May 28 Way to go, Jesus!

stratocumulus castellanusWill someone please tell me why I don’t hear things like this said out loud more often? When I look at the world around me, heads are down and focused, eyes are narrowed, concentration is sucked into the latest i-gadget, and the world in its finite honor, glorifying our creator is screaming at us, trying to get our attention—trying to show us the incomparable biosphere of life (and beyond!) surrounding us…

Lined with red golden hues, the clouds doth scream! Yes, they scream and they shout!

Pull your eyes out of your book, tablet, smart tv, computer screen, smart phone, laundry, laundry list, dishes, etc. and look up. See creation move before your eyes….the sunrise, the sunset….feel the breeze in the early morning as the sun warms it; smell the flowers, alive in the garden, note the scents of summer filling the invisible city walls and open every last pore of your flesh to the creation swirling around you, day or night. Breath it in.

My husband and I try to make the little things like this a priority. To remind ourselves that God is delighted in his creation..and in sharing it with us. Such joy to observe, and also to absorb! Whenever we notice something amazing, we call (or go and get) the other person to share it. This most recent one…the hubs called me. He said, “Go outside! Quick! Look at those clouds! Amazing, aren’t they!” Ah, yes, they really were. There were tinges of red, purple….green and yellow where the sun was brightest on the horizon.  And within my spirit I felt the joyful drive to audibly say, “Way to go, Jesus!” I believe you could have related the visual glory in terms such as “breathtaking” or “awe inspiring.”

From yet another perspective, let me offer a minor explanation on this particular bit of stratocumulus castellanus (aka, some really cool clouds…) As an artist, creating any type of clouds are…well, they’re a bit iffy. If you use the incorrect types together, it just looks wrong (scientifically and artistically). If you put too many…wrong…not enough, wrong…Clouds are very particular (who knew!). Some really great artists can get ‘em  pretty close to just right, but for the most part—getting clouds to look like real clouds is work. And then, adding sun rays and moon beams, starlight and nature, cityscapes and whatever other variables… let me just say it almost always looks fake in some way. What about the real thing? A whisper from heaven for aqua skies, a hint of amethyst and jade, and red golden hues gilding with fire the edges of clouds as the sun sinks below the horizon.  Spectacular. But the kicker is this: rarely do we recognize the artist for offering such remarkable scenery on a daily basis.

I challenge you (this is where you say, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!) to pay attention today, tomorrow, and every other day this week to the life around you that was here before technology made it visible in 1080P High Definition without getting out of your chair. Pay attention to it (yes, even if  it’s on the television) and give credit where credit is due. When you do, offer a super-sized thank you, way to go Jesus, or other appropriate exultation for making a pretty darn impressive work of art to witness each day (this is where you say “I’d be delighted”). And if it’s a song, a happenstance, or a person God made (he made them all!) that catches the peripherals of your spirit, then take a moment to adjust your perspective and thank him for the talent you have been blessed to witness as well.  Because we, as exceptional pieces of that art, should publicly honor the artist.

Photo by: Allen Gresham SFHPhotography

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May 21 Enter Jesus

I like a good story. And not just any story. I want adventure, action, make believe. I want superheroes and super villains. I want science fiction and mystery, non fiction and unique biographies…I want from rags to riches, love stories, strong characters, and larger than life inspiration!

Life is such a story. Mine. Yours. The guy in front of you in the line at Starbucks…

Today, I heard such a story that was still in process and it reminded me of my own. It was a little more depressing as this person is currently living in financial limbo, but it reminded me of the grace that I have experienced, and the security of Jesus that I have come to depend on.

Marvel-character-composit

14.5 Years ago, I met the man I was to marry. Boy meets girl. Boy proposes to girl. Boy marries girl. Married life begins. It was kind of a rickety start for us. We lived in a 1 room apartment with shared walls and two cats. It was almost dream like. So romantic. But let’s have a reality check. Memories are shrouded in time and sepia toned nostalgia. Reality has no such clothing. We were broke. The carpet in our apartment had mysterious black stains that would randomly appear. Depression had taken hold of us separately, years before, and therapy was expensive. Rent was expensive. (What I wouldn’t give to pay $550 a month for rent now!). The car died, the cooler smelled like fish, and we were suffocating under our debt. I sat on my bed and waited for my husband to come home. 15 months into marriage and we were on the brink of homelessness. The economy hadn’t even begun to crash and we were dead in the water.

Like so many other moments in our lives, hindsight holds unmistakable clarity. There, in that moment of despair, entered Jesus. He had been there all along, but he was about to tear the last bit of security from our lives, and probably at our own ridiculous request. My husband’s parents had experienced something similar and had to move into a decrepit piece of real estate. With nowhere left to go besides the shelter, we moved in with them.

