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.

Bring Your Melody

Spring snow

Let the entire universe erupt with praise to God.

    He spoke and created it all—from nothing to something.

 He established the cosmos to last forever,

    and he stands behind his commands

    so his orders will never be revoked.

 Let the earth join in with this parade of praise!

    You mighty creatures of the ocean’s depths,

    echo in exaltation!

 Lightning, hail, snow, clouds,

    and the stormy winds that fulfill his word—

 bring your melody, O mountains and hills;

    trees of the forest and field, harmonize your praise!

(Psalm 148:5-9 TPT)

When I find myself wanting to respond in anger to those who would call evil good and good evil, the Holy Spirit, who sees from the beginning to the end and back, reminds me to change my focus. He tells me to look up and bring my melody to join with the parade of praise creation sings every day.

It’s a matter of perspective. He’s not worried. He’s got this.

That Time They Tried to Cancel Jesus

The Garden

Cancel culture is not new and it is nearly always about the struggle over who has power and control.

When you get down to it, the struggle over who is in charge goes back to the beginning when the serpent asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…?”

The conspiracy to silence Jesus of Nazareth began as soon as he challenged people who wanted to maintain power. From the time he disregarded their rules by healing a man with a withered arm on a day defined by a tradition to trump mercy, the religious leaders started plotting how to cancel not only Jesus’ influence, but his existence.

It started with public criticism. Where John the Baptist was accused of being too somber, Jesus, according to his critics, was too easy-going. “A drunkard and glutton!” they said.  Then they began to intimidate anyone who associated with him by threatening to cancel their access to the synagogue. The parents of a man born blind were so afraid of the religious experts, they refused to say who was responsible for the stunning miracle that gave their son sight. “Ask him yourself,” they hedged, “He’s of age.”

Jesus continued healing the sick and talking about the Kingdom of God despite misinformation they tried to spread about him. “Don’t be fooled,” they warned. “He is doing this by the power of Beelzebub. This guy is a danger to our way of life. He habitually blasphemes, calling God his father. We have witnesses right here who can attest to the fact they heard him say,  ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’”

Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd who hoped he would be the one to bring them health, wealth, and freedom from political oppression. The crowds that cheered became the crowds that jeered.

Mob mentality is a strange phenomenon. We’ve seen it at work on the streets, at concerts, and on media lately. Fans can turn alarmingly quickly when they don’t get what they want. When it appeared Jesus was not going to take down the government, they cried for revenge the way an embarrassed suitor can turn selfish “love” into revengeful hate when his plans are stymied. They somehow became convinced they should release a known criminal instead of Jesus.

Jesus knew about the plans to silence him and cancel him permanently. He knew what he was walking into. In the end the powers of hell influenced religious, political, and military authorities, as well as people in the streets to join the call to cancel The Messiah. As a line from the song Via Dolorosa reminds us: But he chose to walk that way out of his love for you and me.

God’s ways are not our ways. Only a God so humble that he would let humans do their worst to himself could prove his love for them in the most counterintuitive way. Only a God so wise would give them time to let that sink in.

All the powers of darkness cannot cancel The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus conquered death to prove he is Love and the Light of the World.

He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.

Jesus: “How could I describe the people of this generation? You’re like children playing games on the playground, yelling at their playmates, ‘You don’t like it when we want to play Wedding! And you don’t like it when we want to play Funeral! You will neither dance nor mourn.’ Why is it that when John came to you, neither feasting nor drinking wine, you said, ‘He has a demon in him!’? Yet when the Son of Man came and went to feasts and drank wine, you said, ‘Look at this man! He is nothing but a glutton and a drunkard! He spends all his time with tax collectors and other sinners.’ But God’s wisdom will become visible by those who embrace it.” (Matthew 11:16-19 TPT)    

The Street

Immediately the Pharisees went out and started to scheme about how they would destroy him. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he left by another way. Massive crowds followed him from there, and he healed all who were sick. However, he sternly warned them not to tell others or disclose his real identity, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:

 Take a careful look at my servant, my chosen one.
    I love him dearly
    and I find all my delight in him.
    I will breathe my Spirit upon him
    and he will decree justice to the nations.
 He will not quarrel or raise his voice in public.
 He won’t brush aside the bruised and broken.
    He will be gentle with the weak and feeble,
    until his victory releases justice.
 And the fame of his name
    will birth hope among the people.
(Matthew 12:14-21 TPT)

Walk With Me

Can I be honest? I’ve been feeling down lately. It’s not just flesh and blood loved ones I miss in this current bout of voluntary house arrest, I miss the sights, sounds, and scents of being out in nature. Because of two very messed up, very painful knees I haven’t been able to go for a walk for almost a year. Being out in the forests and mountains, talking with the God I love, has always refreshed my soul. I’m mourning the loss of hours enjoyed walking in this wonderful place.

