Inspection

jimsmith-dock-bw-ch-rs-dsc_0403

This man did not inspect our faith in the bridge, he inspected the bridge. So often we are inclined to look at our faith … but we must inspect the Bridge. We must not look at ourselves, but at Jesus. And when we look at Him we know He is strong.

– Corrie ten Boom (Not I but Christ)

The Squeeze

Photo: moulded

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.

(Romans 12:2 -J.B. Phillips version)

I’m weird.

I’m weird and finally okay with it.

Some people are just meant to be on the edge of the crowd, not really out there, but not really fitting in either.

If something is trending you’ll find me wending down some other path. I figure the trendies have got that one covered.

When the tourists are snapping photos of each other in front of  iced mountain peaks, I’m focusing on lichen blanketed rocks in the ditch. I weep for the clown, rejoice for the beggar, fast at the feast,  and arise to do battle at night. When the clan gathers for a celebration in the heat of a summer’s eve, I slip out in the moonlight to breathe the cool falling cedar and pine air as it settles along the creek bed.

My poor, dear mother never knew what to do with me. I was hopelessly out of step.

I tried. I really did. I wore the uncomfortable fashionable clothes and the crippling high heels. I endured the horrid chemical smells of perms and hair dyes and nail polish. I spent far too much of my income and far too many years of my life obsessively following diet and exercise programs that, in the long run, always left me in worse shape than when I started. I listened to hours of pop music trying to understand the allure of a limited assortment of repetitive chords, rhythms and lyrics. I read the best-sellers and watched the Oscared pondering the pay-off of fear and pessimism. I paid attention to political pundits who knew what was wrong with everyone else’s ideas and I faithfully endured more sermons and devotional talks than I dare to recall. I tried to participate in the church ladies’ games (which usually involved rolls of toilet paper and or unscrambling baby and cooking related words.) The only spiritual maturity I gained from those exercises was learning how to doze with my eyes open and with an is-every-body-happy-smile on my face.

Then I realized one day I was spending a lot of effort trying to win the approval of people who didn’t really have mine -not that they were doing anything wrong, it’s just that I had no passion for the things that seemed to move them.

There is only one person whose approval I really need, and that is God’s. He likes weird. He can work with weird. When I look at the weird folk he loved in the Bible I realize I am in good company. Jesus didn’t exactly fit in either.

The crowd can move on without me. I’ll catch up later. Right now I am just enjoying watching the osprey flying a pas de deux, the daisies growing in cracks of asphalt, and working on becoming who God intended me to be in the first place.

In the Light of Love

Photos: Hollyhocks

Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.

 Moreover, if he did that for us while we were sinners, now that we are men justified by the shedding of his blood, what reason have we to fear the wrath of God?

If, while we were his enemies, Christ reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely now that we are reconciled we may be perfectly certain of our salvation through his living in us.

Nor, I am sure, is this a matter of bare salvation—we may hold our heads high in the light of God’s love because of the reconciliation which Christ has made.

(Romans 5:8-11)

 

An hour away

Photo: looking north

(Click on photo for larger version)

The far mountains in this photo are about an hour away.

We tend to measure distance in terms of time in this vast country. It will take an hour to drive to the village at the base of those farthest mountains. In one hour the time will be here and the place will be now –and the details will be much clearer.

We live in the present but have an awareness of the future lying just one step further ahead on this journey. God is present-future. When he forgives our past, it is forgiven.  He sees who we will become as clearly as if it were today. He knows the plans he has for us and calls us by our future name. He desires us to see ourselves from his viewpoint so we will have the courage to walk in our new identity.

He remembers the future. He shows it to us by his words and allows us to say, “This is a picture of me when I was older.”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2)

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

Punching through

Photo: the tunnel

(click for larger version)

Punching through

I’ve done a lot of things I am not qualified to do –at least not on paper. People who live in isolated parts of this vast country are less concerned with how many hoops you have jumped through to obtain a stamp of approval from institutions with stamps of approval from other institutions, than they are with whether you are available, willing to step into a gap, and know something they don’t, or are at least willing to learn.

