Remembering

A song for my Lord? A paean of praise? Let me count the ways, to echo the poet.*

Somewhere I have a list of events which are markers of His presence in my life. The challenge has been to write of them, recording for posterity, or at least my own understanding, His care and love. We all long for assurances that our lives are worthy of notice, or at least have not been forgotten by the God of all. Significance, that is what we hope for. Yet in forgetting the many ways The Lord has blessed, I have overlooked the very thing I searched for.

“When up to your clavicles fighting alligators, you forget that your original purpose was to drain the swamp.”

Quickly we forget His benefits and blessings, often saying “But what have you done for me lately?” My friends were directed to put a stone in a “blessing bowl” on the table each time they received a blessing that was an obvious gift from the Lord. We are not talking about yes, I woke up this morning, or the sun is shining outside kind of blessings. After several months the bowl was overflowing with stones. When asked what do these stones mean, they could remember only a few. All the others had faded away out of the memory.

So it is with us. We receive, and then forget, easily falling into the mindset of God doesn’t love me like He does everyone else. Totally missing the flow coming our way, we also miss the opportunity for gratitude, and gratitude always leads to more blessings.

Gratitude is foundational to healthy living. It is essential to a strong spiritual relationship with the Lord. Rooted in an awareness of our incompleteness, it declares our need for others, our inter-relatedness. It rejects, by its very nature, the idea of self-sufficiency, of being our own god. Gratitude and narcissism are therefore polar opposites. Coming to a realization that we cannot “do” life on our own is taking a big step toward maturity. For which we can be thankful.Stones of remembrance

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” Ps. 63:6
* Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Advertisements

Musing on Tension

n38307511_31163642_738Musing on Tension
There is within me a shapeless, unformed stirring. Care, concern, burden? Idea? Perhaps the exercise of writing will help midwife this “thing” and bring to birth a form which can be dealt with, looked at, pondered over.

So, God help me. You alone know the hidden thoughts of the inner man. You alone know your purposes and plans for me. Let us haul to light this gestation to see if there is life in it.

Tension comes from two opposites or a split (dichotomy) in what was once one. I see the world in such a tension. The physical world, divinely created and ordered, is a masterpiece that beggars description. Much of our libraries, much of our accumulated wisdom, much of the efforts of our educational institutions is exploration and explanation of the world we inhabit. Of the accumulating of knowledge there is no end. Often we “liberated,” educated 21st Century scholars are no farther along in understanding than Adam who, at the beginning, was given the job of naming things. We name things thinking erroneously that in the naming is the explanation. To say the grass is green because it has chlorophyll tells us nothing about why grass is green.

In effect, we are trying to describe the totality of the earth and everything visible and invisible connected with it. But it is too much for the human mind either singly or collectively. The complexity, balance, beauty, design and even sheer numbers of things to be found in this world speak clearly of a Designer Mind far greater than any human can attempt to realize. We are in and of the world, yet it is beyond our comprehension. It is a spectacular, amazing world. From whirling electrons to whirling galaxies, hummingbirds to ostriches, delicate ferns to towering pines creation surrounds us with variety to delight the heart and stretch the mind.One Bead

In recent years the many scientific “truths” taught as almost absolutes have crashed in ruins as new discoveries, new technologies surface. Scientists have even been quoted as calling some findings “puzzling,” which generally translates as not fitting in with their firmly held mechanistic or atheistic beliefs. Tension has developed between science absolutists and Designer absolutists, each side sure of its position while certain of the folly of the others.

Tension itself enhances life. Breezes seem more gentle after a wild storm, the body self-destructs without pain to guard and warn, mountains without valleys are not mountains at all. Shadow and sunlight, freeze and thaw are counterpoised and yet help define one another. What is youth without age, joy without sorrow?

The world is full of examples of stress and tension that are beneficial: the hatching chick must peck his own shell, or die; the tree that is wind-tossed develops deeper roots. Tension in fact is part of the variety to be examined as part of the grand Design even if only partly understood. Studying the dynamics of “what makes the world go round” can only give rise to awe.  The two opposing views of this world, its source and meaning are both needed to give understanding to the other.

