Saturday, July 26, 2014

Time to Let Go

As we walked along the sidewalk in downtown Vancouver last month, we came upon this large artwork that had been installed right there along the walkway.  It caught my attention partly because it was unexpected, but more so for the words printed on the wall, "Time to Let Go..."  No doubt this phrase has different meanings to different people, but it has a specific meaning for me.

First, let's see what the artist says.  The sign beside the artwork reads:  "Vancouver artist Babak Golkar presents a participatory installation comprised of several large terracotta vessels designed to contain sound.  Step up and release your excess emotions!"

The phrase also reminds me of the popular song, "Let it Go," from the Disney movie Frozen.  While the general meaning of the song sung by the character Elsa is far from what I have in mind, there are a few lyrics that speak to the heart of the matter:  "The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.  Couldn't keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.  Don't let them in, don't let them see...Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know."  These words describe inner turmoil in a person who wants desperately to be rid of that agonizing storm within, but rather than let it go, the person conceals and tries to hide what's going on inside her heart and mind.  It's hard living with a storm inside your mind, so this artist suggests you scream into one of these clay vessels and release those emotions.  If only it were that easy.

Many of us carry stuff inside that we need to let go -- like fear, anger, bitterness, unforgiving attitude, and various frustrations and insecurities.  The Lord knows that carrying around any of this stuff in our vessel has a damaging affect in our lives, that's why in Ephesians, Paul wrote:  "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" 4:31-32.

It would sure be nice if we could just walk up to one of those terracotta vessels, scream into its depths, and be rid of that stuff that's been clogging up our peace.  While such an easy fix is not likely, there is a way to Let Go.  It's called "Let Go and Let God."  Some things just don't seem possible in our own strength and indeed, sometimes they aren't, but Jesus made it clear that, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" Matthew 19:26.

God is sometimes the only one who can pry our fingers from around that ugly stuff we are holding onto and say to us, "My precious child, Time to Let Go."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Glacier Bay

This is one of my favorite pictures of Larry and I from our trip.  It's so cool to see us leaning out from our balcony with this majestic glacier in the background and a sea littered with chunks of ice.  This massive piece of ice is called Margerie Glacier.  It's just one of many evidences we see everyday of God's awesome creative power.  Psalms is full of praises to our glorious God.  Here are two portions of Psalms that I want to share:
Psalm 66:1-4:  "Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!  Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.  Say to God, 'How awesome are Your works!...All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.'"
Psalm 65:5-7:  "By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation.  You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength, being clothed with power; You who still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves..."
All praise to our awesome, glorious God!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mt. McKinley

Mount McKinley --
Presented to You by Our Awesome God
I was thrilled to have the rare privilege of seeing this magnificent creation of God.  I say "rare," because only 30% of visitors to Alaska are able to see the mountain.  Most times the cloud cover surrounding this 20,320 feet tall mountain totally obscures its glory from view.  The mountain is still there, even though it appears to have disappeared - like the picture below:
The morning after we'd seen the beauty of Denali (that's what the native population call the mountain -- it's original name), it was no longer visible.  The blank area between the two sets of smaller mountains is Mt. McKinley behind cloud-cover. It looked to me like someone had erased the mountain with white-out.  This reminds me of the invisible aspects of our great God.
We walk around in a world of visible people, houses, trees -- mountains.  The thing is, there's a whole other world surrounding us that is invisible.  The ironic thing about that is the invisible world is more important to us than the visible world.  Sounds strange, I know, but it is very true -- just as true as the fact that there is a huge, majestic mountain in that second picture -- even though you cannot see it.
Just today I was reading in Beth Moore's "Whispers of Hope" and she wrote:  "Hebrews 11 reminds us that the most influential factors determining outcome in the life of believers are those we cannot see.  Your greatest reality in your greatest difficulty is an invisible, all-powerful God."  That's where faith comes in with such importance.  Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith:  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Read Hebrews 11 and see faith in action.
No matter how "invisible" God might seem to you right now, -- He is there, He is here, and He is everywhere, all the time.  God is real and the work He is doing around us is more real than the noses on our faces -- we just can't see it with our eyes.  But, by faith we can see what we can't see (oxymoron, I know, but nonetheless, the truth).  This reminds me of one of my favorite verses:  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path" Proverbs 3:5-6.
Thank you, God, for giving me the honor of seeing the beautiful, majestic mountain you created -- and even more -- for giving me the privilege of "seeing" you with the eyes of faith. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Every day is a Voyage

We enjoyed an Alaskan adventure in June and I'll share some of these adventures in this month's posts.  When I saw a souvenir pad of paper with this quote, "Every day is a Voyage," I thought -- what a true statement!  I've considered life as a journey for years and now I can add voyage to the adventures of life that we all go through each day.

We spent three nights in Anchorage, one at Mt. McKinley Lodge, and two at the Denali lodge before traveling to Whittier to board the Coral Princess for a seven-night cruise. We finished our trip with four nights in Vancouver, Canada.  During those 18-days, we traveled by airplane, car, bus, train, ship, subway, and foot (lots of walking)  -- so guess you could say we covered most every kind of transportation used by average folks.

