Tuesday, August 21, 2012


“Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
(John 14:9)
     The West is on fire.  We have numerous fires burning in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.  Every day the skies are obscured by smoke, and coupled with astonishing heat, it has been a hard summer.  Many people may lose their homes, we have had one firefighter killed ( a young woman who died when a tree fell on her) and it’s been very traumatizing to look at satellite pictures and see the flames and smoke marching across the West like invading armies.
     The valley below our ridge has been so full of smoke it’s been hard to see anything below.  The air is thick and it is hard to breathe, especially for  those residents who have respiratory problems.  Very thankfully, the fire near our valley has been contained, and I am so grateful for our gallant firefighters who have worked so diligently and continue to risk life and limb to bring these wildfires under control.
      The sunrise is an interesting study in how the smoke distorts the sun.  It rises blood red, and its shape is a bit distorted along with its light being diffused oddly through the smoke.  I can’t help think about how sin’s presence in our lives distorts the Son and His light.
     We think that we are past forgiveness and have a distorted view that His wrath is greater than His love.  In reading the Book of Revelation, it is true that there will come a time when His wrath will be poured out on the earth, but what’s interesting is after the various seals are broken, and different judgments are hurled to the earth by the angels, the people will still not repent of their evil.  God’s wrath is not just for its own sake:  it is to lead humanity to repentance.  It is to so dominate our attention that we see Him in a new light:  the Holy One Who does not tolerate sin, but Who also wants us to come back and be restored. 
     Sin distorts our view of God so we think He is punishing us and is abusive and angry at us.  Perhaps we have just transferred our father’s image over to His image.  Or perhaps we see Him as One Who will abandon us—especially in our time of need.  Why wouldn’t He, we think, everyone else has. 
     Or we think He’s not there.  That somehow even if He’s involved, it’s limited and somewhat capricious—we can’t count on Him, for He is ultimately unreliable.
     Like the smoke that hangs in our skies these days, our view of God is distorted not only by our sin but by our sinful nature.  Perhaps you have confessed your sin and are walking in Him by faith.  Bravo!  But our nature is very prone to seek everything but God, or to view Him with our own personal beliefs about authority figures, love (or the lack thereof) and our own limitations.  In other words, we see God as a big “us.” 
     How do we clear the smoke away and get clear blue sky’s view of God?  Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, had the same question.  He has some views of God distorted by the teachings of the religious leaders and his own limitations of Who God was.  Let’s set the scene.
     Jesus has predicted Peter’s denial as the Last Supper is in progress.  Jesus talks of going to His Father’s house, and how He will return to His own.  He says to His disciples that “You know the way to the place where I am going.”  And Thomas (dubbed the Doubter—unfairly, I think—he just asks the questions others are afraid to) says that the disciples don’t know where He is going, and they don’t know the way.  Jesus then tells them that “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Then He says that by really knowing Me, you will know the Father.
      Then Philip (bless his heart!) jumps in and kindly asks for Jesus to show them the Father, and “that will be enough for us.”  Go Philip.  Just show us, Jesus, and all our questions will be answered.  We’re hands-on kind of guys, Jesus:  fishermen who handled nets and fish and know what kind of catch we have after we count the fish.
     Then Jesus, in His infinite patience, settles it for them:  “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” 
     Do you want to have a smoke-free view of God?  Fight the fire with His Word:  read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John .  Each of these portraits of Jesus clears the air for us.  Matthew writes of Jesus as the Messiah long ago promised by God’s prophets, the Hope of Israel and the One Who fulfills Scripture.  Mark was Peter’s travelling companion, and Mark’s words are Peter’s:  standing and listening to Peter tell of His Teacher, Marks’ portrait  is one of a Teacher, Healer and ultimately, the One Who is God’s very own.
     Luke, being a Gentile, places Jesus in a larger picture:  He is the true fulfillment of the Jews’ longing for their Messiah, but He is also for the world:  everyone can come to God through His Son.  Finally, we have John, who steps into an even larger picture, and sees Jesus as not only Prophet, Priest and King, but God Himself Who dwelt in the flesh among us.
     Wow!  Read these inspired works of God and you will see the face of God Himself:  clear and undistorted.  If your skies start filling up…confess your sin and move into His Word.  Gaze on the face of Jesus and you will work away with a life-changing view of God.
Precious Jesus:  You are the Way that we can see our Father in a beautiful way.  We need clarity to see You without our own smoke.  Thank You for such a wonderful portrait of Who You are as we read Your Gospels.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hey, You CAN fly!

