“For You, O Lord, are my lamp;
The Lord illumines and dispels my darkness.”
2 Samuel 22:29
Creative Meditations for Lent, Word Prompt: Illumine
“For You, O Lord, are my lamp;
The Lord illumines and dispels my darkness.”
2 Samuel 22:29
Creative Meditations for Lent, Word Prompt: Illumine
I love a clean house. I hate cleaning.
At various times in my life, I have hired people to clean for me. The problem is, they could never organize for me. I would need a staff for that, and even then it’s hard for them to read my mind.
I never noticed until it was time to pack up to move, that I am a collector of cleaning products – especially the ones that promise less scrubbing and heaven by way of the shower door. Somehow, I thought that by buying all these spray bottles and magic cloths I was creating the potential for spotless bliss.
The problem with that plan was this: Stuff must be moved, cleaning products must be applied and removed, and stuff needs to be dusted/washed/polished before being put back in a better place. All of this requires my participation. It was easier to give everything a quick flick of a damp rag, throw stuff I didn’t know what to do with in the storage room, turn off the light, shut the door, and get on with life.
I realize now that the storage room could be a symbol of every out-of-order thing in my life that I never got around to dealing with, until it threatened to avalanche into the living areas. When it was time to move, I felt overwhelmed. No one could do it for me and yet I couldn’t do it all myself. I had to ask for help.
My life has tended to have pockets of denial where broken, dirty, and embarrassing things collect. It’s easy to try to keep denying their existence until someone wants to look in all the dark corners – someone like Jesus.
Here’s the thing. God forgives because of Jesus, but when sin clutter spills out and blocks the way between us, communication is hindered. It’s hard to be perfectly, nakedly, candidly honest before the Lord when you are struggling to keep sin hidden. John the Beloved wrote about it this way:
Here, then, is the message which we heard from him, and now proclaim to you: GOD IS LIGHT and no shadow of darkness can exist in him. Consequently, if we were to say that we enjoyed fellowship with him and still went on living in darkness, we should be both telling and living a lie. But if we really are living in the same light in which he eternally exists, then we have true fellowship with each other, and the blood which his Son shed for us keeps us clean from all sin. If we refuse to admit that we are sinners, then we live in a world of illusion and truth becomes a stranger to us. But if we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable and straightforward—he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. For if we take up the attitude “we have not sinned”, we flatly deny God’s diagnosis of our condition and cut ourselves off from what he has to say to us. (1 John 1:5-9 Phillips)
Confession means admitting we have a sin problem. God forgives and cleanses us, but we need to be bravely honest and ask him to take away all the junk hidden in our hearts. I love a clean house, but a clean heart even more.
Creative Meditations for Lent, Word prompt: Clean
You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:5,6 NKJV)
Frequently when the Bible uses the word watch, it means to be awake, vigilant, and attentive. Paul wrote these words to the believers in Thessalonica about discerning the times they were living in. He reminds them that no one knows when Christ will return, but they are capable of discerning the significance of what is happening around them if they watch.
Watching to understand the times requires us to see with lenses that are not tainted by our own fears, doubts, and priorities. We need to see the way Jesus sees, through his eyes. We need to pray the way he is praying, with his thoughts.
There are so many distractions and flashing messages right now saying, “Look here and not there!” We need the lens of hindsight, the lens of foresight, and especially the lens of insight. These lenses are available to those who ask and are awake, walking in the light, seriously wanting to understand, and paying attention.
Ask. Watch. Pray.
Creative Meditations for Lent, Word Prompt: Watch
But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:13-15 NASB)
It’s becoming more obvious to many people that we live in perilous times where evil abounds. More people, despite great efforts to remain in the denial that surrounds their personal peace and prosperity like a white picket fence, are waking up. Evidence of evil piling up on street corners and in graves around the world is becoming more difficult to ignore.
Some leaders, trying their best in the face of suffering, can offer only a cruel compassion, with more tools of destruction, with a flip of victim/oppressor roles, or even with medically induced death marketed as a solution.
