Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Goose Poop and Glory

The weekend before Glen was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I experienced one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever seen. To the south the clouds were red-gold, with a pillar of gold light marking the rising sun.  Vast wings of purple clouds, touched with red, fanned out toward me from the west.  The east was on fire.  My back was to the north at the outset of my walk, so I kept turning around because the sky was most spectacular in that direction. Bright pink cloud walls, dropping snow, sailed across the northern sky like the aurora borealis.  In their midst, directly opposite the sun, rose a pillar of rainbow; a stunning sundog.  It was the tail-end of November.

My prayer was simply, “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!”

My paved path was the perfect opposite of all that sky-glory; running through goose grounds, it was littered with so much goose poop that there was no way I could walk and enjoy the sky at the same time.  I kept stopping for the sky, then resuming my careful walk through the mess. It was a perfect metaphor for life.

The goose poop was gross, inconvenient, and it slowed my progress.  It could have ruined my sunrise experience had I focused on it.  Or I could have been so caught up in the sunrise, refusing to acknowledge the mess, that I stepped in it, maybe even slipped on it and found myself in a heap on the ground, covered in it!  

I chose to focus on the sunrise and watch my step.

The perfect timing of this living metaphor was not lost on me when the doctor called me in to discuss Glen’s diagnosis early the following Monday morning.  Immediately I remembered the poop on the path (simultaneously trying not to hyperventilate).  We had a choice:  We could remember God’s goodness and glory as we came to terms with a hard reality, or we could despair over the diagnosis, losing sight of all of God’s faithfulness when we had traveled messy roads in the past.

We have this choice daily.  There’s plenty of poop on the path.  If you stop and look up, you will find the living God stretching his wings toward you, waiting to bless you with beauty and lend light to your steps.  You won’t experience this if you don’t look up.  Make time to watch what God is doing, remember what God has done, and be thankful. It will strengthen you for when you resume your way along a messy path.

I am under vows to you, my God;
   I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
   and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
   in the light of life. Psalm 56:12-13

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Resentment

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Her thank you note was sweet.  “Nice words,” I thought,  “that don’t mean very much.”

Over the years I’d waited for the day my friend would give me a heads-up on her rare trips to town, more than “Hey, I’ll be in town for a couple hours tomorrow to see [a mutual friend], any chance you could join us?”  Rearranging my schedule isn’t often an option, and - even if it was - it had become achingly clear that the purpose of these trips for her was to see our mutual friend, not me.  

A very full weekend followed on the heels of the thank you note, leaving me wrung-out. I tried to nap after all of the activity, but that proved fruitless.  

In the midst of my tossing and turning, the phone rang.  It was the mutual friend of the author of the thank you note and me.  “Did she call you yet?!” Our friend asked, breathlessly,  “Did you hear the news?”

“What’s the news,” I asked, thinking, “As if she would call me.”

After the phone call my mind was a mess.  I lay in bed feeling sorrier and sorrier for myself.  I rehearsed a history of unmet expectations and dashed hopes.  I was hurt that I’d received the news second-hand.

Disgusted with my thoughts, but unable to pray, command, or repent them away, I gave up on the nap and went in search of my husband.  Finding him, I told him about the phone call that had been a trigger for a barrage of hurt.

“But what about that nice thank you she just sent?” he asked, pointing to the note I’d left on the coffee table.

“This?” I asked, picking it up.  “Here’s what I think of this!”  I tore the note in half.

Our eyes met.  His, full of surprise and concern.  Mine were brimming with tears.

“Help me,” I asked.  “Pray! I can’t seem to help myself, even though I know how wrong this is.”

It was as Glen prayed that I realized that resentment was what drove me to rip the card apart.  I confessed my hurt and asked for God’s help.  I realized I was grieving for a lost relationship, and that was okay.  But grief had turned to resentment and  resentment leads to relational separation!  I repented of the resentment, and asked God’s forgiveness. I let myself grieve.

We finished praying.

The phone rang.

It was my friend.  She had some good news to share.

Beverly

Monday, September 25, 2017

God's Word is no Mystery

Enlight27.jpgMatthew 11:25  At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, LORD of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  (NIV)

Recently I was reminded of a time in my pre-teens when I was at a slumber party; we were going to use the Ouija board that night for the very first time!

We pulled the Ouija board off the shelf and turned out the lights.  Too curious to let fear get in the way, we collectively placed our fingertips on the rolling pointer.  There were goosebumps and nervous giggles.

