How blessed we are to have friends who lift us up, who speak truth to us, who listen, give advice, encouragement and their constant prayers. This is richness; this is true treasure to have such wonderful women in your life.




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Christy~A Life that Magnifies the Lord


One evening my sister took me to one of the most enjoyable and interesting events I have ever attended:  “Knit Night.”  You are all probably thinking about now…”Really? Knit as in two needles and yarn?”  Yes, indeed.  And let me just say right up front:  Knit Night is VERY well attended.  We had to park down the street a bit.  My sister has gone to Knit Night for a few years now, and I always smile when she tells me she is on her way because I know Joni doesn’t knit…AT ALL!  So it wasn’t really a surprise when as the night progressed I saw exactly ONE person do anything with yarn.  And that would be Christy; a woman I had the joy and privilege of meeting that night. 

What is especially astounding about Christy doing anything crafty is this truth: she has a painful disease called scleroderma, an autoimmune disease characterized by the hardening of the skin.  There she sat on the sofa crocheting away with hands obviously affected by this disease.  As I talked with her, I found she not only crochets and sews replicas of old, antique quilts, but to support herself, she creates beautiful jewelry as well. 


She talked of her family, a daughter who had married the son of a dear friend, also in attendance at “knit night.”  We chatted about the Bible studies we had done and the goodness of God.  She talked little to none about herself and almost entirely drew the conversation around others and God.  She did not tell me about her disease, or that her husband had left her, or that her last home had burned to the ground.  Others told me these things.  She talked of family and friends, of their kindness and generosity, of God’s provision and goodness.

Have you ever thought about what your life magnifies for the entire world to see?  What is up for display?  Maybe your accomplishments?  Or troubles?  Your family?  Your service?  Your addictions?  Your difficulties?  Your job?  Your afflictions?   Definitely my new friend could have magnified her scleroderma and nobody would have blamed her.  She could have talked about how this disease had changed her, limited her, caused loss, pain, frustration…but she didn’t.  In fact she did something quite different.  She magnified the Lord.  What he had done in her life…was doing and all the graces and gifts she had been given by His great hand.  I was humbled by her complete trust in the goodness of the God she served.

I’ll be honest…sometimes I magnify my poor self.  And it is about as healthy for me as this ant.   I get caught up in it unaware.  Usually something happens that zeroes my focus with pinpoint accuracy…like a laser right at myself. It’s all I can think about…all I can talk about.   It becomes a channel…the thoughts have run the course so many times, my mind is at the mercy of the torrent…the channel is deep, the sides steep so it flows on and on.

I flew over a barren landscape on my way to my sister’s one afternoon.   I was stunned as I looked down at the land below.  It was obvious that water…lots of it…had coursed through at sometime because the landscape was scarred with the marks of the cutting…land, rock and whole mountainsides relentlessly worn deep by the power of the never ceasing water.  Until it did.  Something had changed the pattern.  A small creek flowed next to what once had been a raging river.  Carving its own history now, this new rivulet of water created an entirely new course.

Pastor Jonathan Rue said in a recent teaching at my church that our brain loves habit. (For a video of this wonderful teaching click---> http://subsplash.com/desertvineyard/v/8eef0b1.) In fact our brain loves habit so much it will create a “super highway” of habit so we don’t have to think much about what we are doing.  This completely answers the question of how in the world I can make it all the way home and not remember stopping at one light or stop sign along the way!  The bad news is that all of our bad habits have super highways in our brains as well. 
The good news is just like that little creek I saw from the air, we can create different paths…better habits…God honoring….God magnifying habits!
A rushing stream in the Tahoe National Forest in California Tahoe National Forest

  Thanksgiving…declaring gratitude…writing it down stops the flow of self-focus and begins to carve a new channel in our hearts and minds.  As we begin to take notice of the everyday graces and good gifts God showers on us and put voice to these things, we magnify the Lord.  













David says it simply and beautifully in one of his own songs: “I will praise God’s name with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30.

We are, every one of us, holding a magnifying glass to something in our lives or maybe even a lot of somethings.  Ann Voskamp asks these questions:   “What will a life magnify?  The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of the day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted?  Or God?”

Please don’t hear from this post that you cannot be honest about what is going on in your life.  When the day is miserable from beginning to end.  When your toddler has painted herself and her room with her poo, when your teenager took your car….when the doctor gives the diagnosis you feared…when you are exhausted from all the demands…when all you want to do is sit with your head in your hands and sob, for crying out loud, don’t paste a fake smile on your face and pretend.

