Tie lake stones mountains water bw DSC_0417
It wasn’t the kind of day when people think about going to the lake. I heard no boats, or children’s laughter, or squealing teens in the middle of a splash fight. I smelled no sweet  poplar sap or tangy sauce from smoking barbecues. The quiet off-season offers a different perception.

Someone suggested creating a photographic meditation during the Lent season as a preparatory discipline for Resurrection Sunday. If this were a religious requirement to add to a to-do list in order to appease an angry or narcissistic god, I would not participate, believe me. This is voluntary. I respond to this appeal to worship creatively. I make no promises about blogging the process daily. Not everything on the journey is for public consumption, but I will share my thoughts today.

Today’s word is surface, and yet, divergent (maybe even contrary) thinker that I am, I find I find myself drawn to go beyond the obvious and look for objects below the surface.

In a discussion with the religious “experts” of his time, who accused him of breaking the law by healing someone on the day of obligatory rest, Jesus said this:

“My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”

The people who couldn’t hear pushed back.

The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. (John 7:16-24 NLT)

Look beneath the surface.

We took a course on parenting teens. The teacher urged us to engage with our kids when emotional issues arose so we could understand the beliefs they held “below the water line.” The example he gave was of a girl who was desperate wanted to make a cheer-leading team and devastated when she didn’t.

After a heart to heart talk, the mother learned her daughter had accepted some lies about herself. Making the squad would squash her fears that inadequate attractiveness, or athletic talent would hinder her acceptance by people in her world. Under the water, lying unseen, was the shallow belief that her worth, her safety, her happiness, depended on what people thought about her and not on what God thought or could do. She was on the verge of making dangerous choices based on an unexamined false assumption.

The example prompted me to examine unconscious beliefs in my own life. One of the questions coming out of that experience was, “Why have I placed the approval of  humans (who can be very disappointing) ahead of the approval of the One who loves me perfectly and so selflessly that he was willing to give his only Son to demonstrate that love?”

In the altercation with the religious experts Jesus says it is possible to see below the surface. Their motive was not based on love. His was.

Jesus’ demonstration of love changed everything. God’s new covenant was not a reform school arrangement with punishments for breaking rules meant to clue rebellious kids into the fact that they are not actually in charge. God’s new covenant is based on responding to his love. Since you can’t say yes to love if you can’t say no, freedom is an essential part of this arrangement. Grace offers freedom. Grace is a terrifying concept to religious experts who are themselves motivated by fear of punishment.

Solomon, the king who was granted wisdom in response to his request to rule well, wrote:

There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:12 NASB)

When we are being rational we use reason. When we rationalize we try to give actions, which seem right to us, the appearance of reason. We can be quite convincing — especially to ourselves. Sometimes our “appearance of reason” involves false ideas about God.

How can we know what lies down there? First, by admitting there is stuff down there. Second, by asking for help.

I keep coming back to Psalm 139. The psalmist sings about being intimately known by the Creator from his first moment of existence. It ends this way:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Jesus is saying, “Look beneath the surface.” The surgeons who removed the nasty malignant tumour in my guts in October would not have been able to do so if I not had the guts to subject myself to diagnostic scans or to sign consent forms. I admit it was a struggle to trust them. It hurt. But now it is done and I am healing well.

In this season of preparation I am asking the Lord to help me see beneath the surface and lead me in his way of thinking.

Change my heart, oh God. Make it ever new. I give consent.

And I don’t say that lightly.

The Hope Alternative

winter sunset trees silhouette kin park ch rs IMG_2992

Nothing is more irritating to people resigned to life without hope than people awakening to hope.

Hope anyway.

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!

(Romans 15:13 TPT)

Every Morning

mailbox sun field hwy 22 expectant DSC_0149

“The problem,” my retired friend said, “Is that now that I don’t have to get up early for work, I can’t sleep.”

“The problem,” his wife, who is still working, said, “Is that he’s awake but he still doesn’t get anything done in the morning because it takes him so long to get moving.”

