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)

beauty at the point of suffering

“Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.  Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil.  My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in Yahweh’s house forever.”  Psalm 23 (WEB)

 

Suffering.                                                                                                          Beauty.

 

Worlds apart in our minds…and in our hearts…are suffering and beauty.  So opposite are these two conditions that to intimately juxtapose them so that they are face to face with one another seems all-together not just unlikely but wrong.  Just as oil and water don’t mix likewise are suffering and beauty we say to ourselves.   Surely they are so vastly different from one another that they are better and more comfortably comprehended as if they exist on opposite sides of the ocean from one another.  Where there is pain, where there is suffering, there can be no beauty.  We are so convinced this is truth such that there can be no other understanding to our way of thinking.  After all have we not seen with our very own eyes and felt with our very own hearts from our personal vantage point in the watch tower known as experience that overlooks the paths we and so many others have trod that this is so?

Try as we might to avoid all the thorns sooner or later we are pierced.  No matter how hard we try there are some thorns in this life which simply cannot be avoided.  One day this dark, heartless rider takes us by force, carries us away, and unmercifully thrusts us directly onto the razor sharp point of a thorn.  It doesn’t matter why the rider came, it only matters that he did.  Cut, bleeding, and deeply wounded by the thorn’s presence the pain runs rampant throughout our entire being.  Pressed up against the crumbling, thorn-covered cliff’s edge precariously perched high above the unyielding rocks covering the valley floor far below our hearts long for mercy and deliverance.  Engulfed by our pain night and day we desperately search the all-too-blurry horizon through tear-filled eyes for signs of sweet, life-sustaining, live-giving hope galloping heroically towards us and again our past experiences remind us, as if on cue, of the great chasm that exists between

suffering                                                   and

beauty.

If only such a suffocating expanse of hopelessness could be bridged.   It’s not like we haven’t tried to make that journey, of course.  After all, pain and suffering seek relief, no, it is far more than that…they demand relief, and so countless times and in countless ways we have tried to cross this abyss,  all to no avail, all to our detriment.   Sadly, in our own attempts to obtain relief we eventually find that all too often what we once held the reins to now cruelly reigns over us:

(Johnny Cash, Hurt)

But, then God.

What humanity is unable to do the Lord accomplishes.   Only He is able to bring these two polar opposites together in such an extraorodinary way so as to create the spirit-lifting rhythm, melody, and soothing notes of harmony that we so desperately seek in the midst of our sufferings.  Only He can unite suffering and beauty in such a miraculous way that an even greater beauty of breathtaking signficance and transcendence is revealed.  It is a beauty like no other that lavishes our hearts and souls with the deliciously  honeysuckle sweet scent of hope which we so desperately seek in the depths of our sufferings.  As surely as the air we deeply inhale after a cleansing summer shower is wonderfully new, fresh, and utterly pleasant so is the message of hope delivered by His grace and mercy that is found in our Savior’s love for us.   Take heart, sister, take heart, brother, Jesus, our infinite Drop of living water overflowing with hope, comes to those who cry out to Him in their lowest and darkest times of need.

“Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit.”  Psalm 34:18 (WEB)

“Jesus answered her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14 (WEB)

Poised and perfectly balanced on the sharp point of our suffering like the delicate drop of water at the end of the thorn Jesus compassionately offers His own beauty, joy, and hope to us in our time of heartache for He, too, has personally experienced the anguish and misery from life’s thorns, thorns that were ours and not His to bear.

“So Pilate then took Jesus, and flogged him.  The soldiers twisted thorns into a crown, and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple garment.  They kept saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  and they kept slapping him.”  John 19:1-3 (WEB)

Laid low in the darkness will we embrace the hope and beauty offered to us by the One, our precious Drop of Living Water, who willingly places Himself right on the very tip end of the thorn that is the source of our anguish?  Will we embrace His presence and know that we are not alone no matter how dark the dark, how excruciating the pain?   He has come to breathe life into our breaking hearts for His desire is to set us free, but we must begin to understand that there is a bigger story at work here beyond ourselves.  Certainly He understood this in His own life as He stumbled through angry crowds broken and beaten carrying a cross on His way to Calvary, didn’t He?  He trusted His Father to speak life into what appeared to thousands of eyes surrounding Him that day to be a one-way, dead-end street with absolutely no hope.  And so must we in the presence of thorns.   Only then can we find ourselves in His arms swaying to a melody of joy and undeniable hope that is unknown and foreign to the world.   Only then can we find the Beauty of Beauties waiting to be revealed within our suffering.  Only then can we experience transformative intimacy with Him.

