Heavenly Vision

20171215_175831.jpgIt is so easy to rush through this Christmas season.

We race around malls and on-line, spending extra money, trying to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones. We share extra time together, talking, singing, laughing, and we share flu bugs that quickly become epidemics.

We set extra high expectations for ourselves, children, spouses, friends or co-workers, wanting to pull off the perfect Christmas program, the perfect Christmas meal, or the perfect work party.

Indulging in all the Christmas treats, we may eat too much sugar, and drink so much coffee that our heads begin to throb,  our hearts begin to pound, and our bodies begin to drag.

Maybe for you, the holidays just renew the ache in your heart as you grieve the loss of a loved one, or you remember the days  gone by.

At times, we can look like ants scurrying around our ant-hills, carrying burdens that are much too heavy, never looking up, and over the course of the season, we begin to feel tired and disappointed.  We may even become depressed or angry,  wondering, “Where is the joy of Christmas?”

Then, in January, the crushing weight of reality closes in,   The credit card bill arrives and we are broke. We step on the scale and feel miserable.  We can hardly stand our spouse, children or coworkers, because they were so, well–human,  over the holidays, and they didn’t match up to our expectations of perfection…  The illusion of the perfect Christmas has left us disillusioned.

 Oh Soul, are you weary and troubled,

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light  for a look at the Savior,

And  life more abundant and free…

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful  face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace. 

The Heavens declare His glory, and we can see it everyday.  Every morning when the morning star shines brightly in the east, we are reminded of His glory.  And every time we hold a newborn babe, we are reminded of His grace.

Take time from your hurrying and worrying and look up!  Look to the Great I Am, and know He is everything we need Him to be. He is our peace. He is our hope.  He is our life.

And in the darkness of winter in your soul,  come to the manger and see the light of His face.

Look full in His wonderful face. 

 

The hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” was originally published in 1918 by Helen Lemmel.  It was also known as “The Heavenly Vision.”

 

Advertisements

Lessons from the Orchard

dsc_1008-1.jpgEarlier this summer we had a storm blow through and level one of our apple trees.  It had already blossomed and was covered with little green fruits; it looked to be a bumper crop, before it was decimated.   It was a sad day when we threw its lovely branches on  the burn pile, and watched the flames devour them.

When we looked at the shard of a stump that was left, we saw that only half of the tree was living.  By all outside appearances it was thriving, but when the storm hit  it could not stand; the trunk was weakened by the worthless, decaying portion that was dead.

What a perfect picture of sin in my own life.

I am so capable of appearing  one way on the outside, but when God looks at my heart, He sees the sins I allow to remain in my life….the hidden ones I may even call innocuous.  They aren’t hurting anyone, or so I think.

I keep them hidden well, and even allow them to become part of my personality.   I let them callous my heart, gradually hardening it to the Holy Spirit’s gentle guidance.

Those sunny days, where everything is blissful may not reveal my heart, but when the sky turns a formidable green and the winds mount,  the strength of my character will be revealed.  Will it stand in the hurricane force gales that can sometimes swirl around me?

As a wife, mother, and now grandma (!) I want to be healthy and strong, so my family can seek shelter under my branches when the storms of life blow.   Not only do I want to provide shelter, I want the fruit of God’s Spirit to provide a luxurious feast for my loved ones.  If their hearts are ever starved for a loving word, a patient response, or joyful encouragement, let them find an abundance of fruit in my life.

King David probably owned beautiful orchards and spoke from experience when he wrote the words:

 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked ,

     nor stands in the way of the sinner,

           nor sits in the seat of the scoffer,

              but his delight is in the law of the Lord.

                  And in His law, he meditates day and night. 

     He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of living water,

          which yields its fruit in its season,

               and whatever he does prospers.

      Not so the wicked. 

             They are  like chaff that the wind blows away.  

                  They will not stand in the day of judgement.  (Psalm 1:1-5)

I want to be blessed. And even more so, I want those around me to be blessed, so I savor a few verses from God’s Word everyday.  They show me the deadening effects of sin in my life, and by simply asking Him to forgive me when my heart doesn’t line up with His standards, He is faithful to remove the decaying portion, and create in me that same strong heart that King David was famous for; the one that was like God’s own.

How thankful I am that The Tree Surgeon tends me so carefully.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel 36:26

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satisfied.

