Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sweet Moments

It was one of the sweetest moments of each day.

Growing up, my three daughters all shared a bedroom. When they went to bed each night they took turns choosing a CD to listen to. Their favorites included Mary Rice Hopkins, Amy Grant, Sandi Patty, or Adventures in Odyssey.

I loved sitting by the door of their room, and hearing their little voices, singing along with the CD and whispering God’s word and His praises. Usually by the time the CD played through they were all asleep. The music just seemed to help them ease into sleep peacefully.

Little-girl-sleeping

It’s no wonder… it impressed the word of God in their hearts. It reassured them of His love for them, and offered Him praise in return. Focusing on that brought them peace, and comfort, and rest.

Today, all three of them are choosing to walk with Jesus. I am firmly convinced that part of the reason is that while they were young God’s word was rooted in their hearts, both consciously and subconsciously.

God’s word clearly assures us that “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.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) So when Amy Grant sings “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105), my girls didn’t know that it was straight from the Bible, but the truth of those words nevertheless settled into their hearts.

Because His words are inspired, they are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. “ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Mary Rice Hopkins singing “In the beginning God made the seas, and the forests filled with trees. He made the mountains up so high, on the very top He placed the sky” laid the groundwork in their minds to receive the truth of creation.

mary rice hopkins

God’s word strengthens us (Psalm 119:28). It is eternal, and communicates eternal truths (Psalm 119:89). It brings light (Psalm 119:30) and reveals the thoughts and attitudes of our heart (Hebrews 4:12). Above all, it is the way that God has illustrated and preserved His workings throughout history in order to bring us to a place where we would seek Him, find Him, and follow Him.

The moment we realize that, and choose Him, is the sweetest moment of all!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.            Colossians 3:15-16

Further reflection:

1. When did you first start believing that God’s word is true?

2. What do you do to bury God’s word in your heart and mind?

Father, I love Your word. It is my comfort, my encouragement, and my challenge. It is truth, and I love how You use it to accomplish Your plans and purposes in my life. May my heart and mind be open to what You want to teach me through it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Snoring in Church

It happened at church, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life.

I grew up in a church that taught me a lot about how to be a good person, but never about how I could never be good enough to earn my way to heaven. During the normal service a few verses of the Bible were read aloud, but that’s as far as it went. No teaching on the verses, no explanation of what they meant. It was, in a word, dry and boring.

My dad must have thought so, too. He had this habit of falling asleep. Sometimes he would lean his head against the wall. That was a good day. Other times, his head would do the well-known head bob. That was bad enough. But one week, he must have been very tired. Or very bored. Because he actually started snoring!

snoring

Now you have to understand, my dad was not a soft, ruffling kind of snorer. He sounded more like an angry bear in the woods. Nothing discreet about it. It seemed as if everyone in the church swiveled his head to see who was making that horrible noise. I sank down into the pew as low as I could, but there was no escaping the grins thrown my way. Mom elbowed Dad sharply in the ribs and the snoring stopped, but the damage had been done. When you are a pre-teen, life doesn’t get much worse.

While I was pretty focused on my own mortification, the root problem was that my dad had completely tuned out the sermon. Maybe he was drowsy, but for whatever reason he quit listening to the pastor. He missed the message altogether, and just fell asleep.

Sadly, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. I am my Dad’s daughter. Only what I tune out is what God is trying to say to me. Physical fatigue. Emotional lethargy. Mental exhaustion. They may all contribute, but I find myself in a spiritual malaise, and I quit listening.

Oh, how much I miss when I do!

I miss God’s voice telling me, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21) So I don’t follow the right path.

I don’t turn to Him when He calls, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) So I continue, drained and unrefreshed.

I carry the heaviness of my sin, instead of taking it to the only one who can forgive me (1 John 1:9). So I cannot escape its weight. All because I don’t listen to the One who longs for me to turn to Him and hear His still, small voice reassuring me of His unconditional, unwavering, unlimited love.

So I can choose to sleepwalk through life, not listening to the One who loves me best, or I can choose to wake up and live the abundant life He has promised (John 10:10).

No more snoring in church for me!

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.                              Psalm 51:9-10

Further reflection:

1. Have you ever tuned out God?

2. What was the result?

3. What could keep your heart and mind focused on Him?

Father, I am so sorry for all the times I tune You out. You are the One who loves me best, and I long to walk fully in the abundant life You have promised. Please open my mind and my heart to hear all You have to say to me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Anticipation

Anticipation had been building for months, and yesterday it was finally time.

I first found out about it just after arriving at our cabin in Big Bear last summer. My three grandsons immediately went outside to check out the hot tub, and after I’d put the groceries away I joined them.

I was laughing at eighteen-month-old Asher’s antics, when I noticed the writing on his t-shirt: “Big brother”. Immediately my eyes shot to my son and daughter-in-law.

“Really?” The word squeaked out. And with hugs and laughter they assured me it was true. Their fourth child was on the way!

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I’ve been looking forward to this baby’s arrival ever since. Once the sonogram showed that their fourth baby was also heir fourth boy he became Noah. They chose the name because it means “quiet, restful.” Stew and Annie are hoping he lives up to it.

For the last several months I have wondered what he will look like, if he has dark or light hair, and what his personality will be like. I have prayed for his growth in utero, his safe delivery, and that he would arrive without any complications. I have yearned for him to know and love Jesus at a very young age. I couldn’t wait to see his little face! There is something so deeply satisfying about holding a brand new life….

But after all that anticipation, it didn’t happen as planned.