“But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered for a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  1 Peter 5:10 (WEB)

The beauty of His precious hope is ever before us.  It surrounds us.  Even in the midst of our being crushed it is present.  Surely, then, the words from that old familiar hymn ring even more sweetly in the warm and radiant sunrise of the wonderful promise of His healing presence in our lives as His precious children:

“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long,

this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”

Why?  Because,  “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” for then, and only then, is it truly “well with my soul.”

(Francis Blight, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)

the unfading Rose

 “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God stands forever.”  Isaiah 40:8 (WEB)

A rose in its prime is treasured the world over for its remarkable beauty.  For a few moments our lives are graced and inspired by its presence.  But, it’s a beauty not meant to last for very long.  As it fades away before our very eyes we are reminded that there is but one beauty that transcends time, a beauty that never fades away, a beauty that when intimately embraced in our lives grows ever more beautiful over time.  How can it not? He alone is the one true Rose of Sharon that loves you without ceasing and has promised to never leave your side.

I ask you, “Is there another Rose that is as true, as noble, as pure, as lovely, as of such good report, as virtuous, and as praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8) other than Jesus?  After all, there is no other Rose who died, was buried, and then rose three days later to set you, His dearly beloved, free.  Can there be anything more breathtakingly beautiful than the unfading Rose of our salvation?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8 (WEB)

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines out.”  Psalm 50:2 (WEB)

 

Jason Upton, “Jesus, You’re Beautiful” (from the album “A Table Full of Strangers, vol 2”)

 

accountability is a deal braker

“Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the everlasting way.”  Psalm 139:23-24 (WEB)

As I pulled into the church parking lot for my weekly meeting with my mentor, 2Tim (as I like to call him), I was surprised to see the flashing lights of a deputy sheriff’s car in the church’s front parking lot.  My second and greater surprise, however, was that the car the deputy had pulled over belonged to 2Tim!  “What in the world?” I thought to myself.  It turns out 2Tim had been pulled over because one of his brake lights was out unbeknownst to him.  The officer didn’t issue him a ticket, fortunately, and only wished to inform 2Tim the light was out and needed to be replaced.  Who knows how long the brake light had been out up to that point, and how much longer it would’ve stayed that way had the deputy not pulled him over?  While the brake light being out is not a seemingly big deal, driving without both brake lights could actually lead to a dangerous situation in certain circumstances so 2Tim and I both agreed as the deputy pulled away that this was one of those “blessings in disguise.”

Isn’t this so often the case in our own spiritual walk as well?  I can’t help but wonder what issues I have in my own life that I’m unaware of that need to be addressed so that I can make it right with the Lord?  So many times we are literally blind to some of our own spiritual failings.  The bottom line is that unless a “deputy” comes along to speak much needed truth into my life I’m very likely going to keep on driving merrily, but ignorantly, along as I go about my day to day life oblivious to the fact I’m crossways with the Lord in a particular area of my life.  The bottom line is we each need “deputies” in our lives provided by the Lord to make us aware of the shortcomings, or sins, we are fostering in our lives that are in need of our attention.   Yes, we’re talking about accountability to another person, someone you can trust and confide in, who loves you, and most importantly loves the Lord first and foremost.

The enemy would thoroughly enjoy seeing us continue on down our path of blindness, of course.  Isolation is a key ploy of his to help ensure we stay on that wrong path.  We are not meant to fight the good fight alone.  Ecclesiates 4:12 (WEB) tells us, “If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  So, do you have an accountability “deputy” friend in your life?  Do you have a 2Tim? If not, ask the Lord to send such a friend your way realizing that a relationship of this sort is also very much a two-way street of hope and promise for the both of you.  Simply put, remember to brake for accountability before your lack of accountability breaks you.  Lord, we thank you for sending dear and close Christian brothers and sisters into our lives to help us navigate our way through this life as we seek to please You, amen!