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,
and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.” 
(Exodus 19:4)
     We are knee-deep in quail these days.  The adults are in a constant panic trying to round up their little ones.  We call a group of quail a “covey”—I think a better name would be a “chaos”—as in, “Say, look over there at that chaos of quail!”
     Obviously, the coveys host a whole range of sizes and ages:  some of the little ones are clearly hatchlings—tiny and very vulnerable.  Some coveys are filled with more mature quail—adolescents you might say.  They are identifiable not by the i-Pods in their ears but by their brownish feathers and near-to-adult size.  But, no matter what age is in the covey, the adults are frantically trying to keep them together and keep them safe. 
     When they visit my feeders, the male finds an observation spot where he can watch the missus and little ones, and will chirp out quite a warning if danger approaches.  Oh, danger does approach:  we have a vast array of raptors who swiftly bring death from above.  We have red-tailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, kestrels and turkey vultures (who are not going to win any awards for beauty!)  These raptors circle overhead and will drop like stones onto some unobservant creature in the grasses. 
     The vigilance of the male quail is quite a sight.  The other night, as I was walking along the river, a rather large covey (a quail Brady Bunch?) was walking along the road, and when they caught sight of me, the female and little ones dashed off the road and into the grasses.  The male stood watch until they disappeared.  Then he flew into a tree and chirped at them as if to say, “Keep moving!  We’re not home free yet—she’s still there!”  I quickly walked past the spot, and he continued chirping for a bit longer.  The price of life (to slightly alter Jefferson’s famous axiom) is eternal vigilance, and this male quail understood this all too well. 
     The funniest thing about quail is:  they can fly.  My son James says that these birds are rather stupid, because they forget they can fly…or so it appears to us!  They walk along our road, and I have to drive very slowly, because they run in a panicked cluster, careening from side to side and although I am no expert in quail psychology (it’s a very small field!) I would say they are panicking.  If I speed up just a tiny bit, letting them know to move out of the way, they speed up their frantic scampering, and finally, one bright bird takes off and then it’s an “a-ha!” moment for the rest!  They all take off, zipping into the nearby trees with a lot of (self-congratulatory?) chirping. 
     If I were a flying predator, then a panicky take-off might drive them right into my eagerly awaiting talons…but I am on the ground, they’re on the ground, and it’s just chaos for these little guys and frustration for me. 
     Why do we so quickly forget who we are in Jesus?  We can fly!  Yet, we stay grounded, running for dear life up the road, frantically screaming and dodging in and out, not quite sure which way to go.  We are vulnerable.  There are indeed threats out there to our safety and well-being.
     Satan is described as a “roaring lion” and that sounds dangerous.  His goal?  To devour us.  He’s no different than the red-tailed hawk that flies overhead, waiting for a less-than-watchful quail and them BOOM! down it drops and there’s one less quail  in the world.  But remember our ever-vigilant male quail?  He’s watching and chirping, reminding his brood that there is danger out there. 
     The Word is our male quail:  chirping at us, telling us to be careful and watchful over this world.  But the Word, while reminding us of the dangers, also reminds us that we can fly!  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)     
      Wow!  Yes, we need to be careful, but we need to fly in His freedom, and not be grounded by fear and panic.  Because, and this is key:  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [those who deny Christ] because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).  Be vigilant, but remember: He has given you wings!
I feel fear, Lord, and I feel panic.  I run all over the road, not sure where to go and how to get there.  But You are my Refuge, and I must run to You!  Remind me, Lord, each day, that You have given me wings to fly, and I honor You when I celebrate the freedom I have in You!  In the Name of the One Who sets me free, amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who's Eating Your Roses?

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:7)
     This summer I planted roses.  I chose what are called “knock-out roses” because they are hardy, don’t require a lot of water and are not finicky.  Especially in the summer, when the days are hot, they seem to do just fine. 
     Color is at a premium up here, especially in the summer.  The grasses are a tawny brown, and the sage is well, sage-colored.  The sunflowers that spring up are a perky lemon yellow, but they tend to take over and move from “Wow, those are neat” to “Hey, are those weeds?”  These sunflowers are also havens to wasps, so you don’t mess with them…the wasps or the sunflowers! 
     Can you imagine what a delight it is then to have PINK and RED up here?  My gladiolas were magnificent this early summer, and I rejoiced in the yellow, peach, orange-red and crimson…but alas…they too fell prey to the raging summer sun.  But my roses!  They seem to do just fine.  But one day, the blossoms were gone.  Not just a few…all of them! Every bud and flower was gone, without a trace.  No incriminating fallen petals.  Gone…as if they were never there.  The culprit?