The scripture doesn’t say “Arise and panic,” or “Arise and shoot back,” or “Arise and declare evil the winner.” This passage calls the listener to arise from deep sleep and orient to the Light of Christ.
In Isaiah 61 the phrasing is, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you.”
Those who follow the light of Jesus Christ are meant to reflect his light, to be the opposite of darkness. Reflecting more darkness is rather pointless. If, instead of focusing on evil, we focus on Christ we will reflect his beautiful light, the light that seems counterintuitive to our “normal.” We will hear the Holy Spirit’s words of wisdom. Oh, how we need wisdom! Don’t be afraid to ask for wisdom.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
Walk carefully, but walk in the Light.
Creative Meditations for Lent, Prompt word: Arise
Word prompt for today’s Lenten meditation: One
What image could possibly describe something so unique –so holy– as the concept of oneness and perfect unity? “Holy” means set apart. God is holy. The only God. Wholly other. Unique. One.
As I meditated on this I kept going back to the source of all life, the moment when God, in perfect unity, spoke, “Let there be light.”
If we can’t fully understand the power of perfect unity in the Godhead, how can we understand how One so holy makes it possible to be in Christ and He in us? What kind of power is released when we are perfectly aligned with him and therefore with others who live and move and have their being in the Three-in-One?
It’s a mystery.
Any single image will be totally inadequate, but I thought about light and refraction and how prisms show us the diversity of colours within light. The sun shining on crystal in a local shop window display caught my attention. Many facets, one Light.
“I am not praying only for these men but for all those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, that the world may believe that you did send me. I have given them the honour that you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one—I in them and you in me, that they may grow complete into one, so that the world may realize that you sent me and have loved them as you loved me.” – Jesus, recorded by John the Beloved in chapter 17 of his record of life with the One in human form, Phillips translation
It’s strange the way darkness displaces a little more light every day in the north. I’ve been so busy I didn’t notice the dawn slowly shift from behind the eastern mountains to rise, lazily, beside the ridge of hills much further to the south. Yesterday I needed to turn on my headlights at 3:30 in the afternoon. How did it get so dark so fast?
I have a light on my desk that imitates sunlight. It produces “lux” sufficient to cheer my writing space, but little more. If I were to aim it out my window into the blackness it would scarcely draw the attention of anyone stumbling in the dark street. It’s enough to change my room but not enough to make an impact beyond it.
One of the best opening sentences of any novel (prove me wrong) is Dickens’ “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Today I feel if I wrote, “It was the darkest of times; it was the brightest of times.” many of you would understand.
I don’t want to be accosted by the news anymore. It’s not just a matter of avoiding the pain of another disaster, another riot, another variant, another death count, another public breach of trust, another grab for power in the guise of “public service.” (“No one jostles for the position of servant,” Gayle Erwin reminds us). I don’t want to pay so much attention to the news on any media because it involves so many people promoting problems by yelling higher and louder than they did the last time their attempts at playing God didn’t work. Very few are listening. Animosity escalates. Our best efforts are not enough. And it’s getting dangerous to say so. How did it get so dark so fast?
I had a vision the other evening. (Take it or leave it. I’ve stopped apologizing.) I saw crowds of people coming from all directions toward a small circle with light emanating from the center. Tired bodies were dressed in dark clothes. Everyone had slumped shoulders and moved without swinging their arms. Some shuffled along as if in pain, but they were all drawn by curiosity to see this strange light. Some pushed their way to the front. I was one of them.
The light emanated from a baby in a manger. I watched him turn into a boy discussing matters of importance with religious leaders baffled by his enlightened insight. He grew into a man creating with carpenter’s tools in his hands. I saw him touching, healing, teaching, caring, and leading as crowds of followers grew. With every action the light around and within him shone brighter. The whole story was told in light I can’t explain. Then I saw him being taken away and murdered on a cross. His body was left in a sealed tomb. The light in the circle suddenly died.
