Overflowing With Kindness

You’re kind and tenderhearted to those who don’t deserve it

    and very patient with people who fail you.

    Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness.

 God, everyone sees your goodness,

    for your tender love is blended into everything you do.

(Psalm 145:8,9 TPT)

When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister was not helping with the serving and doing what women were expected to do, he confronted her with this: “Martha! Your anxieties are distracting you from what is really important!”

Sometimes we are so anxious about what might happen we forget that when we invite him in, the Saviour is right here in our hearts. Even though we are anxious about tomorrow his goodness surrounds us today. When we set down our worries we can see beauty again.

Soul Movement

But as for me, I will call upon the Lord to save me, and I know he will!

 Every evening I will explain my need to him.

    Every morning I will move my soul toward him.

    Every waking hour I will worship only him,

    and he will hear and respond to my cry.

(Psalm 55:16-17 TPT)

Sometimes it is easier to worship faith than to worship the faithful One who gives us faith. The faith walk in real time means keeping our eyes upon Jesus and not whatever method we think prompted God to give us the desired responses to our requests last time.

By his life Jesus demonstrated that character matters more than comfort. Following Christ includes valley experiences where the fog obscures the view and disorients us, making us aware of our weakness. But here’s the thing: The Holy Spirit now walks through this before us, beside us, and behind us, and he is not worried. The path is familiar to him and he knows what lies on the other side.

My cry? That I might know Him.

Flabby Faith in God’s Gym

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
more than enough and always available whenever I need you.

So we will never fear
even if every structure of support were to crumble away.

We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,
moving mountains and casting them into the sea.

For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves
cannot erode our faith in you. “

(Psalm 46: 1-3 TPT)

Recently while I was on a Zoom call with friends who were checking on each others welfare, one said, “I’ve come to realize that I am responsible for my own flabby faith. I need to exercise it.” I knew she was right.

Faith is taking the risk of trust. When we sow seeds of fear, we reap a harvest of distrust. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a constant barrage of fear-inducing reports like the ones that saturate the atmosphere right now. So many of us raised with the fear of a punishing God are triggered by this negativity. We need to get to know in an experiential way who God really is and take steps toward trust.

I watched a lad sit perfectly still for hours as he reached his hand out to a wounded. I didn’t see any progress so I left to do something I hoped would be more productive. When I came back later in the day, the little creature was settled in the palm of the boy’s hand. God is like that. He has enormous patience. He is also a great trainer and gives us increasingly greater challenges to grow and strengthen our faith.

I sense we are heading into a time when we will need more than flabby faith. When foundations crumble, we need to be familiar with the Holy Spirit’s still small voice and the safety of the hand of our Creator. It starts with one step and grows in strength through exercise until deeper experience of His love conquers all fear.

Stability in Changing Times

He will be your constant source of stability in changing times,

    and out of his abundant love he gives you

    the riches of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.

    Yes, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure!

Isaiah 36:3 TPT

I’ve been in a court room more than once. The first time I heard, “All rise,” I was performing my civic duty on a jury. The judge frequently asked us to leave the room as discussions continued over whether or not we should hear a particular piece of evidence. We may have been charged with bringing a verdict, but he was clearly the no-nonsense authority in that room.

The second time I appeared in court was as a witness. I felt with uncomfortable nervousness the weight of responsibility. I wanted to give details clearly and honestly. I also wanted to be understood for the sake of the victims’ future. I wasn’t sure the judge would listen or take me seriously. He did.

The third time in court, I watched someone I loved being falsely accused by the defense team. I watched some of the witnesses stumble over details as the accused’s lawyers expertly tripped them up in cross-examination. I had to sit still while defense witnesses outright lied. I was terribly anxious and upset. I worried the judge would believe them, but he saw through the falsehoods. He made sure the victims were heard and protected from further harm.

The last time I was in court I was the accused. I did it — or rather didn’t do it, which is what landed me there. Somehow we either missed or didn’t receive the usual notice from the car insurance company that our renewal was due. Neither of us noticed until the policeman stopped me on the way home from the grocery store and pointed to the license plate sticker which had expired a couple of days before. I received a ticket with an eye-watering fine and ended up in traffic court. I was honest. I was polite. I admitted fault –and I was scared spitless. I gave my side of the story about not receiving notice and hoped for leniency… and then I paid the hefty fine.

Why am I telling you this? I have been trying for many years to understand what “the fear of the Lord” means. I was raised in an environment where God was presented as someone to be afraid of more than someone who loved me. I lost many years trying to appease a judge I was afraid didn’t understand, and who cared only for his own ego. While He demonstrated his sacrificial love for me and I learned I didn’t need to distrust the power of someone who wanted nothing less than an unhindered relationship and the absolute best for me, I still had trouble understanding why the Bible tells us to “fear not” and “fear the Lord” at the same time.

Looking back, I can see that each of the judges I met in court seemed scary to me because of the power they held. Fortunately, in my experience, they all acted fairly and in the best interest of society, including the one who found me guilty of neglecting my responsibility to buy car insurance on time. Not all judges are corruption free, but the God of love and the Creator of the universe who has perfect understanding of how he made everything to run is without fault.