One half of the Ouija board was printed with the alphabet and the words Yes and No;  on the other side were numbers.  The object of the game was to call up a spirit from the dead (!) who would answer any question you cared (or dared) to ask.  It was like a seance, and we were entranced.  We had questions like, “Who does Sarah like?” “How did you (oh Answering Spirit) die?” and, “Do you know my great great grandmother?”

We had no clue we were reenacting Genesis 3.  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3: 4-5)  We discoursed with death because there were things we wanted to know...

At that age, I was an agnostic.  My family didn’t go to church; my dad was an atheist and my mom was more of a believer in good luck and bad luck and her horoscope. I had great disdain for people who went to church and said they could find the answers to their questions in the Bible.  However, I was a wholehearted believer in the power of the Ouija board!

Why is it that we’d rather put our trust in a twisted word or a mysterious message?  Why is it easier to believe that we’ll be safe if we keep from crossing the path of a black cat, than by putting our trust in the plain and straightforward word of God?  What IS it about the veil?  

Maybe the idea that we have the means to lift the veil gives us an illusion of control? We can keep our hand in the game.

The word of God is plain and easy to read; if you read it in the dark, it turns on the light.  It is written in the heart language of every human being on the planet.  It is written ON the planet,  IN creation.  There is no mystery about it, no need to disturb the dead with inquiries.  The word can pierce the veil and bring the dead to life.  No question.

Beverly

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

God chose what is low


God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  1 Corinthians 1:28-29



We’d never seen so many turtles in one day!  Canoeing on the Lower St. Regis, we discovered one turtle after another, sunbathing on logs.  Our game was to try and get close enough to shoot a good photo before each turtle slipped (or plopped) back into the water.

The best place for turtles was really boggy. We scootched the canoe in close to a mossy expanse of pitcher plants, baby tamaracks, and cattails.  I noticed wild cranberries growing just above the water and leaned over the side to get a photo; that’s when I noticed that we were surrounded by turtles!  I could see them watching us, their heads just out of the water.  They blended in with the vegetation around them.

Although the water appeared shallow, if we had stepped out of the canoe we’d have been up to our necks in muck!  The turtles were buried in silt, their heads just above the tranquil water.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement under the surface of the muck below me; I plunged in my hand and pulled out a beautiful painted turtle!

After a couple of photos, I released him.  Immediately he burrowed back into the silt.  His face reappeared in a hole - a perfect little window - in the silt below the water.  He watched me; safe from that vantage point.

A turtle lives by staying low. He needs and craves the life on the log, stretched out in the sun, but that's not where he finds safety.  His safety is in the dirt, under the surface of the water.  He lives by dying.  A turtle can spend 4 months of the year almost as frozen as the peas in your freezer - frozen as a clod of dirt - under the ice on a pond, under the silt of a stream.  (He continues to take in a small amount of oxygen through his skin, so don't try putting any turtles in your freezer at home!) He “dies” with autumn and thaws with the spring sun. He knows how to abandon himself to death so he can live.  

The word “humility”comes from a Latin word that derives its meaning from a word for “grounded,” or “earth.”  (Humus.) We, too, find our life by dying, by abandoning ourselves to the purposes of God.

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.  Proverbs 29:23 (NIV)

turtle.JPG

Beverly

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

God Speaks

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to.”  Dallas Willard - from his book, Hearing God. (InterVarsity Press)
I was not in the best frame of mind as I was processing children’s books at work (the library). The week before I had not been given the “all clear” signal I had been hoping and praying for during a follow-up medical appointment. The prognosis wasn’t definitively dire, but my little hamster mind wanted to rehearse with me all the “what-ifs” - over and over and over again.


The night before I had read that “Nothing is more central to the practical life of the Christian than confidence in God’s individual dealings with each person.”  (Dallas Willard - Hearing God.)  On my drive to work that morning I had poured out my fears to God, and was simply waiting for how God was going to deal with me. But the voice of fear was a terrible distraction.

I picked up my first book of the work day. It was the first in a series of children’s books that had been given to the library in memory of a loved one.  As I entered the “date in the ditch” (our record inside the physical copy of a book of where and when it was purchased), I noticed that the inscription on the right-hand page included Psalm 27.  A dear friend had sent me this Psalm when she had been praying for me over this recent health-alarm, and our Bible study group had closed the previous night’s study by standing and praying that very psalm out loud.   “Wow!” I thought.  What a coincidence.