I heard a story of some highly-paid expert consultant-types, some of them engineers, who were trapped in a burning building. While they waited for outside response to frantic cell-phone calls it was the cleaning guy with an intimate knowledge of the building and his collection of mop and broom handles who punched through the wall and led them to safety. He was instantly promoted to leader.

An expert is anyone with access to pertinent knowledge and the right tools –and in an emergency the “proper” gender, educational accomplishments, political affiliations, physical fitness and impressive resumes can be like cell phones in an area without service.

Someone from another part of the world was trying to convince me to drive to meetings on a weekly basis in Vancouver. She had looked at a map and assumed we were close. Well, by freeway-traversed flatland standards, yes, perhaps, but darling, there are a few mountains in the way here. It takes a while to go around them (like twelve hours if there is no snow or avalanches or construction delays). I sometimes wonder how long it took First Nations peoples to discover the passes on foot.

I was driving home from Alberta recently, hurtling down the highway at a 100 clicks, toward what looked like a solid wall of rock. Logic said there’s a road here, so it’s got to go through somewhere, but I wonder if I had been alone on foot before the road was built if I would have succumbed to fear and despair. It would have looked overwhelming.

Trust doesn’t come easily to me. Fear is always hiding behind a bush or a rock ready to sneak up and tell me I am not competent to handle this situation, that there are too many unknowns, too many factors I can’t control, that I’ve failed before and will probably fail again, that I am not qualified. Fear is such a nag. Sometimes I want to give in just so it will shut up.

I read something interesting lately. God agrees. I am not qualified.

I am not qualified to listen to that voice. I no longer work for that boss. He’s a liar and a cheat and a thief set on destroying the people my heavenly Fathers loves (and then blaming Him for it) and definitely not trustworthy.

This is what God says, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, our Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy?” (Isaiah 51:12)

It’s like he is saying to me, “Who do you think you are that you can ignore what I just told you, to go off and listen to the guy who has publicly stated it is his goal to pull down everything I created? Do you not think I will back you up with all my resources if I have asked you to do something? No, you are not qualified to do this without my help, don’t even try, but if I didn’t think you were the person for the job I would have asked somebody else. Now quit taking your instructions from the wrong side.”

I am not an expert, but I have access to the source of all knowledge and wisdom and He has given me tools, simple though they may appear. As I go about my humble chores I gain experience that allows me to be available and step into the gap and get the job done when necessary.

I’ve been through this valley before. I know where there is a hole in the massive stone wall. I can say with confidence to you, than when his beloved children face impossible opposition, that God provides a way where it looks like there is no way.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

     and rivers in the desert.

(Isaiah 43:19)

God is good.

Sanctuary

Photo: A sojourner at the bird sanctuary

There is a bird sanctuary on the edge of town. Many migrating birds stop there. Sojourners.

As I strolled around the lake I thought about sanctuary. I remember the Hunchback of Notre Dame crying, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” in the old black and white movie. For him it was a place of freedom from persecution.

Sanctuary means a holy place, a place set apart for a dedicated purpose. The world’s greed and ugliness cannot harass or even dare to enter sanctuary, but those who do not rely on their own strength are welcome. For those who trust in the Lord, His throne has been set apart as a sanctuary.

A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. (Jeremiah 17:12)

As the much-loved bride of Christ who depends entirely on His mercy we can boldly approach the throne and know that the King of the universe holds out his scepter to us. He offers us sanctuary.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

God is good.

Sanctus!

Photo: Looking up

I listened to a recording of Jessye Norman singing Sanctus by Gounod tonight. My heart was full.

Translation:

Holy! Holy! Holy!

Lord God of Hosts!

Heaven and earth are full of your glory!

Hosanna in the highest!

Such power in the voice, the music and the lyrics.

Turn up the volume for this one.

Suitable, I think, for my 100th post.