When Shadows Come

It was sunny all day which made a long ride on the Interstate enjoyable.  The views were beautiful as the landscape changed from flat lands and swamps, to mountains and rivers.  From morning to evening we observed the works of nature giving hints of location and changing seasons.

Noon held the sun at its highest point but the afternoon hours sent the sun’s warmest rays.  Then, almost without noticing, long shadows from tall trees lining the highways, stretched long, dark shards of darkness across the roads.  Like icy fingers, the shadows choked out warmth and sent shivers across my skin.

For no apparent reason, an uneasiness crept over me.  It was momentary but I didn’t like it.  Questions I didn’t want in my mind sprang forward; questions like, are we going the right way?  Is the traffic getting too much to handle?  The GPS was operating.  Nothing had gone wrong all day.  There was no logical reason to suddenly doubt our direction.  Traffic had been thick along every turn but nothing had gone amiss there either.  I concluded that all was well in spite of dark shadows smothering out the sun’s warmth and trucks filling the lanes as far as one could see.  Our journey took us to our intended destination and all is well.  I drove through the shadows, enjoying the touches of sun that still peeked through branches before evening would send it away for the night.

Thoughts came to me that dark shadows and warm sunlight are pictures of what happens in our spiritual world.  There we are basking in the light of God’s love, truth, peace, and joy.  Then, with no warning, dark shadows of doubt casts depressing thoughts into our minds.  Troubling questions may tumble about, upsetting peace and fading away joy.  Lies that we are not really loved, that we are not as good as others around us, that our dreams are too far to reach, shatters happiness.  Hope is choked away.

It can happen ever so quickly, because in an instant, the lies of the enemy Satan can be shot from darkness, casting ugly shadows across what we know to be truth, sending us into a swirl of confusion.  The warmth of peace fades.

Satan works hard to steal our peace.  He is a thief.  He lies to us.  He is the father of lies.  He will always lie.  He will forever seek to cast shadows of fear.  This behaviour of his will never change, but there is good news.  Something else will never change either: the truth of The Son will always shine its light, dissipating the dark shadows of Satan’s lies.

When shadows appear, look for the Light.  Call for the Light.  Walk in the Light.  When Light comes, darkness must flee.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

The Imprint of God

For several days a beautiful bird has paid us a lengthy visit.  Each morning when we awake, stands the grey crane with feathers tinged in the faintest of pink and white. He is motionless for minutes that can become an hour.  Ever so slightly comes a turn of the head, sharp eyes peering into the water waiting for breakfast to appear in the form of a small fish.  

Isn’t it amazing the imprint of God upon and within His creation?  Human hearts are born with a spiritual void that cannot be satisfied with anything in our physical world, but only by the supernatural filling of the Holy Spirit.  Nature sings praise to its creator from every whisper of wind to the force of gales bursting forth in mighty crescendo.  The presence of God  and His wondrous works is all around us.

The crane stretches its neck higher and higher while alert eyes spy its prey.  A graceful lifting of wing, a swift plunge, and reward is evident as the crane gives proof of its catch gliding down its slender neck.  He stood at attention, never wavering from its goal:

“But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength; They will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not be weary.  They will walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Gradually the sky covered over with white cloud, then grey, while rain came, softly at first, then gaining momentum, pounding earth and water.  The crane did not lift its face.  He was steadfast, not wavering.  Wind began to blow with sudden force.  The crane spread its spindly legs and held fast its stance.  Feathers ruffled but still he did not change focus from its goal.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

The imprint of God is evident for all to see; only look with seeing eyes, believing eyes, trusting eyes.  Call and He will come. Stand tall in any of life’s storms, for His own strength will be yours.  Do not yield to fears of the physical world but focus on your goal. Patience will yield spiritual faith that cannot be toppled, like the crane standing firm in the storm.

From A Child’s Perspective

This week a friend sent the following to me.  The author is unknown.  I thought its simplicity –  simply profound.  I share it with you now:

A young girl turned to her mother after church and said, “Mom, the pastor’s sermon was confusing today.” 

“Why is that, honey?” the mother asked.

“Well,” the girl answered, “he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?”

“Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied.

The girl continued with, “The pastor also said that God lives in us.  Is that true, too?”  

Once more the mother replied, “Yes that’s true, too.”