DSC_0324

I remember a restaurant that on rare  occasions, we would frequent when I was a very young child.  Standing near the cashier, they had a tempting array of pies and desserts  displayed in a  tall, glass case, that rotated to give you a better view of each sweet.  The selections were under lights, and before you had even looked at a menu to make your main entrée decision, you had imagined which slice of pie you would order for dessert:  the tall piece of French Silk, with the curl of dark chocolate atop the billows of cream, or the bright, Fresh Strawberry pie with each berry perfectly covered  in scarlet glaze, or maybe the beautiful, Banana Cream with a flaky,  golden crust… The variety of choices seemed endless to my childish mind, and the visual thrill alone was almost enough to satisfy me.

After indulging in too many such desserts over my lifetime, I now usually say, “I’d rather just have some fresh bread,” instead of the sickening sweetness of a triple scoop hot fudge sundae, or the pies  I used to think were the epitome of desserts.  There have been too many times I have regretted with my whole heart and stomach the lack of control I have demonstrated when faced with so many good choices.

“Every good and perfect thing is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  (James 1:7)

Satan knows that.

He also knows that the Best Thing is God,  Himself.

In my life, satan knows  I am less likely to fill my life with blatantly nasty things–you know,  garbage that would make my soul instantly sick.  He is too clever for such an obvious scheme.

Instead,  I think the master of deception tempts me with good things.  Blessed with such good gifts as family, health, recreation, good books, good movies, good times, good this,  and good that,  I can fill up, overindulge, and have a false sense of satisfaction.  Things that are entirely good can fill me so full of their creamy sweetness,  I have no desire for the bread of life.  My overloaded system starts to feel sick.  It’s a trick he keeps up his sleeve.  One can only run on fat and sugar for so long, and he knows it.

You know, the Israelites fell for the trick too, only they craved meat.  They were tired of the bread of life that God had been so faithfully providing day by day in the form of manna,  and they complained enough till God provided meat, and a lot of it. It was good, roasted over their fires, tender and juicy; they ate a gluttonous amount of the fowl till, they felt foul,  and regretted the choice with all their hearts, and stomachs.

Do you remember the story of Hansel and Gretel?  While far from home, they had been tempted by an evil old woman to eat gingerbread and candy to their heart’s content, but they weren’t content; they were trapped, scared, and on the menu–for she planned to consume them, once she had baited and caught them with her delectable, edible house. (It is a terrifying story to read to small children.) As a little girl, my mind was fascinated with the scenario of those poor children escaping,  and trying desperately to find their way home through the dark woods, by following a trail of breadcrumbs.

Jesus, our Bread of Life, was broken for us.  He is our manna:  our breadcrumbs scattered on the ground. He is not only our sustenance, He is our lifeline leading us home.  Unlike the Israelites, wandering through the desert and griping about the manna,  I would be wise to follow little Gretel and her brother’s example of being eternally grateful for my Daily Bread, and where It leads me.

Satan, the deceiver,  is the keeper of the glass display case:  “These decadent desserts are just what you want.  They are all that you want.  They are all that you need.”  He is the wicked old woman:  “Here, my child, have a taste…have a little more… a little more… a little more… ” I can just hear his chuckle turn into a villainous laugh as he baits us; encouraging us to fill our hearts and minds with things,  good things, but things,  none-the-less, other than God Himself, until our souls are sick.

He baits us, traps us, and will consume us if we are not aware of his evil plan.

I may be traveling through dark, scary woods now, but daily I look for, and find the bits of bread in the path, and they never fail to lead me in the right direction.  Once I’m home with my Abba, my Daddy, my Rescuer,  I wonder what it will feel like to be completely satisfied in Him, alone.

P.S.  I’ve read that I’ll be invited to sit at a table with Him,  the One who was broken for me, and the name of the special occasion is  “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb.”  I don’t know what all is on the menu, but I have a hunch;  if they happen to offer strawberry pie, it will be the best I’ve ever had.

Of course it will be; I’ll be savoring it with the very One who, in His goodness, created strawberries in the first place.

They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalms 106:13-15).

Men ate angels’ food; He sent them food to the full. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; and by His power He brought in the south wind. He also rained meat on them like the dust, feathered fowl like the sand of the seas; and He let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. So they ate and were well filled, for He gave them their own desire. They were not deprived of their craving; but while their food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them, and struck down the choice men of Israel. In spite of this they still sinned, and did not believe in His wondrous works” (Psalms 78:25-32).