Once I finished processing that book, I opened the next.  This time the inscription included Isaiah 40:31: “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  I sat up straighter.  Isaiah 40:31 has been a very significant verse to me, ever since the time, years ago, when I had a near-death experience. This was the verse God used to keep my life-spark from extinguishing. (Along with excellent medical intervention.)

When I opened the third book and found Psalm 23 in the inscription, I thought I’d better record what was happening.  It felt like God was dealing with me “as an individual.”  

The fourth and final inscription in that series was Psalm 113.

My mind got off the hamster wheel, and I was thanking God as I picked up the next book to process.  It was the first in another children’s series.  When I cracked it open to insert the “date in the ditch,” I found an inscription in Latin.  It was “Quaerite primum regnum Dei”- “Seek first the Kingdom of God.”  
The next book was inscribed: “Nunc scio qui sit amor, salutem in arduis esse.  Vivat crescat floreat!” - “Now I know what love is, a stronghold in trouble.  May it live, grow, and flourish!”  (I think... I found it more challenging to find a translation for this one.)

The inscription in the last of that series was “Deo adjuvante non timendum” - “With God’s help we won’t fear.”

I had spoken with God.  I had honestly expressed my fear, and earnestly requested God’s comfort.  

God spoke back.  God is gracious and compassionate - even with the weak.

Beverly

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Straighten

straighten.jpgLast Friday, August 11, 2017, a “Unite the Right” rally was held in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.  The rally was an occasion for Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and others who align with the ideology of white supremacy to gather and strut their stuff.  On Saturday the 12th, a young white supremacist used his car as a murder weapon against those who stood to oppose racial bigotry and injustice.

I’ve heard enough people say that racism is only found among the uneducated to feel that I should point out that Charlottesville is a university town.

The idol of tribal superiority is worshiped by people of every class and in every nation, a  serpent that twines in and around human hearts like a lethal adhesion.  It can devour a heart, numbing it the way a serpent numbs its prey with venom.  It can make a heart so hard that it becomes capable of genocide.

The serpent has left scars on my own heart.  I could hate right back. I’ve heard unholy words in my head and I have given voice to them, denigrating the “other side,” the Other Tribe.  Each time I step up on the soapbox in my mind, I hear people in the crowd saying, “Oh stand down, White Girl!”  What right do I have to speak?

And so I said nothing in church, last Sunday.  I thought someone more qualified would.

Forgive me.

When sin broke in it broke us.  We were broken like the arms of the swastika, a deadly wheel that kills and maims everyone in its path; the tires of an automobile driven by hate. Hate breaks.

I have a voice and I have a Word that refuses to bruise or break or bend anyone to its own will.  My Word broke on a cross to straighten the bent, to splint the broken. North, South, East, West; unbroken lines to realign us with a limitless Love.  Lines in the sand around the oppressed, across which oppression dare not step.  The borders of the Kingdom.

May Love straighten us out.

Until then, do not be silent.  You have the Word.  Speak it to the hearts of men and women who have heard the siren call of racial superiority, hearts that are being beaten into weapons to defend an unholy idol.  Love is not blind, Love is not afraid to speak the truth.  We are accountable to Love for living true and speaking up.  That’s how we expand the borders of the Kingdom.


Beverly

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Manna


Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35 ESV
It was early morning, and I was about to head to the living room to read my Bible. As I put my hand on the doorknob to leave our bedroom, I felt that subtle Holy Spirit pressure to stay a moment longer; to kneel and wait.
As I knelt by the side of the bed, I could see myself sitting on God’s lap - a very young child - being fed by his hand. This touched me deeply, as I so often wrestle with feelings of failure and rejection.  I remembered spoon-feeding my own children when they were very young; I sensed God impressing on me that the love with which I fed my own children reflected the love with which he has always fed me.
Other images, seemingly unrelated, began to flash before my mind’s eye. Times when God met me through nature, before and after I became a Christian. I saw myself as a child, experiencing the northern lights for the first time in the arms of my dad; a youngster in a rowboat in the middle of a Caribbean bay teeming with phosphorescence on a starlit night. There I was, small on a beach, releasing a baby sea turtle into the sea; there I was, a woman with children of my own, having close encounters with humpback whales.
As I re-experienced, in my mind, the weight of glory in the beauty of nature; the times where my soul was pierced by a longing so deep and a love so fierce that it was branded into my memory forever, I realized that those were moments when I was being fed by the hand of God.
There is manna everywhere, if you have eyes to see; I could never keep the manna, but it has kept me.
When I did finally go down to the living room to read my Bible, the selection for the day from my Guide to Prayer was John 6:24-35.  Breakfast.

Beverly