“A man of many companions may be ruined, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 18:24 (WEB)

return to sin-der

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”  John Stott

Several weeks ago I was asked if I’d consider becoming a spiritual pen pal with a fellow believer whom I’d never met and who happens to be incarcerated.  Although I’ve never done anything like this before the idea immediately appealed to me so I wrote the letter and sent it on its way eagerly awaiting my new found friend’s first response confident that the Lord had something to teach me through this new relationship.  Weeks went by with no reply much to my growing disappointment, but then just when I had almost given up I finally got my “reply.”  Much to my surprise it was my very own unopened letter being returned to me.  Attached to the letter was an adhesive notice from the prison informing me that the return address information I had provided was not sufficient and couldn’t be delivered.  The problem? I had left off my first name and had only provided my last name on the return portion of the envelope.  Who would’ve ever thought that leaving off my first name could make such a boomerang difference?  Not I obviously.  The bottom line is the prison needs complete information to be supplied on everything and everyone attempting to make contact with anyone on the inside before allowing access.  In other words, they want to know exactly who you are before they’ll welcome you inside.  Supplying only my last name without my accompanying first name simply didn’t get the job done in their eyes because in doing so I was only partially identified.  To their way of thinking my partial compliance was no different than not providing any return address information at all.  Immediately I was reminded of Jesus’s thoughts as found in Revelation 3:15-17 (WEB):  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;”

Not that long ago I read something captivating that John Eldredge, the Wild at Heart author, said in his latest book, “All Things New” regarding our hearts being transformed by hope you can taste:  “If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner—might even come today—you would be one happy person. 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.” (emphasis mine)   Those words, “contagious, unstoppable, revolutionary” have stuck with me as if they’re on permanent loop in my very soul since reading them that very first time.  As a believer, who doesn’t want to be contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary for Jesus?  That, my friend, describes a world impacting soul on fire for the Lord laser focused on matters of eternal significance.  As I thought and prayed over these three qualities I realized I am not contagious, I am not unstoppable, and I am not revolutionary for my Savior.  So, what is holding me back?  The truth is that like the insufficiently addressed returned letter containing only my last name, I am not fully engaged with Jesus.  Or put another way, I’m half-hearted and that’s why my desired destination is not happening.  Again, thoughts of the lack of appeal lukewarm water presents trickle through my mind.  This is a mouthful I’d like to spit out.

Recently I completed a YouVersion devotional by John Bevere based on his book entitled “Killing Kryptonite.”  Although I’ve not yet read the book some of my friends who have told me it’s basically about identifying what’s holding us, and the Church, back from becoming everything God desires us and His bride to be.  In its presence kryptonite renders Superman not just helpless, but can with prolonged exposure, kill him.  Referring to the early Acts church as compared to the modern day church Mr. Bevere asks, “Why are we not seeing the greater works God promised?” He answers that question by saying, “I believe that just like Superman had kryptonite, the church-the collection of individuals who claim to follow Christ-does as well.”  Continuing on Mr. Bevere observes, “The state of the church today, which seems to clearly be at cross purposes to God’s intentions and purposes for our lives as Christ-followers, should frustrate you.”

Now I don’t know about you, but those last three words, “should frustrate you” catch my attention.  In fact, they haunt me, but not for the obvious reason.  No, sadly they pursue me because I realize I am not contagiously, unstoppably, and revolutionarily frustrated with the Church being anemic and therefore unlike the early Acts type of Church.  Saying you’re frustrated is one thing, however, and doing something about it is another.  If you’re truly frustrated then shouldn’t that manifest itself in change being sought that addresses these issues?  Sincere frustration should result in my actively trying to implement change shouldn’t it?  Perhaps I’m not doing something about the Church’s failings as I perceive them to be because the truth is that the Church’s problems begin with me.  How frustrated with my own walk with the Lord am I?  Isn’t that the first question I should be asking before casting any stones towards the Church?  Yes, it’s the painful but much needed “log in my own eye” perspective scripture warns us about.  I can easily see the Church’s problems, but can’t, or worse yet, won’t, see my own.  A good, long, honest look in the mirror of God’s Word confirms this to be true about my own shortcomings in devotion and faithfulness to Him.  How can I even begin to be frustrated with the Church such that I actually attempt to do something about it when my own frustration with myself is minimal at best?  Again, sincere frustration drives heartfelt change, doesn’t it?  Sadly, the evidence at hand says there is only partial frustration, partial conviction for change on my part.  As a result I am forced to admit that I am half-hearted in my devotion to the Lord.  Rephrased, I have to squirm and uncomfortably confess that this is so because the Lord is not my only God.  Ouch, yes, writing those words is painful.  Lord, please forgive me that I have been unfaithful to You!  John Bevere calls these other gods the kryptonites in my life.   Comparatively speaking, I see once again that I am no different than my returned, unopened letter filled with pages of well-intentioned words with their message never delivered, never received because I had withheld a part of my name, a part of who I am.  My words in the letter fell short and remained unread because I was not all in from the very start.  They had no chance from the moment I first wrote them, yet I didn’t perceive that reality until later.  Such words are no different than bodiless bird’s wings (Grounded flight of freedom) unable to soar because they are being held captive by the quicksand of my own half-heartedness.  Is it any wonder that almost no one, friend or stranger alike, seldom asks me as to the reason for the hope that lives and breathes inside of myself?  Perhaps such inquiries rarely happen because that message is not being received in the first place.  Why?  Because delivery cannot successfully take place so long as the message we’re sending begins its journey with anything less than our being wholehearted for Jesus.