 

Shocking

IMG_7421It’s shocking.

It is, and I am beginning to realize it now that I am growing older;  this tongue of mine, and the way I can wield it like a sword– cutting, slashing, defeating–can be, at times, shocking.

I can savor verses that remind me that “a wise woman  builds her house, but a foolish woman tears hers down with her own efforts.” (Proverbs 14:16)  They are wise words, sweet words; words reminding me of how much power a woman has in her home.  How is it then, that I can become so foolish, allowing bitter venom to begin coursing through my veins and empower my tongue when I disagree with my husband?

Suki was the name of  my dog while growing up.   He was a soft,  white-haired mix  that had a warm,  tan color scattered over his thick fur.    He was playful, naughty, faithful, and adorable.  Looking into his huge, brown eyes, I knew he understood me. He was a quiet  listener to my 13-year-old heart.  I loved him dearly.

One day, Suki found an opossum trailing along behind our chicken house.  Why it was out in the daytime, I’ll never know, but Suki began to play with it; running in for a quick nip, dashing away and darting back for another, and another, and another, becoming more and more aggressive.  The opossum, on the other hand,  became more and more still; the more Suki went in for the kill, the more lifeless the ‘possum appeared.

We children watched in horror as our beloved dog became an attacker.  No pun intended, but “living up” to their known habits, (well, I guess I do like a good pun,) the poor ‘possum “played dead”… and deader still, to no avail.  Blood began to spatter both the white fur of our dog, and the grey fur of the unfortunate bundle before we could drag Suki away.

What a terrible memory, and yet that is the picture that flashed into my mind one day when I was “making a point” (for lack of a better excuse for my behavior) with my husband. It started as a playful jab, and deteriorated quickly into a mean-spirited use of my words.

He says he married me partly for my pretty good wit, but sometimes my wittiness  isn’t witty.  In fact, it isn’t even good sometimes, and I  must confess, when I have felt that venom flow through my veins, it is definitely not pretty.  I have turned from being an understanding wife, to an attacker.  I am as guilty as my dog, Suki– going in for the kill, when I refuse to drop an issue in my attempt to prove I’m right.

I can feel supremely justified in making my point;  (I may even be correct!) But if he is slow to respond, or is choosing not to respond,  I can easily slip into attack mode.

My silver plated sword becomes an exacting  instrument of death and the more it flashes, cutting and swift, the quieter my husband will become.

It’s ugly and my children have seen it.

Thankfully, my husband is no fool.  He knows words are hard to retrieve once they have been put out into the air for all to hear.  It can be frustrating to me, but if it wasn’t for his quiet, unchanging, patient personality, our home could have been destroyed long ago.  He still loves me dearly, despite my faults.

The wisest man on earth has said:

“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.”  (Proverbs 18:2)

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  (Proverbs 16:24)

P.S.   I didn’t want to post this little vignette.  In fact,  I vowed I wouldn’t…. unless I found a dead opossum to photograph (figuring that would be highly unlikely.)  God must take my vows seriously, however,  because the next day, after I had determined I was off the hook,  my sister and I drove past this poor unfortunate fellow.   I yelled, “Stop!!” and jumped out of the car to grab a couple of photos.

Could it be God wants others to learn from my mistakes?

P.P.S.  When my husband read this, he was quick to point out that I made myself out to be a monster, and that situations like this are a rarity.  Hmmm… maybe I am learning to control my tongue,  but at times,  there still lurks a little naughty Suki in my heart.

Suffocating

DSC_9712I had a friend who had smoked for years.  One day, she looked into the mirror and was startled to see that she looked like death warmed over. Smoking was a habit she had indulged in for so long, she had grown accustomed to the smell; she had no clue that she reeked.  It wasn’t until she was literally dying from smoking, and from living such a hard life, that she woke up so to say, to “smell the roses” before people were placing them at her grave.

The smoke and haze of our culture of deception is getting thicker.  Am I getting accustomed to it, not realizing that it means eventual suffocation of truth?  Am I taking drags on little lies here and there? Am I dulled to the fact that our culture is becoming more and more pagan, and that is a foul stench?  Am I inhaling the false, “open-minded” thinking that goes against scripture, but is enveloping our world?  Do I see the haze and smog of deception can even dim my view and clog my lungs, leading eventually to death?

