Thursday, June 22, 2017

Master Photographer

Enlight12.jpgHe is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Colossians 1: 15-18

The word “camera” means “room.”  It comes to us from the Latin: camera; and the Greek: kamera.

Each one of us is like a camera; the images we retain developing within.  The quality of the image of Jesus that we retain is going to depend on the artistry and skill of the one who controls the camera.

There is a big difference between a photograph taken by an amateur photographer, and one taken by a master of the craft. An amateur can arrange a gorgeous still life, take a stunning panorama, or present you with an assortment of beautiful family photos.

A master of the craft - an artist - captures the essence of the still life, the panorama, or the family.  The master photographer captures and distills the pure, raw emotion of a moment; the personality of the family, the character of each person within it.  You could delight over a good photograph, but you will be left speechless by a great one.  

God is the Master Photographer, and Jesus is his beloved subject. The culture we live in, our own preferences and disfunction, and the unseen forces of evil contend with the Master for the shoot, but only God has mastered the skill of capturing an image of Jesus that can develop true within us. Any other lens will cause a grievous distortion.

What is the quality of the image of Christ developing within you? Who holds the camera that is your soul?


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jeremiah 32: 38-40  "They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. "I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.…

Acts 4:32 The congregation of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned. (NASV)

These verses remind me of a dream I had recently.

In this dream, I was a member of a great circle of people.  We were not standing shoulder to shoulder, but in a line, as you would see in a conga line at a wedding.  In the center of the circle burned the heart of God.

A thread of light came to me from God’s heart.  As I reached for the thread to pass it forward to the next person, I thought, “This is so beautiful!  We will each hold to God’s heart; connected to God and connected to each other.”

I was mistaken in my understanding.  As I looked at the end of the thread of light in my hand, I saw that it passed through a needle.  It dawned on me that I was to take this needle and pass it through my heart!  Then it must pass through the heart of the person in front of me, and so-on, until we were all connected heart to heart with God and with each other.  This frightened me, because I knew that it would be painful; I knew that, if any one of us were to try to pull away, it would cause calamity among all of us.  

Never have I been so deeply impressed with the necessity for love, unity, and interdependence among Christians as I was upon waking from that dream.  It frightened me to realize my own hesitation about letting God pierce MY heart with his love - to connect me so irremediably to my brothers and sisters!  Have I been a spectator in the Church this whole time, I wondered, afraid to commit because of the risk of pain?

Please God, I don’t want a risk-averse, spectator spirit.   Here is my heart.  Pass that thread through.  Make me part of a necklace fit for a Bride. Make me part of a Bride fit for the Groom.

But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6: 33-37a (NIV)
He was sitting on his front porch when we drove by, a can of beer his only companion. We waved and announced who we were, and he motioned us to pull in and visit.
There were frayed lawn chairs beside him.  We sat carefully, concerned that the chairs would buckle or rip, though none of us were very hefty. Our host resembled the chairs: frayed and fragile, having seen many years and exposure to inclemencies of weather and of health. He was gracious, though I could see that he suffered.  There was a chemo port in his leg; he said nothing about it.  He was emaciated; his threadbare pants were cinched with a string.
He offered us drinks, but we declined.  He had been a childhood friend of one of us, and we enjoyed listening to them go back and forth, trading news of old neighbors and friends and the village where they’d grown up.
When finally we realized that we had to leave to be on time for a family gathering, I felt sad.  It was hard to leave this gracious man, knowing he lived alone.  There was a good chance we might be among his last visitors.
We said our farewells and headed back to the car.  I prayed silently, “Please help him, Lord.  Send someone to comfort and bless him, maybe tell him about you…”  
You give him something to eat,”  I heard the words of Scripture come back to me.
“You please help him, Lord.  He doesn’t know me - I can’t go back to him after we’ve already said goodbye.  Please send your friends to him, Lord.”
You give him something to eat.”
My heart beat in time with the rhythm of the words.
Feeling sheepish (“How do I know this is YOU, Lord?”), I backed out of the car.
“Where are you going?” My friends asked.
“Be right back,” I said.
Approaching the porch, I said, “Sir, you have been so gracious, I’d like to return the favor.  May I pray for you before we leave?”
“You give him something to eat…  You give him something to eat… You give him something to eat…”
His face lit up.  His beautiful face lit right up.
“I’d like that very much.  You go ahead and do that.”  The gracious host continued to put his guest at ease.
After I prayed a blessing over him, he looked at me.  (Trembling me.)
“I liked that very much,” he said.


...but of many

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (ESV)

A vaccine for polio was not discovered until 1955. Wilma was born in 1940, and contracted polio when she was a young child.  Her left leg became paralyzed, and she had to use crutches as well as wear a brace in order to get around.  Initially, doctors told her mother she might never walk again.

But her mother believed her daughter had a different destiny, and so did Wilma’s twenty-one brothers and sisters.  Together they took turns taking Wilma to doctor’s appointments and massaging her crippled leg. They told her she wouldn’t always be dependent upon her brace and her crutches.  They were her champions.

