The dawn rises on a blank canvas; a scraggly tree, a lawn unseeded, a backdrop of mountains. The picture is not what you think you see, but what is yet unseen. What is it that you do not see?
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Psalms 4:6 There are many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift up the light of your countenance upon us.
You don’t see the sun, but there are its rays. First they reach their fingers across the yard, converting the foreground tree into a natural sundial, for the sun is rising behind us. As the light pours across the yard, and down through the tree limbs, something takes place. Something brings out more than the myriads of birds darting around the grass, busily collecting the seeds I threw out for the squirrel family. Something more than the light of day begs to witness to the thrift of the avian creatures; discontent to satisfy their beaks and stomachs and babes with the grain in the feeder, until they have salvaged the waste of their prodigal neighbors. After all, waste not, want not! Had the squirrel been too concerned, he would be here now to stake his claim, instead of darting there and yon.
Yes, something more I see, here on this blank canvas of browns and greens of every shade. Watch the cycle of the sunlight… the light from the sun that you don’t see. What is this now? The light itself is a canvas for the clouds you cannot see. You insist that you see the weather, scant low earth clouds of mist and fog, scattered like glistening diamonds in the falling sunset, falling somewhere beyond the corners of your view. But, more than this I persist, more, so much more of Earth’s water stores fill those cumulus clouds in the sky. It doesn’t matter that you don’t see them, can’t measure their size or mark their dimension. They exist, brought to life by the light of the invisible sun. They, with the wind, are what is creating this light storm with the shadows they cast intermittently.
As the wind blows stronger, and the barometer continues to drop slowly down, down, down, reminding me that a change is on the way; the cluster of light that hangs in the air, like some other cloud heavy with electrical charge, changes its step and motion. The light is shaken, as light waves bounce around the open hill sides, and it appears that Mother Nature is having power surges… as if we can see what a storm would look like if we could see the elements midair. The morning lightens, lightens, lightens; followed by the darkness, and the light, and the darkness again. While the wind dances around the canvas, the trees dance with their arms above their heads, and the shadows are swaying as the whole effect looks like a thunderstorm of light in miniature… but for the softly blowing wind of this quieter universe. There is no thunder… only the appearance of lightning.
But wait, there’s more… more than the power surges of light, like lightning bolts, and more than the clouds overhead darting back and forth between the sun and the canvas; creating this between-seasons crisis. There on the mountain tops out toward the horizon, the sun escapes the clouds; the mountains below are suddenly illuminated as with a flashlight shined from God. This beacon’s glow warms the edge of the little mountain peaks, lighting up the recesses, sharpening them for a 3-D light show of their own. Suddenly the canvas appears deeper, and extends farther back from my vantage point. No 3-D glasses required! “I’m on top of the world… looking down on creation,” as the lyrics to the old song go.
There amid the light storm, the birds continue to dart madly around, preparing for the coming rain. Wild creatures, and stray cats of all sorts can be spotted briefly, here and there. Cars skid by in the quickly lapsing time. My husband arrives home from work. Two dogs chase each other across our view. But, I know these are not the picture God has painted for me today. They are only the visible canvas. I can’t find the words to paint the scene as it fairly crackles, like life itself. It is what is happening on that grass, those trees, those distant mountain peaks that tell the story of the unseen. Like the light, and the clouds, and the windy breeze playing the tune to which the trees dance; God is. He is alive, and there is something wild and untamed in His nature, and in His very being. We can’t lay hold on Him. We can’t tame Him; haul Him in and put a fence around Him. But, call His name Jesus, and there He comes; suddenly illuminating us with the light from God’s throne. Ezekiel saw Him, Isaiah saw Him, John the Beloved saw Him: sitting on the throne, and bathed in the light of the universe. And, what is this, a light storm from an unseen hand. And, in the end, those final seconds, God draws the night clouds over us like a blanket.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:
Life: the great uncertainty! We live each day unsure of the next. Money, Diplomas, Licenses, Constitutions, or Laws can not change this uncertainty; but rather make the uncertainty more an adventure. There is much that is unknown in life: much to doubt, and much to believe. Despite all the believing and the doubting that goes on inside and outside of us, one thing remains certain, and that is that life is worth living. For many believers, the Bible remains a certainty as well. We believe the Bible, and we rest on its promises for our past and our future.