A moan went up from the crowd. It was as though their greatest fear, the fear of disappointment, had been realized.
Then the light walked out of the grave and expanded as he rose until it was too bright for the onlookers to see. The light rose to fill the whole earth. It spread in ripples, and as it did tens, then hundreds, then thousands spontaneously fell to the ground and bowed in worship. I looked and saw costumes and masks drop. I saw ceremonial and honorary robes of all kinds fall to the ground as people bowed in humble adoration.
I realized that Jesus Christ was at the center of all of this. I watched as a chalice appeared where he stood and became a fountain. Out of him flowed light, hope, healing, forgiveness and love, pure love in the form of blood. It was as if many people were overwhelmed by his presence and, really seeing him for the first time, knew he was the answer to the darkness within themselves.
I saw selfish ambition, mockery, slander and mischief slink away as if they found the light too painful to bear.
Later that night, as I walked home under dark clouds, I thought of all the Christmas songs that talked about waiting in darkness and about the baby who came to bring light into the world. On the first day of advent an obscure verse from the ancient hymn “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” played in my heart.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Emmanuel means “God with us.” Before this happened I had been praying about how to pray in these dark days. I believe God was showing me the importance of keeping Christ at the center of everything I do. I pray for new life to spring up as his light shines in the darkness and makes an impact beyond my own little corner.
After Paul the apostle came down from his intellectual discussions with philosophers on Mars Hill (which impressed only a few people) he ended up in Corinth. He wrote this about the experience with the people there: My brothers and sisters, when I first came to proclaim to you the secrets of God, I refused to come as an expert, trying to impress you with my eloquent speech and lofty wisdom. For while I was with you I was determined to be consumed with one topic—Jesus, the crucified Messiah. I stood before you feeling inadequate, filled with reverence for God, and trembling under the sense of the importance of my words. The message I preached and how I preached it was not an attempt to sway you with persuasive arguments but to prove to you the almighty power of God’s Holy Spirit. For God intended that your faith not be established on man’s wisdom but by trusting in his almighty power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-4)
My eloquent speech and lofty wisdom plus ten dollars will get you on any subway in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. But the Holy Spirit? His signs point to the Light. As circumstances become darker, the light shines brighter and brighter. This time we’re in? It may be the darkest of times, but it is also the brightest of times. Consider the Light.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.Psalm 96:11-13 NIV
Rejoicing seems counterintuitive in a world where nothing seems certain, where everything is changing, where good is called evil and evil good. The darker things become, the more people fear the unfamiliarity of light.
John the Beloved wrote in the introduction of his book about the life of Jesus Christ on earth, that Jesus was the Light. He also wrote that, faced with the light, many people preferred darkness, because they clung to their false comforts, self-serving actions, and mindsets that didn’t include God.
Rejoicing, giving thanks, and worshipping the Creator turns our eyes on the One who loves perfectly, the One who is faithful and gives grace extravagantly.
We often think judgment means only condemnation. Of evil, yes, but judgment also means assessment, reward and/or redirection. Christ came to bring life, abundant life, and to re-set our fear-filled mindsets to peace and joy in restored relationship with our heavenly Father.
I saw the sun shining through a flowering bush in my garden that has suddenly woken to life in this new season. My soul rejoices in the God of creation who makes all things new. He comes to show us a better way, a brighter way, a beautiful way.
It’s a new day. It’s a new era. Can you see it?
“And though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” ( from This is My Father’s World by M.D. Babcock)
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.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’
They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures
and on hills that were previously bare.(Isaiah 49:9 NLB)
Sometimes we are not aware of how dark things have become until the light breaks through. Just as our eyes adjust to the darkness, our souls can start to accept a dim view of things as normal life. “It is what it is,” some say. When the light first shines we turn our heads because it hurts. We no longer have the capacity to accept the brightness of Jesus’ face. It frightens us. It requires adjustment.
God sent his Son to set the captives free. Dare to lift your eyes. There is abundant life and freedom in the light of his glory and grace.
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
-Helen H Lemmel
“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