flying with God

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”  John 6:9 (NIV)

 The Lord has a remarkable way of turning our way of thinking and understanding upside down and on its head, doesn’t He?  What is all too quickly assessed by human thinking as an undesirable exception to the normal, or put another way, what we see as not enough or imperfect, becomes exceptional when placed in His hands.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’ Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘ This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.'” John 6:10-14 (NKJV)

My wife dearly loves butterflies.  We’ve been especially thrilled these past few weeks to have witnessed the Monarch butterfly life transformation take place.  Much to our delight this remarkable process has played out before our eyes time and time again progressing from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalis to the miraculous emerging of beautiful Monarch butterflies.  We learned soon enough, however, that this remarkable process doesn’t always end with a perfectly formed Monarch flying off into the sunset.

Curly Sue’s journey as a Monarch took a different route than normal because she cannot fly.  Doing a bit of research after the fact we discovered that sometimes for various reasons a Monarch’s wings don’t properly unfold after leaving the confines of the chrysalis.  When that happens they become fixed in shapes that prevent flight from ever happening.  Curly Sue’s wings have an unmistakable curl along the edges that’s obviously not supposed to be there.  Thus the name “Curly Sue.”

Unlike her brothers and sisters Curly Sue will never experience being buoyed along by warm, gentle breezes that carry her to an endless parade of flowers.  Her fate seemed sealed as time and time again my wife and I would find her pitifully flipping and flopping about in our front yard as she unsuccessfully tried to fly during her first 24 hours.  Our hope was that somehow her wings would finally straighten out.

On the second day my tenderhearted wife was unable to watch the chaotic gyrations continue any longer.  She decided Curly Sue would come inside and spend whatever time she had left in our house with us.   Curly Sue has been with us for about 2 weeks now living in her castle…aka a plastic bug container we found at the local pet shop… on our living room coffee table.

Each day Curly Sue feeds on fresh cut flowers from our yard and is able to stretch her legs whenever my wife holds her gently in her hands.  On sunny days my wife takes her to the back yard and places her on one of the flowers there.  “She needs to be outside in the sun,” my wife will say in this delightfully nurturing “warm chicken soup” sort of tone.

Curly Sue never stops trying to fly.  Several times a day she’ll assertively flap her wings all to no avail causing her to flip upside down after traveling only mere inches.  Curly Sue is definitely not a quitter.  She is a model of determination, perseverance, and optimism.  I’ve decided with each attempt at flying she’s thinking, “This time I will fly!”

“Are you going to be OK when she’s no longer with us? “ I asked my wife as she was carefully cradling Curly Sue in her hands taking her on yet another trip to the backyard.  Pausing for just a moment my wife quietly replied, “Yes, but I will miss her. I feel sorry for her because she’s never going to get to fly like she was meant to do…she’ll never get to have babies…like all the others,” her voice trailing off.  It was at that point that an ephiphany entered my mind.  “Maybe she has a different mission than the others, you know?  What if she is here especially for you to love on and enjoy…yes…to give you joy?” I mused.

Yes, it’s true that Curly Sue was meant to fly, but since her wings didn’t develop normally she has been prevented from ever flying in the traditional sense like the vast majority of butterflies do.  Funny thing is, though, in an unexpected twist in our understanding of what flying is, we have realized that Curly Sue has been flying all along.  How so? Miraculously she has managed to unquestionably fly straight into my wife’s heart as no other normally developed Monarch ever could.

Until our eyes were opened just a few days ago we lacked the vision needed to appreciate and understand that Curly Sue was not flightless after all.  We have realized that with her uniquely curled wings she has still soared in improbable ways and into places that are impossible for other butterflies to reach.

If you fly differently than others then shouldn’t you expect the destinations you are able to reach to also be different from what others can achieve?  It’s true as believers that we all collectively strive towards the same eternal finish line, but no individual path, no individual mission is necessarily the same.  After all, He has made each of us unique in our own special ways, hasn’t He?

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”  Romans 12:4-5 (NKJV)

Let’s put our shields down here for a moment and be honest enough to admit that we each have our own unique set of curled wings of some sort, don’t we?  It’s a bit cheesy I know, but isn’t it true that we all could be known as a “Curly You” since we all have our own imperfections and weaknesses?  And now you know one of my faults:  I can’t help myself when it comes to word play no matter how cringe-worthy it may turn out.  What else can I say? The shot was there, so I took it.

Our individual flying style depends on who God has purposed us to be.  For some, flight is instantly recognizable as flying by the strictest definition of the word.  Sometimes, however, it may be unrecognizable as flight to not only others, but even more sadly, in our own eyes, as we wistfully focus on what we think flying is supposed to look like from our unhappy seat on the ground.  All too often we lament over what we can’t do while never taking the time to ask the Lord what special plans He has for us that we can do.

I don’t know about you, but this experience with Curly Sue has reminded me just how narrow minded I can be.  In this case, God has broadened my mind and brought me into alignment with His far-reaching thoughts about flying.

If you were to ask my wife about all the butterflies she’s watched flying and flitting about, she’ll joyfully take the opportunity to tell you about imperfect and flightless Curly Sue, and, I might add, the only butterfly she ever named.  Why?  Because Curly Sue accomplished what no other so called “normal” butterfly could ever do:  she flew straight into her heart curled wings and all.  In fact, that flight wouldn’t have even happened without those curled wings.

We look at ourselves and see all of our shortcomings, all of our perceived inadequacies, and we think we have nothing of meaning, nothing of significance, nothing of value to offer to others.  When we do this we terribly underestimate what the Lord has planned for us to do in our lifetimes by His own strength.

We say we can’t fly and without Him it’s true we can’t.  But with Him, well, He says we can fly.  C.H. Spurgeon eloquently captures this truth saying, “God does not need your strength; He has more than enough power of His own.  He asks your weakness: He has none of that himself, and He is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as an instrument in His own mighty hand.”

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?  So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.  And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’” Judges 6:14-16 (NKJV)

The Lord has made you special and unique.  You offer something that the world around you is lacking and desperately needs.  Would you stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, your weaknesses in His hands are His very special provision to meet that distinct need?

Embrace who you are in the Lord’s Kingdom, curled wings and all, so that you may fly and soar into other’s hearts according to His good purposes.  It’s sky high time we open our eyes and understand that it is flight not as the world sees and says, but as He sees and says.

I don’t know how much longer Curly Sue will be physically here with us, but I can say without a doubt that the lessons the Lord has taught both my wife and I through this imperfect, but oh so brave, little butterfly will fly forever in our hearts even after she is physically gone.   And so I must ask you, don’t we all want to matter for eternity’s sake?

