Believing in the Big Buts

Sparrows

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”……..Jesus

The past two weeks have been unsettled……..for my household, for the world. It’s easy to be dismayed when you look at the events unfolding all around us. Have you ever talked to someone and even as they are giving you a compliment you can feel the “big but” coming? I hate that. It’s like giving someone a gift and then grabbing it out of their hands  and saying, “Just kidding!” Why say anything? It’s really horrible conversation etiquette. The Bible puts it this way:  “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” 

Coordinating conjunctions aside, there is one occasion where I love the word, “but” and that is when God says it. That’s because when He says it, there is always a wonderfully encouraging promise attached to it. There are probably hundreds of places in the Bible where this phrase is uttered…….”But the Lord.”

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one……2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. Psalm 94:22

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 20:11

The lot is cast into the lap,  but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33

I decided last week to break my “not until Thanksgiving” rule and put up a couple of Christmas decorations in my room. One string lit up and the other didn’t, but the little tabletop tree fired right up, just like it does year after year. It made me happy. We all need a little more happy. So this weekend I plan to do some more. I intent to light up the whole house and proclaim all over again that in our dark world a Bright Light has dawned and never dimmed. And I will have overwhelming moments of that peace that passes understanding in every little thing I lift out of the dusty storage boxes. 

I will remember that Heaven touched down for a brief moment in time and all the shadows in this land sprang for cover, for good. He ended this shadow-land living by paying our ransom once and for all. We have a living Hope that no one and nothing can ever snuff out.  Not isis, not boko haram, not Alzheimer’s, not unpaid bills, not stress or fatigue or anything else under the sun.

It’s crazy. We have Christian refugees who have been bombed out of their homes and lost everything but each other, yet they found their everything in Jesus. The spark of Holy Spirit Hope in their eyes makes them our brothers and sisters. And I am burdened for them.

But God……..He watches over the sparrows and He keeps count of every single one.

Clinging to the big Buts today.

Because I can’t seem to forget her face……….

12185001_10206477357585301_9070381196333205903_o

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven………Jesus

I sit here after listening, reading, fearing and going back and forth all morning on Facebook and the news. Part of me is so torn. Part of me wants to jump up and down in favor of Donald Trump’s great wall. The part of me that is patriot American wants to drop bombs and use military might to decimate isis (no caps for them). Part of me remembers some of my family who fought against Germany. I also remember my Mom saying they really didn’t know what was happening over there to the Jews. All they saw were trains filled with people on the movie newsreels while they waited for the movie to start.

There is such confusion in my heart and soul and in the heart and soul of the whole world right now. But one thing I know is always true. Certain things will always be right. Jesus lived out a life that said:

Just because it’s safe, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

Today would have been my Grandmother’s Birthday. She had a story too, like this little girl. Her family was fleeing Russia and they came to America when she was only six months old. I even found the ship register where they signed in. I know, times were different then. They all went to Ellis Island and got screened and processed, and who knows what else.

And I hate the idea of that evil coming over here, I just hate it. 

But I can’t forget her face. Maybe because something about her reminds me of my niece. And her face is the face of pure innocence. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like her.

In a world where it’s hard to even know who or what to root for anymore, one thing remains. God calls us to love even those who persecute us. There is no wiggle room in that much as I try to get around it. As Pandora plays “Lead me to the Cross” I think of the converted Muslims I heard about in Germany. Churches are filling up, for the first time in years is what I heard. I hope it’s true but I don’t know. I can only assume they are tired of living under a dead religion, they are reaching out for the One who gives life.

But even if they stay Muslim and are in need of help and hope, food and shelter, as Christians can we turn our backs on them, their children in good conscience? Even if some even seek to do us harm? I am asking right along with you…….

Only God knows how this will all go, but one thing is for certain. He will make good come from it.

He always does somehow.

The face of isis is just a new face for an old evil and we don’t even have to pull his mask off to know who it is. As Christians we know how to face down the enemy, the one who only comes to kill, steal and destroy.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

The apostle Paul (when he was still Saul) was dragging Christians out of their homes until he was blinded on the road to Damascus.

Of such were some of you………

It’s time to pray for all of us, to ask God for wisdom. It’s the only place I know where to start.

If you want to put a face on some refugees and here their stories, go here. 

And pray for wisdom, along with me?

photo credit: via David Rupert

 

El Roi: The God who Sees you.

IMG_5221

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Hagar, who fled Sarai’s wrath and left with her son to die in the desert. 

I lift my Thanks today for a God who sees. The God who leaves no stone unturned and no situation without a remedy.

Whose eyes travel to and fro over all creation quietly gazing and not missing a thing.

Who sees everyone, all the way into the darkest recesses of their hearts and still is not surprised by anything we do.

He thinks of us long after we stop believing and never stops seeking us, for His heart is for His creation.

You see the little burrowing owl in his home and the ant carrying triple his weight.

You see the persecuted who are now scattered and homeless,  along with the Chinese believers who cry over their Bibles.

You see the one who is clinging onto the world afraid to lose what they never had.