I conducted a poll last week on the subject of faith and the Bible's claims. I shared it in my blog , I'll Buy That: Literal, Figuratively, or Not at All! Quiz
I would like to publish the results here now... share them with you. As you can see from the map below, twelve of the respondents were here in the USA. Two were in Canada. And, one each from Argentina and Australia, making a total of 20 anonymous responses. There were numerous comments, which I won't share at this time, though I may later in some format. A report follows with answer totals for each question & response. Thanks to each one who responded.
It is a simplistic poll, aiming at a general sampling of viewpoints. I think aside from this random sampling info for me, I was able to draw a couple of conclusions. You may be able to draw more and/ or explain these results in a better way. But, as for my take, it seems that first, the past events were more believable to respondents than the future/ yet to come events. The second conclusion I drew was that fewer people today can believe in God's judgment than can believe in His creative power, His holiness, and the existence of an evil power/ being that is against Him. The third and final conclusion is that more people can believe in God's love than can believe in any other quality of His person. Simply put, people want the love of a neutered, powerless God, who gives eternal grace.
I had no idea the responses I would see. Personally, I believe that each of these events mentioned in the Bible were literal events that have happened, or are yet to come. I avoided asking the respondents if they were Christian, since that is irrelevant to the question of faith. Christians certainly don't corner the market on faith, and even people who don't participate in worship towards God often believe that He exists. Trying to measure Spirituality is beyond my skill set lol. It is enough for me to see a cross-section of the faith of humanity today, even on such a small scale. I will leave the poll open indefinitely, and welcome more people to add their input, so that I can continue to accrue a larger set of data.
I think that overall faith is shrinking in the world around us. I also think my husband has the right idea when he compared this shrinking faith in the Bible to the Israelites' dwindling faith at the foot of the mountain before Moses came down with the Ten Commandments. They believed, and eventually they lost faith, because Moses tarried. When Moses returned, and return he did, he did not find them waiting. How will God find you?
Matthew 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Matthew 25:1-6 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Keep you faith, my friend. You are going to need it. May God bless you!
Recently, while in a Salon, I was watching the owner count out the cash drawer as the technician finished up with my nails at the end of the business day. Afterwards, while washing my hands in a basin, I noticed the same Vietnamese owner was down in the floor beside the basin, apparently placing the cash deposit from the day inside a floor safe. As I rolled past him looking back, I realized I had been totally mistaken, and he was praying. He had placed food instead, inside the little vault-like space for his gods. And, there they sat, apparently not hungry at all. It seemed to me that if one had idols, the thing to do would be to place them in a prominent place, for all to see & revere. Thinking of the oddness of this practice to me, of putting your god in a little secret space like that, and the fact that it was "normal" to millions of Earth's people, I was reminded that in reality, we all have our little "god spaces." Even as Christians, we relegate everything spiritual to it's place in church on Sunday, forgetting God wants to go home with us.
There is a God shaped space in all of us that can only be filled with the Spiritual. We tend to think of ourselves as different, and unique, even to the point of thinking our group is different from every other group, and that we share a similar uniqueness that makes us different from all the "other" people in other groups. How ironic, when the Preacher tells us in the Bible that there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9
We find that generations are labeled: boomers, echo boomers, x, y, z... The thing about that is, there have been these same patterns throughout ages past. The birthrate responds to war, famine, technology development, economic recession, and various other societal indicators. Within each resulting generation, parenting styles are affected by those societal factors. One tiny example would be the habit of pediatricians recommending during WWII rationing efforts that babies didn't need as much milk as previously thought. This was a patriotic effort to allay mothers' fears that their children weren't getting enough milk, due to rationing. This made it easier to control hoarding and use of milk by this portion of the populace. Today, you see this same type of "enlightened teaching" in areas including marijuana legalization, civil rights in the races, homosexuality and same-sex unions, democracy, morality, and many other social constructs; whether positive or negative in your own viewpoint. The fact is, none of these are new or enlightened. They have all been around since ages past. As nations come and go, and tribes before them, governments develop and change, forming the same cycling ideas of how to live.
