young men loved to sing together, they never were particularly successful before their untimely deaths and now they have one last chance (in front of us as an audience) to enjoy performing a really big concert.  This hit me as being a really sad start to a comedy, but Derek, Chris, Andrew and Garney, played it well and made us laugh and applaud throughout the show.

Each of the men in the quartet sang a couple of solos along with the wonderful four-part harmony of their group numbers.  Derek's solos were "Perfidia" and "Catch a Falling Star," which he sang beautifully.  There was a great camaraderie among the four men and they performed well together.

The play is the first in the inaugural season for the Stage group, a new professional theatre company in the University's Performing Arts Center.

As scripture tells us in Colossians 3:23:  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."  We enjoyed our night at the theatre and it was obvious Derek, Chris, Andrew and Garney put their whole hearts into their parts  We applaud them on a job well done.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Yellow Door

I'm fascinated with doors that have character.  This yellow door with the navy blue trim that I saw in Kinsale, Ireland, caught my attention with it's bright colors - and even the doorknob in the center instead of on the side.  I also like the arched fanlight above the door.  Altogether -- a door with character. 

I wonder what kind of people live on the other side of that door?  You would expect people who choose a cheery yellow door would be equally cheery and friendly themselves.  I would also think they are people with interesting personalities since it takes a bit of spunk to use such colors on the door and trim. 

We could use the idea of a door as an allegory for the "face" we present to the world around us.  Does your face give the impression that you are cheery and friendly -- or is it dark and somber.  Do you open up easily to people, or would you be described as "closed."  Are you open to sharing the love of God with others?

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

Doors can be open, or they can remain closed.  Let's make sure our lives are always open to the will of God, and open to the needs of the world around us.