Sunday, June 18, 2017

Conversations With the Creator

Recently I had the pleasure of exploring Chimney Bluffs State Park on Lake Ontario. Breathtaking views of the jagged clay bluffs and the Caribbean flavor of eastern Lake Ontario await those who traverse the high trail. Even the forest has a wild jungle feel.

 There is more than one trail to choose from; naturally I chose the one nearest the edge...just the right amount of pleasurably perilous for my taste!

After passing the wave of cliffs jutting into the blue, the bluff becomes gradually less steep. The water calls me. Far be it from me to pass up a favorable opportunity to get down to the strip of pebbled beach and meet the cold thrill! My slippery trip down the muddy bank is rewarded by a plethora of intriguing rocks worthy of a nature lover's collection. I am happily occupied with this treasure hunt for some time.

Presently I rest on a fallen log, my catch of stones secured in my pack, and I pull out my journal. Nothing is more inspiring for me than writing in the middle of creation's glory. As I muse over water and rock, clay and root, I write...I converse with my Creator in my favorite language.

Creator God--You have put so much in this world to delight us! Today my heart wonders at these things:

The fresh scent of rain, the cadence of it against roofs and windows--now pattering, now pouring.
The greens of the forest, the variety of trees, bark, and leaves, the air sweet with blossoms. The mysterious magnetism of a packed dirt path winding through jungle.
The incredible artistry in rock! Size and shape, variegated colors and patterns, and a million variations of each.
The way You planned out how the forces of nature--wind and water and earthquakes and volcanoes--would affect and shape the elements, like rock and trees, sand, and mud cliffs.
The crash of waves on a beach. The soothing ebb and flow. The thrill of cold water rushing up over feet and legs.
The trilling of birds, and the way the most unassuming little sparrow reminds me of Your kind and tireless care.

Yet nature in all her glory can but speak broken phrases in the volumes of descriptive language that could be written, if there were such a worthy language, to express the beauty and wisdom and power and mercy and infinity of Your God-ness!

Why, oh why, do I ever desire anything besides You, God?

Why this fear and unbelief that leads me to doubt Your infinite goodness, perfect love, and kind, tenderhearted engagement in my greatest good--and that You would make my good fit within Your greatest glory?

Why the endless, mindless, obstinate, and deliberate chasing of pleasure placebos that can never fulfill me? Why the desperate struggle to hold on to these useless attempts to imitate the pleasure and satisfaction found in Your presence alone?

Why can I not remain at rest in you, my Vine?

Why do I continuously cast up these paltry pleasures within my soul like the restless waves of the sea upon land? You Yourself set the boundary for the seas. You said, "This far you shall come, and no further." And so it is with my fleshly pleasures. They can only go so far--they are trapped by a boundary set by Your mercy--they can never take me to real pleasure, the kind that fulfills my soul. Instead they leave me thirsty and hollow, always needing more.

Yet no matter how long I toss and foam, You wait for me to come to You. You pursue me; I cannot hide from Your presence. You wait for me to come to my senses and abandon myself to the Fountain of Life, my source and my salvation and my eternal pleasure!

Will I embrace Your freedom?

You wait.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Elvish Musings

If I could live a fantasy, I'd be a wood-elf dwelling in Tolkien's legendary Rivendell. I cannot imagine anything closer to Paradise on this earth. A marvel of nature and high creativity, a haven of sacred beauty. Protected by stalwart stone cliffs, the water catapulting from dizzying heights and glittering millions of diamonds in moonlight. I would be intimately acquainted with all green and growing things and healing arts. The forest would be to me as a second skin. Life would be a graceful dance of starlight, rivers, trees, music, and wild things. Nothing would make me afraid, for I would be immortal, belonging to the Undying Lands, far wiser and stronger and skilled beyond the ways of mortal men. I'd be a fierce warrior and an even fiercer lover - binding myself to an immortal love that I would hold forever with a single heart.

But I am immortal. I am a citizen of the Undying Lands, an heiress to unimaginable wealth and glory, a vessel filled with light and hope and power far beyond the understanding of mortal flesh and mind. I flow with the rivers of Life that bring restoration to a dying world.

And if that were not enough, I belong to a Love that is eternal, unfading; higher, wider, deeper, and stronger than anything this world of flesh can contain. This Love is stronger than death and has the last word beyond time, space, flesh, and the grave. Nothing can ever quench my Love or separate me from Him! This Love will not let me go!