“The problem,” he said, looking at his wife over the rim of his glasses, “Is that at this age something always hurts. Retirement is not for the inexperienced.”

I have seen people marvelously healed from all manner of painful conditions in response to the prayer of faith. I have also seen beautiful people, full of faith, who live with chronic pain. For some folks pain of some sort every day has been a life-long reality. For others the aches and pains that pop up as they deal with the idiosyncrasies of an aging body is a revelation that they have hitherto lived a life of privilege. A privilege they want back.

I’ve never been a morning person. I wake up slowly. The jokes about not speaking before the second cup of coffee hold no humour for me until early afternoon. My husband is a morning person. I tease him about giving up so soon when he shuffles off to bed before the movie is over. He doesn’t laugh.

Here’s a marriage survival hint. We have lasted 45 years together because we finally agreed that I will not bring up any topics requiring emotional engagement after 10 p.m. and he will not tell me anything I need to remember before 9 a.m.. He just leaves a message on my desk. I email him links. Works for us.

Lately I have slowly woken to the reality my friend spoke of. Something always hurts. Pain mumbles in the background during the day, but in the morning it yells and makes a ruckus like an annoying alarm clock you can’t shut off  because it hurts to stretch that far. The worst part is that my default attitude upon waking is not one I am proud of. My first utterance of the day is often a moan.

I remember the advice a friend gave me. She was a professional rodeo cowgirl and bore the dents and scrapes of her calling with dignity.

“I never get out of bed until I have found the peace I know God has provided for my day,” she said. “Sometimes I stay there for a long time. There are chores to be done and horses to be fed, but I know I will be no good to anyone until I have peace. When it’s there, life runs much more smoothly — not just for me, but for everyone around me as well,” she said.

I’m learning to make adjustments to my attitude by seeking “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” by thanking God and praising him in all circumstances. (In not necessarily for. I don’t praise God for sin.) Praise changes things. It focuses on the Source that strengthens us instead of the pain that drains us.

This I know — from far too much experience. Negativity, complaining, whining, obsessing, and worrying are like beacons that attract the attention of the enemy of our souls. It’s his worship language. “Oh, you’re worried. I can help you with that.”

When we worship God through praise and thankfulness for past blessings, it attracts the angel armies of heaven – the ones God sends to assist us. “Oh, you’re praising God. We can help you with that!”

Sometimes I think I have discovered something new, when out of the treasury comes something old that confirms a timeless truth. I came across a song by Bach that expresses the necessity of receiving a fresh download of God’s goodness every morning. The English translation:

Most High God, make your goodness
new every morning from now on.
Then to your fatherly love
a thankful spirit in us in turn
through a devout life will show
that we are called your children.


It’s probably a lamp, but the white vessel on the floor, the one beside the woman in the painting featured on the video, looks a bit like my coffee thermos. I think I’ll join her. Good old Johann Sebastien wrote a song for that too.

Glories Stream

sky pink layer ch rs 2 IMG_8803


Lord, your name is so great and powerful!
People everywhere see your splendor.
Your glorious majesty streams from the heavens,
filling the earth with the fame of your name!

You have built a stronghold by the songs of babies.
Strength rises up with the chorus of singing children.
This kind of praise has the power to shut Satan’s mouth.
Childlike worship will silence
the madness of those who oppose you.

Look at the splendor of your skies,
your creative genius glowing in the heavens.
When I gaze at your moon and your stars,
mounted like jewels in their settings,
I know you are the fascinating artist who fashioned it all!
But when I look up and see
such wonder and workmanship above,
I have to ask you this question:

Compared to all this cosmic glory,
why would you bother with puny, mortal man
or be infatuated with Adam’s sons?

Yet what honor you have given to men,
created only a little lower than Elohim,
crowned like kings and queens with glory and magnificence.

(Psalm 8:1-5 The Passion Translation)