I can’t even begin to express how much a person can honestly live without, because even now, I am sure that I have more than some.  If the world burned apart at this moment, sure—I’d miss my hand-me-down, 200lb TV, my hand-me-down recliner that comes apart if you lean too far back, and my hand-me down bed that sinks in the center if you roll too far while you’re sleeping. But I could live without it. It was the going nowhere I couldn’t handle.

Enter Jesus.

We had mounds of debt to add to our poverty and desperation. We couldn’t buy groceries without credit and didn’t make enough to pay off the credit bills. It happens to the best of us. But after the move, we decided we needed to get serious. One, fine April, in the midst of a bill paying frenzy, I finally had it. I tore open a bill and read that whilst the economy was beginning to tank, the interest rates were going to start soaring.  I sighed in irritation and told Jesus that I promised I would live without credit cards if he would just help us. (Can you say, Let’s make a Deal!) I know you can’t honestly make deals with God, but I know in my heart  that in that moment, Jesus was smiling, knowing full well that he was making a deal with me.

“Give up the false, financial security and I will take care of you.”

There are few things scarier than truly accepting Jesus’ help. But we had nowhere else to go? We had nothing left. Period. So I accepted on behalf of both of us (laugh now!), scissors in my right hand, credit cards in my left. It wasn’t a good feeling, but it was the right decision. No more financial security (or insecurity for that matter), and no more back up plan.

Enter Jesus.

For years, we’ve been paying off debts, shredding credit card offers, and trying to explain to credit card companies, family, and friends why we do not spend money we do not have. No more loans, no more interest; frozen accounts, monthly bills, and payment agreements have been our life. We live on a budget.

So let me repeat, for posterity’s sake (and everyone else’s, too): Enter Jesus.

Oh, that amazing, all powerful, doesn’t need my money, Jesus. He never fails anything or anyone.

It’s 2013 and I can almost taste the glorious freedom, white knuckling the last moments of this chapter of our lives before the next, debt free one begins. Why? I’ll tell you. From the moment we chopped up those cards and said, “Okay”, it’s been an in the dark roller coaster, never knowing what will happen next –a full on Disneyland Space Mountain ride, but without all the cool lights and sound effects, or the safety harnesses…. In it all, God has provided. He’s paid our bills when we had nothing, fed us when we were hungry, and clothed us when we were naked. The Lord has given us more than we needed in order to show us that we were (and are) less than capable without him. He has blessed us through family and friends, offering not only the things we need, but fulfilling even impractical desires and wants to feed our imaginations and our human happiness.

I can’t say that each and every day I am grateful, because, to be perfectly honest, some days I’m not.  It all sounds great on paper. But this is one of those ugly life lessons that hurts like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, as God masterfully chips away at the exterior so he can polish the gem that’s somewhere DEEP inside. However, I can say that my perspective has changed, and now, because of Jesus, I can see through the smoke screen of security the world pretends to offer. Super villain, I have found your kryptonite!

What happens next? Where does the story lead? I have no earthly idea. In fact, at this moment, I have very little to show for my life… except the ever present, blessed rainfall from heaven reminding me of the fact that when the story of this life reached a make it or break it point, Jesus Entered In.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Food for thought: Where has Jesus Entered In to your story? Is there something he’s been asking you to let go of, big or small, so that he can provide for you?

May 15 The Scripture Catch

God will use whatever or whomever he wants in order to capture your attention. Sometimes it’s a word…a phrase…a leaf, petal, bug…the sky, stars, or moon… the nature channel, science discovery, a person crossing your path or your child’s science fair project…and sometimes, it’s the availability of differing translations of scripture that as I share in the next few circumstances, am positive were written specifically for me.

fairy-tales

I am a dreamer. I am a wisher… I am a magic bean buyer. The imagination inside was not only a gift from the Maker, but my go-to survival tool in a world filled with broken, ugly things. It allowed vision to become more than what you see, words to become more than what you read, and life to grow beyond any boundaries that mankind could set. This gift, this perspective, is something I believe was cut from the flesh of the living God and wrapped up inside of my soul. And those bits, those things that the Creator uses to capture my attention, are noticed because of that very specific gift.