My return address was incomplete, and that meant I was not “all in” enough so as to warrant my message contained in the letter successfully reaching my pen pal.  My voice was silenced because I was only half-hearted from the outset.  As I considered all of this the story about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet came to mind as found in John 13:1-17. One part of the story stood out to me in particular.  At one point Peter’s unbridled, wholehearted enthusiasm causes him to spontaneously exclaim, ”Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” This, then, was Peter’s response to Jesus saying to him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part of me.” Although Peter didn’t completely grasp everything Jesus was saying and doing at the time I think we can all agree that Peter’s unrestrained zest for what Jesus was doing was without equal and was without reserve. The world is in desperate need of “all in” believers like Peter who generously deliver life and hope as found only in Jesus wherever they go.  Such passionate excitement and eye-opening devotion for Jesus is nothing short of contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary isn’t it?  Imagine for a moment what His Church might look like if we were to be so wholeheartedly abandoned for the Lord as Peter.  Why, the world would never be the same.  People would be naturally drawn to such a church bubbling over with sincerely aligned hearts.  There’d be no mistaking who we are in Christ both inside and outside the walls of the church.  Such a city on a hill would burn brightly as never before beckoning all to come, see, and share in what the Lord is doing wouldn’t it?

Yes, my initial thought that the Lord had much to teach me through this new relationship was indeed true…and all He needed at this early part of the journey was simply a letter marked “return to sender.”  Half-hearted is not getting the job done, friends.  The world needs wholehearted Jesus followers otherwise what we have to say is lukewarm, watered down, and doesn’t stand much of a chance of getting through.  Driven by holy frustration let our voices be contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary for Him this day because our hearts are all in for Him and Him alone with no other gods before us.  May our united trumpets’ herald be pure, clear, beautiful, and distinct faithfully proclaiming exactly who He is to a world in desperate need of hope.

“The secret of the Christian’s passion is simple:  Everything we do in life we do as to the Lord and not to men.”  David Jeremiah

“Christ did not die to make good works merely possible or to produce a half-hearted pursuit.  He died to produce in us a passion for good deeds.  Christian purity is not mere avoidance of evil, but the pursuit of good.”  John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ

“The Holy Spirit cannot conquer the world with unbelief, nor can He save the world with a worldly Church.  He calls for a crusade, a campaign, and an adventure of saving passion.  For this enterprise He wants a separated, sanctified and sacrificial people.”  Samuel Chadwick

“All other passions build upon or flow from your passion for Jesus.  A passion for souls grows out of a passion for Christ.  A passion for missions builds upon a passion for Christ.  The most crucial danger to a Christian, whatever his role, is to lack a passion of Christ.  The most direct route to personal renewal and new effectiveness is a new all-consuming passion for Jesus.  Lord, give us this passion, whatever the cost!”  Wesley L. Duewel

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”  E.M. Forster

John 13:1-17 (WEB)

13 Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and was going to God, arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments. He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

Jesus answered him, “You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus said to him, “Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.”11 For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on, and sat down again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord.’ You say so correctly, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Recommended additional reading:  Psalm 119

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)