Outside the Bubble

My life is lived in a bubble of God-focused principles, with reading and teaching Scripture a daily activity. I delight in helping those who have encountered evil in their past and now want freedom from their defilement. My friends also are people who love God and righteous living. Even though neither they nor I are perfect we are aware when we stumble; turning to God in confession, forgiveness and cleansing, we receive a fresh start.

The bubble is not opaque. I see the tragedies of life splashed across the news; I read the in-depth articles of conniving, corruption, cruelty, crassness. I have experienced harm from the disturbance of mental illness, seen far too many pictures of mass murders, genocide, slaughter of the innocents. I notice the almost weekly obits of the twenty-somethings whose lives were destroyed by drugs. And I weep. I see pictures of children abused to the point of death by those who bore them, and I weep some more.

Before my life became God-focused, I was of two minds about abortion: I wasn’t too sure I could do it, but it was fine for you. With my life orientation change, this thinking changed, too. Life became a valuable entity, not to be trifled with, and certainly not murdered. Yet, I knew there are some cases or situations that fall outside of the norm, where an abortion is the lesser of two evils. You might say I was a pro-lifer 99% of the time.

It seemed to me that abortion was, for the most art, a selfish act by those who wanted to play without paying the piper. Having tossed God out of their lives, there were no restrictions now on sexual behavior, and oops, well let’s just dispose of this inconvenience. So the abortion industry arose to meet the need. Laws were adjusted to conform to the new morality. Inside my bubble I saw it all as a sign of our growing separation from God’s standards. It was an evil bigger than any of my preaching or disapproval could change.

But recent revelations of behind the scenes at Planned Parenthood have revealed an evil that is even deeper and darker than any I could have imagined. Yes, taking innocent lives is evil. Late term abortions more evil. Deliberate killing of the newly born, also known as infanticide, more evil still. Those evils I knew of. The utter bottom of the pit, however, had not penetrated my thinking until now. Destroying life to harvest body parts? Merchandising organs, glands and tissues?

Wherever a business arises, it is to meet a demand. What and who are the powers that utilize these sacrificed children to their betterment? Is a mad pursuit of longevity, pushing back the inevitability of physical death, driving this demand? Is a fear of entering eternity pushing the “need” for tissues grown in vivo, as it were? Is it a sense of complete disdain for any life but one’s own? How is this different from cannibalism which feeds on human flesh for survival?image

Trafficking in baby body parts can have only one result: turning human hearts to hearts of stone. Driven by greed, wanting to live forever, the people behind this horror have reached a depth beyond knowing. And I weep.

Decent and in Order

My mama was an accomplished communicator; with a raised eyebrow or disapproving glance she was able to convey paragraphs. It was she who taught me there is a right and a wrong way to do things, and woe betide me if I strayed off that path. I think her favorite scripture was “Let everything be done decently and in order.”

 

School Girl Carol

School Girl Carol

One of the accepted activities was church attendance. Even though she did not attend religiously—she came to faith in her later years—it was good for me, and was a societal norm. So when I had children of my own, to be the best mother I could be, I took my boys to church. They were taught about obedience, authority, being law-abiding, and that work was a good and expected thing. Going to jail, taking drugs, disobeying your parents were BAD things.

 

But things have changed somewhat since those days. Christianity, and people who adhere to it are now looked upon as the enemy, their beliefs questioned, challenged, criminalized. Our culture today would brand me an unfit parent for taking my children to church, exposing them to an Absolute, who declares He makes the rules. Funny about that. They are all employed, tax-payers, law-abiding contributors to society. What did I do wrong?

 

Increasingly we read reports of parents being arrested and their children removed from the home because someone somewhere disapproved of the freedom the children displayed when they walked to the store All By Themselves! Home-schoolers are harassed even though the children consistently test better than average across the board.