It can be so subtle, this gradual adjustment to thinking that goes against scripture.  The grey mist is filtering through the doors of our churches in well intended books that shift the focus from God’s complete power in transforming us,  to a focus on ourselves and what we need to do to reach emotional maturity…thus implying a deeper “spirituality.”

Sometimes the smoke isn’t so subtle, and its blackness belches from the very heart of a church.  A small country church down  the road from here assures in its mission statement, that it is a safe place to worship, study, and build relationships with God and others, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, or cultural backgrounds.  The immorality formerly considered dangerous is now inhaled as a norm, and we are “showing love” in our churches by ignoring God’s standard.  We that seek the fresh air of Truth are labeled as judgmental and cruel.

Sometimes the smell of death is diffused with attractive nuances.  At our local college, there is a variety of courses available in “Health and Wellness” careers, most of which are taught by a shaman priestess.  She will teach you about Reiki: “a system of assisting energy movement through the laying on of hands,” and she is dedicated to the “balancing of mind, body and spirit.” Another class offered is called “Slavic Horoscopes” where you can learn about 27 energies that will “empower” you and “guide” you in a new direction in life.  Mmmm… smells interesting.

My daughter recently returned from a whirlwind tour of England, Belgium, Denmark and France where the smog is choking.  Churches are empty and the look on many  people’s faces show they are dying for a breath of Fresh Air.

While in Denmark, my daughter and her friend had a very interesting conversation with a man who was delighted to meet these two young women who considered themselves “born again.”  He was delighted because he also considered himself to be “born again, but progressive.”  Being  a student of political science, he was amazed at the lack of “progressive” thought in our country; after all, in his country you could “marry” a goat. (And he was not joking.)  In the confusion of the haze, what formerly would have been considered unthinkable is now possible: a person claiming to be a Christ follower,  being open to bestiality.

Squinting and rubbing my watery, sore eyes, I fight to see through the smoke and haze of deception.  My only chance for survival is to follow the Light.  It cuts through lies and off- base thinking,  and is a beacon of hope to my heart in these darkening days.  Following the Light includes hiding His Word in my heart, that I might not sin against Him  (Psalm 119:11).

The more I am familiar with the truths found in God’s Word, the more I can detect lies.  Not only does God provide light through His life-giving words, His Spirit becomes the smoke detector in my mind, sounding the alarm when there are even molecules of deception beginning to cloud my view of Truth.

Lord, help me to never become adjusted to the sickening, suffocating clouds of deception that surround me.  Be my light, be my smoke detector and be the very air that I breathe; for You alone are fresh and good and sweet to my panting lungs.

Suffocating

DSC_9712I had a friend who had smoked for years.  One day, she looked into the mirror and was startled to see that she looked like death warmed over. Smoking was a habit she had indulged in for so long, she had grown accustomed to the smell; she had no clue that she reeked.  It wasn’t until she was literally dying from smoking, and from living such a hard life, that she woke up so to say, to “smell the roses” before people were placing them at her grave.

The smoke and haze of our culture of deception is getting thicker.  Am I getting accustomed to it, not realizing that it means eventual suffocation of truth?  Am I taking drags on little lies here and there? An I dulled to the fact that our culture is becoming more and more pagan, and that is a foul stench?  Am I inhaling the false, “open-minded” thinking that goes against scripture, but is enveloping our world?  Do I see the haze and smog of deception can even dim my view and clog my lungs, leading eventually to death?

It can be so subtle, this gradual adjustment to thinking that goes against scripture.  The grey mist is filtering through the doors of our churches in well intended books that shift the focus from God’s complete power in transforming us,  to a focus on ourselves and what we need to do to reach emotional maturity…thus implying a deeper “spirituality.”

Sometimes the smoke isn’t so subtle, and its blackness belches from the very heart of a church.  A small country church down  the road from here assures in its mission statement, that it is a safe place to worship, study, and build relationships with God and others, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, or cultural backgrounds.  The immorality formerly considered dangerous is now inhaled as a norm, and we are “showing love” in our churches by ignoring God’s standard.  We that seek the fresh air of Truth are labeled as judgmental and cruel.