But, this all points back to the fact that all of us are basically the same, where it really counts. Basically, we all have the same needs and desires. Deep down, there is a God-shaped hole in each of us, that we try to fill with other things, or with people. We each desire a connection with the Spirit that created us. And, as a cartoon meme I spotted on my niece's Facebook wall proclaims, I like to sit back and look at the stars, like countless humans before me, and realize that there is nothing new under the sun, nor any other star!
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Please note that posting has become limited since we have been in the process of moving. We've been having various work projects completed during this transition after buying the place, and finished the plumbing work today, for example. Since we are out in the sticks, and are waiting to have a separate satellite dish installed for internet, I've been trying to use my phone as a hotspot, with sporadic results. And, then there's the packing, moving, and now... unpacking. But, you get the picture.
Hope is not a street. It's a highway. Hope costs nothing. It arrives free, yet it must be fed. Hope promised and not delivered will make people sick. It's never in our best interest to promise hope, and deliver only legislation (law.)
HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.
Hebrews 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by which we draw near unto God.
Where do you find hope? What do you do to increase your own hope? What fuels your hope for tomorrow? What tangible event in your life right now gives you hope? What do you see as hopeless? Who do you have the most hope for in your family? Look for hope.
Some of us are not strong. The pain of circumstances cast on the weak sear a new-found strength into the souls of the near-dying. So it was with "the Napalm Girl" from the haunting image of the Vietnam War forty years ago. She was only nine years old when she ran down the street naked, the clothes melted off her body by the sticky napalm, screaming, "Too hot, too hot!" The image, though showing nudity, was allowed to be published by the AP news and became an image of War and the suffering it brings to innocent children.
Kim Phuc, now 49, survived the horror of having her skin burned off, and years of therapy. Her story is on her website linked above, and in the news article at http://news.yahoo.com/ap-napalm-girl-photo-vietnam-war-turns-40-210339788.html It is a reminder that our vantage point determines our capacity for courage.
But, not all of us are weak. Some seem hardened, or weathered by time and our work. We may come across as crass, or tough, and we seem to accept circumstances as if they were simply pebbles in our shoes. Take a look at the humorous scene from Jaws below and you'll see what I mean.
Despite all the bravado, even the bravest find themselves in their weakest moment unprepared. Yes, there are moments of fear and weakness for all.
"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6
In these times of fear, who do we call out to? Who do you reach for when you are weak?
Like a knee-jerk reaction, memories of childhood have been on my mind this week after Mother's Day. Though the memorial day has come and gone, my Mom's still here, and I'm here, so I can tell you what she means to me.
More specifically, thoughts and early memories of her have been floating around my head like the clouds drifting along the sky. My Mamma looked strikingly like Loretta Lynn in her younger years. That's not just the memory of a small child's adoration either, because most folks said she did. These two pictures below are us. The first is Mamma after she was already a Grandmother, and that's Travis, my 20 year old giant, in her arms she's dancing with. She was a nurse's aide in a nursing home many of her working years. The second photo is, from left to right, my sisters Tammy & Angie, and me on top of the trunk of an old car my step-dad drove. He loved cars. And, Angie and Tammy loved animals. I loved the two of them.
Click to enlarge: My Mamma & My son Travis
Click to enlarge: My sisters Tammy, Angie, & I
I've told my Mamma's story before, so I won't tell it all again, but she lived with an aunt & uncle until she was 12 years old, and she thought they were her parents. Her Uncle Frank worked in the mines, and she loved him and her Aunt Juanita dearly. So, when Juanita died, and she had to go live with her Mom and step dad, it was a double loss, the loss of her parents, and the loss of the only life she had ever known.
She grew up in the mountains around Copperhill, Tennessee. The way of life was very different around the mines. But, as a young mother years later, her life back then had made an impression on her. She loved to hear and sing Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette songs, and Mamma sang to me.
Sometimes, I watched her face while she sang these songs, and other times she lay on the bed with us and I faced the wall and listened to her sing behind me, with her arms around my waist, so I couldn't see my sisters wiggling around, and I could just hear her and imagine it all in my head. I loved those moments.