     You guessed it:  deer.  They put their little quivering lips over those bushes and vacuumed them clean.  I am sure they were pleased as punch at the results.  For as the landscape (and thus food supply) is a bit limited up here and very dry, so those moist rose petals must have been “filet mignon” to hungry deer, whose appetite for the local fare is waning.
     Was I pleased to provide a delicate dish for my four-legged neighbors?  No, for they stole my PINK and RED and the landscape has returned to its monotony.  (Those of you with gardens, do thank Him for everyday for the beauty that is there!  Remember:  life started in garden, and Christ prayed to His Father in a garden, and Revelation speaks of a garden for eternity!)
     I found joy in my roses.  Who is stealing your roses?  Who is stealing your joy?
     I find that Christians sometimes feel guilty for the roses in their lives, and feel only fulfilled if they only have sage brush to look at.  They feel that suffering is the only way to serve Christ, and if something or someone comes along and steals their joy, they feel helpless to stop it.
     Think of it this way:  Christ gives us roses, because in the monotony of a sinful world, where the landscape is dry and hurting, the roses are there to remind us of Him.  If we allow the deer eat our roses, our focus becomes fixated on the dry landscape, and we can become exhausted, forgetting the One Who loves us.
     Who or what is your "deer"? 
     Sometimes it is the sin in our past that robs us of our joy and we dwell on what we were, not what we are becoming in Him.
     Sometimes it is false belief, and without seeking earnestly what the Word says, we settle for a “truth” that nibbles away our joy and freedom in Him.
     Sometimes it is a person, whom we are trying to love, but who takes pleasure in destroying our joy.  Their landscape is barren and dry, and they are jealous that ours has roses.
     Sometimes it is a circumstance that has wandered into our lives and we grow weary that every rose is being nibbled away—our energy, our joy, and we feel that we are losing our purpose. 
     Consider why a plant has a flower in the first place:  to have seeds, that once pollinated, will bring forth the next generation of plant.  If our flowers are nibbled away, how can we bring forth what Christ would produce in our lives?
     What to do?  Well, I sprayed deer repellent on the fence to warn the deer that they weren’t welcome.  While we cannot harshly spray people/situational repellent on ourselves—we are called to love one another as Christ loves us--we can have gentle fences around us.  We put up a fence around our yard, and although it has access, it’s very limited.  We can limit access to those people or situations that steal our joy.  What if it’s a “deer” that we can’t just fence out?  Prayer, prayer, prayer.  Prayer is “Satan- repellent” and we need to be careful to fence him out and focus on the Spirit within.  Christ is our ultimate Rose, our ultimate Joy, and if we are to sustain through the heat of summer, we must delight ourselves in Him. 
Fences, Lord, gentle fences are perhaps what I need to keep the deer away, or at least give them very limited access.  I want to serve You by loving others, but help me be discerning with those I encounter, and help me to stand on my knees in prayer when the deer are in me.  In His precious name, amen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Know Your Source

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, 
whose confidence is in Him.   
He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes;
 its leaves are always green. 
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
 (Jeremiah 17: 7-8)
     I lived many years in northern California, and never really worried about water.  Yes, we had several droughts over the years, but inevitably the rains came.  The marine air that hovered over San Francisco Bay would move through the mountains in the early evening, cooling down the heat in the valleys.  This lovely salt-smelling air reminded us of the large body of water nearby.  The days were not so terribly hot that water seemed essential.   Oh, it is so different living in the high mountains of a desert.
     I never dwell on the “desertness” of Idaho until July and August, when the mercury soars to over 100 degrees, and the days are long, hot and very dry.  All the creeks are gone, and the grass is dry.  The only trees that survive in our area grow along the underground flow of the mountain runoff.  If you want to know where the water is, look at the trees that wind down the ravines of the mountains.  Their roots go deep—there is no flowing water on the surface—the runoff of the spring rains disappeared a while ago.  If you want water, you will dig deep.
     The well on our property is 280 feet deep.  That’s a long way down, and the water is only present in the sandstone layers of our hillsides.  The water rolls off the basalt that lies deep under the soil, and if the water has no sandstone to reside in, good luck finding water!
