Coming before God in quietness and waiting upon Him in silence often can accomplish more than days of feverish activity.
-A. W. Tozer
I lost my finder.
My talent for losing keys, wallet, and phone is the butt of jokes in my family. All of them hear me say, “I just had it in my hand!” regularly – like every time I am late for something. My adult kid and her spouse bought me several of those little electronic dollar coin-sized devices that are supposed to keep track of important stuff, like keys wallet and phone. I call them my finders. I appreciate the help. They have rescued me more than once.
One evening this week I drove out to favourite spots about half an hour away, hoping to catch golden hour light. Frankly, I forgot to account for the advancing season and early mountain shadow on that side of the valley. The window of opportunity shrunk rapidly. I took a few photos, then came home.
I know I had a finder on my car keys at Munro Lake because I noticed it coming out of its stretchy pouch that hangs on my keychain. I put it back in. When I pulled them out of the ignition at the next stop, the finder was missing.
I searched the car, including under and around the seats. I checked every pocket in my clothes and in my camera bag. Then I checked again. And again.
I must have dropped it somewhere in my meanderings. Losing an item whose only purpose in life is to help me not lose things was just too embarrassing. I had to find it before the jokes started. My phone should help me track it down, right?
The next morning, I went back to the same area –with my camera, of course. The morning light was wonderful. The birds gathered in the meadow preparing for their flight south. The breeze blew sweetly and the sun glistened on the grass. Heavenly.
I checked my phone. It located my key finder… last known location …28 km away… two weeks ago.
That was no help. I walked up and down the Peavine road looking for a shiny object. I went back to Munro Lake and Mineral Lake and Moyie Lake – eventually. The morning felt like that time my friends kidnapped me when I turned down an opportunity to go on a picnic one perfect spring day because I thought I should study.
I felt like God kidnapped me this time. I felt his love and his presence as we walked and talked. I was in no rush. I didn’t want to leave.
Four hours later, after I couldn’t think of anywhere else to look, I said, “When I first got to know you, Lord, you showed me you were with me by finding things for me. Could you do that again? I know it’s a just a little tracker, but I can’t find it myself. I’ve looked everywhere. I need you.”
I saw people carrying kayaks toward the beach and took a few more photos. Then I went back to the car. I opened the door. There was my finder! On my car seat!
Today a friend was talking about sensing God’s presence. We don’t call him down to be in our midst. He’s here already. He promised he wouldn’t leave. He seeks our presence. He delights in us. He wants us, our attention. Our awareness of him increases by focusing on him through whatever means he invites us to worship. For me that often means being out in nature.
Spending time with the Lord is not an escape from reality. He wants us to bring that awareness of his presence into everything we do.
I wonder if God feels like I do sometimes when I’ve gone to a lot of work to prepare a meal for my loved ones and they can’t hear me call them for diner because they have ear phones on, or are engaged in heated discussion with someone, or think they can’t take time away from work. I’m there. I’m just not on their radar at the moment.
It wasn’t my finder that needed finding. It was me. I’m glad God kidnapped me.
Thank you, Lord. That was a delicious meal. You are beautiful.
Lord God, be exalted as you soar throughout the heavens.
May your shining glory be seen in the skies!
Let it be seen high above over all the earth!
(Psalm 57:5 TPT)
I heard someone say that glory is however God chooses to express himself. I love it when he expresses himself on the canvas of the sky.
“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.” ~Heraclitus
I nestle into a warm form-fitting spot on a colourful beach towel and watch the children. This boy has a plan. He has a vision. He digs. He moves the earth, forming mounds and channels with shovels and pails and his own bare hands. Towers grow on foundations he creates. Monuments to industriousness spring up where only impressions of bare feet dented the wet sand before he arrived. He pats towers into temporary permanence.
No one tells him what to do. When he finished throwing stones into the water, a ritual all boys must follow, he picked up his tools and got to work, as oblivious to the calls of his siblings as he is to the seagulls.
They both steal his potato chips. It doesn’t matter. He is creating. He creates because he was made to create. It’s who he is. He builds because he must build. It’s who he is becoming.
The Creator made him in His image. He carries the Creator’s purpose somewhere deep inside. He is a child of God and must be about his Father’s business. His play is his work.
I watch and remember the Spirit of Wisdom saying:
I was there, close to the Creator’s side as his master artist.
