Friday, November 30, 2012

Bring on the Light!

“I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life.” 

John 8:21

The days have been dark and gray.  We have had a lot of rain, and the sun rarely shines through.  The winds blow through the mountains and glens with a startling ferocity.  The birds at my feeders hunker down on the rocks that surround the raised beds, and I try to keep the feeders full.  The pigeons pick about the ground, trying to nab any seeds that have fallen from the feeders.  The finches hang on for dear life as the feeders swing in the wind.  These days have a kind of fury to them.

The ancients also stood in awe of storms.  Storms were a very real manifestation of God’s power.  In Jeremiah 10:12-13, we read:

“But God made the earth by his power;
    he founded the world by his wisdom
    and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
    he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
He sends lightning with the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”

The wind and the rain become not only messengers of Who God is, and of His immense power, but also of His wisdom.  The rain nourishes the land; lightning strikes put nitrogen into the soil and wind is the engine for our weather. 

But storms can also be a metaphor for the uncertainty for the future.  The dark clouds looming over the horizon become messengers as well:  What is on the way?  Their very presence can cause us to fear:  will what is coming be terrible?  Will we get through it?  Where is the Lord in all of this?

The other night, while dark clouds stormed across the sky, I saw an amazing sight:  right over our tallest mountain was glorious splash of sunlight, in bright pinks and oranges…just one small area contending with the dark blues and the iron grays.  What a contrast!  The oranges and pinks seemed even brighter and more alive, given the surroundings.  Then it hit me…when Jesus said that He is the Light of the world, He wasn’t adding His light to the light already there…He is THE Light when the deep blues and grays have captured the sky and darkness looms.  He is all the brighter because of the surrounding darkness and His Light is not overwhelmed.   

We will face dark days.  That is certain.  His Light will be all the brighter and we will need it more than ever before.  Let His words really take hold of your heart today:  “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” 

And then what does that lead to?  His Light in us becomes even more light to bring to a stormy world:  “You are the light of the world.”  (Matthew 5:14)  We, not because of who we are, but because of Who He is, will shine and bring light.  We may be a candle, or a city on a hill, but no matter…light is light, and we are part of His great recall of the darkness.  
Look to the One Who is Light:  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  (James 1:17)


Lord of the Light:  We need the Light of Your love, presence and peace more than ever…the storm clouds loom on the horizon.  Your Light pierces the darkness with its reassuring warmth, reminding us that You are here.  Because of Your Light, we can go out and light our world, however large or small it may be.  In Your Name that is Above All Names, amen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

In God's Bigger Picture

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,  
they will walk and not be faint.”

 Isaiah 40: 31

Bald eagles:  They are elegant, have a dignified air about them, and symbolize this great land.  Growing up in California, I only saw them in pictures:  regally flying against an azure sky or with the American flag as a background.  I always wondered:  what kind of camouflage does a stark white head and brown body provide?  Up against the sky:  not at all.   We saw them in Alaska, flying after a fishing trolley, and while they dove and fluttered madly against a slate-gray sky and a dark green sea, they still stood out with great abandon. It wasn’t until I moved to Idaho that I saw them in their element:  along the river, up in skeletal trees in the winter, with patches of snow everywhere, did I see the beauty of their coloration--dark shadowy brown and stark white against a background of dark shadowy brown and stark winter white.  The road we viewed them from is above the river, so we were looking down upon them.  They sat in the trees, surveying their domain, and while they seem to be ruling it, they also were a beautiful part of the larger terrain as it stretched out before us.   

One day, I was able to pull my car to the side of the road, roll down my window, and see an eagle up in a tree, against the dark gray and blue sky.  He turned his head, and I saw those wonderful yellow eyes, staring down with a look of, “Yes?”  I was so excited, I told one of my neighbors, and he said that the local cows who are currently having babies, will eat the afterbirth, and what they leave behind, the eagles will swoop in and finish. 

Suddenly, it hit me:  what seemed out of place, has a place, in His plan.  The colors of the eagle allow it to blend into landscape of winter, and when it is flying against a blue sky, the eagle’s mightiness is enough to protect it.
Sometimes I wonder, why do I look and act the way I do?  I am a product of my DNA as well as my childhood, and sometimes, I don’t like what I am now.  I grow weary and ask, is there any good I can do?  Really?

But, if I try to see myself from the road above the river, I have characteristics that He can use, in His grander scheme of things.  Weariness sometimes comes from not knowing if our lives are making any difference.  Perhaps we think we are not good enough—but ask yourself:  Do the eagles know how well they blend in?  Or how mighty they look as they fly?  No—probably not. 

Do I know what effect I am having on others as I try to walk in the Lord, sharing Who He is, in me?  But I am in His landscape, and He will use me to further His plan.  That idea alone fills me with renewed strength for the days ahead.

Precious Lord:  Help me to trust who I am as I walk in You.  I feel that I stand out, in a not-so-positive way, and yet, in the wider landscape of Your world, I am doing just fine.  Let me confess sin, for that alone will tie me down to the to the earth.  Then let me soar, confident that You have a plan, and that I am in it.  In the Name of the One Who never rests and Who is always causing me to take wing, amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Rainbow's Message

“‘To Me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.  So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:9-10)
     The months under spring and autumn’s sway are very turbulent in their weather.  We have beautiful sunny days mixed in with storms and snow.  The clouds are charcoal black and move in swiftly on high winds.  They replenish the land with moisture and then move swiftly on.  What I love about spring and autumn in the mountains are the rainbows.
     Because many of the storms rise up in the afternoon, and are over quickly, the sun has a chance to break through, low, over the horizon.  The sun extends its beams like fingers through the water in the air and the water creates prisms that divide the white light into brilliant colors.  If it’s dark on one side of the sky and the sun is shining through on the other, the combination is magical:  a rainbow appears, sometimes two, and arcs over the glens near my house.
     The colors can be sometimes muted if the sun is very low, or sometimes can be so bright that it takes your breath away.  Sometimes you see two rainbows:  one of startling color and one shadowing it, less intense, but ever real in its impact.
     Look at the conditions that bring such beauty:  high winds with sharp icy rain that pounds the mountainsides or fast moving storms where the rain races parallel to the ground.  Out of such ferocity comes such beauty that it’s easy to forget what brought that rainbow about. 
     God’s mightiness is awesome to behold and we should be humble before it.  Yet His beauty is equally awesome to behold, and it draws us to the One Who loves us so:
  “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
     You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.’” (Isaiah 55:8-13)
     God uses His creation to reveal central truths about Himself and about His relationship to us. 
     The rainbow is a reminder of God’s presence and His sovereignty over the planet.  It’s a “small” miracle that keeps appearing to speak of His love over us and His desire to bring forth His beauty out of chaos and destruction.  In Noah’s day, it was the wickedness of humanity that brought down God’s wrath and the rainbow was a symbol that God’s wrath had been completed and He would again allow His creatures to choose life or choose death, by the way they behaved.  How mankind behaved was based on the values that were taught and practiced, and sadly, God would have to intervene many more times in history to remind His people of His way and how it is not man’s way:  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
     Are we listening to the rainbow’s message of His fierce love for us and well as His love of justice, or is the rainbow just a passing glimpse of color?  

Precious God:  You remind us all of the time in Your mighty creation of Who You are and the love You hold for us.  You are majestic and yet bend down and touch our tearful faces.  Let us not forget that we are accountable for our lives and while You extend mercy for a long while, Your justice is equally important, and will have its day.  In Your Son’s Name, amen. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

A New Yew

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6
     Recently I planted a small yew bush.  It has wee berries on it, and seems to be doing well in my raised bed.  The soil around my house is sandstone mixed with shattered basalt and clay.  Very little grows in it—sage brush and wild grasses do well, but that’s about it.  If you want to grow anything, you must bring in rich soil.
     That’s what we did.  A friend of ours brought in soil, hedged it in with large rocks and voila!  Raised  beds.  I have planted many things in them, and at first, the deer were grateful.  One morning I went out to find seven of them, all with heads down, using my raised bed as a salad bar.  I asked them, “Hey, what are you doing?” and they slowly raised their heads, looked at me and trotted off.  There went $300.00 dollars’ worth of nursery plants in their happy bellies! 
     Then I got smart, and then searched out anti-deer plants.  Conifers, lavender and bamboo seem to fit the bill.  I also look for unfriendly-looking plants, such as yew and juniper.  I am assuming the tender leaves are more attractive to a deer, and the yew bush looked prickly.  We now have a fence the mostly encloses the area as well, so the deer aren’t as willing to venture in.
     The little yew is a joy, when you consider its counterpart, the yew tree.  Here is a picture of the oldest yew tree known: it’s about 2000 years old.  It's in Scotland.  It has a protective wall around it.

      My husband mentioned that yew trees were the preferred wood for making the longbow in the Middle Ages.  Why?  Because it’s flexible and strong.  I thought what a beautiful analogy for the Christian life.  We are to be flexible in that we need to bend with the winds that blow our way and not snap.  We need to be compassionate with others, not snapping our fingers at them to change now, knowing that at some point in our lives, we may be in their shoes, and we’d want mercy at that point.  We need to be patient with others and not snap at them, knowing that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). 
     Strong:  how often do the Scriptures admonish us to be “strong in the Lord”: 
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  (Ephesians 6:10-17). 
     The Lord not only admonishes us to be strong, but then gives us the tools that enables us to be so.  So my little yew has such potential:  to grow and be strong.  It will face many winters up here, with strong winds, and may even be buried in snow.  But, its potential, how it is constructed, will serve it well.  It’s also in rich soil—rich soil yields a stronger plant.  What kind of soil are we in? 
     We, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, have great potential to grow strong and flexible in Him, and face those winters with confidence.
Lord of My Heart:  I am planted in the richest soil possible:  Your Holy Spirit.  I may be small in You, but help me to grow and be strong in You for the winter winds will blow.  But rooted in You, I can face the cold with confidence.

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