     And yet, the trees know where the source is.  I have recently heard a teaching from Ray Vander Laan about “living water” in the Bible.  It’s the water that comes from God—streams, runoff, rain.  It’s not the water you haul in a bucket…it’s the water that flows freely from the fountains of heaven.  The Festival of Sukkot was one where the Jews prayed to God for water, and would wave palm branches that simulated the sound of falling rain.  The priest would fill a golden pitcher in the Pool of Siloam and then return to the Temple and pour it out and the people would cry “Save us, Lord!” for it had not rained in Israel for six months.  Without living water, the kind that flows from the heavens, the crops and the people would perish.  It was on the last day of this Festival that Jesus proclaimed in the Temple at the moment of silence of this ritual that He was the Living Water!
     He was from God’s own hand—He was the very Water that refreshes our souls.  He’s not held in a container made by man, but flows from the Father.  I never appreciated the need for rain and refreshing water until I lived in place where, without the promise of autumn rains, this place would be uninhabitable.   With all the terrible wildfires that are burning in Idaho, last night my husband said, “All we need is rain.”  In fact, many years ago, farmers called rain “God-water.”
     In fact, this morning, there were sprinkles on the front porch.  We had a little tiny bit of rain, and I became really excited.  How much more so should we be excited about the One Who opens the very floodgates of His love to refresh us!
     How we need God-Water:  the Son of God who called Himself the Living Water.  The trees know where the water is, and with deep roots, can withstand the heat and lack of rain.  As our Scripture says, green leaves and fruit are a result of knowing where the water is.   
     In the life of a Christian, in the heat and drought of this world, we need to know WHO the Water is, and send down deep roots into Him.   The drought and heat will come, but He will sustain us.
Dearest Living Water:  You refresh my soul!  Help me to send down deep roots into You and to drink deeply of Your life-giving waters.  Your Word is the soil that holds the very water of life.  Help me to go deep.  In Your Son’s name, amen.
 This picture was taken by my son James.  How refreshing this looks!  Do we refresh those around us who are thirsty in the same way He refreshes us?  You can't give a cup of cold water to someone unless yours is full.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fire and Sin

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.   
Trust in God; trust also in Me.” 
(John 14:1)
     This is the summer of wildfires.  Idaho has had many and everywhere you drive, you see blackened and scarred land.  This black land is now in stark contrast to the tawny brown grasses of late summer.
     A few nights ago, I watched a column of smoke rising on a far distant ridge.  It was huge, and curled up like a great serpent over the ridgeline.  I couldn’t see any flames; only the huge plume was visible.  It caused the sunset to be a marvelous pinkish orange and the clouds were an interesting blend of bluish hues and pink.
     Before we had our fire, I would have looked upon the fire rather disinterestedly.  I would have enjoyed the colors of the sunset, and worried only mildly about the fire—it was far away and the firefighters were on hand to get it put out.
     But now that I have been part of a fire, I no longer see it the same.  I am no longer a curious spectator, seemingly unaffected by what I am observing.     Now I worry deeply about how much of the area will burn and if anyone is in danger.  How long will it burn and how much destruction will it bring are the questions that now run through my anxious mind.  I worry if it will travel over the hills and affect our little town.
     The air is filled with smoke, and the smoke has settled into the valley below us.  The visibility is horrible, and it is dangerous for people with respiratory problems.  This fire feels like an angry neighbor that has moved in, whose erratic behavior is cause for alarm. 
     The fire is no longer an event “out there”—it feels immediate and menacing.
     I thought about our walk in the Lord, and how sin is quite similar to a fire.  We all have experienced sin, but once we are in Jesus, it doesn’t look the same.
     The things that used to not bother us—well, now they do because the Spirit of God is in us, giving us a new perspective.  It’s interesting to read to Scripture what happens we are born anew in Him:  “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:15-17). 
     We now don’t see sin the same, the world the same, nor each other the same.  We see Christ for who He is—the very One sent by God to save us and give us new life.  Sinning means separation from God—why would we want to be away from the One we love?  Sin isn’t pretty—yes, it’s fun, “for a season,” but then the wings it promises are replaced with shackles and we come into bondage.  The consequences of sin can be devastating, and can even take our lives.  We now see sin for what it is:  slavery.
     The world no longer looks the same to us—we are no longer disinterested observers of the human race:  we see people, broken and hurting in their lives, desperately needing a Savior. 
     We don’t see each other the same—we see each person as a child of God.  The Fatherhood of God demands the brotherhood of man, and each person is His handiwork, in need of Him to realize their God-given potential. 