The Triune God can say with both love and justice, “No. You may not abuse the earth, other people, or even yourself. You disrespect me when you do that.” He is merciful, but his love is not the same as indulgence. His grace empowers us to be all he intended. He sees the big picture that spans time and space in a way we cannot comprehend. He is the ultimate authority on all things.

The difference between God’s wisdom and a human’s best understanding can be greater than the difference between a tin shack and a solid mountain. Who do we trust more to be the source of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

This caused me to think about who I have placed in positions over God as the ultimate authority in my life. I co-operate with and pray for bosses, church leaders, government authorities, and yes, even my spouse, for the sake of smooth sailing in society even when I may disagree on the best route to an agreed destination — unless they try to usurp God’s throne.

We have all trusted institutions which turned out later to not be exactly trustworthy. It can be a rattling experience when the foundations shake. I suspect we are about to see more shaking. Alas, some people who crave power are more enamored with self-aggrandizement than responsibility for the well-being of their charges. In the end there is only One who is the totally trustworthy bastion of both love and justice, only One who is our constant source of stability in changing times. Out of his abundant love he gives us the riches of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. His beloved children receive the right to boldly approach his throne and ask for them.

Just to Be Near You

O God in Zion, to you even silence is praise!
You are the God who answers prayer;
all of humanity comes before you with their requests.

Though we are overcome by our many sins,
your sacrifice covers over them all.
And your priestly lovers, those you’ve chosen,
will be greatly favored to be brought close to you.
What inexpressible joys are theirs!
What feasts of mercy fill them in your heavenly sanctuary!
How satisfied we will be just to be near you!

You answer our prayers with amazing wonders
and with awe-inspiring displays of power.
You are the righteous God who helps us like a father.

Everyone everywhere looks to you,
for you are the confidence of all the earth,
even to the farthest islands of the sea.

What jaw-dropping, astounding power is yours!
You are the mountain maker who sets them all in place.

Psalm 65: 1-7 TPT

I am learning that prayer is not a work we do to impress God. Prayer is not duty. Prayer is not telling God what to do as if he is our servant. Prayer is definitely not manipulating God with fine flattering speeches or dramatic displays of emotional super-religiosity. These things may impress the people around us, but they do not impress God.

What impresses God is faith — believing he is who he says he is and trusting in his love.

Prayer is daring to come close to God in faith and humility and naked honesty. Sometimes, when we pour out our hearts, words flow. Sometimes we sit in silence not knowing what to say. In these moments, the Holy Spirit speaks our hearts when we can’t. In these moments the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts in the sounds of stillness.

Prayer is just being near him and knowing that no matter what, he loves us like no one else ever can.

Fully Where I Am

“When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within me and around me.”

– Henri Nouwen

The smoke has cleared and I was feeling well enough to get out of the house and drive to one of my favourite quiet places, little Munroe Lake. This area suffered the ravages of wildfire a few years ago. I enjoy the contrast between old growth on one side of the lake and new growth on the other.

Circumstances in my life require letting go of things I used to be able to do without much planning or thought. Mourning is involved any time we let go of the old to make room for the new, but we can’t get a grasp on the future when our hands are desperately hanging on to strands of the past.

This new terrain is giving me a greater appreciation for stillness. It is reinforcing the importance of something the Lord has been teaching me for many years: trust.

How will things look in the next few months or years? I don’t know, but the words of an old song by Ira Stanphill play in my heart:

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

Messengers

“Everything I am will praise and bless the Lord!
O Lord, my God, your greatness takes my breath away,
overwhelming me by your majesty, beauty, and splendor!

You wrap yourself with a shimmering, glistening light.
You wear sunshine like a garment of glory.

You stretch out the starry skies like a tapestry.

You build your balconies with light beams
and ride as King in a chariot you made from clouds.

You fly upon the wings of the wind.
You make your messengers into winds of the Spirit
and all your ministers become flames of fire.

You, our Creator, formed the earth,
and you hold it all together so it will never fall apart.”

Psalm 104:1-5 TPT

Above the Fray

This morning I heard two gentlemen on a park bench. It was hard not to hear them. They were conversing with the volume of the newly hard of hearing.

“You know, I have never paid much attention to American politics, but now it’s my whole damn life!” said one.

I’m not one to stick my head in the sand. I watch and listen and keep up with current events outside my own country. I try to treat people with different opinions with honour, even when I am becoming increasingly aware that some people hate me simply for my beliefs.

I do understand the man on the bench though. It reminds me of the old westerns where everyone in the saloon is keenly aware of tension rising at the poker table. Stakes are high and bystanders are quietly checking the exits and looking for cover.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming and sometimes it’s hard not to be dragged into the prevailing atmosphere of fear, anger, confusion, disappointment, and division. Then I remember my focus needs to be on my good, good heavenly Father who knows the whole truth. In him I am secure.

For no matter where I am, even when I’m far from home,
I will cry out to you for a father’s help.
When I’m feeble and overwhelmed by life,
guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.

 Lord, you are a paradise of protection to me.
You lift me high above the fray.
None of my foes can touch me
when I’m held firmly in your wrap-around presence!

(Psalm 61: 2,3 TPT)