Friend, I encourage you to fully embrace who God has not only made you to be, but said you to be and become.  In His gentle hands fly as only you can into those special hearts that He has purposed for you to reach saying to yourself, “Yes, thank you, Lord, for Your grace to fly.  No longer am I grounded by my own limited vision as I once was.  Today I am flying according to Your good sight for Your glory.  Whose hurting heart would You have me fly into today and speak life, so that they too can soar in the heavens with You?”

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’”  Acts 3:6 (NKJV)

 

“Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns from the Album “Casting Crowns”

the grace-full high five

“Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you into the wrong way.  Your hearts should be strengthened by God’s grace, not by obeying rules about foods, which do no help those who obey them.”  Hebrews 13:9 (NCV)

Can we just get raw here for a few uncomfortable (for me), transparent moments?  Here we go.

“YOU…you…you…DO…do…do…NOT…not…not…MEASURE…measure…measure…UP…up…up…NEVER…never…never…HAVE…have…have…NEVER…never…never…WILL…will…will… LOSER…loser…loser…”

These are ominous echoes that are all too familiar for me.  They have a painfully jagged-edged resonance about them that carve steep and rugged canyons deep into my soul whenever the opportunity to speak occurs.  These echoes have a hair trigger so it doesn’t take much to unleash their cascading torrents of discouragement and accusation upon me.   As the familiar saying goes, “that’s gonna leave a mark.”  And indeed these merciless reverberations do.  Every. Single. Time.   After all, how can the end of a cracking whip not leave some sort of wound, some sort of a scar on this heart of mine?

I must admit that my fear of failure coupled with an even stronger need for acceptance makes me an easy target for such a whip.  I am the head-bent-low straggler trailing the herd.  For someone like me who desperately wants to earn another’s approving nod and smile this means I must perform to some particular level of expectation in order to win that person’s acceptance.  As my thinking goes, failure to be successful very likely translates into my not being accepted.  So, the idea of “failure” is more than just an unpleasant word to me. The thoughts and feelings it stirs in me make this ugly combination not only a robber of my confidence but a cruel, whip-bearing dungeon task-master as well as goading me onwards to attempting to scale unrealistic Mt. Everest sized goals.   The very idea of the possibility of falling short of “the mark” in a variety of circumstances makes me want to silently slip away into the safety of some dark corner of a room where with any luck at all I’ll go unnoticed.  This is especially true in social situations in which I don’t know anyone in the room.   Out of direct sight is a good place to be for someone like me who deep down has come to believe the echoes have been right all along when they relentlessly proclaim:  You…you…you…have…have…have… little…little…little…to…to…to…offer…offer…offer…So…so…so…Why…why…why…would…would…would…anyone…anyone…anyone…want…want…want…to…to…to…talk…talk…talk…to…to…to…you…you…you?  It’s a stomach-churning revolving door endlessly stuck in “Groundhog Day” mode just like in the movie starring Bill Murray.  Round and round I go, where I come out is always the same.  Self-fulling prophecy in all its false glory I suppose.  Years of echoes from a variety of sharp-tongued whips will convince a person to hide and when necessary disguise their true self for fear of rejection.  I’m guessing many of my friends would be surprised to read this, but that’s only a testimony as to my mask wearing skills that have been carefully crafted to hide my perceived deficiencies.  Little do most realize I am actually the Alone Ranger.

So pervasive is this negative thinking that it has alarmingly bled over into my spiritual life as well.   In his book, Grace Happens Here, Max Lucado succinctly captures my dilemma by saying, “We find it easier to trust the miracle of resurrection than the miracle of grace.  We so fear failure that we create the image of perfection, lest heaven be even more disappointed in us than we are.  The result?  The weariest people on earth.”    Indeed.  I must admit that although I wholeheartedly embraced His grace at the time of my salvation ever since then I’ve been wearing myself out attempting to earn His love through my works.  In doing so I have cast His marvelous gift of grace as wrought by His Son into the ditch alongside the road.  In place of His grace I picked up the mask.  Apart from His grace my fear of failure coupled with my desire to earn His acceptance as someone else had literally worked my relationship with Him into an incredibly uncomfortable and tight fitting corner that was being continuously surrounded by thick coats of paint that would never dry.  The not-so-merry-go-round of trying to live up to my own self-imposed demands and expectations in order to please the Lord was literally crushing me and preventing my relationship with Him from being all that it could be.  Over time being the masked man takes a toll on a person, you know? Hindsight now tells me that if you wear a mask long enough you can become so comfortable wearing it that much of the time you no longer even realize it’s on.  Now there’s a scary thought.

“What a wretched man I am!  Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?”  Romans 7:24 (WEB)

Sensing my years-long problem that was slowly eating its way through me, my mentor and dear friend, 2Tim, put it this way, “You are in need of a good solid dose of grace.”  Amen! Truer words have never been spoken to me.  Fortunately, the rest of the story is that I am not the Alone Ranger after all.  No, not at all.  Thankfully there is Another far greater than myself who is full of compassion and kindness.  One who is unwilling to allow me to continue wearing my mask and oh so gently removes it and the weighty chains associated with it.

 Let me tell you a story.

As my wife and I walked down the fishing pier I was captivated by several birds flying alongside the railings. They were hunting for dinner. Tirelessly they would hover over a small patch of ocean in hopes of spotting the tell-tale glistening of a fish swimming just beneath the water’s surface.  When a flash caught their eye in the water 20 feet or so below them they would courageously nose dive straight down without any hesitation. Sometimes, however, at the very last second for whatever reason, they would abruptly pull up just before smashing into the water and immediately return to their original hunting position.  Other times they would dive head first directly into the water and then quickly bounce back up into the air with their wings flapping furiously to regain the lost altitude.  This was a wonderful, non-stop ballet for the most part that continued for as long as we were there.  Surprisingly in spite of their best efforts they often came up empty with no fish.  Whoa!  Stop right there.   It was exactly at this “ah hah” moment that truth smacked me right between the eyes.  Hear me out! Isn’t it fair to say that these birds have been perfectly designed to do what they’re doing?  Who can answer this question with anything other than a resounding “yes?”  So, doesn’t it follow then, that if these incredibly gifted creatures are not successful at catching a fish each and every time they try then why should I allow myself to be subject to the unyielding taskmaster of perfection as I do?

