Monday, August 30, 2010

A Lesson from a Flower

There's a little yellow flower that I observed this morning in my backyard. It's about the size of a quarter and looks kind of like a daisy, but all yellow. Well, to be honest, it's a weed that sports the little bloom. But that yellow flower was praising God this morning and encouraging me to do the same. The sun had just come up over the horizon and was shining brightly on the waking earth. I was sitting on the patio drinking my coffee and journaling a prayer. I looked out on the yard and saw a lone flower standing tall; well, about five inches tall, with its pretty yellow face angled toward the sun. It was a breathtaking and precious sight which will remain with me. I thought about how this flower stood, so peaceful and bright, as it gazed silently toward the morning sun. It spoke to me about how all of creation was made to praise and honor the Creator. There is so much praise that goes on around us in nature that we miss. We must be still and quiet so we can hear...and see it. I couldn't take my eyes off that little scene. I wanted to be like that flower, standing in silence with reverence and humility, opening up to the warmth of the sun and reflecting it's beauty; a little burst of sunshine itself. That flower reminded me to be still and let the Son shine upon me every morning and fill me with His warmth so that I can reflect His beauty.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weary Yourselves

I ran over 12 miles yesterday as part of my training for a half marathon. It wore me out! Today I am shuffling around, favoring a sore knee, strained Achilles and tight hamstrings. Pretty weary is how I’m feeling.

This morning I read Isaiah 43:22. “Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel.”

I got to thinking, I can wear myself out doing a lot of things. But do I wear myself out for God? Where do I pour my energy? How do I spend my time? Do I expend myself for God to the point of feeling worn out? In prayer? In serving others? In resisting sin?

Not that I should go around over-committing myself to a lot of activities for God. But am I on my knees wrestling in prayer for the concerns of others? How much energy am I expending in my resistance to sin or do I easily give in? Jesus resisted to the point of shedding blood. Does my resistance even bring about shedding a tear?

It’s a paradox, this wearying ourselves for God. He wants all of us. All that we are. Calling on him and wearying ourselves for him requires sacrifice, effort, and focused attention. Yet, when we come to him, he gives us rest. Matthew 11:28-30 We may experience a few sore spiritual muscles, but our strength is renewed and our hope restored. That's a sweet deal!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hungry for Heaven

I think when we get to heaven, it will be familiar; surprisingly familiar, but unbelievably better than we could ever imagine.

This world is not reality. It is a shadow cast by the Real thing. It is an outline or a form. "Now we see but a poor 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." This world is an impression, much like a fingerprint. It is evidence that something greater exists.

The things in this world that are good, like breathtaking scenery, laughter, food, soul-stirring music, sex, friendship, love...their origins are in heaven. They are reflections of the original; simple tastes of heaven that whet our appetites for the Feast that awaits us there.

What is it that we are experiencing when we are affected by beauty? When we wish a time of laughter and fellowship with friends wouldn't have to end? When we feel a soul connection with our mate, or when a beautiful song moves us to tears?

They are glimpses of heaven. They are reminders of our hunger; our longing to be filled, to be loved, to be happy. They are echoes of a Voice that is calling us home. Oh to turn our eyes and ears to heaven...and smile, knowing that is reality; that is where our hearts belong.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Avatar and...Christianity?

Last weekend I saw the movie Avatar with my husband and two of our boys. We had planned to see a different movie but were told it was almost sold out, and since I didn't want a sore neck from sitting down front, we decided to see Avatar. We would be a few minutes late which meant we would miss the previews. Rats! I love the previews.

I figured Avatar was mostly an action, sci-fi film which would appeal primarily to my male companions, and I would silently endure the next three hours. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was definitely an action, sci-fi film, but it was creative, intense and visually stimulating. We didn't see the 3-D version, but the vivid colors and lights seemed to be richer than normal.

What really stayed with me about the movie, (and I am about to discuss the ending in case you haven't seen it yet), was the parallel between Jake's journey and our lives as Christians. Jake starts spending time with the Avatar, which begins as a mission to befriend them in order to eventually manipulate them. But it doesn't take much time for him to become deeply affected by their lives. He sees that they are kind and peace-loving and communicate meaningfully. They live in harmony with their world and each other.