 

It would appear that the thing feared by society in general is any independent thinking, outside the control of governmental powers. To stand up in one’s opinions is to invite serious consequences from those who have great ability to enforce compliance. Unlike my mama’s effective eyebrow, they have the machinery of a legal and legislative system to bring people to their knees. My question: will this mean things are done decently and in order, with contributing citizens as a result?

 

Or something far worse?

The Waters

Learning the craft of canoeing, I was thrilled by the ease we moved, gliding effortlessly across the lake, skimming the surface like dragon flies. The row boat had been fun at first; I mastered maneuvering it with the oars imprisoned in their oarlocks. With it I could plod on water; the canoe let me dance. A slight curve of the paddle blade was all that was needed to change course, turn from snag or rock, get a closer view of the heron in the reeds.
All rowboats have to yield to a passing canoe for a lumbering boat is easier to stop than a lively, freely moving craft. It is a law of the waters. In my canoe I conquer worlds, exploring the unknown around the next bend, gliding past the row boats with my queenly head held high, scarcely noticing slower, subservient vessels as I go.
But then! A sloop approaches dressed in full sail, bearing down the lane where I have been master of the waves. Superior in size and speed, it is unable to slow for an insignificant obstacle in its path. Now it is I who must give way, moving aside, stopping, yielding. It is the law of the waters.
WC-Canoe-nose2The Sunfish gives way to the yacht which yields to the ocean liner, for the behemoth is ruler of all. Too large for easy maneuverability, it plows ahead, often pushing aside or sinking lesser craft which do not heed the law of the waters. To change its course takes far more than a simple turn of paddle blade. To change its course requires reversal of engine, turning the screws, steering accurately.
In our lesser craft, we stand aside or even back paddle, submitting to the liner which will have its way lest we be pulled under, crushed, obliterated.

When the giant is on the waters, the dancing stops. It is the law.

The Unmeasurable One

Psalm 71:15 is a verse worthy of memorizing. “My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.” Here in a nutshell is a truth we all need to grasp fully. We will never, ever plumb the depths and heights of who God is. We can measure, and study, and ponder all our lives long and be far short of seeing all of who He is. Beyond that, what is His righteousness, and how do we define it? The ultimate standard? The last Word? Or is it His holiness? Or His lack of darkness? We can exhaust ourselves trying to understand the inexhaustible God of all.

His salvation is another thing that is greater than our measure. Much of the church has reduced it to a simple formula “Come to Jesus and be saved!” In that reduction mush has been lost to us, for salvation incorporates His gift(s) to us which are without number, as He is. It is restoration, wholeness, purpose, dignity, delight – to name a few. When we begin to see just a bit of what that truly means then we cannot stop talking about it, just as the Psalmist said. “I will tell…all day long.” Far better to do that than trying to measure the immeasurable God.

Bent Backs

I am not the first person to note that some things are added to the Scriptures by Holy Spirit from time to time.  We KNOW that that phrase or verse was never there when we read it the 29 times before. Somehow, it was sneaked in and now jumps off the page clamoring for our attention, much like the little child who jumps up and down saying “Notice me! Notice me!”
My attention was drawn to Psalm 146, one of the great Hallel psalms of praise. I was reading it in the New English Bible, which is not my “regular” Bible.  Verse 7b to 9:

“The Lord feeds the hungry and sets the prisoner free. The Lord restores sight to the blind and straightens backs which are bent; The Lord loves the righteous and watches over the stranger; The Lord gives heart to the orphan and widow but turns the course of the wicked to their ruin.”
I had never seen this closely enough to have it register. What a promise!  Recently I was talking with someone who is concerned about a daughter with scoliosis. This promise has risen within me as a sure word, and an effective word to bring healing to those who suffer. Where the medical profession has few answers, God has the solution.

Praise The Lord, indeed.  Hallel, hallel.
It is also found in Psalm 145:14. The NIV has it as “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the NEB says “straightens back that are bent.” 
A sure word from Scripture is one to meditate, pray and declare, to see those with bent backs, whether from physical or emotional oppression, stand erect once more.