Glimpse

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When I’m walking on ice I keep my head down. A broken arm and a broken leg taught me the wisdom of minding my step. My legs and ankles tense up as I carefully find the least slippery route, often on the edge of the path where dead thorn bushes poke through the snow.

One day I was walking through a shadowy part of the forest on an ice-covered trail when I caught a glimpse of the sky in a tiny puddle. I had been concentrating so hard on not falling that I lost sight of the rest of my surroundings. The reflection reminded me to look up.

When Moses asked to see God he was permitted to see only a glimpse from inside a cleft of a rock. The aspect of himself God chose to show was his goodness, and only a fraction of that lest Moses be overwhelmed.

Sometimes seeing a glimpse of God’s goodness, or grasping a few words from the love song he sings over us in the night, or hearing his voice in nature or scripture or right out loud, causes us to feel amazed – and then frustrated that we can’t hear more.

Those who have had encounters with who God really is are often wrecked for trudging through a cold, grey, sinful, sorrowful world with an it-is-what-it-is attitude. Now they long for more – because they have had a glimpse of more.

Frustration is a sign that God is about to increase our capacity to receive more. We wonder why we feel so uncomfortable. We can walk away at that point, or we can look up, preparing for the enlarging aspect of himself he intends to show us next. It may not be the one people around us may seem to be experiencing though. He knows who we really are too.

Isaac Watts, who wrote Joy to the World, understood.

Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing…

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Hearts Flooded with Light

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I have not stopped thanking God for you.

I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.

God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

(Ephesians 1: 16-23 NLT)

Sometimes if we take what we think we think about God and what we actually feel about God and put them in a room together we are surprised that they don’t look the same. Sometimes they don’t even look remotely related.  When we don’t have unity within ourselves? Well, that’s just crazy-making.

Both can be right and both can be wrong. When they are not aligned with who God really is both can string a barb wire fence between us and seeing the majesty of God. Both can place barriers in the way of stepping into a greater understanding of the incredible greatness of God’s power for those who believe in him. Both can restrain us from attaining everything he has for us.

“But I was always taught…”

“That reminds me of a painful time…”

His light soothes and comforts the downtrodden, the tired, and the despairing because it floods our hearts and replaces false ideas and bad memories with the trustworthiness of his splendour, his glory, his infinite grace.

He longs to give us spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in increasing knowledge of God.

There is a reason why Jesus is called the Wonderful Counselor. He came to gently expose the lies we have absorbed and show us what his Father is really like. That knowledge is the foundation for confident hope.

Jesus is the light of the world.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

’til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…

(From Oh Holy Night by Adolphe Adams, English lyrics by John Sullivan Dwight)

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Upheaval

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When I was a kid we looked forward to seeing cheesy old black and white movies about saints and Bible characters or missionaries and martyrs. They were the only non-TV movies we were allowed to go to because they were shown at a church and not in a theater. Sometimes the sound of the film projector was louder than the incredibly wordy dialogue, but still I was impressed. I wanted to be a martyr for God like that.

I remember the otherworldly holy gaze upward nearly all the actors displayed when faced with a call to lay down their lives to the glory of God. I practised it in front of a mirror.

Clutching my little red Gideon New Testament plus the Psalms to my chest I tilted my head slightly to the left and looked up at the desk lamp now shining down spotlight fashion from the top of a pile of books on Dad’s dresser. Moving only my eyeballs I checked my image in the long mirror on the back of the door to see if I had it right.

Maybe, someday, if I worked hard enough and pleased God enough He would use me in some dramatic spotlit way. I needed to get the holy look down.

The truth is half a century later I’ve never managed to look like the holy guys in the movies. Neither do any of the humbly honest people I know dedicated to keeping it real while placing high priority on getting to know God’s reality. They are just folks who know they are loved. All of them are still  works in progress (although some seem to need less work than others.)

