Steeples

Steeples
Steeples

This mountain range is called The Steeples. I love the name. Steeples point to the transcendent and remind us to raise our eyes above the dailiness of life to something greater.

At least that’s what I understand the architectural metaphor to mean.

Alas, I must admit that like a lot of other people who have been given the opportunity to forgive some of the institutions operating under many of those towers, at times disappointment causes me to lower my head in embarrassment. In fact, I avoided them for a quite a while. Buildings may express aspirations, but it is Christ himself living in the heart of his followers that enlivens those expressions. Without love they are simply stones, wood, nails, and glass. Without love there is more joy found in a field of wild grass than in a group of other members of the body of Christ.

Without love the steeples silently point to thin air.

Lovers point to Love.

“So I [Jesus] give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.  Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34,35)

Without love, it’s all a gong show.

What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal.  What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing.  I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Voice)

But, bless God, I have seen love starting to awaken in the big C Church (the one all believers are a part of and not just the folks who go to the building on the corner.) I have seen those who are willing to lay down their lives for others. I have seen less-than-perfect people get over themselves and rise to care for each other, to pray, to watch and wait, to give, to serve, to raise others up. I have seen, with my own eyes, folks who haven’t spoken to each other in years forgive and reconcile their differences. I have seen families torn apart by separation change and sacrifice for each other, encourage each other and see each other the way God sees them.

Only God could do this. This kind of love points to Him more than any building -or any mountain- ever could.

God is good.

Desert

Desert
Desert

If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young.

-Anne Lamott

 

 

 

 

Multiplication

Multitude
Multitude of consolations

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,

Your consolations delight my soul.

(Psalm 94: 19)

Consolation Prize
Blessings Multiply

In school we learned that in the physical realm for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I wonder if, in the spiritual realm, for every anxiety there is an equal and opposite consolation available.

I wonder if there is, hidden in every adversity, an opportunity for greater blessing.

I wonder if, in His grace, God allows some losses in our lives knowing that His justice requires the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy to pay back many times over what he took.

Now that’s multiplication.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,

and wait patiently for him to act…

 The wicked plot against the godly;

they snarl at them in defiance.

 But the Lord just laughs,

for he sees their day of judgment coming.

 (Psalm 37:7, 12,13)

Seek the Lord.

Seek the Lord.

Seek the Lord.

And wait.

This is going to be good!

Save

Save

Save

Strength Will Rise

Poppy Fire
Poppy Fire

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

 

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

 

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

(Psalm 130:1-6)

Pure Grace

Watering
Watering

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (Romans 12:3  The Message)

Tam o'shanter Creek
Tam o’shanter Creek

From Within

Flowing Down
Flowing Down

On the last day, the biggest day of the festival, Jesus stood again and spoke aloud.

Jesus: If any of you is thirsty, come to Me and drink.  If you believe in Me, the Hebrew Scriptures say that rivers of living water will flow from within you.

Jesus was referring to the realities of life in the Spirit made available to everyone who believes in Him…

(John 4:37-39a The Voice)

She Will Sing to Me

‘Anah Adonai

Troubles
Troubles

 There I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [troubling]

to be for her a door of hope and expectation.

And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth

and as at the time when she came up out of the land of Egypt.

(Hosea 2: 15 Amplified)

When God speaks about the metaphorical woman in the book of Hosea, the one who has been running to everyone but the one who can save her from a self-destructive lifestyle, he says there will come a time when she will sing to him as in the days of her youth.

The word translated “sing” in the New American Standard Bible is written as “respond” in others. The Amplified uses both terms. It is the Hebrew word ‘anah.

This same word is used 38 times in the Psalms alone, usually as a cry to God to save us from some sort of trouble –or even ourselves. ‘Anah Adonai! Hoshi a na! Hear and answer, Lord! Save us!

Sometimes, when it is translated answer, it describes God’s response:

I cried. He answered.

I called. He answered

I sought. He answered

I prayed. He answered

I pleaded. He answered.

Near the end of the book of Psalms (147: 7) one phrase directs the answering/responding/singing to God. Sing [‘anah] to the Lord with thanksgiving. (NASB)

I’ve been thinking about singing as our response to God –and about him singing to us. He also cries, calls, seeks, and pleads to us to answer him, not to rescue, but to recognize who he is, that he might be able to lavish his love on us. Is it possible that God’s call is like a prayer to those with ears to hear?

I have learned, the hard way, that sometimes the Lord didn’t answer my prayers and left me in a very uncomfortable place (called the Valley of Achor or Valley of Trouble in Hosea), not because he didn’t want to give me good things, but because he wanted me to be desperate enough to pursue him and find out who he really was. I needed to let go of the image I had of him and move toward deeper relationship. My image of him was made up of a compilation of authority figures I had known -and he was none of these.

He’s not a father who created us and then moved out, or a cruel task master, or even Santa Claus. God is not a lot of things we project onto him. God is holy, which means completely set apart, totally unique and different from anyone or anything we have ever known -but definitely worth getting to know.

I’m still learning as each new lesson and accompanying practical exam reveals more of his character.

A relationship with God can start with a cry for help, but it can move on to something much more mature.

After years of “saying my prayers” and giving him my daily laundry list of requests, I am learning prayer is more about finding out what he wants than telling him what I want.

When we pray and agree with his plans we see answers, but first we have to find out who is really is and what is on his heart. Prayer is about spending time with him, listening, studying His plans, examining them, being inspired by them and receiving a vision for the future that includes our participation.

What he desires to do is greater and so much better than anything we have ever imagined -but we need to respond to him and move toward him to be part of it. When we ask according to what is on his heart we see answers, but first we have to find out what is on his heart.

And that requires turning around from our own self-designed blue prints and responding to him. He delights in his beloved bride and responds to the things on her heart as well.

There is something about Armenian/Canadian soprano, Isabel Bayrakdarian’s voice in this video, recognizing who God is that carries my own heart’s song. Holy, holy, holy are you, Lord!

Father Holy

Son Holy

Spirit Holy

I bless you now and forever.