Let’s reimagine the story now.  In this version Jesus is standing there on the pier watching the birds hunting for dinner.  And guess what? You’re one of the birds.  Spying a gleam of silver in the water below you plunge head first into the water.  A second later you reappear out of the water, but with no fish.  As you reposition yourself you glance over at Jesus and the two of you make eye contact.  What is Jesus’ reaction?  Do you see Him rolling His eyes in disapproval and then turning His back on you because you failed to catch anything?  Can you honestly see Him being angry or disgusted with your unsuccessful effort?  No, I can’t either.  His reaction is most certainly just the opposite, in fact.   I wholeheartedly believe He completely delights in your sincere trying.  I see Him laughing and grinning out of sheer enjoyment as He watches you, His creation, diligently going about your business.  His reaction is not based on whether or not your mouth is full or empty.  Surely He rejoices and celebrates over each of your attempts regardless of the outcome doesn’t He?  So, let’s finish playing this out now.  As the two of you make eye contact He grins at you with a smile that lights up even the darkest of wet paint surrounded corners, gives you an approving wink with a contagious twinkle in His eye, and then encourages you to try again with a gentle nod of His head back towards the water.   Nourished by His acceptance and encouragement your resolve to keep on fishing skyrockets.  What just happened?  In that shining moment, that glorious grace-filled moment of encouragement and approval in which time seemed to stand still, the accusing echoes began to fade away sapped of their strength, power, and control over you.   Friend, let this scene play out in your head and heart as many times as it takes until, like me, you’re finally able to be William Wallace’s Braveheart crying out,  “F r e e d o m!!!”  If ever a hopeless captive has been compassionately set free in the warmth of His grace it is now.

Let’s look at yet another story about fishing.

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They told him, ‘We are also coming with you.’  They immediately went out and entered the boat.  That night they caught nothing.  But when day had already come, Jesus stood on the beach, yet the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus.  Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Children, have you anything to eat?’  They answered Him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’  They cast it therefore, and now they weren’t able to draw it in for the multitude of fish.  That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’” John 21:3-7 (WEB)

For those of you like me who have had perfectionism’s boot on your throat pressed down even more tightly by the need for acceptance, have lost sight of the true meaning and beauty of grace, and have determined to fight this battle alone how do you see this story in John now? Put yourself in the boat along with the others.  Is there anything in these verses that comes even close to suggesting that Jesus scoffed at you and the rest of the disciple’s lack of fishing success?  He certainly didn’t turn His back on any of you because you hadn’t caught any fish.  He didn’t roll His eyes at your empty nets.  He didn’t say anything like, “You people are just awful.  You should seriously look into another way of making a living.”  No, quite the opposite is true, in fact.  In these verses He’s encouraged you all to keep on fishing, but this time to do it on the other side of the boat.  Stop.  Something just amazing happened, did you catch it?  Not only did He offer encouragement, but He offered something far, far greater.  He offered Himself.  He got involved in your efforts by inviting you to follow His lead.  He came alongside you and gave divine direction.  Why would He do this?  Because He is relational at His very core and as mind boggling as it is, we were created to do “life” with Him, side by side.  He delights in shepherding us and being an active part of our lives.  The truth of the matter is that if we were to always be successful at everything we do then wouldn’t it be our nature to see ourselves as having no need of Him?   As it turns out our inadequacies are opportunities for closeness with Him.   Why?  Because it’s in our weaknesses that we are made strong through Him just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12.  Why?  Because it’s all for His glory, and not ours.  Perfectionism is all about our own glory.  To pursue or be driven by perfectionism in order to make ourselves “worthy” to be in His presence is as far as the east is from the west is regarding grace’s redeeming role in our lives taking us further away from Him.  There’s some true irony for you, eh?  In my quest to be perfect so that I can become acceptable and able to draw near to Him I actually distance myself from Him because…”I’m not good enough.”  That’s been the merciless goal of perfectionism all along…to separate me from My Savior.  The truth is it’s never been about me and what I’ve done regarding my ongoing relationship with Him.  No.  It always has been and always will be about what He’s done first and foremost.  Grace speaks life.   Grace truly is amazing.  Grace high fives you.  Grace sets you free!  “Hallelujah!”

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”  Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”  1 Corinthians 3:6-8 (NKJV)

Three as One

“One thing I have asked of Yahweh, that I will seek after, that I may dwell in Yahweh’s house all the days of my life, to see Yahweh’s beauty, and to inquire in his temple.”  Psalm 27:4 (WEB)

True Beauty, can you be in its presence and ever be the same again?  Noble Beauty grabs you and won’t let go, nor do you want it to let go of you.  And rightly so.  Pure Beauty is transformative as it holds your fluttering, breathless heart completely captive with a fiercely compelling tenderness that cannot, that will not, be denied.  It is an admirable and excellent loveliness that possesses depth without limits.  Why else do we return again and again to drink from True Beauty’s praiseworthy cup of purple mountains’ majesty?  So deep is it that one time is immensely satisfying, but never enough, nor is a thousand times.  Is one sunrise enough?  One sunset?  As more is revealed the more of Authentic Beauty we desire with great longing…and the more it graciously gives of itself such that we are willingly swept along True Beauty’s redemptive path.

As I walked down the road contemplating His beauty as the unfading Rose a prayer tugged at my heart.  “Lord, would you reveal even more of Your beauty to me?  Would You grant me a greater understanding of You?”  Arriving at the cul-de-sac a few minutes later I stood there and surveyed my surroundings.  There really wasn’t that much to see that I hadn’t already seen before on previous walks to the same spot.  Yes, the light breeze was nice, as was the sun shining through the trees, and all the birds were singing like usual, too.  By all accounts this was a lovely, but ordinary day.  But, then, suddenly three birds burst out of nowhere flying in what appeared to be impossibly close quarters to one another.  They flew spontaneously yet did so with the precision of a well-rehearsed marching band as they bobbed and weaved through the air in remarkable harmony and rhythm with one another.  It was as if they knew beforehand what the other would do.  Their dance in mid-air was joyfully synchronized such that it had the appearance of the breath of life itself.  Captivated, I could not take my eyes away from the beauty circling round about me.

“But ask the animals, now, and they shall teach you; the birds of the sky, and they shall tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you. The fish of the sea shall declare to you. Who doesn’t know that in all these, Yahweh’s hand has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” Job 12:7-10 (WEB)

As I watched these birds it occurred to me that these three absolutely delighted in each other’s company.  They were completely and utterly enthralled with one another.  At that moment another thought crossed my mind: the remarkable dance of these birds across the sky is but a tiny glimpse into the beauty, mystery, and the pure joy of harmony and purpose shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The unity of the Trinity relationship is of such transcendent beauty and bliss that there can be no doubt that Our. Heavenly. Father. Is. Relational. At. His. Very. Core.

The splendor of the Trinity is multi-faceted.  There is beauty upon beauty. There is even more here still yet to be revealed. What is this forthcoming beauty? Incredibly, it’s that we, His created, are invited to take our place in Their extraordinary harmony and magnificent dance by embracing a vibrant, intimate relationship with Him.  We, His sons and daughters, have been offered the astonishing opportunity to take the outstretched, nail-scarred hand of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords and soar across His creation in His arms.