My Mamma loved Elvis Presley. He died when I was 13. I can remember her turning the tv up, and everybody had to get quiet when one of his movies would come on tv. My mamma was the type to cry over movies too, like me. But I've always tried to smother my tears, bashful about it, and all. Not Mamma. She would just squawl with the tears rolling down her face. She was like that with the soap operas, too. As a funny note, I remember once a woman was dying, and you know how long it takes somebody to actually stop breathing on the soaps...sometimes days. Well, the woman finally died. Mamma was crying her eyes out, and suddenly the tv went to a commercial and it was the dead woman from the soap selling something in a commercial. I laughed until I thought I would die at Mamma's reaction, because it had seemed so real to her, and you know actors are just actors.
But, Mamma was real. She was herself. And, nobody can ever forget their Mamma, no matter how many years come and go. When I sing the songs she sang, it's as if I'm hearing her sing them. Sometimes when I'm sleeping, my Mamma still sings to me in my dreams.
If you are awake enough for a quiz, I have a question for you. Look over my notes from reading today, and tell me who's the teacher. My notes are just phrases that stuck out to me in the reading. Don't scroll down below the picture until you think you have the answer.
It struck me in the reading that the three chapters are laid out very differently, and that so many of our common sayings in Christianity come from that 3rd chapter of the tiny epistle. Have a look at it. It takes about 10 & 1/2 minutes to read the whole book. The first two chapters are contrasting the Saved & the Lost. The third chapter outlines our promises. Yes, this is all from the book of 2nd Peter. I will leave you with a good example from the first column. The Homeless Ministry of Randy Dueck is an example of the work of a believer who has been an "Eyewitness of Majesty." Visit his website at Supernatural Life Transition Ranch for the Homeless in Red Bluff, and see what he is doing about the homeless sleeping under the Antelope Bridge. Perhaps YOU can lend a hand for some lost and wandering souls in the state of California, even if you don't live there yourself, just by clicking on the Walmart wishlist link.
With the clouds spread overhead, and the earth darkened, we can't really see what is around us. Clouds are usually visible because they darken the sun. An eclipse wouldn't be an eclipse if the sun were on the other side of the world from us. But, sometimes there is this other-worldly perspective when we look up at the sky at night, when it has been raining, and we can see clouds, night clouds. This phenomenon is a strange perspective which we are granted, an almost discernment which allows us to see, really see what it is that has made us blind.
Because of night clouds, I refuse to allow myself to be smothered by events. For, it is the gale winds that blow the clouds from overhead. And, when your storms begin to blow over, and when the clouds fly apart, then you will see what the elements are hiding from your eyes. In the same manner, we all too often fail to notice our blessings.
This is a backyard snow scene. The night out was dark, pitch black. The security light came on to reveal the shadows that wouldn't have been visible had it not been for the blanket of snow that had fallen freshly on the ground. This phenomenon is similar to the stark beauty of night clouds.
A Night Thought
Lo! where the Moon along the sky
Sails with her happy destiny;
Oft is she hid from mortal eye
Or dimly seen,
But when the clouds asunder fly
How bright her mien!
Far different we--a froward race,
Thousands though rich in Fortune's grace
With cherished sullenness of pace
Their way pursue,
Ingrates who wear a smileless face
The whole year through.
If kindred humours e'er would make
My spirit droop for drooping's sake,
From Fancy following in thy wake,
Bright ship of heaven!
A counter impulse let me take
And be forgiven.
These night clouds, time lapsed by Sasha, are different from most others found in art. Most show clouds from the light of the moon, and are much like day clouds. These reveal the special type of night clouds with no light behind them. I think these kind of night clouds are special because I am delighted when I am walking outside at night, and can see them. It surprises me that they are even visible at all. That's special!
Take my life, for an instance. I believe that Satan blew in these clouds of physical problems to cloud my view of all the blessings God was bringing into my life. There I was, being blessed by God. God had brought my son Travis to a point where he was about to graduate from high school, after years of struggling through autism and Asberger's Syndrome. God had brought my son Matt back into my life, after years of separation. And, God had brought Larry into my life just a month before, after two decades of raising my sons alone.
Satan looked up just a moment too late. It was a done deal. So, he let out a blood-curdling scream and clouds came billowing out before me, in an attempt to cloud all these blessings from my eyes. Hello evil doctors. Hello scars and more surgeries. Hello electrocuting implant. Hello Transverse Myelitis. Goodby career. Goodby fair weather friends. Goodby 40% of my income for life. Or so it seemed.