When Jake goes back to the military base and reports his experiences into his webcam, it's clear that his heart is growing softer toward the Avatar world. He longs to spend more time there and less at the base.

Here's the parallel. As Christians, we are living in this physical world and feel fairly comfortable here. In fact, we do what we can to increase our comfort and benefits on earth. We often hope that Jesus won't come back before we've had time to experience certain things! We claim we want to go to heaven, but we don't look forward to it like we might toward a dream vacation with friends and family. For some of us, it's just hard to imagine there is anyplace else where we would feel at home, even if it's heaven. But as we spend more time with God in his "world," we get to know him better and are more comfortable there. And not just more comfortable, but we begin to long to be with him.

We see God's love and compassion for us. We learn about how he desires for us to be near him and how he waits patiently for us. We begin to realize that because of our physical limitations, we can't know and experience him as much as we long to. We must make the final step into his dimension to really know him and fully experience him.

Jake realized that in his desire to be with the Avatar, he was willing to forsake his "human" world and relationships. The Avatar world and its ways were more appealing and fulfilling than his "old life." In one of his latter reports on his webcam, he states that he thought he had always lived in reality, but he realized the world of Avatar was true reality.

Initially, Jake had a body like the Avatar, but he still thought and acted like his human self. As he spent more time with them, he began to think and act like them, and when he found himself back in his world, he couldn't wait to return to the Avatar. I wondered though, as the story developed, how or if Jake would ever truly be one of them.

The more time we spend walking with Jesus, the more we become like him and want to be with him. As we commune with him, yet still limited by our humanness, we resonate with the apostle Paul when he mentions "longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling...For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened..."

Jake did become one of them, finally. It would cost him life as he knew it as a human, but he had counted that cost and knew, without question, that life with the Avatar was what he wanted. In a sort of spiritual ceremony, his human body had to die in order for his new, true life to begin as an Avatar. The transformation was successful and celebration ensued.

I can only imagine that it will be something like this for us. Now we are burdened by the corruption and limitations of our body and our world. But as Christians, we have tasted the goodness of the Lord and long for more. We spend time with him, yet it often feels like we are stepping in and out of that heavenly realm. We long for our experience with him to linger, but we must return again and again. As our walk with Jesus deepens, we begin to look more like him and are able to focus on the spiritual realm more readily. But it's not until we lay this body down in death that we will once for all be transformed with a body like his and be able to forever live in his world with him.

Kudos to James Cameron, the director of the film. His creation of Pandora was captivating. I couldn't help but see, though, how his artistic expression, as creative and cutting edge as it was, was still heavily influenced by the originality of our Great Creator. If a mere man can depict a beautiful and alluring paradise, then what kind of breathtaking views and experiences, designed by God Himself, are in store for us in heaven?! Not to mention forever being with the Love of our life!

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Element of True Christianity

Frank Laubach, a 20th century mystic, said it well when he penned the following:

"In defense of my opening my soul and laying it bare to the public gaze in this fashion, I may say that it seems to me that we really seldom do anybody much good excepting as we share the deepest experiences of our souls in this way. It is not the fashion to tell your inmost thoughts, but there are many wrong fashions, and concealment of the best in us is wrong. I disapprove of the usual practice of talking "small talk" whenever we meet (me too, Frank), and holding a veil over our souls. If we are so impoverished that we have nothing to reveal but small talk, then we need to struggle for more richness of soul. As for me, I am convinced that this spiritual pilgimage which I am making is infinitely worthwhile, the most important thing I know of to talk about."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Chapter 8 of Romans is such a beautiful chapter! I really needed to read it again. It needs to sink in. The Spirit helps me in my weakness. God works in all things for my good, and that ultimate good is to conform me to the likeness of Jesus! O to look like Jesus!

Have I been squirming too much? Fretting about life and wondering where God is?

God saved me, gave me his Spirit and will also graciously continue to bless me. The condemnation and charges against me aren't from God. They are lies. God has justified me. Jesus is interceding for me. Even trouble and hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness and sword, will not separate me from God's love. In all these bad things, in all the hard stuff I've been through, I am more than a conqueror through Jesus. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. Not anything!

So then...I guess God still loves me! Whew! That is such a relief and so motivating! He is still working and maybe could even more if I would just relax, right?!

Thank you, God!