“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  Genesis 1:26a (WEB)

Surely, then, this is a Beauty like none other beckoning us to experience all it has to offer.  Indeed, there is no other invitation as exceedingly beautiful and gracious as this.  Let us rejoice and praise Him for it’s an incomparable Beauty of unity, fellowship, and love that our Savior has already fervently prayed over us.

“Not only for these do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may also be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.  The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one;   I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me.  Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may see my glory, which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world.  Righteous Father, the world hasn’t known you, but I knew you; and these knew that you sent me.  I made known to them your name, and will make it known; that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  John 17:20-26 (WEB)

Lord, sweep me away along True Beauty’s path of life with You!

 

Doxology by Stars Go Dim

the win(d)s of grace

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (WEB)

Grace…

…is something the Lord has placed on my heart a lot the past few months. It’s funny how the Lord has a way of bringing things to my attention that are in need of…ahem…”additional refinement,” so to speak.  Such was the case on my most recent trip to the grocery store.

Yesterday I found myself standing in the “10 items or less” express line behind a couple with a seemingly endless stack of groceries piled up like a mountain in front of the register. The closest they came to the magic number of 10 was with their two shopping carts. Now then, the Lord knows I am prone to having “not the sharpest tool in the shed” moments from time to time.  He also knows exactly what pushes my anger buttons.  This was one of those “perfect storm” times that combined both of these elements.  So, just to be sure even I, dull shovel that I am, wouldn’t miss the subject of the day’s lesson He saw fit to having it plastered on the offending lady’s green t-shirt in bold letters, “G  R  A  C  E” standing directly in front of me.  No way could I miss it, which was His point all along as I reflect back on the events as they unfolded.  From where I stood in this motionless line He obviously had convinced the lady responsible for this avalanche of groceries to wear a “Grace wins every time” t-shirt when she got dressed that morning. “Good thing for her she’s got THAT shirt on,” I impatiently thought to myself as a variety of potential verbal attacks went through my mind. Biting my tongue I stood there in back-burner simmering mode while the cashier went about her job. As the lady finished paying for her groceries she turned around, looked me squarely in the eyes and apologized in the most sincere and nicest, most humble way possible explaining she and her husband had no idea they’d gotten in the express line.   In an instant my bad attitude towards her fell and spread out all over the floor like a ripped open box of hundreds of tiny humble pies as the voice inside my head gently reminded me, ”You know you’ve made plenty of mistakes yourself haven’t you? How many times have you needed grace extended to you in moments like this in which you’ve offended others? How many times has God extended His grace to you?” My contrite reply to her came instantly as the Lord quickly brought to my mind something I’d just read in Max Lucado’s book “Grace Happens Here.” Simply put, Lucado says, “Give grace, one more time. Be generous, one more time.”  And in that One on one on one moment the utterly refreshing miracle of grace happened…yet one more glorious time.

Grace.  We all want it.  We all need it.  Desperately. Friends, let’s not just be receivers of grace, but let us also be givers of grace…one more time…to one more person…and may we do so generously. Like a delightful and unexpected breeze that brings welcomed relief from the oppressive summer heat may the cup of His overflowing grace you’ve greatly welcomed and received into your own life be poured out on those around you today.  When we do that we find out that “Grace really does win every time.”

“As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10 (WEB)

Be-loved

 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7 (NIV)

This photo has captivated me since I first saw it a few years ago.  How I wish I could say that I was the photographer that seized this remarkable moment, but I’m not.  No, that honor belongs to my friend, Amber Fletcher.  If one could give love a face, then, for me, the expression on the little girl’s face embodies everything I believe to be true about love.  The purity and unrestrained beauty of wholehearted love is utterly captivating isn’t it?  It’s breathtaking and draws our very souls with a deep yearning and longing.  Who among us doesn’t want to experience such a pure love as both giver and receiver?

Imagine, if you will, from a spiritual perspective that you are one of the two girls in this photo and Jesus is the other girl.  Which of the two do you choose to be?  Which one is Jesus?  If you’re at all like me then you chose to be the younger girl which makes Jesus the older girl, of course.

Why was I so quick to place myself into the young girl’s shoes?  The sad truth is my choice was based not so much on how great my love for Jesus is, although I do love Him, but rather my inability to believe Jesus could love me so absolutely unconditionally like I see in this photo.  In 20-20 hindsight I’m beginning to realize that even though many years ago I said “yes” to His marriage proposal from the cross that night in my living room I never fully embraced all that He had to offer beyond our wedding day.   Strange sounding I know.  I was able to accept that He loved me enough such that He would die for me, but somehow I managed to not allow it to go much further than beyond that point.  I have kept Jesus in sight, but at bay.  I have kept Him at arm’s length allowing no warm embrace between the two of us.   For years and years I have been halfhearted.  I have not been all in.  Yet, even in the face of my unwillingness and rebellion, He has loved me still with “an everlasting love, drawing me ever closer with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).  He has persisted and never given up on our relationship.  He has been faithful while I have not been.  I ask you, “Is there another who is so patient?  Who is so long-suffering? Who is so kind? Who is so forgiving?  Who has not ceased to continually scan the distant horizon in hopes of my complete return to Him?” And as I turn back towards Him, He runs to greet me knowing full well where I have been.  “Who is this God?  Who is this Heavenly Father of ours who would run towards me as fast as He possibly can so as to embrace me even though I’m still wearing the dirty, filthy rags that proclaim for all to see all the years of my disobedience apart from Him?  Who am I to Him such that He would do this?  There is but one answer: I am His beloved.”

And so, my friend and fellow believer, are you His beloved as well.  Will you allow Him to truly love you from the cross and beyond?

“Yahweh, your God, is among you, a mighty one who will save.  He will rejoice over you with joy.  He will calm you in his love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (WEB)

“Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins?  Not one of them is forgotten by God.  But the very hairs of your head are all counted.  Therefore don’t be afraid.  You are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12: 6-7 (WEB)

Grounded flight of freedom (remix)

(note: please turn your smartphone sideways to view this post correctly)

“I am the vine. You are the branches.  He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (WEB)

Wings all
alone
searching for home
gently caressed by a warm, late afternoon breeze
whispering
"Get up, get up, this empty grey cage is not where you belong.
Can't you see?  You are created for so much more than this!"
Improbably held hostage by fingers of sandy
lies
the wings in silence sit
except for the flicker
of a few random feathers
that sadly have not grasped their true
potential
Yet another day
ends
as the horizon of regret captures
the light of the hope of the disappearing sun
casting a shapeless shadow from
these wings
without purpose.


High above jubilant wings coupled with meaning
soar
and awaken my heart's innermost longings
to come and experience as they do
life's intimate journey with Him
but
the risk is far too great for my heart to bear
for fear these dreams and longings
might not come to pass
if i were to earnestly pursue them
so
i resign myself to live a lesser life of an ostrich's retreat
mired in the sand
doubting my true potential and worth
i do not see me
as
He does.


Ungrounded in Him we are grounded
detached wings entombed as castaways along the lonely strand
impoverished souls in search of true meaning, purpose, and
connection
held hostage by ever-present and unyielding chains of fear and doubt
our shapeless shadows cast wilting echoes of

dreams...dreams...dreams
fading memories of blossoms we thought might be
that
remain captive in eroded and concealed canyons of our hearts
we are unable
or is it unwilling?  or too afraid?
to apprehend.

Oh, but to suppose for a
moment
a bird's effortless and graceful flowing motions
the pied-piper's heavenly call of an untethered life
wings and body wholeheartedly joined
lovingly engraved
deep within humanity's breast
buoyed aloft by the breath of His divine purpose
life transformed
a stunning companionship
for they rejoice knowing
this is exactly who the Lord has created them to be
hand in hand these lovers stroll
to the rhythm of an altogether enchanting melody
of His presence and goodness
a crescendo of harmony that our souls have longed to experience
created to dance inseparable
amongst floating white miracles for all to see
in hopes of drawing others near
that they too might
be set
free.

Healing light of a new day dawns
His hand outstretched
newly born purpose our calling embraced
wings and body climb intimately entwined

to see through His eyes our bright future of hope
where the Son never sets for
He alone
is the source
of our true identity and strength.

 

His wings-crop edit WP
It is His breath of life that creates true flight
providing lift to our wings
Grounded in Him we are ungrounded
our hearts lifted skyward
freed from the tear stained clay
buoyed aloft on the winds of His inspiration and purpose
we are sent soaring according to His good and perfect will
casting a new unmistakable shadow of

hope
upon
this
weary
world

still
the
  glorious message of freedom proclaimed
by
His
gift
of
the
cross
to
each
one

of
us.
No longer alone we are home with Him where we belong.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old things have passed away.  Behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 (WEB)

 “You will show me the path of life.  In your presence is fullness of joy.  In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11 (WEB)

 “but those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run, and not be weary.  They will walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (WEB)

Grounded flight of freedom

My heart and imagination soar at the sight of a bird winging its way across the spacious blue sky, doesn’t yours? Lost in the moment a deep longing stirs within my heart and very soul whenever I watch birds playfully dance in the wind’s exhilarating embrace.  I can’t help but sigh at the very thought of an untethered life such as theirs delightfully content in the knowledge that this is who the Lord has created me to be. As few others of God’s creations can, birds in their flights of freedom amongst the puffy, white cloud filled sky give rise to my deep yearning for true meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in my life.  As they effortlessly fly across the sky it’s as if the sky is filled with plump seeds of aspiration and joy liberally sprinkled ‘round about them ready to be picked.  So impactful on the human heart are birds that Emily Dickinson poetically likened a bird to hope writing, “Hope is the thing with feathers-that perches in the soul-and sings the tune without words-and never stops-at all-.” I long to soar as the birds do, and in this unguarded moment of my heart I am wonderfully lost to imagine and yearn for what might or could be believing that I too can fly, I too am free.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in their heart…”  Ecclesiastes 3:11a (WEB)

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (WEB)

Deep within me I feel the tug of these jubilant wings in mid-flight calling out to my heart’s innermost longings to come and join them.  Yet, with sad resignation, if you’re at all like me, wee* dare not act upon such desires.  Wee choose to live a lesser life of retreat as bodiless wings because this is a desire, a thirst, which wee must restrain because the risk to our heart is far too great to bear for fear these dreams and longings might not come to pass if wee were to earnestly pursue them.  So they stay tucked away in a distant, well defended canyon of our heart where even the echoes of our soul’s deepest cries for meaningful purpose and connection are held hostage by fear and doubt.  I quietly say to myself, “It feels like I am called for more than living a life of mere subsistence alongside uncountable grains of sand, but who am I that I should entertain even the very idea I might one day be set free to fly as these birds do?”  Embracing the lies the enemy whispers in our ears about not only ourselves, but our Heavenly Father as well, wee accept the ground as our home choosing to live a life of a far lesser purpose than He has created us to experience.  So long as wee choose to go it alone apart from Him wee are but a collection of feathers mired in the abrasive and gritty muck of unrealized and unrecognized potential.  A light, late afternoon breeze gently caresses the wings in hopes of a reply whispering, “Get up…get up…this patch of ground is not your true home.  Can’t you see? You are created for so much more than this!”  Unmoved the wings lie motionless save for the flicker of a few random feathers that sadly have not grasped their true purpose.  Ungrounded in Him we are grounded.  Yet another day ends with the hazy glow from the sunset of regret casting a long, shapeless shadow from these captive wings.

“Yahweh’s hand was on me, and he brought me out in Yahweh’s Spirit, and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.  He caused me to pass by them all around: and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and behold they were very dry.  He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live?  I answered, Lord Yahweh, you know.”  Ezekiel 37:1-3 (WEB)

In order for us to no longer be earth-bound and be set free to soar to the heavenly heights He desires for us, we, the wings, must be intimately connected to Him, the body, for He, and He alone, is the source of our true identity, strength, and purpose.

“Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”  Galatians 5:1 (WEB)

“Again he said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and tell them, you dry bones, hear Yahweh’s word.  Thus says the Lord Yahweh to these bones:  Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.  I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and you shall live:  and you shall know that I am Yahweh.  So I prophesied as I was commanded:  and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, an earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  I saw, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and tell the wind, thus says the Lord Yahweh:  Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.  Therefore prophesy, and tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh:  Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.  You shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, my people.  I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and will place you in your own land: and you shall know that I, Yahweh, have spoken it and performed it, says Yahweh.”  Ezekiel 37:4-14 (WEB)

It is His breath of life that gives flight to our wings.  In harmony as one with His body our wings break free of the dry ground on which we were once imprisoned and are lifted skyward, buoyed aloft on the winds of His inspiration and purpose.  It is in this beautifully intimate dance between wings and body miraculously bound together that we truly experience freedom and our full God-given potential is released.  It is in this mercy and grace-filled union alone between Creator and created, between Father and child, between body and wing that we are sent soaring according to His good and perfect will.  We have been made new.  Grounded in Him we are ungrounded.  We are airborne.  Our true potential is set free and takes to the sky leaving the sandy confines we once knew as our home far below us with each flap of our prayer-filled wings of adoration and worship.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old things have passed away.  Behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 (WEB)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”  1 Peter 2:9 (WEB)

“You will show me the path of life.  In your presence is fullness of joy.  In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11 (WEB)

his wings-crop edit wp

Unlike the unrecognizable shadow of the detached, stranded wings, when your true identity, meaning, and purpose are found in and through Jesus can the shadow cast upon this world by your soaring and victorious flight be anything other than the glorious message of freedom proclaimed by His cross?  Where will your flight with Him take you today?