“Well,” pondered the girl, “If God is bigger than us and lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”

“My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

A wonderful truth to ponder.

Diagnosis and Prescription

The IV pump dripped antibiotics into my mother’s arm.  A nurse stood near taking vital signs.  Another nurse brought tablets and poured a glass of water.  My mother swallowed them and lay back on her pillows.  Another day in ICU.  (Wonderfully, she’s home now.)

As the hours and days passed I spent a lot of time observing all the activity.  Patients being dismissed and others admitted.  One patient had fallen and broken a hip.  Another was a diabetic and having difficulties.  Still another admitted with pneumonia.  Doctors diagnosed and prescribed courses of treatment.  Nurses carried out the orders.  Aides provided comforts, brought meals, kept water pitchers filled.  Everyone worked together to give help to their patients in an ordered fashion.  Medicines and treatments were given as prescribed and in the exact time ordered by the doctors.

It was the above observations and timely help that took my heart to Hebrews 4:16, “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”  Notice it says “when we need it most.”  Who determines when we need help the most?  God Himself; our Heavenly Father.  He is never too early or too late with His help or in the type of assistance He gives.  He’s always right on time.  He diagnoses correctly and prescribes with precision.  

So often along life’s journey we find ourselves in difficulties.  We ponder what to do but can come up with no apparent action.  We are baffled.  Perhaps we feel at our wits end.  Wisdom is needed.  Therefore, go to Him.  Don’t delay.  When you don’t know what to ask for in any given situation, call out.  Your heavenly Father will hear and He will answer.  A friend reminded me this week of another verse of great encouragement, Jeremiah 33:3, “Call upon me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not yet know.” 

We don’t always know the answers to what we need, but our Father has all knowledge and strength and courage and peace.  Just go to Him.  Call out.  He will answer.

Three Trees

It was a simple dream.  As far as I recall it’s the first time I’ve dreamed my blog.  I went to sleep Thursday night without any thought of the next day’s blog.  I awoke having dreamed about three trees.  

This is my simple dream:  It had been raining hard in the night.  The sky was busy with thunder bursts and flashes of white lightening.  Then morning came.  First dim light, then bright as the sun peeked over treetops onto fields of grass.  At the edge of one field stood several trees, three were toppled over.  In my dream it was obvious that high winds had knocked the trees right over, uprooting them completely as they fell.  Upon closer look, the roots were short, almost as if the very tall trees had no roots at all.  In my dream, it was obvious to me that the trees could not withstand the force of the storm because it had no strong roots to hold them in the ground.  I woke up.

I lay in bed several minutes.  I thanked the Lord for giving me this dream.  I asked Him to help me, and all my brothers and sisters in the Lord all around the world. to keep our root system healthy.  Psalm 1 reminds us that we are like trees.  It tells us plainly that if we meditate on the things of the Lord then we, “are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.”  When the Lord is clearly the One upon whom we seek strength, courage, guidance, and wisdom, then the storms of life can whisk our branches around, but they cannot knock us over.  When we are standing tall in the Lord, no matter the tempest, we will get through filled with a tranquility that passes all understanding.

Whatever your storm today, if you feel you’re about to be knocked over, check out your root system.  Water them with God’s Holy Word.  His words are the living truth.  They withstand all storms.

The Rest Of The Story

My body.  My choice.  My rights.  My way.  The whole world is looking out for their own selves to the detriment of kindness and respect for one another.  Everywhere we look the attitude is me, me, and more of me.  Selfishness has taken over.  In the meantime, mental illness is on the rise, broken and dysfunctional families have become the norm, and outright hatred for others who don’t believe as we do is rampant.  Violence is reported on every news channel.  People go missing, parents are murdering their children, children are lacking respect for their parents and authority figures.  What in the world is happening all around us?  Has our arch enemy won?  Is evil really going to triumph over all?   

It is so easy to become disheartened when we focus on the world around us.  Our joy can be zapped away if we keep our eyesight on this current darkness.  We can spiral down into a pit of lost hope.  Is there a way to maintain joy and peace in the midst of our present chaos?  Oh, yes!

It’s all a matter of our focal point.  It’s a matter of knowing the rest of the story.  Jesus regularly warned His disciples that in this world there would be tribulations, but He went on to say, we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.  He also assured them that He would give His peace.  How does that work?