The Scripture Catch, as I will call it, started when I read “Circle of Seasons” by Kim Conway. I was desperately bored with memorization ( I hadn’t gotten to God telling Job the what-for (Job 38 and beyond)) and begged God to “throw me a bone.” In his most delicate, “do what I ask” request, I picked up “Circle of Seasons.” (An AMAZING read, by the way). One of the verses right smack dab in the middle of the first season, and following the ever running circle, was from the New Jerusalem Reader’s Version. Never before had this specific verse been so vibrant and alive until it was worded just so. I knew of its importance, but beyond that….it needed some Glory, because let’s face it, folks—the gift of Jesus is beyond glorious. In an instant, I could almost see the glory of the light that was raining down from heaven like confetti made of stars, ticker tape made of golden fairy dust. It was so bright that it stopped my eyes from moving beyond their words and I felt them reach into the force of my life as I whispered them aloud, illuminating my soul. A moment like that takes your breath away.

A few years later, I inherited a “daily inspiration” flip book from an amazing woman. Of course, I never actually followed that whole date thing and would just toss the pages until I found something that spoke to me. Enter Jesus. The May 26th message comes from the book of Psalms, chapter 90 verse 2. The way it was worded in The Message translation struck that same glorious, fantastical chord.

Long before the mountains were born,

long before you brought the Earth itself to birth,

 from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”

–you are God.

Living in a world desperate for that fairy tale beginning (it’s there, I promise!) and longing for the day when the brave knight will rescue his kingdom from destruction and despair (it’s happening, I promise!), I needed to read those words—YOU ARE GOD—in a lasting, supernatural form. I knew it. I know it. It will never change. But my attention needed to be gotten in a very specific way. The world needed to be swirled back up into a tangible dream, beautiful from its pre-formation, magical in its reformation, and glorious in its reconciliation.  Jesus knew from day one that I would be a special catch, and that it would take a magical ordering and translation of ink on parchment to show me the supernatural side of creation from the Almighty’s perspective. Once upon a time, the birth of all creation’s tide spoke of a kingdom that is to come; and out of the vortex of failing faith I heard it bear witness to the only God worthy of such timeless grandeur.

Let me just say that my attention has been caught.

What is the Maker of the universe whispering to you? How has he captured your focus to see what he sees? Need a little help? Pray it with me, “Lord, show me the beauty & mystery that you have made…open my eyes and my heart, and tune them to your song.” Wait for it—when you least expect it, it will appear out of the corner of your eye, in a specific note of a song, or on a dirty old piece of paper with words arranged just so to capture your attention and wash your spirit fair and clean with his glorious heart.

May 6, 2013 Not Knowing When the Dawn Will Come

“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”

-Emily Dickinson

river house night

Every time I read this, I think of a woman standing in the center of a house, the stars twinkling in the ebony sky above her, and she is waiting….waiting. Her eyes are closed, her breath is quicker than normal, but steady; her heart ready to skip a beat the moment it happens.

 Darkness surrounds her tiny, country laden abode. Out of time and out of sorts, she had awakened to find that the sun had not yet risen, the light had not yet flooded her morning, the dawn had not yet arrived. She raced around the house, throwing sashes and locks, curtains and closet doors, feverishly preparing for something that had not yet come to pass. The sticking point—she believed that it would.  Whether or not she had witnessed the raising of the dawn prior to this, or if this was more of an “All Summer in a Day1” kind of moment, only your imagination can decide. I believe that she does all of those things, making herself breathless…opening every closest and uncovering every crevice, pushing aside every window covering and throwing open with great expectation, every – single-door. And as this story started out, there she is—in the center of it all—waiting.

The epiphany I had as I opened my front door to greet the morning (it happens most mornings, but not always so crisp and clearly), was an underlying yet overwhelming desire to immerse myself in the glorious light of my Creator. To not let go, not give up, hold on no matter what the circumstances of each day brings… Ms. Emily Dickinson did more than wait with hopeful expectation and knowing. She wasn’t being foolish or unrealistic. In one phrase, she uncovered the face of an ailing humanity and our deepest desperation for personal contact with Christ.

The truth is, we don’t know when the metaphorical dawns of life will come. We can guess. Based on previous experiences or sound logic we can plan for its arrival…(go ahead and pause for a minute and read this next part slowly)…But it is our faith, our hope, and our innermost spirit that assures us it / he is coming. And because we believe as such, we should be equally transparent the moment the light breaks through…we should be standing at the ready, doors hanging open to every nook and cranny that houses even the least bit of darkness and let the blessed starlight sing above us as we wait…wait for the rising of the dawn to shatter all that surrounds us and illuminate the childlike spirit begging to overflow with divine joy.

In the spirit of poetry, I say to myself, “Not knowing when the dawn will come…” and I smile as I unlatch the first of many doors.

 

  1. “All Summer in a Day” is a short by Ray Bradbury

Job 38: 14
14 As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors.