A Letter to My Great-niece Kelly

(Kelly has been posting on Facebook regarding the recent events in Minneapolis—the death of George Floyd while in police custody.  I wanted to encourage her in her stand for truth and justice, yet share that this is not a new battle.)

Kelly, I am so proud of you for taking a stand for what is right, even in the midst of “push back” and misunderstanding.  All people should be appalled at what has happened and demand change.  Yet, what we are facing is not only white versus black in America; it is “man’s inhumanity to man,” which has been with us since the beginning of time.  It is playing out in our generation, but it is not new.  In our history it has been with us in nation against nation; it has existed between Gentiles and Jews, men and women, Christian and non-Christian, Protestant and Catholic, Protestant and Protestant, Republican and Democrat, and even now, in the midst of a pandemic, between unmasked and masked!

Ask the Irish, Italian, and other immigrants, about what they faced when they came seeking a new life.  Ask the women who for generations were, and in some cases still are, treated as property rather than people.  Ask the Native Americans about what was taken from them when the Europeans discovered America.  Ask the unborn child whose life is taken, not given the chance to live.  Ask the Jewish people during Hitler’s time.  Ask the slave on the white man’s plantation.  Ask the mentally handicapped person who just wants to live in a pleasant group home in our neighborhood, and so many, many more.

We are dealing with a larger and eternal issue of the heart.  God created us for good and for community, with Him and with others.  Again and again, His word tells us to love one another.  When He saw the anger and jealousy in Cain’s heart towards his brother Abel—the very first family of creation—He said, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)  Like Cain, generation after generation has failed to “rule over it.”  Generation after generation has created people with hearts of stone.  The remedy is still the same—only the God Who made us is able to save us.  He is the One Who says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Now I know some will give me flak for these comments.  That, also, is nothing new.  I am tired of hearing that my faith “is fine for weak people,” as though it were merely a soft blanket to cuddle with while I nurse my wounds.  The true power of the Gospel is the greatest power there is!  I have witnessed and experienced the amazing heart transplant mentioned above.  I have known those who, by this power, commit to live for the sake of others, even to the loss of their own lives.  Some will say that there are non-believers who have good hearts too.  Yes!  God has instilled in each of us, whether we believe in Him or not, the capacity to sense right from wrong, good from evil—it is from Him!  Like Cain, the choices we make will determine the hardness of our hearts.  But we know, if we are honest, that each of us has failed many times.  When I speak of the power of the Gospel, I am not speaking about a set of rules and principles; I am talking about the person of Jesus Christ and an on-going, genuine, living relationship with Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He does the transplant; He is the transplant!

We are called to do and be what we can, but we are also called to pray and ask God for what we cannot do and be.  We pray for ourselves and for our world.  We pray for new hearts!  That’s why Jesus came; that’s why He died; so that you and I can have hearts of flesh, drawing from His strength and presence to live justly, kindly, and nobly—to love one another as He has loved us.  The enemy of our souls knows that “united we stand, divided we fall.”

So, Kelly, you have entered the battlefield that has existed since the beginning of time.  You can say with the ages what Robert Burns wrote, “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!”  And God mourns with us.  May His presence and strength be with you always to fight the good fight.

From A to B

The harebell appears so fragile yet grows along the rocky shore of Lake Superior.

It has been awhile, dear friends.  My prayers and thoughts are with all during this unprecedented time in our generation.  It is important that we continue to stay in touch, encouraging one another…not only with words of peace and hope from our Lord, but with humor, heartwarming stories, etc.  Following is something I felt the Lord put on my heart last week to share on Facebook.  Though I rarely post anything and have mainly used it to keep in touch with family, I felt He was saying to use whatever means we have to reach out to one another.

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Amid this virus, we are walking a path we have not been on before.  We no longer live our normal lives and we have not yet arrived at what life shall be afterward; we are between point A and point B.  We WILL arrive at point B and we will have changed—some for the better and some for the worse; no one will remain unchanged.  How we traverse between these points will determine what that change will look like.

Years ago, I was praying to the Lord about a specific situation, telling Him that I was not afraid of where He was taking me, but that I was not looking forward to what it would take to get there.  He impressed upon me that if I did not take the journey between, I would not be prepared for the destination when I arrived.  (Side note: Jeff Manion’s book, The Land Between, would be excellent reading during this time.)

I have every assurance that God sees us—each and every one of us—and IS working.  He is working to bring deliverance, to bring hope, to bring peace, to bring unity, and to bring healing.  Psalm 33:15 reads, “He fashions their hearts individually…” (NKJV).  My prayer for each of us, dear family and friends, is that we take courage and trust in the One who knows us better than we know ourselves.  Let us seek Him for strength, peace, and our individual roles to fulfill.  We will arrive together at point B with hearts and souls richer than before, and, I trust, a world more united than before.

Listening and Believing

“Who will listen and hear for the time to come?” Isaiah 42:23b

First, let me apologize for my long absence from the site.  This past year has been a difficult one for me and my extended family.  It began last February with the death of my sweet, great-niece on the 59th wedding anniversary of her grandparents—my brother and his wife, while they were visiting us in Colorado.  The year continued with cancer for my brother and serious back issues for me.  It, however, was not without many blessings as well.  After long and painful treatments, my brother is doing well and cancer-free.  My back is “holding its own.”  One of the sweetest blessings was getting Jeff’s new kitty after the loss of his beloved Chloe.  Bella has been “therapy” for both of us…and friends as well!

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We also had visits from friends in Minnesota who shared some of the beauty of the mountains with us in Ouray and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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God’s creation always reminds me of His faithfulness and goodness.  However, this morning the struggle to believe was back in my prayer time.  When praying for dear ones who are on difficult and heartbreaking journeys, or for our society that seems to be spinning more and more into the depths of darkness, the words of Jesus in John 16 saying, “…whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you,” again cause my heart to cry like the father of a demon-possessed child in Scripture, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”

Lingering longer than usual in my quiet time, I asked the Father to help me and take me deeper into His truth.  I felt He began to impress on my heart the importance of asking and listening in order to believe.  Now this may seem elementary, for we have all been in discussions about asking according to His will versus our own presumptions of His will.  In his letters, Peter writes several times of stirring us up by way of reminders.  What I felt our Father “reminding” me of was the need to truly listen to Him in all of my prayers.  When telling His followers to “ask…seek…knock,” Jesus concludes by saying, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).  The Holy Spirit is the answer to our asking, seeking, and knocking—the Holy Spirit who always prays according to the Father’s will.  The Spirit’s revelation regarding our request is the ground we firmly stand on, saying, “I believe!”

To be willing to tarry longer in prayer in order to wait and listen for the Holy Spirit will take a sacrifice of time.  It is time we and the church cannot afford to miss.

Afterward

In these weeks following Easter I have been pondering some of the words Jesus spoke about the “afterward” of His death and resurrection. IMG_5430

  • “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”  John 16:7
  • “…The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:17-18
  • “…and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” John 16:20b
  • “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…”  John 16:12-13a
  • “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God…. we have the mind of Christ.” I Corinthians 2:12 & 16b

These ponderings have filled me anew with awe at the incredible gift He has given us—His own Spirit!  We are not left alone to walk the maze of this world wondering which way to go and what is really true.  Years ago, I often thought about what it would have been like to walk and talk with the man Jesus.  I supposed, wrongly, that it would have been easier.  My goodness, look at how many times the disciples had no clue as to what Jesus was talking about!  For now, we may not have the pleasure of physically looking into His eyes and beholding His face, but we have the profound privilege of looking into and knowing His heart—actually experiencing His feelings through the Holy Spirit.  We can truly know His heart toward us and toward others.

Recently, our small group was talking about the many denominations of Christianity, and even differences within denominations. (I personally am not troubled by some of the differences as long as the foundation is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Look at the vast array of flowers that give Him glory; surely there can be a beautiful array of human expressions to glorify Him.)  My point is, however, that with so many telling us that their way should be our way, how is one to know the truth?  Thanks be to God, He has given us His very own Spirit to counsel IMG_5404and guide us!  Where would we be without the beautiful Spirit of God?  Lost in the maze, I’m sure.

Jesus also said the Holy Spirit would take what is His and declare it to us (John 16:14).  Imagine, all the beauty and goodness and power and love of Jesus are available to us through the Spirit.  No wonder He said it was to our advantage that He go away!

Jesus is Risen!  Come, Holy Spirit!  We need You to be poured out anew in our hearts and in our world!  Amen.

Puffed Up or Built Up?

“’Knowledge’ puffs up but love builds up.” From I Corinthians 8:1-2

This morning in my quiet/prayer time I kept thinking about rocket scientists and astronauts.  The rocket scientists have much knowledge in understanding how a massive piece of equipment can be lifted from earth and into space, breaking the bounds of natural human existence.  However, it is the astronauts who benefit from this applied knowledge and experience the g-force as this rocket strains to leave earth’s covetous hands and then, in the instant it breaks free, are enveloped in a beautiful silence and peace.  Like the feathery seeds of a dandelion released in the breeze, weight is lifted from their bodies and they move like the bearthirds.  It is the astronauts who get to experience a view of earth from the heavens, not seeing war, hatred, or pain, but only exquisite beauty.

What does our Christian life look like?  Are we more like the scientist or the astronaut?  Are we filled with knowledge that makes us feel good about ourselves, especially in comparison to others—“puffed up”—or are we experiencing all the beauty and goodness of God, finding our cares can be lifted off and our spirits set free in the love of Jesus—“built up”—able to see and love others in the exquisite beauty of their creation and not letting pride, anger, or jealousy take root in our hearts?

Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is a good thing, but only if it is followed by a “so that,” which turns it into wisdom and alters our experience.  Jesus said that our knowledge of the scriptures is meant to point us to Him so that we come to Him and find life (see John 5:39).  In the natural world there are more rocket scientists than astronauts but in the spiritual world we can all be, and truly are meant to be, astronauts!  The knowledgeable rocket scientist backing us up is God Himself!

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of showing them “a still more excellent way” (v. 31) after describing the offices and gifts of the Spirit—the way of love.  How do we change our knowledge into the way of love?  We come humbly to Jesus and ask Him to show us His beauty and His way.  As we linger often in His presence, the Holy Spirit will take the word from the page to our head, from our head to our heart, and from our heart to our footsteps out into the world.

Be built up today; you are His exquisite creation and profoundly precious to Him.

Christmas Grace

Every year, as we decorate our Christmas tree, a childhood memory softly returns and brings a smile to my face.  There were not a lot of happy times for me as a child, especially with my father, but with the flowing of time and God’s grace, the sweetest memories overshadow the others.  A few years ago I wrote of that very special Christmas and share it with you now.

Christmas Grace

May you have many moments of Christmas Grace this Advent season.

Think About These Things

Last week a friend asked me if I had solved all the world’s problems during my time in a cozy cabin on the shore of Lake Superior.  In jest I replied, “Yes, I did, but no one listens to me!”  Then I realized I had spoken the truth; the walls of that cabin have absorbed my prayers for a long time and my prayer is always for those in the world to know the peace and presence of Jesus.  If everyone in the world knew Him and lived by the words He spoke, we would solve all the world’s problems!  Of course, I realize that what I am describing is heaven and that His words also tell us that not everyone will receive Him or do what He says.

IMG_3909Recently, at a family dinner a few days after the truck attack in New York, someone made the comment, “With all the things that are happening in our world it makes you wonder if this is a place we want to be.”  Many people feel this way but we cannot let these events discourage us from seeing all the good that is still happening and the beauty that surrounds us.  The next evening, as I went to close the blinds, I saw the most beautiful sunset over the mountains; it was like none I had seen.  The first words that came to my mind were “It’s so soft.”  I was turning to get my camera when I felt the Holy Spirit speak in my heart, “Stop; just receive and listen.”  As I stood there I sensed God speaking of His unending love for this world and the people in it.  He was covering the world with this soft sunset like a father gently covers his child at bedtime.  It was a covering of tender mercies and forgiveness, a covering of hope and faith.

We must guard our hearts and thoughts and not let evil numb us, lest we become like those Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:12 when He says, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”  Was he speaking of our love for Him or our love for each other?  I believe both.  Precious children of God, He is still gracing us with every good gift if we would but see it and receive it.  We should not close our eyes and ears to the goodness around us.

IMG_4334The Apostle Paul shows us a way to keep our hearts warm and tender with love in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Take time to notice beauty around you and celebrate it, not only in nature but in people’s actions with one another.  Notice a father gently reaching down to take his child’s hand.  Notice someone saying, “I’m sorry.”  Hear God’s voice in the sunrise, in a flower, and the flight of a bird.  Let goodness fill your thoughts and actions; it doesn’t go unnoticed by your Heavenly Father and it does and will make a difference in our world!  Yes, beloved of your Father, “think about these things” and flourish.

P.S.  The sunset photo above is not the one I saw that evening; I did what He told me. 😊

Sufficiency

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Recently I had a chance encounter with a young man on one of the hiking trails in Split Rock State Park.  Over the course of a twenty to thirty-minute conversation he shared that he was a Christian but had been struggling a little in recent days, and closed with, “But God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, right?”  Quietly I said, “Yes, He does.”  He looked at me with a somewhat stunned expression on his face, until I continued, “But He does not give us more than we can handle with Him.”

For the first thirty years of my life I did not handle things well.  Anyone looking at me from the outside would have disagreed and thought me a capable young woman.  What they could not see was how tragedy and pain had sabotaged my heart, slowly numbing it and filling it with fear and insecurities which only got deeper and deeper until God, in His mercy, allowed one more trial that let me experience the bankruptcy of my heart.  He heard my cry and came.  That experience of His overwhelming love and care transformed the moment as well as the rest of my life.  Now I know that we were never meant to traverse this life alone but with His presence daily sharing in our joy, our sorrows, and our perplexities.  He wants to pour out love and comfort, wisdom and strength, to guide and keep us on our way, and all the while deepening our knowledge of Him and our friendship with Him.

He has done this amazing thing of giving us the power to reject or ignore Him—free will—and so, as the Scripture says, “…the Lord waits to be gracious to you…” (Isaiah 30:18).  Scripture also says that His eyes are always on the lookout for someone who will trust Him (2 Chronicles 16:9 and Psalm 14:2).  For a long time I have had an image that comes to mind when I read these verses—I see a Father looking intently, scanning the landscape, and then crying out with joy, “There’s one!  There’s a child who wants My help!”  I can see Him drawing near and dispatching His angels with whatever is needed.  It never fails to make me smile.

Of course, this does not mean that we no longer have trials but that we are brought through without our hearts being sabotaged and are able to see Him turn the trial for good.  Paul, with his “thorn in the flesh,” sought the Lord for deliverance and was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  You have only to read Paul’s other letters to know how much of God’s goodness was accomplished in his life and in the lives of others through his taking Jesus as his sufficiency.

IMG_2965What is even more amazing is that His beautiful grace not only carries us forward but redeems the past as well.  He is more than able to restore the broken places, thaw the frozen places, and give “beauty for ashes.”  The saving grace of Jesus on the cross flows through all time and eternity, forward and backward!  You are more precious to Him than you can know; lean into His sufficiency.

God be with you.

 

What a Difference a Day Makes!

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Change happens.  It can come quickly, like a 70-degree day in Colorado, a snowstorm the next, and back to the 70’s in two days!  It can come slowly, like age, even though I still look in my mirror from time to time and say, “Who are you?”, as I contemplate the gray hair and wrinkles.  It can come instantly, like the horror in Las Vegas and the fires in California.  Change has an impact on us whether we realize it or not; we either retreat to and deepen our inner “peace place” or we add more fear, and perhaps anger, to our thoughts and actions–our hearts and minds–and therefore, to the world.  Even a small change, like snow which disrupts our plans, can cause us to fret and thereby affect our emotions.

The story of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19) always moves me.  He longed to give them “the things that make for your peace” but they did not receive Him so they could not receive the peace that He brought—the peace that would come from His presence in their lives.  I can retreat to the cozy cabin on Lake Superior and hide from the world but if I do not address my inner person, peace is not mine.