     Micah says it so well:  “He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8)
     Having watched fire burn up close, I have no desire to experience that again.  I am much more pained by fire and its devastating effects, and I now know what costs it exacts from the land.  So, too, with the Spirit of God living in me, I am pained by sin and its devastating effects, and I know what costs it exacts from me.  Christ paid the price for me—why return to debt?     
     Fire is so costly: we should not walk through the dried grasses with a lighted match.   Sin is so costly: we shouldn’t walk through our lives without daily seeking Him for strength and wisdom.  We don’t fight fire with fire:  we fight fire with the blood of Jesus.
Dearest Father:  Sin burns, scars us and leaves us devastated.  Let us be vigilant to watch for its approach—but not on our own strength!  We need to stay firmly rooted in You and look at sin from Your point of view:  seeing that it is not fun but fire and only You can keep us on safe ground.  In Your Son’s wonderful name, amen.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Blackened Landscape

"As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us."
(Psalm 103:12)
     A few weeks ago, we had a fire, which I talked about in a previous blog.  It’s funny—every time I round the corner, as I am driving down the old highway, the destruction comes into view and I am shocked how ugly it is.  The scorched earth, the blackened trees and all the plants that didn’t actually burn but are brown due to the fire’s heat, hit me like a thunderbolt.  I can’t get over how ugly it is. 
     I love trees and even though we are in high desert, and I accept the lack of trees here, I still love what grows.  Now, some of it is gone.  The blackened earth and skeletal trees will be with us for a long time and are a reminder of the drama earlier in the summer.  Yet, the other day I explained to my granddaughter that the black stuff  will provide food for the soil—it’s interesting how carbon renews soil and how the fire cleared away all the dead undergrowth, allows now for new growth.  After I explained it to her, the fire didn’t seem quite so destructive.
     Sin in our lives is really no different.  Long after the fires have been put out—we are forgiven of our sins by Christ--we still bear the scars of sin.  We have removed ourselves from the sinful situation, we are committed to not letting that sin rule our lives any longer, or we have done things that still cause us to shudder—yet the scars of past sins are there.  The evidence of what we have done is still apparent, or we still may be battling with that sin daily. 
     Why is it that God forgives and forgets our sin and puts it far away from Himself, and yet He doesn’t allow us to forget?  The landscape is going to remind me of the fire for a long time—and so does sin’s consequences remind me of what I did in the past.  What is God trying to teach us with this paradox of His forgetting and our remembering?
     Here’s what remembering sin should not do:
     Shame us:  Shame renders us immobile spiritually and we cannot move forward.  Remembrance of sins past should not be tantamount to a ball and chain forever wrapped around us.  We feel we have done wrong, yes, but Christ has given us His forgiveness.  Why do we cling to what has been and not lay hold of the cross?  Our guilt lead us to repent, but continually bearing shame will steal our joy in Him and make us forget the power of the cross.
     Frighten us:  We are set free by the truth of Christ.  But, fearing that we may fall into sin, keeps us from living life abundantly.  We stay away from the world, terrified that the world will grab us again, and yet, His makes provision for our sinning, even after we have come to Him:  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1: 8,9)  Yes, we need to be diligent, but not hiding away.
      Doubt Him:  I am not good enough…true, you’re not.  But the cross forever should put “paid” to the lie that His death was not sufficient and that He doesn’t love us.  The cross was the ultimate form of His love:  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)
      So, what should remembering sin do for us?
     Keep us humble:  That fire reminds me how fragile the landscape is to the heat of fire and how so much can burn so quickly.  We must remember our fragility in the face of sin, and partner with Jesus daily for strength, wisdom and obedience to Him and His word.
     Keep us fervent:  The fire took away so much, so quickly—sin can burn through us in a similar way, so we must be daily following Him, and keep Him first and foremost in our lives.
     Keep us aware:  Another fire could hit these hills, so we cannot be complacent.  It’s the same with Jesus—it doesn’t matter how long we have followed Him, we must stay by His side and stay on task.
     The fire will scar the landscape for many years to come, and sin scars us as well.  But, the remembrance of sin can draw us ever closer to Him:  He loves us and He will be the food for our souls. 
Precious Lamb of God:  How easy to dwell alone on the blackened landscape of sin, and not walk hand in hand with You to freedom and forgiveness.  Yes, the blackened trees are there, but under Your hand, I can bloom and I can praise You for restoration.  Thank You for the cross—if I ever doubt Your love, let me see it again in my heart, and doubt not.  In Christ’s mighty Name, amen.

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