And those who have sold out and become rich.

You see those in the American church who still trust in their possessions and their comforts and their religion.

As well as those in the American church who have recognized the need in their communities, their families, themselves.

And come back stronger in You.

Thank you God, for seeing Hagar in her time of need.

For seeing Elijah under the broom tree when he was ready to quit.

For seeing little ol me, here in my place of prayer.

Not only are you the God who sees, you are the God who will one day restore all things.

There is no evil or good thing that happens now that will not be rewarded in the end.

For not only are you the God who sees, you are a God who is fiercely active and working all things to the good.

It’s been a tough week, but you have been here.

I have seen You.

Greeting the World

IMG_4055

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

 Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37: 1-6

It’s a good Scripture, isn’t it these days when it seems so many evil people seem to be flourishing with no thought of the damage they do to anybody. In essence, it’s saying that God has our back and we don’t have to worry. We can rest easy since we know that He will make everything alright in the end.

It’s been hot here which is normal, but what is not normal is that we have had very little rain. This is our monsoon season and there is no relief in sight. I have missed the pitter-patter of sweet drops falling in the afternoons and sometimes in the mornings.  I padded around the block this morning to say good morning to Mrs (or Mr) Dove, firmly ensconced in the Saguaro cactus–I think it’s a new dove, she seems very uneasy when I get close. The other one last year and the year before just sat and looked at me peacefully with a sense of confidence and safety in her position.

Mr. Woodpecker just showed up on the back wall where I am sitting. I am scribbling here in my journal…….I can’t write much anymore and I miss it. My previous job where I cut heavy leather and other materials makes my right hand tire easily and it gets sloppy fast. I used to love to do calligraphy. No more.

It feels good to address the day in a way other than Facebook or the morning news……Facebook only holds so much……it can’t hold birdsong or breezes or sounds of real life. There goes the coo-cooing of a dove as if to prove my point.

My Jesus Calling devotional tells me to rest by the wayside today. That sounds very good indeed, at least for part of the day.  It also says to remember that I am royalty in His Kingdom…….What a thought that is. Now I believe I will go on with my day.

The Lord’s blessings on yours!

Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
    a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
    there will be no future for the wicked.

Psalm 37: 37,38

Life After Eden…….

 

 Cecil

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:22-25

On the way to work this morning, I caught the moon going down. It slipped quietly down through the clouds, a pale peachy color. I thought of our world today and how it just seems that each new tragedy tops the one before. It’s been going that way awhile now. Looking at that moon, I thought, how can there still be so much beauty in such a broken world?

I felt for God believe it or not. I often think of how the world was when He first called it into existence and how perfect it all was. I can almost see it, feel it. It’s a train wreck down here. A bad man pays to have a gentle giant of a lion butchered for what? Cecil didn’t belong to him, I feel like he belonged to all of us. He didn’t deserve that. That would have never happened in Eden.

Added to all this there’s the whole nightmare with Planned Parenthood and the unconscionable acts that go along with it, and our own Government refusing to investigate. There are people all over the world being beheaded right and left. There is war on every front, and the terrible Iran Nuclear deal to top it off.  A little girl goes out on her scooter and never returns home. I was just in her town earlier this year.

It’s just too much.  It’s just too all-encompassing. Which is why I think we so wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon to impune that Dentist, who is now nowhere to be found with good reason. He was such an easy mark. It was such a terrible senseless thing for him to do and now the arrow that pierced poor Cecil has gone all around the world.

I was thinking on the way to work that history has really taught us nothing. I was thinking of how the Nazi’s treated their dogs to wonderful dinners while marching Jews out of their homes into the cold, babies and children and old men and women. They treated them as less than human. All these years later, many of us have gone to the museums and seen the ovens and the trains.

We have tsk-tsked and shaken our heads sadly and said that it will never happen again, and yet right here in America for many years, we have rewarded and paid into an organization whose founder has valued some of Hitler’s very own ideals. Here’s a sample of what Margaret Sanger thought and believed:

The purpose in promoting birth control was “to create a race of thoroughbreds,” Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12 

“The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race

Sanger believed that, for the purpose of racial “purification,” couples should be rewarded who chose sterilization. The Career of Margaret Sanger, by David Kennedy, p. 117, quoting a 1923 Sanger speech. 

What a society sows, it will reap. And this is where we’ve come. If a baby comes at the wrong time or is not convenient, or doesn’t fit in with our plans, or if it’s not perfect,  it is perfectly acceptable to kill it, even while it’s blissfully tucked away. But God sees it.

It’s the same kind of crazy psychology that allowed a sophisticated society like Germany to go along with an evil it slowly came to see as normal.

I wonder what God thinks. I think He cries,  personally. I think He weeps. I think He remembers how it all started out and how He created it perfect. Not one drop of blood was shed until we decided we knew what was best. I think He wept as He killed the animal that made the clothes that Adam and Eve wrapped around themselves as they left the gates of Eden.