Lately I have been dwelling on the Old Testament verse, Isaiah 26:3 which reads, “You (the Lord Himself)  will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  You see, when troubles swirl around us, it’s human nature to dwell on those problems.  We try to think of ways to solve them.  We want to be rid of them so we think and think and think.  That’s human nature.  The thing is, as Christians we have something available to us that is far better than our human nature.  It’s a supernatural nature.  It’s the nature of Jesus Christ, and it’s available to us.  How do we acquire this supernatural nature?

When we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within.  Therefore, we have available to us, His own peace and courage and wisdom and joy.  We can function in that peace by what we meditate upon.  If we have troubles and fix our thoughts on those things that disturb us, then naturally turmoil will reign in our hearts.  If, on the other hand, we fix our thoughts on the One who is able to do above all we can even imagine, then supernaturally, Holy joy and peace will sit on the throne of our hearts.  

To maintain such spiritual focus takes practice.  Begin now.  Ask the Lord to keep thoughts of all that’s possible in Him, to settle in your being and rule your minds.  Peace will come.   

Lost and Found

Last week I got myself into a panic!  I own something that is very precious to me, which for a moment, I thought I had lost.  One item is a necklace that two people gave to me a few years ago.  Another item is a bracelet with matching earrings that another two people gave to me.  I have no idea the monetary value of these pieces of jewellery.  The cost is not what makes them precious; but rather, the value is in who gave them to me, and in why they gave them to me: because they love me, too!  The people who presented me with the gifts are treasures of my heart.  I love them dearly.  Hence, when I thought the items to be lost, deep disappointed weighed me down, and panic stirred in my emotions.  To tell the truth, I felt a bit sick!

Suddenly, an idea came to me.  I had been away for the weekend.  Knowing I wear these items every Sunday, I hoped that I had left them behind.  I sent a text to ask.  The minutes that passed seemed ages!  Suddenly a ding of the phone.  Oh, joy!  Ecstasy!  My precious necklace, bracelet and earrings, had been found!  No more words can adequately describe my relief.

I felt my face smiling all day long.  What had been lost was now found.  The joy stayed with me for days.  It was during these days that a thought came to me about how our Heavenly Father must feel when One of His children strays away.  He loves each of His children so very much.  He knows our frailties but loves us unconditionally anyway.  He plans for our future, daily gives us His own strength and peace, and shares in what gives us joy.  Then, sadly, one of His own turns away.  He or she loses sight of our Father’s perfect guidance, deciding instead, that they can make wiser choices.  To all intents and purposes, though still a child (once a child of God, always a child of God) that child is lost to Father’s perfect will for his or her life.

Can you imagine how Father must feel?  The child is so very precious to Him.  Valuable, not because of money, but because of the love-cost given by His own dear Son, Jesus, who died that every child of God could be adopted into His eternal family, with all its rights and privileges, never to be taken away.  We are created in God’s image; therefore, we know He feels sadness because we feel it.  Does He feel the weight of disappointment, like I did over my lost jewellery, when one of His sons or daughters drifts away?  Whatever the emotion of God, we know He speaks often of the love He has for His own.  Read Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

If anyone reading this happens to have drifted away, ask yourself right now, am I happier at this moment without Him, than I ever was with Him? Just go back.  You know He will always forgive.  You know He loves you immeasurably.  Just go back and experience great joy, together again.  

Parental Instructions

We will all remember parental instructions given to us as children.  Things like, “get away from that hot stove,” “stand up straight,” “always tell the truth,” “play nicely,” “study hard,” “always do your best,” “call me if you need anything.”  Some of those instructions we understood right away, but with other directions, we had to grow up a bit before comprehension sunk in.  Nonetheless, for those of us blessed with loving parents, we knew they had our best interests in their hearts.  They wanted to provide for us, keep us from harm, and train us to grow up into a person of good character with integrity..

Those thoughts came to me today as I was reading in Proverbs 4:10-13:  “My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life.  I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.  When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.  Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go.  Guard them, for they are the key to life.”

Isn’t that lovely parental advice from our heavenly Father?  Do you sense His care and desire to keep us safe?  Can you feel His yearning to provide for our needs and to lead us along the best paths for our lives?  Sometimes He says “yes” to our desires, while at other times He says “wait” or even “no.”  All His words to us, and everyone of His instructions, are designed to give us life and to give us life abundantly on earth, filled with peace, kept in love, and overflowing with joy that will go on and on and on.