“I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here I am.  Send me!’”  (Isaiah 6:8, WEB)  

“I am the vine. You are the branches.  He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (WEB)

 “Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (WEB)

 “but for those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run, and not be weary.  They will walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (WEB)

*(I like the idea this purposeful misspelling of “we” as “wee” conveys in this instance because of its implication regarding our own smallness of faith)

being clothes-minded towards Him

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12 (WEB)

“He’s got the whole world in His hand, the whole wide world in His hand.”  Who isn’t familiar with this lyric?  We’ve all sung it probably countless of times before beginning back when we were children.  Great, but when push comes to shove in your life because you find yourself in dire straits do these words carry any real weight, any real substance for you?  Do they make a difference in your day that is hanging by a thread of hope stretched impossibly thin?  If you’re a believer like me your immediate reaction to such a question quite possibly smacks of some degree of loftiness, “Well, yes, of course they do, don’t they for you?”  But, here’s the thing, though, in a maddeningly contradictory twist I have to admit that even as I sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands” I sometimes find myself wondering if He actually has me in His hand.  Even though I realize there are some lyrics later on in the song that say He does this question still remains.  I rarely hear those later lines sung, by the way.  All I hear is this first line like it’s on loop in my head so that’s where my attention goes.  It seems that there are times it’s far easier for me to believe He has the whole world in His hand than it is for me to believe He has me in His hand.  Certain circumstances, abnormally difficult circumstances that hover around me like circling vultures, cause me to  wonder if I was indeed in His hand at one time only to have somehow managed to slip through His fingers later.  “Yes, Lord, I know you have the whole world in Your hand, but do You have me there, too?  That’s what I really want and need to know.  To be perfectly blunt and honest with You that’s what matters most to me in this moment in these perplexing and trying circumstances because from where I’m standing it looks like You’ve dropped me.”

Am I the only one that struggles with these questions and doubts?  I’m uncomfortable even talking about this because these admissions force me to take off my Super Believer hero mask.   And, my cape, too.  To put it bluntly, my masquerade has been exposed by this unplanned confession.  I’m not Superman.  I’m not even Clark Kent.  Far from it, in fact.  I’m Clark Bent at least, or even more likely Clark Broken at worst.  I hadn’t planned on having my true identity revealed when I sat down to write, yet here I am like the emperor who was found to be wearing no clothes.  Meaningful transformation begins here in His light, of course.  There can be no healing so long as the enemy successfully keeps me in that dark place that encourages me to continue thinking, “I look pretty good wearing this mask and cape.”  Who’s to say to the contrary, then,  that so long as I stay in the dark that I don’t look like Super-Believer-man?  The truth is, though, that only comic book heroes experience benefits by keeping their true identities hidden in the shadows.  God’s Kingdom needs reshaped and retooled Clark Bents and Brokens, and the only way that sort of transformation can take place is in the warmth of His healing light.  So here I am, Lord, stripped and naked of costumes of my own making and in need of Your real clothes.

“to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 (WEB)

Can you even begin to imagine in your wildest dreams what an asteroid strike impact such a radically transformed group of sincerely outwardly focused, faithful, utterly trusting and healed believers clothed by the Lord would make in this whole wide world?  In his book, “Reformation Years,” John Eldredge answers that question saying, “If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair.  If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.”    Indeed!  As a believer I hunger to be contagious,  I yearn to be unstoppable, and I long to be revolutionary… don’t you?  Jesus was all of these and more.  But where or how can I obtain such priceless treasure?

This ground I now find myself standing on seems parched of God’s hand even though I know it is He who has led me to this place.  It is He who has ordered my steps.  I am not the first to walk here.  This dust bowl filled with swirling, choking, blinding clouds of doubt and lingering questions accompanied by fist shaking in His direction has been trod before.

“The Egyptians pursued them.  All the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horseman, and his army overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal Zephon.  When Pharaoh came near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were very afraid.  The children of Israel cried out to Yahweh.  They said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?  Why have you treated us this way, to bring us out of Egypt?  Isn’t this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.”  Exodus 14: 9-12 (WEB)

Unmasked and cape-less I can now tell you that I used to look with disdain at the Israelites in this situation wondering how in the world they could so quickly and easily question God’s sovereignty and His might in this situation in light of all the miracles he had already performed for them regarding their exodus from Egypt.  Here they are backed up against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them and all they can see is their imminent destruction.  They have gone from praising God on their journey to severely questioning Him in short order.  How swiftly they have forgotten all of His Jordan stone moments of miraculous provision along their way.  Am I any different than these ancient travelers that I have been so quick to condemn and judge for their lack of faith and trust in Him?  Sadly, with my hat in hand and head bowed low as I stare at my shoes, the answer is, no, I am no different. Yes, I may sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” but when the going gets downright nasty and the world seeks to destroy me on this path He has led me on how quickly my song becomes, “He’s got the whole world in His hand, but not me.”

Overwhelming circumstances seem like such an incredibly unlikely place to plant trees of righteousness don’t they? Hope is a scarce commodity to the naked eye and weak heart.  Yet, it is in exactly such dire circumstances where hope in our Father is abundant and ready to be gleaned.  Yes, as improbable as it may seem, this is exactly the soil in which oaks of righteousness grow nourished by His hand that liberally supplies hope and trust to the faint heart.  How does this happen?  Fortunately for the likes of even a Clark Broken of little faith such as me the Lord is not bound by human understanding or standards, or by our little faith not even the size of a mustard seed.  The Lord is incredibly long-suffering isn’t He? He certainly has demonstrated that to me time and time again on this journey of mine.  Continuously my Father rises above all of my questions and doubts and proves Himself to be trustworthy and true…and amazingly patient and kind.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful.  He can’t deny himself.”  2 Timothy 1:13 (WEB)

“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.’”  Isaiah 55:8-9 (WEB)

“Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today:  for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again.  Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.’”  Exodus 14: 13-14 (WEB)

Just a few weeks ago my attention was drawn to the reflections seen in the puddles of water left by a recent rain.  A continuous sheet of water on the parking lot would’ve been able to mirror image practically the entire immediate surroundings, but it was the interrupted reflections found in the numerous isolated puddles that caught my imagination that day.  Sensing some inspiration at hand I tried to take photographs from several different angles of various puddles only to be quickly reminded by the Lord as I did so that this scenario visually sums up the differences between the way He sees things as compared to how I see things.  I see my life only in part consisting mainly of upside down bits, pieces, and snippets of the world immediately around me.  Meanwhile He sees everything in its complete entirety and that includes my own very limited vantage point as well.