Jesus promised a peace within (John 14:27)—a peace “not as the world gives.”  Paul writes about a contentment with little or much, in good times or suffering (Philippians 4:11-12).  Are they just talking about a stubborn belief, wishful thinking, or are they talking about a life-transforming, true experience of living in the presence of God?  Remember what it feels like to have someone who cares give you a hug when things aren’t going well—you don’t want them to let go.  Well, that is how I would describe God’s peace—our Father hugging us and not letting go, no matter what is happening around us.  He also wants us to pass on that hug and be havens of peace as fear continues to overtake our world more and more.

We need to tend to our inner person before we can bring change to our weary world.  (Even the airlines tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to help another 😊.)  Take the time you need when change throws you “off track.”  To me, true spiritual growth is just that—the amount of time it takes us to find our place of peace and rest in any situation.  What used to take us days can grow into only taking a moment.

I will leave you with the words from an old Scottish poet:

“Thy great deliverance is a greater thing Than purest imagination can foregrasp; a thing beyond all conscious hungering, beyond all hope that makes the poet sing.  It takes the clinging world, undoes its clasp, floats it afar upon a mighty sea, and leaves us quiet with love and liberty and Thee.”   George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

 

My Delicate Friend

As I write this I am on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Those who know me will recognize my comment, “I am at #5.”  This cabin, perched on the rocks of the lake, has been a retreat place for me and my sons for 50 years.  Some years I have hIMG_4516ad time to myself before family arrives and such is the case now.  I enjoy my morning coffee while watching and hearing the waves break on the rocks below the deck.  My eyes scan the rocks looking for the sweet harebell (bluebell) that can be found growing amid the rock and waves.  Years ago, through this little flower, God spoke hope and guidance into my life that has remained and caused me to cherish the little harebell as a “delicate friend.”

It was during a particularly difficult time in my life and I sat weeping on these rocks, wanting to close off my heart so no more pain could enter.  My eyes, while cast down, spied a single, fragile blue flower growing out of a crack in the rock; a place where waves would periodically wash over it as well.  Yet, here it was with its little head bobbing in the breeze.  It seemed to be saying, “Look at me!”  After gazing upon it for some time, I spoke out loud, “How do you do it?  How do you survive in this rocky place?”  It was then, in the depths of my heart, that I heard the words, “I can do it for you, if you let Me.” Harebell I knew the Holy Spirit was bringing me words and comfort from the heart of my Heavenly Father and Jesus.  As I continued to sit, a sweet flow of thoughts and words began to wash over and through my heart and mind, like the gentle waves on the rocks before me.

“This little flower did not come here by chance for I see it and know it.  It is being true to its birthing seed, not to its surroundings.  You are My little flower and I see and know you.  With Me you can be true to your birthing seed in any difficulty.  I can also heal your wounded heart from the rocky places you have been when you did not know that I was with you.

The thoughts and words continued their flow and thus began a journey that has lasted to this day—a journey of healing, restoration, and seeking to be “true to my birthing seed.”

We are created in the image of God; this is our birthing seed!  To me this means that we have the capacity to love; we are able to show mercy and extend forgiveness; we are able to do the right thing; we are able to endure in the hard and difficult situations of life without out our hearts becoming bitter and frozen.  We can be true to our birthing seed if we are humble enough to reach out for the One who made us and loves us—the One who waits to be found by us.   “And He has made from one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord in the hope that they might grasp for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28)

Our world so desperately needs to remember and live by its birthing seed!  It happens one by one as we choose, as we reach out, as we trust and know the One who created us—the One who came back for us in Jesus, to “never leave us or forsake us.”

In closing, I want to speak to anyone who is in the midst of what seems unendurable suffering, especially at the hands of others.  You are not alone.  God gently asking you to forgive does not mean that what you are suffering does not matter.  Because it does matter to Him so very much is why He wants to take the burden of it from you and free your heart.  He who is perfect love and wisdom knows how to take care of it.

 

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