Sometimes the smell of death is diffused with attractive nuances.  At our local college, there is a variety of courses available in “Health and Wellness” careers, most of which are taught by a shaman priestess.  She will teach you about Reiki: “a system of assisting energy movement through the laying on of hands,” and she is dedicated to the “balancing of mind, body and spirit.” Another class offered is called “Slavic Horoscopes” where you can learn about 27 energies that will “empower” you and “guide” you in a new direction in life.  Mmmm… smells interesting.

My daughter recently returned from a whirlwind tour of England, Belgium, Denmark and France where the smog is choking.  Churches are empty and the look on many  people’s faces show they are dying for a breath of Fresh Air.

While in Denmark, my daughter and her friend had a very interesting conversation with a man who was delighted to meet these two young women who considered themselves “born again.”  He was delighted because he also considered himself to be “born again, but “progressive.”  Being  a student of political science, he was amazed at the lack of “progressive” thought in our country; after all, in his country you could “marry” a goat. (And he was not joking.)  In the confusion of the haze, what formerly would have been considered unthinkable is now possible: a person claiming to be a Christ follower,  being open to bestiality.

Squinting and rubbing my watery, sore eyes, I fight to see through the smoke and haze of deception.  My only chance for survival is to follow the Light.  It cuts through lies and off- base thinking,  and is a beacon of hope to my heart in these darkening days.  Following the Light includes hiding His Word in my heart, that I might not sin against Him  (Psalm 119:11).

The more I am familiar with the truths found in God’s Word, the more I can detect lies.  Not only does God provide light through His life-giving words, His Spirit becomes the smoke detector in my mind, sounding the alarm when there are even molecules of deception beginning to cloud my view of Truth.

Lord, help me to never become adjusted to the sickening, suffocating clouds of deception that surround me.  Be my light, be my smoke detector and be the very air that I breathe; for You alone are fresh and good and sweet to my panting lungs.

Back-Packing #3

DSC_9758Third item to show you in my survival pack for life is my flashlight.

It sheds light on everything and allows me safe passage even in the darkest night.  When my narrow trail is filled with rocks that threaten to trip me or send me headlong into a crevasse, it slices through the blackness and lights my way.

When I can’t see Him, my Companion treading so quietly beside me, it throws light into His Glorious Face and I am strengthened once again, reminded of His Ever Presence and All Knowing Mind.

In C.S. Lewis’s life-shaping children’s book,  The Horse and His Boy, there is a passage that dissolves me into tears every time I read it.  When reading it out loud with my children, I would have to stop and collect myself, never able to make it all the way through before feeling buried under the weight of the truth.

It is the part where Shasta, the boy,  is struggling on in the night trying to make his way to Narnia, and he is terrified because he is sensing some unseen thing walking beside himself and the horse he was riding.  When he finally gathers courage to choke out the words “Who are you?” the Thing responds in a voice that was “not loud,  but very large and deep: ‘Someone who has waited long for you to speak.'”

Shasta then begins to realize there is an enormous Lion walking next to him, breathing on his hand.  Once the initial horror subsides, the Lion says gently, “Tell me your sorrows.”  With great relief,  Shasta begins to pour out his heart to this huge creature, this Lion: this Aslan he had only heard tales of, but was now walking beside him,

With tears streaming down his face, Shasta has then what I would call a ‘major pity party,’ recalling all of the events that made him a poor, “unfortunate boy,” The Lion responds, explaining to the boy, that He had been behind all of the events, the comforting ones and the terrifying ones, that had directed Shasta to that point, and it had all been intended for his welfare, helping direct him to Narnia.

Thanks to my friend Mr. Lewis,  the verse in God’s Word, where Paul tells me that “all things work together for good,” takes on such new power I am able to see things almost in High Definition.

I now can point  my flashlight towards the path my mother has trod (ahead of me) and see the hand of God.  The fact that He was walking beside my mother, using circumstances and her conscience to guide her is the real-life tale that shapes my life.  It is Romans 8:28 put on the stage of real life for all of us to see.  (See Blog entitled: Back-Packing #1)

God’s Word is the  powerful light that sheds its rays on my path; it keeps me safe when the way becomes misty with the smoke and haze of current lies and deceptions.  My way becomes enlightened and that, my fellow traveler,  gives me peace.

The Flashlight not only casts it light around me, but it is becoming indispensable in my ‘growing up’  children’s lives; they  are learning to rely on it to light their own journeys. It will be what I leave behind, stashed in my back pack for my grandchildren’s children when I am welcomed into the true Narnia, where all is Light.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.   Romans 8:28 NAS