“while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18 (WEB)

A few days passed before I was able to finally sit down to begin collecting my thoughts to begin writing.  As I did so I began to think that perhaps this specific parking lot filled with puddle sized reflections is far too narrowly focused, far too limiting of God, the Creator of the universe.   “Why not use a picture of the entire earth, like a globe, to depict what our Lord sees?” I thought to myself.  “If I did that then I could use a much smaller segment carved out of the big global picture to illustrate what I see for comparison’s sake.”  It was at that moment that the “whole world in His hand” song lyric came into my head.  “Yes sir, things are rolling along just fine now,” I thought.  In a moment of clarity, though, I realized that, no, that’s not the way to go here at all.  Far from it, in fact.  Why do I say that?  Because you see it dawned on me that God was somehow using these parking lot puddle reflections to address my question as to whether or not I’m in His hand even though the answer was not yet apparent to me.  Yes, the world is important to Him, but the plain, beautiful, life-giving truth here is that He sees my much smaller world in incredibly vivid detail, too.  In short, He knows and greatly cares where I live and that means He knows and cares where you live, too.  The photos I originally took that day in the parking lot are from my world, my life as I see it and live it day in and day out.  While the globe and far beyond is certainly well within His reach, it’s well outside of mine.  That’s why I have trouble truly relating to “He’s got the whole world in His hand.” I can’t really grasp the earth in its entirety, but this parking lot on that day was intimate to where I live and what I’m experiencing.  Yes, I exist on and in this whole wide world, but I experience life on just a small portion of it.  And in this moment of “this is where I am, Lord” He’s graciously and generously reminded me that this is where He is, too.

At the time when I took this photo I paid no attention to the fact that the sign said the clearance of the nearby drive-thru was “10’6.”  As I contemplate it now relative to the “whole wide world in His hand” lyric it would be easy to say that measurement seems well short of any sort of ceiling or clearance one would expect our Father to create for me, for you.  It’s certainly no “the sky is the limit” sort of grand arm waving unlimited boundary one might expect to hear as the answer from someone if you were to ask them about what God is capable of accomplishing in your life.  While it’s true that whenever God is involved there are no limitations to the possibilities,  I can, however, emphatically tell you that 10’6” is far greater clearance than I can possibly use or need right here where I am right now.  As far as I’m concerned in this season I’m now in it might just as well say the sky is the limit instead of 10’6”.   The clearance He is giving me here in this spot at this time is far more than I could ever possibly need.  There’s at least 4 feet of extra provision present.  Such extra clearance will allow me to easily pass through with no worries whatsoever of bumping and bruising my head.  I feel unlimited and unrestricted because  He has exceeded my immediate needs has He not?   He gives me what I need plus some.  Of what possible use would it be to me to have a “sky is the limit” sort of clearance from Him in this situation?  It occurs to me that such extravagance at this time in my life is probably just exactly what I don’t need, in fact.  Whether it is a clearance the height of the sky, or 10’6” it is still miraculous and perhaps even more so because I’m able to at least somewhat grasp the nature, kindness, and generosity of His provision.  He has graciously allowed me to see His hand at work.   He is more than capable of providing me with “the sky is the limit” clearance, but it is far too grand for me to comprehend in this season, but not so the 10’6” clearance.  Yes, Lord, I see that you have recognized my needs in this moment exactly where I am, and not only that, You have abundantly exceeded them.  I have room to spare as I pass through where I am because You have made it so with Your hand.

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.  I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day.  The night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, anointed the blind man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means ‘Sent’).   So he went away, washed, and came back seeing.  The neighbors therefore, and those who saw that he was blind before, said, ‘Isn’t this he who sat and begged?’ Others were saying, ‘It is he.’  Still others were saying, ‘He looks like him.’ He said, ‘I am he.’  They therefore were asking him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘A man called Jesus made mud, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received sight.’”  John 9:1-11 (WEB)

Did you know that numbers “10” and “6” have Biblical meaning?  I was aware certain numbers have meaning in the Bible, but I didn’t know if such was the case for these two numbers so some research was needed.  It turns out this is an intriguing combination.  The number “10” is understood as a perfect and complete number as are 3, 7, and 12.  The phrase “God said” is found 10 times in Genesis 1 testifying to the Lord’s power regarding creation.  Man was created on the sixth day so the number “6” represents man who is weak and dependent on our Heavenly Father.  Without Him we simply wouldn’t exist.  Our very existence, then, testifies about Him.  What is one to make of all of this?   Well, that depends on one’s perspective doesn’t it?  For me, I find this combination interesting because I am now in desperate need of safe passage through my current season of difficulties that are of such magnitude that only God’s creative provision can make that happen.  That probably sounds overly dramatic, but the truth of the matter is this 65 year old’s almost 3 year old startup business is in desperate need of a miracle in order to survive.  My family’s financial future is on the line.  Yes, we are on the ropes as the saying goes.  We need a “but then, God” lightning bolt strike of provision to happen otherwise the sea drowns us, or the army destroys us.  Our future is…in His hands.

I can’t help but suddenly laugh with delight as I listen to myself saying that last sentence because I now realize He’s brought me full circle in my understanding using nothing more than a clearance sign and reflections found in isolated puddles in my church’s parking lot.  Today’s journey has taken a while, but it has been worth every step, every word…and then some.  He has brought me to the place where He has wanted me to be all along.  My Father has gently and generously reminded me that it is only in and because of His hand that I exist in this whole wide world.  I can’t think of a safer, more secure, and glorious place to be in this world than in my Father’s hand, can you?  Father, thank You for there are no clothes that warm my soul and bring true meaning into my life such as Yours do.

