Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Our Little Brown Bat

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”  (Ezekiel 33:11)

      We had a sad little visitor last week.  A small bat was lying on its stomach face-down on our front porch.  Clayton had just left for work and came running back in to tell me that he thought the bat was dead, and he had tried to move it, but it had raised its head and opened its mouth and clicked angrily at him.  He took this picture.  
     Later, I went outside, and stared at it for a long time, seeing if it was breathing.  I couldn’t see any rise and fall of its little back, so I went to the garage to get a dust pan and a brush.
     I walked over to it, gave it one gentle sweep and it lifted it head and opened its mouth quite wide.  It had an impressive set of teeth and the interior of its mouth was bright red (yes, Dracula came to mind).  I apologized and felt rather hopeful that all he needed was to rest. 
     I went out a few hours later, hoping the warm sun would heal the little guy and he would be gone.  Sadly, no.  I couldn’t see any sign of respiration, and the gentle sweep of the brush yielded no reaction.  Then it struck me: how sad.  This little guy probably had gotten disoriented, wearily landed on our porch and died of exhaustion.  I felt very bad for him; the suffering of little things affects me very much and I stood over him, feeling very helpless.  I didn’t know what I could have done—probably nothing—but that did not lessen the sadness of having watched something small die.
     I went online and found out that our wee visitor is called a Little Brown Bat.  If bats are brown, they are crevice-dwellers and if they are lighter in color, they dwell in trees.  This little guy was chocolate brown.  I later talked to my neighbor and he said that the fire last month must have displaced the bats, because now he has four or five of them flying around his house.  He loves that they take out all the flying insects around his house.
     Then it struck me:  this little guy may have struck out in the wrong direction (perhaps in pursuit of an insect?) and then got disoriented.  Exhausted, he landed on our porch. 
     If I could stand on my porch and fret over the life of this one little bat, how much more so does God hover over His creation and grieve at the death, destruction and sin of the ones He loves?  Do we picture a God Who gleefully watches sinners fall, and then walks away with a “you get what you deserve” kind of attitude?  Or do we see God as the unconcerned, watching from a distance kind of Parent, Who doesn’t want to be bothered with His children’s misery?  Do we see God as helpless, that He can’t or won’t intervene? 
     Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:8-11:   “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?   If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”   
     This tells me three important things about God: He is hidden in plain sight:  He is accessible, but expects us to seek Him and be actively pursuing Him—He is not a divine Waiter where we snap our fingers and there He is.  Secondly, He is waiting to bestow good things upon us:  He wants our obedience, just as an earthly father wants obedience from his children.  He is eager to then release His loving kindness upon us.  And finally, we are flawed creatures, yes, but we recoil at suffering and want goodness to prevail: He, Who is without flaw, wants the best for us.  
     He wants our spirits to be whole and walking in His light.  He does not rejoice when we fly upon His porch, exhausted and perhaps very close to giving up.  He hovers over us and unlike me, where I could do nothing for my little bat, He is desirous to extend His hand of mercy and comfort. 
     Does that mean we will never again get disoriented, exhausted or unable to cope?  No, but He walks beside us, giving us strength and wisdom to face each day’s challenge.
Precious Father:  Sometimes I am exhausted, and just want to settle down on a porch and let it all go.  Please remind me that You stand over me, and help me to let it all go: to You.  I may not rise up right away, but it is in Your Presence that I will draw comfort for another day.  Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Are You Swinging on Your Perch?

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that, having been justified by his grace,
we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
 (Titus 3: 4-7)