Daily he was filled with delight in me
as I playfully rejoiced before him.
I laughed and played,
so happy with what he had made,
while finding my delight in the children of men.
(Proverbs 8:30,31 TPT)
It is the nature of the Godhead to laugh, to play, to find delight in each other, to find delight in their creation.
I can see the source of their joy in this boy, on this beach, on this day.
I watch the children play on the beach under the warm summer sun. Cool water laps against the division of water and land. The afternoon breeze skims over the lake and rises to play with trembling aspen leaves and sing through fir tree branches. Ospreys soar in a blue sky too full of light to see with unshaded eyes.
The boy straightens up and stands like Colossus with sand-covered legs astride the harbour. His hands, like mighty David’s hands, still hold pail and shovel, his weapons of praise at rest.
“Look what I made!”
He smiles. He is proud. He knows.
I feel God’s pleasure.
In this portion of the journey, when steps forward and steps backward start to resemble a cha-cha more than a foot race, I sometimes wonder what is going on. As I write this people the insurance company sent are in my house packing up stuff that, only four months ago, finally had a place. Now, after the flood, it doesn’t. Again. After all that is salvageable leaves in a truck headed to a storage facility, the deconstruction people come to tear out walls I just painted and flooring we just laid. This week I rushed about trying to figure out what I might need in the next few months that I should store in bins in corners of the house that is still habitable. I was going a little nuts.
It felt like I was wallowing in hope deferred.
Then a friend (Godsend that she is) asked me if I would join her and paint during the worship portion of a conference. I was apprehensive about doing what I do in front of real live people (as opposed to anonymous readers). I am so done with performance and stage Christianity, but I decided that hiding is not much better. Besides, I needed to get out of the house – and they let me sit in a corner of the auditorium.
The first night I painted light streaming through the woods as the Lord spoke to me about shifting atmospheres in a way that brings light to dark places, but the idea for this painting, started the second day, formed before the first was even finished. I saw the red umbrella as a symbolic covering like the covering given by the blood over the doors at Passover and the covering given by Christ’s blood. I saw a break in the clouds. I saw a pass in the mountains with a rainbow of promise over it.
I was also aware of the unseen shadowy valleys between happy greening hills covered with the yellow sunflowers of spring and the places where winter is reluctant to let go of its hold.
As I finished details that indicated a shifting atmosphere the phrase came to me: Promise IS breakthrough.
The answers God has provided to problems friends and family and people I am praying for around the world already exist. God, in his great mercy, takes us through hills and valleys and seasons of sun and storm to prepare us for the rigors of abundance, influence, and authority, but he promises breakthrough.
This weekend I heard, “Know who you are. Know whose you are. That’s your protection, your covering. Lift your eyes and see God’s plan. Quit hiding and move. This is going to be good.”
“To rest in God’s power when your own weaknesses seem to be screaming at you – that’s grace!
To be confident in who God is for you when you feel overwhelmed by odds against you – that’s peace!
To stand alone against massive intimidation – that’s trust!”
– Graham Cooke
A roaring lion is no threat to the bird who knows enough to rise up high in the tree to sing her song.
I grew up in a family where teasing was a form of affection. Wrestling, practical jokes, funny stories that revealed weaknesses in each other? All normal (to us). To those not accustomed to this way of relating, such play appeared intimidating and offensive. Most of the time we knew where the line was, but in the background, we often heard someone warning, “You had better stop now before someone gets hurt!”
And then someone got hurt. A line was crossed. For one of the participants the action wasn’t fun anymore. Teasing became bullying (to them). Fights ensued.
Like many parents, we discovered our children’s individuality early. One liked to cuddle. The one who had to move-it move-it move-it resented the restraint of adult arms. One cried easily, one bounced back like an inflatable clown punching bag, one treasured solitude, and one was happiest when surrounded by 27 of her closest friends.
Not only did their teasing/offense lines not line up, they all responded differently to discipline. A raised eyebrow could send one child into paroxysms of guilt, while the arrival of the correction Cavalry, with swords drawn, would prompt another kid to say, “What? I didn’t do nothin’.”
Another parent, describing her boys, said, “They’re as different as chalk and cheese.”
I understand her. Add the dynamic of parents who married their opposites and it’s a wonder we ever agreed on a restaurant.