Oh, to be a child of God, having such wonderful daily instructions for living.  What a wonderful, kind, wise, and loving Heavenly Father.

What I Did To My Mother

Many of you reading this will know that earlier this week my mother had a fall.  Her legs just quit working properly.  As it turned out, she was having a severe reaction to a medicinal drug she was taking.  It’s been 72 hours since she last took it and already her strength is returning.

You can imagine my own fright when I heard a crash and ran to find my mother lying on the bathroom floor.  My mind was racing with all sorts of scenarios.  Did she trip, slip, faint?  Her speech was slightly slurred.  She was confused.  Was she having a stroke or was this a reaction to shock?  Was it her heart?  

I put a towel under her head and encouraged her to be still.  Then, slowly, together we managed to get her up.  Holding onto me we got to the couch where she could sit and then lie down.  I talked to her doctor.  It seemed that indeed it was a drug reaction.  For the rest of the day she rested, holding onto me to guide her when she needed to get up for anything.

In the midst of this scary situation, we both ended up in giggles more than once.  There was the moment when I first got her to the couch.  I went to her bedroom to retrieve some pillows.  As I came near she let out a yelp!  I had stepped on her bare foot.  Declaring how sorry I was, I turned to put her pillows down, and knocked her on the side of her head with my elbow!  Once again, uttering my apologies, I pulled on her robe that was wadded up behind her, and nearly sent her flipping over!  I stepped back and said, “Mom, obviously I’m better with animals.”  She replied, “If I moo, neigh, or bark, will that help?”  Hysterical laughter broke out.  I was doubled over and Mom was laughing till her eyes watered.

I can honestly report that since then, taking extreme caution, I have managed NOT to step on, bash into, or flip my mother over.  She is recovering well — in spite of my help! 

I love the Bible teaching that God created us in His image.  That means that God laughs, too. I have often imagined Jesus laughing with His disciples over some exaggerated fishing tale.  It’s been proven by psychologists that laughter is physically and emotionally good for us. Of course, that discovery is no surprise.  God Himself recorded that fact for us over 2000 years ago in Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Whatever is happening in your world today.  Whether you are in fright, or time of worry, or tears come; somewhere in the midst — I hope you laugh.  

The Pecking Chicken

I have been laughing all week every time I think of something a friend sent to me.  Some of you will have seen it on Facebook.  It’s a cartoon picture of a hen. The caption reads, “I may look calm, but in my head I’ve already pecked you three times.”  I can so identify with this chicken!  Probably, we have all had our moments of putting on what I call, the plastic smile.  This particular frozen face fixture shows itself as a cover for what one is really feeling; something like, an arched eyebrow with lips parted which would properly communicate, “were you born a moron or did you acquire this trait at a later time in life?”  To actually say this would not be nice; hence, the calm hen look.

We have all learned how to be socially acceptable, to be polite, to be nice, to certainly not reveal, at times, the thoughts that are really going through our minds.  In most instances, we can acknowledge a simple clash of personality and just move on, but at other times, the desire to actually peck the irritating someone becomes overwhelming.  Sometimes, the irritation can grow into a bitterness that zaps away our inner peace and our ability to function as we should in other areas of our lives because our minds are too busy pecking!  What to do?!?!?

I’ll share something that I have watched my mother do my entire life.  She, like all of us, has had her share of dealing with irritating people.  Many times these people have been unkind to her.  When her own desires to go pecking would turn into an uncharitable yearning, she would say, “time to heap some coals.”  As a child I didn’t quite know what that meant.  As I grew older I understood.  She was quoting from Romans 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give righteous place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine.  I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.  If he is thirsty, give him a drink.  For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  

As the years passed by I gained a deeper understanding.  This “heaping coals” through showing kindness, wasn’t just something good for the offending person, but it was wonderful for anyone exercising this attitude.  I discovered myself, that instead of deliciously picturing a pecking episode in my mind, if I alternatively pictured some kind word or action, the irritation that had taken hold of me would ease away.  

Being overcome with thoughts of pecking never turns into anything wonderful.  Being overcome with determination to show simple kindness, amazingly, does a world of goodness to both sides.  As the above instruction tells us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”