Here is the key:  Magnifying the Lord is done best when we make ourselves smaller.  It surely does not mean pretending your difficulties aren’t real.  We magnify the Lord when in the midst of trouble we still number His daily gifts…we still see His magnificence…His goodness…His grace. We still see that HE IS.  

Christy magnifies the Lord by counting and recounting all the good in her life that comes from His hands while her own hands struggle through each stitch, each glass bead strung on a silver thread.




 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What if What We Think is True is Not True at All~



 In the corner of the garage was an old barrel, dust-covered and forgotten.  Over the years boxes were piled on top and then around until it was completely obscured from sight.  More than three decades had passed when the day came that the family home was sold and all had to be sorted into those things to be kept, those to be given and those to be tossed.  It had taken days, but now it was the barrel’s turn. 

The lid was lifted and the smell of what is old and mysterious momentarily filled the air.  This barrel had once belonged to Grandma Brewer, my dad’s mom, and it had not been touched for at least thirty years.  These were her belongings; the total of those things she had sorted through at one time and deemed worthy of keeping.  In the midst of linens, embroidered and crocheted, was a packet of letters neatly tied. 

 At this discovery, all work stopped as we sat and listened to the words of a grandfather we had never known.

Stack Letters, Letter, Handwriting

These were letters from a time during the Great Depression when my father, the youngest of four, was just a toddler and my grandfather had gone in search for work, leaving his family behind.   I don’t remember much about any of the letters but the one.  The one whose words visibly shook my father.  It was one sentence in the midst of many and it said simply this:  “I sure miss Hap and the sound of his little feet on the floor.” 

My father had grown up believing he was not loved by his father…maybe loved by duty, but not loved affectionately as we all crave to be.  He rarely spoke of his childhood years, but I do remember well the day he told me he could not recall one word of endearment from his father.  He spoke of an early morning long, long ago when his father asked if he would like to go fishing in the evening at the creek that ran through their ranch after all the work was done.  I listened as my dad described working harder and more carefully than he ever had at all his chores.  

 River, Water, Water Courses, Nature

 And the time came…everything finished to perfection.  My dad was anxious with anticipation as he waited for his father to come in from his day's work.  My grandfather was true to his word.  Seeing my father waiting with fishing poles in hand, he said, "let's go" and to the creek father and son walked in silence.  And then fished in silence.  Nothing.  My father’s hopes of having some sign of affection from his father that late afternoon ticked away as the sun began to set.  Not a word.  

Seven years later, when my dad was sixteen, he and my grandfather would wearily trudge through the door after a morning of shoveling snow drifts from the road to their ranch after a historic blizzard (http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/etched-in-snow-memories-of-blizzards-still-vivid-for-locals/article_4c6bdb1b-a30c-5737-a529-a85ba8686701.html).  Uncharacteristically, my grandfather said he wasn’t feeling well and laid down on the sofa.  By the time my father came back with lunch from the kitchen, his father, at only forty-six years old, had died of a massive heart attack. 

Perceptions.  My father had only his perceptions…what he thought…what he felt about his own father.  This became his “truth”…unloved, unwanted until the day a barrel opened and a simple sentence from a tattered letter spoke love and truth over a fifty year old son.

I would wager to guess that most of us have false perceptions we have taken into our lives as truth.  Ponder, just for a moment, on this kind of crazy.  Could it be what we think is true, is really not true at all?  Could something that is a lie of perception influence our behavior, our relationships, our lives in destructive and hurtful ways because we "feel" it is true?  Could we be so wrapped up in a perceived "truth," that we no longer see reality? 


Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 that:

 "...we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ."

Could it be these perceptions...these lies we believe as absolute truth...are strongholds in our lives needing to be demolished?  Could it be what we need to do is take these lies captive every single time they come to mind and make them "bow" to truth? 

 Jesus says this:  “…If you continue in My word, you really are my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.   
John 8: 31-32

Truth is freeing, and God’s Word, THE Truth, is the most freeing of all. 

The Amplified version of the Psalm 15:1-2 is intriguing to me.  Some versions translate the Hebrew word in verse two as "speaks," while others translate it as "thinks."  I love that the Amplified version uses both. 

"Lord, who shall dwell [temporarily] in Your tabernacle? Who shall dwell [permanently] on Your holy hill? He who walks and lives uprightly and blamelessly, who works rightness and justice and speaks and thinks the truth in his heart."  
Psalm 15:1-2 Amplified

If we tell ourselves and others over and over the lies we perceive as truth, that we were or are unloved, uncared for, not valued, or whatever yours happens to be, we will believe the lie.  We have to think and speak the truth.  Ask God to show you anything in your life that is a false perception you are walking out in your life as if it were true and then begin replacing the lie with truth. 

It can’t be said better than this: 

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.” 
Philippians 3:8 

Let's dwell on the truth!









Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wake to Joy in the Moment

 I stood outside one warm summer evening watching a setting sun pink sky and land with a dazzling array of rosy shades.   The sun had barely fallen beyond the mountainous horizon when two bright pinpoints lined up perfectly with a little slip of a crescent moon.  Venus and Jupiter dancing together, the night's first pair, in a silent symphony of contrasts and then as the night darkened, more and more pinpricks of light grew in brightness and soon the dome of the sky became milky with just a singular section of one spiraling arm of our galaxy, small in comparison to innumerable others.  

 



 

In that moment, I felt the awe of it...the greatness of creation...the magnificence of our God, our LORD, the Great I AM.  It can only be held onto for a flash by human minds too finite for such infinite sights and thoughts.  And that's okay.  To revel in the joy of the moment...to throw grateful arms heavenward...to know that God is good, His creation truly fascinating and beyond comprehension...to sink into the moment without distractions is enough.  It brings the gifts of peace, joy and the healing of us. 

Ann Voskamp says we have to figure out a way to stay awake to our "one wild and beautiful life."  She reminds us that all we have are moments..."microscopic, fleeting moments."  She asks, "How many moments of our lives have our eyes been wide open--but we have been rushing, racing, sleeping right through?"

I was a rusher and a racer.  I ran from one activity to the next and, if I am honest, I not only had an addiction to the rush of busyness, I had more than a little pride in my busy life...until it started to strangle me to death.  I had a two-word answer to the question we are asked by everyone, from our best friends to the checker as we unload our groceries on that continually rotating belt.  (Hadn't realized it until just now...that belt is a pretty good word picture for the subject of this post:)  You know the question...we ask it and we answer it everyday:  "How are you?"  My two word answer:  "Crazy busy!"  How true that answer was.  I was completely crazy in my busyness.  So crazy that I gave up precious things for the "pressing and urgent need."  I rushed through or completely jumped over moments I could have spent with my ever-growing children to pursue my agenda at work. My upside down world needed to change.  And it did, thank God, but not without a fair amount of wrestling with God and myself.

Here is what my children and grandchildren remember most.  The moments we stopped to enjoy:  the evening planet Mars was closest to the earth and we wore aluminum foil hats and ate Mars bars...the day we watched a hummingbird feasting on a huge sunflower...

 Image result for hummingbird and sunflower


had a picnic in the backyard...painted a mural on the underside of our dining room table like Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel...(ours wasn't quite so elaborate:)


made donuts from refrigerated biscuits...and the list could go on and on.  I hope I thanked God for such moments.  I do now because I realize how valuable they are...treasure in my life...gifts of never to be repeated moments from the hand of God.  

For the most part, these moments are free.  Well, I guess they do cost you something...time.  So take some time to share a moment with God and with others.  Look around and see what He has given and take note, give thanks.  Look up with eyes and a heart to take in the grandeur and beauty of a night sky.  Wake to all the joy that surrounds you!  Share it and give thanks.  Write it down as a memorial to God's goodness.  Sadly, the truth is if I don't write it down, I won't remember.  My gratitude journal delights me all the time just in the reading and remembering.  All those moments would have been lost, but the writing down preserved them so the gift continues to bring joy far after the moment. 

Find a journal and a nice pen (I do LOVE a nice pen) and begin a journey to milestone your gifts.
 
 Much like the Israelites in the Old Testament piled rocks to remind them of God's great goodness, we make neat piles of words to remind us that He is Emmanuel...God With Us always and everyday.  He is our Adonai, our Great Master, who loves to give sweet gifts to His servants! 

If you are "crazy busy," S.T.O.P.!  Plant your feet, take a deep breath and see what God has for you.  You will be pleasantly surprised.  

Blessings, to you, my friends,  of  moments that awaken your joy!!