“for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Galatians 3:27 (NIV)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,”  Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

“He humbled you, and allowed you to be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you didn’t know, neither did your father’s know; that he might teach you that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of Yahweh’s mouth.”  Deuteronomy 8:3 (WEB)

“Therefore I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns.  Your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you of much more value than they?  ‘Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?  Why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They don’t toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell  you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?  Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given you as well.  Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Each day’s own evil is sufficient.” Matthew 6:25-34 (WEB)

sound affects

“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Romans 10:17 (WEB)

Rising much earlier than usual one morning I was surprisingly greeted by the subtle but distinct sound of the ocean waves coming ashore from the Gulf of Mexico which is located a little more than a mile south of our home.  In between the barrier island facing the Gulf and our home is an almost mile wide expanse of water that provides an unobstructed pathway for the faint but wonderful melody of the faraway waves crashing onto the banks of the barrier island’s shore to travel across.  As if custom made for the purposes of this writing this divisional body of water is divinely, from my perspective, called the sound.  Just to the north of us is a heavily traveled 4 lane highway that during normal daytime hours creates a constant humming noise as cars and trucks relentlessly zoom past one another in a frenzied attempt to get to their scheduled destinations on time.  Try as you might during these “NASCAR” hours the din of an all-too-hurry-up, get-it-done-now world completely drowns out the ongoing beautiful symphony of the cascading waves of the Gulf as they rhythmically greet the waiting shoreline.  If you desire to hear the sound of the beach from where I live you must break free from your established and usual daily routine and do something entirely different as I did that particular morning.  Hearing the alluring refrain of the waves requires you to purposefully reposition yourself in some meaningful way relative to them.  You must turn aside from your daily routine that otherwise has been focused on everything but these sounds.  But will you? Is hearing these sounds important enough for you to make such a needed change in your life or will you continue to go on about your day with little to no regard to hearing these sweet sounds?

Now then, what if we were to change things up a bit and apply these circumstances of hearing the sound of the waves to our walk with our Lord?  Simply imagine in your mind and heart we’re no longer talking about hearing distant waves break, but instead we now are talking about our listening for the sounds of the Lord. Are we hearing Him?  Why or why not?  Based on what we have discovered about our hearing the waves in this story it’s about the position we choose to place ourselves in relative to Him regarding whether or not we are able to hear His voice. Jesus is essentially asking us as His followers, “Will you alter what you’re doing by turning aside from _____ (you fill in the blank) to spend time with Me?”

“Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb.  Yahweh’s angel appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the middle of a bush.  He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”  Exodus 3:1-3 (WEB)

When we make such a conscious choice, as Moses did, we’re essentially saying to Him, “Here I am, Lord. I choose You.”

“When Yahweh saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the burning bush, and said, ‘Moses!  Moses!’  He said, “Here I am.”  Exodus 3:4 (WEB)

Taking that first conscious step in His direction and away from our own worldly selves is so vital, of course.  As His sons and daughters we can confidently rest in the knowledge that God calls out to each of us personally and intimately in ways that speak deeply and individually to us.  After all, as our Creator He knows our hearts so well, better than we do, in fact, so while our own personal experience with the Lord may not quite be the sort of spectacular “in His presence” encounter Moses had with the Lord, it is still no less a miracle, it is still no less personal, it is still no less loving. Simply put, He gets us and understands us as nobody else possibly can.  At this moment He is lovingly watching each of us to see if we will purposely turn aside for Him.  Why? Because He greatly desires to spend meaningful time with us, His much loved children.  While that’s certainly good news it doesn’t stop there.  No, far from it, in fact.  He longs for us to desire to spend time with Him as well.  After all, intimacy is very much a two-way street.  When you choose Him by turning aside you capture His attention.   And as a follower of Christ who among us isn’t affected such that we are moved into action by the sound of that life changing wave of understanding as it completely washes over us?

“Yahweh appeared of old to me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love:  therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.”  Jeremiah 31:3 (WEB)

“Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls.  All your waves and your billows have swept over me.”  Psalm 42:7 (WEB)

“Per-sway-did” or “Per-sway-dead”?

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 (WEB)

“He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before Yahweh.’ Behold Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rock before Yahweh; but Yahweh was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake a fire passed; but Yahweh was not in the fire.  After the fire, there was a still small voice.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle, went out, and stood in the entrance to the cave.  Behold a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”          1 Kings 19:11-13 (WEB)

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  John 10: 27 (WEB)

There was always some sort of wind blowing in this particular area I once lived in so the breeze that greeted me that winter morning was to be expected as I walked down a familiar stretch of sidewalk with our two dogs.  The breeze that day, however, was particularly light.  It was the kind of breeze you notice if you’re heading into it, but if you’re headed in the same direction with it you don’t notice it much at all.  As I continued walking down the sidewalk my eyes were drawn to the surprising sight up ahead of a wildly vibrating, swaying plant.  It seemed alive so animated were its movements which were akin to one of those inflatable, super-tall, madly flailing dancing characters automobile dealerships use to hopefully arrest your attention.   Fascinating! But what made this scene even more remarkable was that this plant danced alone even though it was surrounded by numerous other plants which stood there unmoved as if they were the plant manifestations of the stoic Easter Island statues.  The lone plant took notice of the faint breeze while all the other plants remained steadfast, unmoved, and locked firmly into place.  The visual contrast between the two groups could not have been any more stark and dramatic. The one danced with unrestrained exuberance as the almost imperceptible wind moved across it, yet the others seemed to be stuck in concrete unwilling and unable to move at all.

Sadly, truth be told though, can the same not be said regarding our response to God’s presence in our lives?  Some are moved to dance in His presence while others remain unmoved even though the breath of God moves across all.  As with the plants the difference between these two different groups of people could not be any more obvious as illustrated by these two scriptures:

“But they refused to listen, and turned their backs, and stopped their ears, that they might not hear.” Zechariah 7:11 (WEB)

 “David danced before Yahweh with all his might; and David was clothed in a linen ephod.”  2 Samuel 6:14 (WEB)

God’s breath, His very presence,  moves across each and every one of us as 2 Peter 3:9 (WEB) points out saying, “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  There is opportunity for movement towards Him for all in each of our journeys.  Yet, the truth is only a precious few acknowledge or react to His presence in their lives in a profound and transformed manner.  One is moved to dance in His presence all the while surrounded by others who rigidly standby in complete silence.

“When they had appointed him a day, many people came to him at his lodging.  He explained to them, testifying about God’s Kingdom, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning until evening.  Some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.”  Acts 28:23-24 (WEB)

There is a still small Breeze whispering out to you, beckoning you to move in His direction.  We all have a choice to make.  Will you remain hardened and unflinching in His presence such that you are “per-sway-dead” to remain motionless?  Or are you “per-sway-did” to dance in His presence overflowing with the joy of the Lord?

“Now therefore fear Yahweh, and serve him in sincerity and in truth.   Put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, in Egypt; and serve Yahweh.  If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell;  but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.”  Joshua 24:14-15 (WEB)

 The Lord lovingly holds out His hand in invitation for this dance of your life.  Do you hear it?  Do you feel it? Oh my brothers and sisters I pray each of you take His outstretched hand and sway to the rhythm of His life-giving breeze of hope!

“Now the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”   Romans 15:13 (WEB)

 “You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on the stand; and it shines to all who that are in the house.  Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (WEB)

 

So, here we are a few years later and the message remains the same, but this time expressed in a video:  Some “leaves” move in the presence of His voice and are alive, but sadly some are decidedly deaf to His whispers and are dead.