Even though I don’t always say it out loud, when the phone rings lately my reaction is more likely to be a full eye roll and a “Now what?” than the sacred upward half eye roll. (which is an improvement over total panic, but not where I would like to be as far as joyful response goes.)

IMG_1515 flat tire bw chSo much news of major disruptions in the lives of family and friends has arrived by text message or phone in the last few months that I’m tempted not to pick it up when it rings. Marriage problems, health crises, business fiascos, loss of property, the sudden death of loved ones, unjust treatment, the revelation of corruption in unexpected places, misunderstandings bound in red tape, and dreams deflated like a flat tire… It seems I’ve mourned with a lot of people lately.

I know that in every situation there is a provision for more grace and that God is never stymied by human foibles or unseasonable weather or budget restraints or talking head prognosticators. I know Jesus is victor and the enemy is defeated. I know he has brought us through thus far and he promises to never leave. I know the outcome of walking through the storm is finding the gold on the other side.

But sometimes there’s a lot of upheaval in the process.

While I was praying about this (and confessing my lousy attitude) I remembered a dream I had a while ago. In the dream I was walking outside a schoolyard beside a chain link fence. Suddenly the ground began to shake. On either side of the path a wall of moving earth and rocks and boulders rose up. It looked like an animated scene from an old  church basement movie depicting the crossing of the Red Sea – only the water was not parted. The ground was.

Boulders flew around pulverizing each other to dust and dirt flowed in massive waves. But all of it regarded the boundaries on either side of the path and never crossed the line, like the wall of water in the movies.

“What the…?” I asked, in my less than church movie-worthy holy stance.

“Don’t look to the right or to the left. Keep your eyes on the path,” I heard.

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“What’s happening?” I asked, trying hard to ignore hurtling objects in my peripheral vision that made me want to duck – fast.

“I’m moving heaven and earth for you.” (I wish English had a plural for you. It felt plural.)

There are some things you can’t learn in school. There are some lessons about the character of God and Christ’s unrelenting love for us that can only be demonstrated in the midst of boulders shattering on either side of our heads and the ground trembling beneath our feet, when the things we relied upon to be stable are suddenly anything but.

Sometimes change involves the kind of upheaval that exposes things you would rather not know. Sometimes change creates such a dust-up you have to concentrate on where to place your next step because that’s as far as you can see.

Sometimes, when God is answering our prayers, he does it in ways we don’t expect. We think, “This can’t be from God. My Jesus is sweet and gentle and meek and mild, like a rose trampled on the ground. He wouldn’t be behind a messy upheaval of all the things we’ve worked so hard to build.”

I’ve learned that expecting the Creator of the Universe to squeeze himself into the limitations of what makes me feel good is a kind of idolatry. When the shaking starts he’s about to show himself a whole lot bigger than we ever imagined. Our concept is not majestic enough. We’re about to get an upgrade.

For some of us the scenery on this part of the journey is not exactly tidy or decent or in order right now. All I know is that Himself is right here walking it with us. Just like He did last time, and the time before that, and the time before that…

He’s just that good.

 

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The Couch

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant. (NASB)

“Did you know the root word in Hebrew for secret can mean a couch?” the songwriter asked as she rummaged through her file looking for the draft of her new song.
Blogging at Ishshah’s Story this week.

Ishshah's Story

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“The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.” – R.T. Kendall

When I look at the big comfy couch and overstuffed armchair here in my living room, I think of open-hearted conversations with friends. I think of the times people have trusted me with their stories as we sat on sofas covered in white brocade, brown leather, floral print (like this one at Karen’s cottage) or, in student days, something that looked even worse than the army blanket covering it.

Many times friends gave me the chance to be unguarded as I offered them the same privilege. We laughed, cried, challenged and encouraged each other. I welcome unadorned truth from friends close enough to genuinely care and who can extend me the same grace they have received from the Lord. Other than the entryway, where the deepest conversations seem to be accompanied by one hand on the door knob, the…

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