This week my social media is flooded with differing opinions -strong opinions- from people who claim to be part of the same family of God. I admit, I also have opinions and preferences. Try as I might there are some folks I just can’t seem to get along with. Why don’t other people see things the way I do? Is there something wrong with me or something wrong with them?
I went to bed talking to the Lord about this. By morning he brought to mind the crazy mix of personality types and viewpoints of the disciples Jesus chose to walk closely with him. The Lord reminded me he went on the road with both Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector in his crew.
I followed this rabbit trail and learned some fascinating details about what it meant to be a Zealot or a tax collector. In short, it meant they were ideological enemies.
Zealot is our English word. Simon belonged to a political group called the Kanna’im which comes from the second commandment term for God, El Kanna – jealous God. They fashioned themselves after the zeal of the priests Phinehas and Levi who resorted to the sword in efforts to maintain the purity of the law. In their opinion, the other major parties, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, were not doing enough to uphold Jewish standards in the midst of a barrage of corrupt foreign propaganda.
The infiltration of foreign ideas, and especially idolatry, into Jewish culture incensed them. They despised the Romans for imposing their ways on the populace. When the great census was taken under Quirinus (the reason Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when Jesus was born) their anger boiled over. The census was about taxes. Taxation represented everything despicable about the occupation; now the people felt forced to support idolatry financially. The Kanna’im considered King Herod the Great to be a sycophantic pawn of the Romans and a fake Jewish convert.
The Kanna’im traveled to troubled areas and stirred up riots while they destroyed property and anything they considered to be a graven image. Some began to carry concealed daggers in case the opportunity to take out an infidel arose. Zeal consumed them and many died, either in the skirmishes or by execution later. Their plan was to replace Herod (and his descendants) with a real king, and for this they needed a Messiah – or at least a Messiah-like figure. Jesus fit the bill. (When he refused to play the game, saying his kingdom was not of this world, they found others, the “false Messiahs” Jesus warned his followers would arise after he left.)
Depending on which side is issuing a label they could be called either terrorists or resistance fighters. Herod called them “robbers.” Simon (sometimes called Levi) was part of the Kanna’im. Jesus chose a violence-advocating activist to be one of his closest companions.
Matthew, on the other hand was a publican. A publicanus collected duties, excise, and taxes for the Roman occupiers (The use of the word “publican” as the proprietor of a drinking establishment came later in England). He was a Jew who was detested by the Zealots for being a collaborator. Most of the Jewish population simply hated him for taking their money or goods in kind.
Zacchaeus, who demonstrated remarkable transformation after meeting Jesus, was part of the publicani, chief tax collectors, who were like district managers for the government revenue ministry. As such he was truly hated. Not only did he take money and give it to the Romans, he had the authority to set fees for collection and confiscation “services.” The fees, of course went into his own account. Matthew and his colleagues were lesser officials, but their methods involved blocking roads, bridges and gates until people needing to pass paid up – adding of course, their own “fees.”
Capernaum, a town near the point where the Jordan flows into Lake Galilee, was a border town on the edge of Decapolis territory which had become a district of Roman settlements. Perhaps this is why the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his beloved servant told him he need not bother coming back with him. Crossing the border was a hassle because it meant running the gauntlet of publicans.
Jesus understood the burden of reputation Matthew brought with him. He knew he was subjecting himself to guilt by association and that he would be called “the friend of publicans and sinners.” Nevertheless, he approached Matthew the Tax Collector at his installation at the gate and gave him the opportunity to become a follower. We know Jesus was not naive about the relationship challenges involved. He illustrated his story about humble prayer by using the example of a Pharisee with excellent public status and a Publican with a poor social rating.
When I think about Jesus’ deliberate inclusion of these two men holding extremely different ideas about politics and methods of surviving tense times, my reaction is, “Are you kidding, Lord? How could there be any unity in this “band of brothers?”
I remembered the band also included Nathanael the prejudiced (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), Judas the embezzler, Thomas the cynic (“Unless I touch the wounds…”), Peter the filter-less impulsive (“I’ll never forsake…”), and James and John the holier-than-thou social climbers (“Do you want us to call down fire on them?”). They all argued about who would be greatest in the kingdom.
Add to the outer group of followers some stage mothers, embarrassed siblings, spies, and what’s-in-it-for-me merchant opportunists and he had a congregation no sane pastor would envy no matter how much pressure he is under to improve his stats. Perhaps one of the greatest miracles Jesus performed was to keep them from killing each other.