I think He wanted them to know that with sin always comes death, heartache and sacrifice. But He also wanted them to know there was a way back home, and that Way came with the blood of His very own Son. God in the flesh.

There is so much beauty still in the world, sometimes I wonder how there can be. And yet, everywhere I look there are traces of Eden. And hope.

There is a way home. God holds out forgiveness as a gift to all of us who accept it. There is forgiveness for you if you have had an abortion. There is forgiveness still if you see nothing wrong with it. There is forgiveness for Dr. Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil.

And while all of Creation groans, we know it’s only temporary…….just this side of eternity, a new Earth is waiting to be born.

RIP and run free Cecil……..

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9

I believe what I believe…….

img_2399.jpg

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy.  The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον (Eng. symbolon), a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something.

In the year 325 AD a controversy arose whereby Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that “although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed (not used in Eastern Christianity) describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

On its own, this statement of belief would be only a collection of words, however, since it is rooted and grounded in the Holy Word of God it stands forever as a unifying standard that applies to all Christian Churches. I never recited this growing up as a Baptist but when I visited other churches and they would recite it, I always loved it though inwardly I cringed a bit with the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” because I thought I was being hypocritical saying that part when I wasn’t Catholic. But in this case, the word “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “general”, “universal. (Although some Catholics might disagree on that point)

This morning, millions of churches will gather together and break bread over these words. In this instance, we are totally unified despite our different denominations. I found myself saying these words this morning as a awoke, well really singing them. In the 1970s Rich Mullins wrote a tune to these very words and I played it on the way to work yesterday. Of these words he says:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me”
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man…….

Amen, dear Rich, you have been living that out with Jesus for years already. I can’t wait to meet you……..

My prayer for today:

“Oh Father, though the streams of culture and the world flow swiftly and changeably around us, Your words are like a mighty rock it swirls around. The world has its eyes turned elsewhere, but ours are forever turned to you. You are the first and the last, and your words were formed long before this world existed and they will stand for all eternity. We thank you that though everything else changes, you never do. In an unsettled world, we draw tremendous comfort from that. I pray that the church will continue be an open door for people coming in from the world battered and bruised and that we in the church might be a conduit for the great love and mercy you have shown to us. You are light in our darkness, without you, we have nothing.” Amen

How much forgiveness is enough?

girl swing

This is something I have been struggling with ever since I saw those 21 orange clad men marched out on the beach to their deaths. When you’re confronted with a purely evil act you wonder if you could forgive. I have been asking myself over and over again, could I forgive if those men had been my friends, my family? It has been a stumbling block to my writing I have not been able to get over.

Forgiveness is central to the core belief system of Christianity, one of the cornerstones on which our faith is built. And it’s easy to say, easy to believe. It feels right deep down in your soul. That is, until someone does something to one of your own.

I remember when the Amish school girls were killed and how the world watched in amazement when even in the midst of their grief and loss, they didn’t cast blame or point fingers. They didn’t hold a press conferences and surround themselves with lawyers. They simply forgave. Even more astounding is that they reached out in love to the killer’s family and even went to his funeral. There were more Amish there than non-Amish.

They acted in pure grace, the grace that they learned from their open Bibles; the kind Jesus taught and the kind He displayed, even while dying an excruciating death by praying for those who were still mocking even as He gasped His last breath.

What I didn’t remember about the Amish case was that the killer, Charles Roberts, was tormented for nine years by the premature death of his young daughter and never forgave God for her death. It’s easy to love your enemies if you have none. And it’s easy to forgive if there is nothing to forgive. It’s easy to embrace the philosophy of forgiveness but when it comes down to it, could I really forgive the unforgivable? I struggle with even the small stuff.

I had problems with the scooter in front of me this morning on the way to work. There he was buzzing along fully 10 miles under the speed limit. It was the fastest he could go. He was doing the best he could, poor guy. But I was as irate as I sensed everyone else was. Then I thought, maybe that’s his only mode of transportation right now. I was heaping all this silly rage on his poor unsuspecting head. I prayed for forgiveness. Again. I have to do that a lot while I drive.

As I re-read the beatitudes this morning, I realized how far off the mark I really am.

Peter once asked Jesus just how much we are supposed to forgive. I understand that, I really do. In effect what he was asking was, how much is enough? What’s the required amount to fulfill God’s expectations. Peter was still stuck on the Law. Jesus said, “70 times 70,” which is pretty much infinity.

I wonder sometimes how well I really know Jesus. What He says is truly counter-cultural here in America. We are fighters after all. We don’t lay down and die. It’s written all over our history books. We are a nation of upstarts, otherwise the Boston Tea Party never would have happened.

As a Christian, I have to accept that certain American ideals I have grown up believing are not necessarily Biblical. There are times when laying down the sword and turning the other cheek is not a weakness, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do.

This is what I was mulling over in my mind this morning:

Not forgiving someone is giving them power over you. Forgiveness frees the soul and places the balance of power back where it belongs, with God. It’s a matter of trust that He, as the ultimate Judge will ultimately and in His time, right every wrong.

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Image from Google