     What is fun about having birdfeeders is watching the little ones show up.  The mama birds know where the goodies are.  I have been used to seeing all sorts of finches and sparrows happily dining at the feeders in the early morning and in the early evening.  But recently, I have see a bunch of young finches trying to figure out this whole birdfeeder thing.
     It’s not as easy as it looks.  If you don’t hang on the perch correctly, it’s hard to stay stable enough to put your wee beak into the hole and get the seed!  Think about trying to eat a plate of spaghetti on a wind-tossed ship and you get the idea!  The little ones know the seed is there and you can tell they are excited, but the actual mechanics elude them. 
     I watched one little guy who just couldn’t seem to get his footing right on the perch and keep swinging back and forth.  I could see a thought-bubble over his head:  “Nummies are so close…yet soooo far…whoa…”  He kept hopping about on the perch and then finally, his little feet were positioned correctly and no more swaying!  Then he could stick his little beak into the hole and find those elusive nummies!
     Not so different than the Christian walk, isn’t it?  We know where God’s goodness is--in His Son, in His Word and in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and yet, we just can’t get our footing right.
     Why are our feet not correctly positioned on the perch?  Maybe we have unconfessed sin in our lives.  Position your feet correctly with 1 John 1:9:  
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 
     Maybe God is chastening us to improve our character and remind us of our utter need for Him.  Position yourself with Proverbs 3:11-12: 
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
    Consider that your “footing trial” is to draw you deeper into Him to build your character.  Position yourself with James 1:2-4: 
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
     Perhaps you are just weary, and need to be in His healing presence.  Position yourself with Matthew 11;29-30:  
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
     How we endure the times of unsure footing becomes a testimony of Him working in our lives.  Position yourself on Psalm 40:1-3: 
I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.
     Ultimately, if what we are seeking is peace, we need to go to the right "Feeder":  the very Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ.  If we humble ourselves before Him, He will position us and we will be nourished in His Presence.  We will still lose our footing occasionally, but Christ is always in the business of restoring and healing souls. 
Precious Lord:  There are days I just can’t seem to get my footing right.  Help me to be honest in my search as to why, and then to rest assured that You will reposition me so I may have life, and have it abundantly.  In Your precious Name, amen.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Black to Green

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
     I have been away for a while, but it’s good to be back.  I am blessed that people read my blog and find some peace and meaning in it. 
     Unfortunately, I had a delayed reaction to the fire we had in our neighborhood in mid-July, and was afflicted with extreme nausea (not an uncommon symptom of anxiety).  My doctor thought it was an ulcer and the medicines I was given made me extremely ill and sent me several times into the emergency room.  I now suffer from anxiety attacks and I must go on some medications to control the symptoms.
      Talk about a derailment!  I cannot teach this semester, and I am quite amazed how things turned out so differently than what I thought I would be doing right now.  Again, that fire in mid-July comes to mind:  one moment the hills are lush with summer grasses, quails running about and hawks overhead—then the next thing I know, I am being asked to evacuate from my home!  I drive to the other side of the canyon and I watch fearfully as the firefighters and helicopters battle the fire.
       The land is still quite blackened.  I forget how ugly it is until I drive down the road, come around the corner and there it is…blackened trees and skeletal shrubs and black dirt with a dash of red—the fire retardant is still on the ground.
     There is no forgetting that we had a fire, that’s for sure.  But something amazing has been happening over the last few weeks.  Small green shoots have been growing at the base of the blackened trees.  Thin green blades of grass have sprung up in the blackened dirt and new spring green leaves have  appeared on trees whose leaves were scorched brown by the heat of the fire.
      I am stunned that even in the middle of the ugliness comes new life—green and hopeful, determined and lively.  This landscape has become a metaphorical landscape for anyone who has suffered loss, and believes that the ugliness will become all that is left to gaze upon.  Not so, says the Lord.
     Jesus said that “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)   Do you notice that?  He doesn’t just give life, He gives it to the full.  But it’s a process.  The trees around here haven’t suddenly all turned green again and the ground carpeted with grasses.  I see tender shoots, green leaves and delicate blades that have taken hold, slowly but surely.  Soon our hillsides won’t just be dotted in green but will be fully arrayed with life and growth.
    It’s no different with us.  I have had my “hills” burned—so have many of you—but I am looking for the tender green shoots.  I have found it in cards sent to me, encouraging emails, hugs, prayers from my church family and mother-in-law, good advice from my daughter and son-in-law, calls from my son and a loving husband who has stood by me through all this. 
     My “hills” are not green yet…but I have hope as I look out my window, and as I look into the face of the Lord, whose love never fails.

Life isn’t easy, Lord, and the sudden fires take our breath away.  Our lives go into different directions, but I know that You hold my world in Your hands.  Your love never fails.  

In Your precious Name, amen.


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