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.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017


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.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017


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.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

European Frog Bit

European Frog Bit.JPG
European Frog Bit

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Perhaps you remember the leeches? A few weeks ago, leaning over the gunwale of our canoe to examine a leech, I noticed the delicate flowers of a plant I had never seen before. Curious, I took this photo and looked it up on the internet when I got home.  

It is called European Frog Bit, and was brought to North America to be cultivated as an ornamental water plant on Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm in 1932. It escaped, making its way over time to exotic places like Potsdam, NY.  It knows the secret of being content in any and every situation, and so, it thrives!

European Frog Bit is a charming plant, with tiny lilypad leaves and leathery white blossoms that each have a golden crown in the center.  The flowers are no bigger in circumference than a dime!

This is a plant that can grow in just about any fresh body of water, and it has been making quite a splash in our waterways!  It has been labeled an invasive species, because it kind of takes over the spots where it lands. If European Frog Bit breaks, new roots form from its broken pieces.  It doesn’t send roots down into the soil of a riverbed or pond; the roots float in a mat, which leaves the plant free to move and spread wherever it can.  Now you will find it in the Raquette River and the St. Lawrence Seaway, in ditches in Vermont and Michigan, and even growing in some of the Great Lakes!

Kingdom people adorn the darkest spaces and the edges of places.  They can grow and thrive in spiritually murky spots because they don’t get their nutrients from the earth; they aren’t rooted there. They know the secret of being content in any and every situation. Kingdom people are interdependent, rooted together in community, floating freely in living water.  We can grow anywhere God wants us, and we grow stronger when we’re broken!