After years of hard work on the part of EVERYONE in the family, Wilma Rudolph left her brace behind and went on to compete in the 1956 Summer Olympics.  In Rome, Italy, 1960, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in the course of the Olympic Games!

“No matter what accomplishments you make,” she said, “somebody helps you.”

I found a thumbnail sketch of Wilma Rudolph’s story in a book titled Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. (c2016 Timbuktu Labs, Inc.) This is my thumbnail of their thumbnail. (Plus a little research on the internet.)

Rebel girls… I suppose. If we are rebelling against WHAT IS, as opposed to how things COULD BE. Rebel girls and rebel boys in a cosmic race to bring relief to the lame, the blind, and the deaf; the prisoner, the outcast and the poor; the widow and the orphan.

We are rebel brothers and sisters, urging each other to get up and run the race!  No one of us a superstar, yet each one a champion.  A family of champions.

Wilma’s brothers and sisters must have each had their moments when they felt neglected; care for Wilma superseding their own needs or desires.  Maybe some of them even had to struggle against jealousy.  But the story didn’t end in a brawl.  Their story ended in victory. They triumphed as a family.

Our family, the Church - not just one denomination, tribe, tongue or nation - will triumph as we champion each other for Christ.  Let’s urge each other on, helping our brothers and sisters accomplish those things for which God called them.  For we do not  consist of one superstar member, but of many!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Hungry for the Word of God

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

The squirrels are hungry.  They have chewed right through our window screens and come into the house to steal banana bread.  They also like brownies.  They are like bugs on a windshield when I’m baking brownies; hanging upside down on the window screens, looking for a way inside.  The aroma drives them crazy with desire!

What if people were that hungry for the word of God?  
At New Hope we place a Bible under just about every other seat.  These Bibles are for reference during our services, but also meant to be gifts for those who want one.  The Word of the Lord, available and free for all.

How do you make people hungry for God’s word - hungry enough to want to take home a free Bible ?  It certainly isn’t by placing Bibles under the seats.  It does no good to sit over a Bible; it’s not going to hatch.
We’ve got to eat the word in front of them.  As we fill ourselves with the Word - with Christ - we will be transformed.  You are what you eat.  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  James 1:22 (ESV)
When the aroma of Christ wafts from the windows of the Church, people will want to come in.  
“You give them something to eat.” - Jesus.



Photo by Sean Ewart
“I found a raccoon crossing the road as I drove home from a Morristown Central School Board of Education meeting. I noticed the raccoon had his head caught in a peanut butter jar and, naturally, stopped to take a picture.

But then I realized that, if I didn't do anything, the raccoon was sure to meet an untimely death. At least without the jar on its head, the creature could see the next car coming at it down the road. So, as the raccoon ran around, bumping into telephone poles and trees, I decided to attempt to corral him in the Morristown Fire Department's parking lot until I could get someone to help me.

I called 911 and had an incredibly surreal conversation with the dispatcher. "This is not an emergency," I prefaced my conversation with her. I told her I had an "adorable" problem. She gave me the phone number for an animal control person who happened to be about 30 miles away. I called, but had dialed the wrong number, and then my phone battery died. At this point I was in the Fire Station parking lot, alone, with a Raccoon trapped in a peanut butter jar running around me, banging into the pavement, my legs, the flower bins, my legs, and the garage.

I decided to continue keeping the raccoon in the parking lot while I thought about my next move. I considered walking away and letting nature do it's worst, but that just felt unsatisfactory.

In the process of my raccoon wrangling, we worked our way around the rather large Fire Station. The raccoon, who had been running flat out for most of the ordeal (with me panting to keep up with it), eventually ran into a shovel that was leaning against the wall of the Fire Station. The shovel fell over, with a loud noise, which alerted me to its presence.

I grabbed the shovel and spent the next 15 minutes attempting to pin the plastic peanut butter jar to the ground so the raccoon could pull himself out. After about 10 tries (to any onlooker, I am sure I looked like I was attempting to sever the head of the raccoon), I managed to pin the jar to the ground. The raccoon twisted around, climbed up on the shovel, and finally pulled its head out. It just stood there panting and then, after catching its breath, waddled away.

I'm basically Superman.”

My son, Sean, wrote this account of his encounter with a raccoon a few years ago, when he was working as a journalist in the North Country.  It is gratifying for me to know that he has carried his childhood compassion into adulthood.  
Sean’s encounter with the raccoon reminds me so much of how God stopped what he was doing to rescue us. Confused, blind, starving creatures; left to the mercies of nature, we could never have freed ourselves - let alone anyone else!
It just so happens that I shared this story with a friend, yesterday.  I had no intention of using it as my devotional this week, but it lead us to pray for our children before we parted ways.
This morning, when I opened the blinds to the backyard, wouldn’t you know I was greeted by two young raccoons - right there at the window!  
It didn’t feel like a coincidence to me.
But this is what the LORD says: "Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.  Isaiah 49:25  (NIV)