A prophetic artist, knowing nothing about my situation, said she had a picture for me. She said she saw me walking out in nature, receiving healing for my soul, and the Lord told her, “It’s not over yet.”

If you feel a nudge and like you may have a word of encouragement for someone, don’t hold back. You have no idea how much it may mean to someone who is struggling.

I’m not able to get out yet, although I finally received a diagnosis on Monday and have some hope that healing is on its way, with or without medical intervention. In the meantime I decided to imagine one of the spots I love and quickly painted it. I can still hear the Lord’s invitation to walk with him in the secret place.

I’ll get back outside someday. A God who created such beauty around us surely has plans for beauty in our future. He hasn’t abandoned us.

My lovely friend and neighbour moved to the other side of the continent for work this week. I’ll miss her and the chats we have had from a distance across the road. I gave her the painting so she can take a little bit of this corner of the world with her with my love and appreciation. T

There will be more.

I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
But then I realize that our true help and protection
come only from the Lord,
our Creator who made the heavens and the earth.
He will guard and guide me, never letting me stumble or fall.

-Psalm 121:1-3 TPT

Work in Progress

I often help my granddaughter with her online school assignments via Skype. Today, her assignment included a discussion of the poem, “Work in Progress*,” by Jon Jorgenson. We had an delightfully enlightening chat, but I think the work may have spoken to me more than to a pre-adolescent girl. She accepts that she is a student and her vocation right now is study (which one cannot do until they accept both a state of ignorance and the capability of changing that state. Some call the trait meekness.)

I often feel frustrated because I think I should be further along in spiritual maturity by now. The poem helped me remember I am also a work in progress. I’m still changing. Sometimes grace comes in the form of an overheard lesson.

*Link in comments.

Flash Forward

I made many attempts to read the Bible through consecutively from beginning to end. I had many failures. I realized I always stopped around the same place. I couldn’t get past the story of the young prophet Jeremiah, who some call “the weeping prophet.”

A line from a sci-fi 2009 TV show, Flash Forward, arrested my attention while we were binge watching the series. A supervisor tells the investigator, “I can’t think of a prophet that didn’t suffer… and I can’t think of a prophet that God didn’t love.”

A prophet who doesn’t know he or she is loved is a dangerous person. His or her own neediness or bitterness will taint how they view what they have seen or heard. Some prophets used their gift for self-aggrandizement. Faithful prophets in the Old Testament were routinely misunderstood and rejected. They often carried the burden of knowing what others refused to acknowledge. They lived in at least two places and different time zones, The Way We Are Going Now, and The Ways God Is Planning to Take Us In The Future — depending on our willingness to work with Him. Whether they were told to speak boldly in the palace and in the streets like Jeremiah or quietly ponder and keep the information to themselves like Mary, prophets carried both the burden of the ugliness of sin and its consequences and the beauty of hope of restoration. It’s not a vocation many people aspired to and some, like Jonah, even tried to escape.

Jeremiah knew he was loved from his first God encounter. Jeremiah was also misunderstood, rejected, and thrown into a pit for saying what no one in a position of privilege or power wanted to hear. Jeremiah’s worst suffering came from understanding the suffering that awaited those who rejected the help God offered. He knew the blessings awaiting those who chose to trust God, but he also knew the sorrow awaiting those who honoured their own wisdom above the Creator of the universe. He wrote:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NASB)

But he also wrote:

Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.”
(verses 5 and 6)

In the midst of his lament for the people who treated him as a crazy, depressed, annoying, embarrassing conspiracy theory promoter, he also wrote in Jeremiah 29:

“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. 

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

I hated reading Jeremiah and Lamentations because I hated the notion that God would allow someone he supposedly loved to suffer. I see now that God took Jeremiah into His confidence about His plans — His conspiracy for good. Jeremiah was loved by God, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Even If…

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

-Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego on faith that takes risks.

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)