I was helping Annie’s Aunt Bonnie with the three older brothers when Noah arrived safely by planned C-section at 10:45 a.m. We laughed together even as that joy expressed itself in a few tears. But then the word came; Noah was in the NICU with fluid on his lungs. While that is not uncommon for C-section babies it is certainly not what you hope for. The same thing had happened to Ryder, one of Noah’s brothers, and he spent time in that same NICU. Noah should be fine in a few days, but I won’t get to see him until then.

baby Noah

There is something else I’m looking forward to with far greater anticipation than Noah’s birth: Jesus’ return.

Already knowing Him only increases the expectancy. I can be fully confident that His faithfulness and His love for us is what ensure He will keep His promise to return. And while I don’t know when to expect it, this I am assured of; I will see Him face-to-face (1 Corinthians 13:12), and it will forever change me (1 John 3:2).

Never again will I be separated from Him, and it will far exceed all my anticipation, every hope and every longing that my soul has yearned for.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.                                                                                                             John 14:1-3

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.                                            1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Further reflection:

1. Describe a time when you were eagerly anticipating something.

2. What do you think it will like when you see Jesus face-to-face?

Father, thank You that You have given us so much to enjoy here in this life. Every good thing comes from Your hand. But there is nothing—nothing!—worth looking forward to more than the return of Your Son. Come quickly!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Free Falling

The door to the plane slid open and the wind came rushing in. For a split second the question crossed my mind: “Am I really going to jump out of this airplane?”

We all have bucket lists. Even since my college days skydiving was on mine. A few weeks ago my daughter, Bethany, asked to do a tandem skydive as her birthday gift. Since all my kids are now grown, the responsibility to be vigilantly cautious so I could live to raise them was no longer a consideration. What’s the worst thing that could have happened? Meet Jesus a little early? Not a bad option, so I quickly volunteered to go with her.

On that Saturday morning I fully expected the nerves to kick in. Didn’t happen on the drive out to Jamul. Once we got there we had to completely sign our lives away in recognition of possible injury or death. That should have scared me, but it barely registered. Quickly we went through training. All five minutes of it. I guess when it’s a tandem dive you really don’t need to know much.

Next we got the jump gear on and met our tandem guides. Mine was exactly the kind of guy I’d pictured; Tattoo Ron had long dreadlocks, camouflage shorts, and wore the casual cockiness of an adrenaline junkie. I liked him immediately.

They quickly loaded about sixteen of us into the well-worn and very noisy Otter PY airplane, seating us on benches along each side. Full power, steeply climbing into the sky. As I looked out the window I remember wondering; “I’m going to jump from this altitude?” Climbing even higher I still wasn’t nervous…probably because it was too late for that.

At one point we leveled off, and our guides did whatever they to do attach themselves to our backs. I’m probably better off not knowing what it was.

Bethany looked across at me. I think she was a little green. That’s when the door slip open. Here I was, 10,000 feet above the ground, strapped to Tattoo Ron and his dreadlocks. I had never met him before, and I was putting my life in his hands. And I had never even thought twice about it!

I watched in a bizarrely detached mode as Bethany tumbled out the door. Then Tattoo Ron and I crab-walked to the edge and I squatted down as we’d been instructed. I never had to make the conscious decision to jump, as he tapped me on the shoulder once…twice...and then rolled out the door, taking me with him.

pre skydive

And there I was, free falling at about 115 mph! Adrenaline coursing wildly, I completely abandoned myself to the experience. It was the most glorious sense of flying, of complete freedom from all the constraints of earthbound reality. In the initial thrill I almost forgot that I was strapped to Ron. When he eventually pulled the cord to release the parachute I was really glad he was there to remember to do it!

skydive

The rest of the way down was a slower-paced fall, full of spirals and big, sweeping turns. Tattoo Ron narrated the scenery, pointing out the Pacific Ocean, downtown San Diego, and the Mexican border. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear his voice.

A long, long way down was the landing pad. He was in complete control and I was perfectly okay with that. When it was time to land he gave me directions: “Put your legs straight out in front of you, lift your feet, and let me cushion the impact.” The landing I had dreaded was actually sweet and soft.

If I could trust Tattoo Ron with my life, why do I ever hesitate to trust Jesus?

Ron was paid to be my guide. Jesus paid a high price so He could do it because He loves me.

Sometimes I fret because I can’t always see what He is doing. But I know He is there, because I can hear His observe. Giving direction. Narrating the rhythm of my life. Pointing out things for me to see. Always near. So I don’t need to be afraid to put my life in His hands. There is no risk to taking that leap of faith. Because I cannot fall without Him being there to catch me.

Will life ever get scary? Sure. Will I ever feel out of control? Absolutely. Life sometimes comes at me fast. But because there is one to whom I am irrevocably and intimately yoked I can surrender to Him.

Because my ultimate bucket list? To trust Jesus when life seems like a free fall. To embrace all that He has for me. To trust Him, because when I hear His voice I can fully enjoy the ride.

There is no greater adventure than to abandon myself completely to the His control. That’s the kind of free falling I really crave.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.                     Jeremiah 29:11

Further reflection:

  1. Have you ever struggled to abandon yourself fully to God’s control?
  2. What did (or would) you lose, and what did (or would) you gain, when you finally did?

Father, thank You for every promise in Your word. You are a friend that sticks closer than a brother. You are the voice behind me saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” And no matter what, You will never leave me. Have Your way in me; I surrender to the glorious adventure of following You.