He died for me. He paid the ultimate price to make me His bride. But death could not keep Him, for He is the Author of Life itself! My Hero vanquished death, obliterated my sin that held me captive, and called me from the thrall of the dark lord into His Sovereign realm of life and love and light!

Now I am one with Him....forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever....beyond the grey shadows of this fading world to the bright Undying infinity and beyond!

"And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. And His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there. They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
-Revelation 22:3-5, 17

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Threat...or a Promise?

Five months ago, God drew me into a unique fellowship called D-Group. It's been one of the best decisions of my life. Every week, I meet with a special group of sisters who are pursuing Jesus, seeking to be His disciples, and spurring one another on in our love for Him. Together, we study the Word, hide the Truth in our hearts, confess our sins, pray for one another, and hold each other accountable to grow up in every way into Christ.

We've started off the new year diving deep into the book of Romans. This may seem a well-worn book for many of us, but the Word of God is alive, and so it never fails to amaze with new treasure and fresh revelations of our Life-Giver. Today I opened the pages to read an oh-so-familiar portion from Romans chapter 8, and lo and behold...He's doing it again! Breathing new life into my bones. May I blow a bit of it your way?

What threatens you right now? Changing circumstances? Financial hardship? Relational pain? Sickness? A difficult person? A tough job? Impossible expectations? The loss of something precious? The unknown? 

Whatever it may be, we all have something that shadows us with dread, those things that we view as threats to our well-being. 

I find it fascinating that Romans 8:31 begins in this way: "What then shall we say to these things?" 

What things?

If you back-track to what Paul has just been discussing (verses 18-30), he seems to be referring to those things that we naturally confront as threats. 

Suffering. That covers a lot. Life in this world hurts. 

Futility and corruption. Paul says the whole creation groans in this bondage. The twisted fingers of sin have touched and marred every part of the perfect beauty that God first spoke into being. 

Waiting. An unfulfilled longing for something we desperately want but don't have. 

Weakness. Oh, how we hate this reality of our fallen humanity. We treat it like a despised disease. We search for a cure. We'll do everything in our power to gild over the cracks and make it look like we have it all together, while everything inside is falling apart. 

The fear of what will happen. It's not named, but implied. We fear the unknown ahead because we believe that bad things will happen.

One more threat I see implied in this passage: the fear of walking through life unknown, unloved, and purposeless. That can suck a soul dry.

What, indeed, shall we say to THESE THINGS?

Let's finish Paul's thought: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

This, Beloved, is what we can say! But how can we be sure that God is for us? Lean in; look closer. Do you see it? Every potential threat in this passage is paired with a promise from our Father!

God IS for us--because He is preparing to reveal a glory in and to us that is indescribably greater than our present sufferings.

God IS for us--because He has adopted us as His sons and daughters, and He has promised to restore all things in us and in creation that have been corrupted by sin.

God IS for us--because He's given us the hope of a glorious future and the grace to wait for it with patience.

God IS for us--because He's given us His Spirit to help us in our weakness and to intercede for us.

God IS for us--because He works ALL THINGS together for our good. Nothing that is truly bad can happen to the child of God. Even what the enemy means for evil, God means for good to us. In the end, everything, whether we see it as good or bad, plays into God's hands.

God IS for us--we can never be unknown, unloved, or purposeless, because He knew us even before he formed the world, and He has chosen us, called us to be His own, justified and glorified us!

Now stay with gets even better! Paul introduces a beautiful progression in verse 34: "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."

Jesus died so your sin-enslaved self could die with Him. Then He was raised so you could be raised with Him to a new life, free to be all you were created to be! And not only that, but He is at the right hand of God, so that you can be with Him right now in the heavenly places--and not only that, but He is always interceding for you! Jesus never rests from representing you before the Father as your advocate, your justifier, and your interceder! Beloved, you are hidden WITH Christ IN God! Nothing can threaten you in this place...NOTHING!

So I can say with Paul...I AM SURE...that nothing will be able to separate me from the love of my Father in Yeshua, the Son! Consider this...nothing can ever separate the Son from the Father's love and their perfect union as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So because you are IN THE SON, nothing can ever separate you, IN THE SON, from the Father's love and from eternal union with God!