How did you do it, Lord? Just this week I witnessed people who have unfriended each other over arguments about which businesses or movies or evangelists to boycott. When it comes down to questions about the best way to run the country the opinions are even more sharply divided, even among Christians who have been in formal fellowship for years.
The gospels mention squabbles between disciples. They also tell us that Jesus spent time with his heavenly Father praying about who to choose to be one of the twelve disciples. Here’s the thing: The Father didn’t judge them by their current resume and curriculum vitae. He saw who they would become.
When the instruments of an orchestra tune to the same pitch they are in harmony, even when their sections play very different instruments and follow music in the score that doesn’t resemble anyone else’s part. The one thing early followers of Jesus had in common was the response to his question if they wanted to leave: “Where else can we go? You have the words of life.”
Not everyone is going to feel they have the same exact instructions to follow. For example, a person with a Holy Spirit granted motivational gift of prophecy tends to see a big picture with few gray areas. They move boldly and purposefully toward a goal. A person motivated by a mercy gift will tend to see the people falling through the cracks and respond with gentle compassion. Many gifts. Many perspectives.
After Christ died and rose and ascended to heaven the Holy Spirit came in power upon the disciples. That’s when they began to remember what Jesus told them and put it all together. It’s interesting that Matthew’s written account is the one that emphasizes that Jesus was the Messiah and therefore qualified to rule as King of Kings forever, something the Zealots were hoping to fulfill by political means. It’s also interesting that the Kanna’im who didn’t follow Jesus stayed part of a movement that provoked the violent fall of Jerusalem, while Simon went on to declare the saving love and grace of Christ for a world beyond the confines of Mosaic law.
How do we live in harmony with people as different as chalk and cheese? We tune to Jesus. We keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith who saw the joy that lies ahead. He who was willing to lay down his life and conquer death for us, He has the words of life. We can do no better than extend the same grace to others that he has extended to us.
I may not agree with all your opinions or methods, and I might yell ouch and need time to calm myself if you cross the friendly line and hurt me, but if you and I are both centered on Christ and know that he loves us, we are family. It’s his kindness that makes us want to change. I’m willing to listen to what God shows you and adjust and hope you are too. It’s called love.
(Note: This is not intended to be an in-depth academic study. Scholars differ on details. If you are interested I challenge you to explore the topic further.)
But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment
He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength
He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth;
the impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.
(Isaiah 11:1-5 The Voice)
“If when I am able to discover something which has baffled others, I forget Him who revealeth the deep and secret things, and knoweth what is in the darkness and showeth it to us; if I forget that it was He who granted that ray of light to His most unworthy servant, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
– Amy Carmichael
I once had a dream in which I saw how the selfish actions of one group of people loosed nasty consequences on other people like a multi-car pile-up. With a little research I found out the facts were in the public record, but most people were not aware of the evil that had been kept out of the light for years. I was shocked and upset by the dream and told a friend experienced in dream interpretation.
“The dream is not difficult to interpret,” she said. “The question is, why is God choosing to show it to you, and why now.” She smiled a knowing smile. “Ask Him.”
He was showing me the roots of a problem and giving me compassion for those whose actions I had trouble understanding. But what could I possibly do about it? As we chatted, the Lord and me, I realized it is not my responsibility to change people and situations. It is his, but he wants us to partner with him.
So often I feel like the child with a little lunch that Jesus used to feed thousands. My efforts are tiny in the face of an impossible task. All I can do is pray.
You know, sometimes, when we feel powerless, we say, “Well, all we can do is pray,” and sigh heavily as if it probably won’t do much good. But God is showing me prayer is not meant to be a last ditch effort. Prayer is a first response effort. Prayer is a means of coming into alignment with what God is doing.
When I asked him how to pray about a current situation where he is beginning to shine his light on hidden evil I heard, “Give me a powerful yes.”
My yes is powerful? How does that work?
Like a lunch of buns and fish.
I don’t know if we will ever know in this lifetime how often the darkness has been overcome by simple folk giving God their powerful yes in prayer, but I think we will be surprised.
Jesus takes what we offer and then multiplies. Our powerful little yes becomes his immeasurably mighty yes. He brings light to the deep and secret things and his purpose is to save, heal and release the captives.
Yes, Lord. Yes!
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.