Thinking of life as a voyage is easy for me.  I sometimes feel like a little boat bouncing around on rough seas or just floating around with no real purpose.  I know I need my heavenly Captain to steer my little boat into the right shipping channels and help keep me on course for what He has planned for my life. 

I'm reminded of several famous voyages recorded in scripture.  Jonah's ill-fated voyage heading for Tarsus instead of Nineveh as God had instructed him is full of excitement and a great example of God's will coming to pass.  I love that God had probably prepared that big fish for Jonah even before he boarded the ship.  When God said to Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me," He knew the outcome and had a lifeboat of sorts waiting to rescue His child from certain death in the deep.  That is so like our heavenly Father -- to rescue us and love us and continue to use us -- in spite of our disobedience.

The second famous voyage involved the apostle Paul and his voyage to Italy.  Early in the voyage, Paul warned the captain it was too dangerous to sail at that time, saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives" Acts 27:10.  People just don't listen to good, Godly advice -- consequently, they frequently experience rough seas in their lives.  In this case, Paul's warning came true and the ship sunk within sight of the island of Malta.  God used this situation to bring glory to His name just as He did with Jonah.

The third famous voyage was a short one across the Sea of Galilee and involved the disciples and a sleeping Jesus.  As they sailed across the sea, a sudden, violent storm came down on them and the disciples feared for their lives.  They awoke Jesus.  As the Savior stood with wind and rain lashing against Him, He looked out at the crashing waves and rebuked their behavior.  Immediately, the wind and sea calmed.  Once again, the situation brought glory to God.

Each of these voyages involved conflict and danger, and each of them ended up in safety and bringing glory to God.  The voyage of life that we are each on has similarities.  We occasionally undergo conflict and danger, and if we belong to God, He will use these situations to bring glory to His name and victory to our hearts and lives.

Keep your sails trimmed and your eyes on the Captain.  He will keep you on course.  And -- don't forget to enjoy your journey!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sweet Tooth?

Really??  What - do you think you're a hummingbird, Mr. Squirrel??  Note how this guy is literally gripping the pole with his toenails.  We have some very inventive squirrels in our yard.  Guess this guy has a real sweet tooth since that little hummingbird feeder contained sugar water -- and, he managed to empty it in just a few days.

What is it about sweets that most of us just can't get enough of?  I can hardly pass a bakery anywhere in the world without going inside and at least gazing in mouthwatering wonder at the beautiful confections behind the glass.  Give me a piece of cake, a cupcake, a slice of pie, some cookies, a piece of chocolate filled with gooey caramel, or (better yet, make that "and/or") an ice cream sundae loaded with whip cream and I'm a happy camper (:

The trouble is -- too many sweets are not good for us.  There seems to be an epidemic of diabetes in our country and sugar is most often the culprit.  In most cases, sugar in moderation is not overly harmful, but when do most of us practice moderation?  I admit, as I was chomping on a second delicious donut recently I was pushing thoughts of moderation to the back of sugar-laden mind.

Moderation is important in all aspects of life.  Anytime we go to extremes in any direction, it can spell trouble -- even in the spiritual realm.  We don't want to pull totally apart from the world anymore than we want to become immersed in the world.  Jesus lived in the world of His day and rubbed shoulders with all kind of people and He knew we would need to do the same so He sent his Holy Spirit, partly to help us out in moderating ourselves to live in the world, but not of the world.  We don't want to be too "holier than thou" anymore than we want to be a good ole gal who plays in the mud of life with the worst of them.

Jesus spoke of Christians when He said, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. / They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. / Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" John 17:14-17.

We are to keep ourselves "apart" from sin even as we remain "a part" of the world in which we now reside.  We'll never be able to reach the lost if we live in a precious castle in the sky so-to-speak.  We'll never go wrong if we look at the life of Jesus and use His behavior on this earth as our guide in our own behavior.  Our goal as a child of God is to look and act more and more like our Savior.  A good start is to study the four gospels where the words of Jesus are written in red across their pages -- beacons of truth for us to emulate by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

The closer we follow our Lord and Savior, the sweeter will be our fellowship with Him and with all those with whom we come into contact.  And perhaps, with the help of His sweet Spirit, I can practice a bit more moderation in my choice of desserts as well. 

I won't worry about Mr. Squirrel -- anyone who can hang by their toenails like that can probably handle all the sugar water they can drink.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!


Our beloved United States of America celebrates our independence and the birth of our nation on this day.  I am saddened that our country has fallen from what is right and good in so many ways, and that the light of liberty has so dimmed in the last five years.  Even so, our country still stands for freedom as is evidenced by the stars and stripes and the 50 stars that adorn our beautiful flag -- a flag that flies as a result of great sacrifice over the centuries.

I like the symbolism in this photo from the circus we went to in April.  I see the massive elephant symbolizing the strength and largeness of our nation, and the young woman symbolizing the beauty and humanity of our country.  I love our flag and always get a lump in my throat when I see it displayed with the patriotism I feel for this country that God has blessed so abundantly.

Praise God for America and long may her flag fly free.