And, therein is my point. So it seemed! I see through those night clouds. I see them even in the dark. I know they are there, but I know what they are trying to hide. Even when the night seems dark, there is my husband and my son, reminding me that there is a God behind those clouds. And, He is active in my life, or else they wouldn't be here. Just this past week we paid the balance on Travis' tuition and fees for this Summer semester at West Georgia Tech. I am so proud he made it to this point. And, Larry has been teaching him how to drive this week, something that I have not been able to do. I had taken him to get his learners before the clouds covered my sky. Now, Larry is finishing the job. We still have to buy his textbooks, and classes start in four weeks.
And, yes I have had friends who couldn't understand my pride over my son's steps. They thought that because he wasn't "gifted" I had nothing to be proud of. That was their biggest mistake. I am not proud of my children because they are gifted. I am proud of them because I have been gifted. My firstborn's name means "Gift of God," Matthew. God gave me two children. I love these gifts. I am gifted.
Now, as I sit here beneath these night clouds, I can see the world as it really is, in the light of day. The darkness does not cloud my mind's eyes. It is the God that I know is there, despite my failings, regardless of my limitations, irrespective of my handicap; it is He who I am relying on to see me through the dark night clouds. And, I may need my sunglasses any moment now. For, who knows when the sun will rise on my tomorrow?!
In the way that one stumbles upon a hidden creek in the woods, by stepping out of the overgrowth, I came across the work of the Scripture to Music Collective. Having feasted in the past on the work of Michael Card, more specifically the album, "The Word," I knew what it was like to hear music that didn't just refer to the Bible account, but brought it to life. (Yes, she said "album" because she is from a different generation.) So, it was like a welcome surprise to find this effort to transmit the entire Bible story in song. I like it, simply put. It is a worthy goal.
LYRICS: Had a dream I was alone
A vast expanse of complete unknown
Sea of glass so clear it shown,
Then a voice like thunder clapped,
As a dead man I collapsed
I am the first, I am the last,
Now rise my son
Then behold ten thousand kings,
And every creature worshiping
Every eye was on one thing,
He’s like a lion like a lamb,
As though slain he holds the plan
To make war and peace with man,
And reign on earth
Holy, Holy, is the One,
Who was and is, and is to come
In a robe as red as blood,
He comes forth
Ride like lightning in the sky,
Upon the war horse he draws nigh,
The same one we crucified,
Will come again
No matter what generation you are from, you can appreciate the sound of Josh Garrels. He has a voice like no other I have heard. It has the ability to highlight the Spiritual element of the experience of the Revelator, and draws us into the realm of fantasy and reality that combine in a vision. Such a welcome transport, such a rapturous escape from Earth, and the chains of Patmos, to find yourself floating suspended between the ethereal and the corporeal, as the beloved Apostle John finds himself transported to the sea of glass. And, there we are with John, thanks to this delightful song. Josh's song is part of the Scripture to Music Collective. As a matter of fact, he has about five songs within the collective. The Collective is building a database of songs that transmits God’s Story as it’s laid out in Scripture. many of the songs are told from the first person perspective of individual Bible characters, like John above, or Cain, or Abraham. Others are almost word-for-word from a Scripture passage. The aim of the project is to emphasize Scripture, not rewrite it; to engage believers in the Biblical narrative, and to encourage Christians everywhere in God's Word. They hope to build a complete database of songs from every book of the Bible so that the entire Gospel could potentially be transmitted in song. An amazing goal, that is. Be sure to check out the work of the Scripture to Music Collective online. Also, if you are not familiar with Michael Card, I will leave you a taste of his best in a six minute sampler below. No wonder I have so many reasons to believe the Bible, growing up with faith inspiring music like this on the radio.Transmitting Faith in Grace- yesterday and today. Nothing has changed. Faith lives.
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Sampler Medley of Michael Card's Best: 6 min.
The Word CD-
The Valley of Dry Bones
Songs From the Book CD-
***Editing Note: I apologize for the errors in the recording. It has been edited now, and the altar call was removed as well. The cut portion only affected one minute of the message. Refresh your player and try again :)
Wrestling Superstar Lex Luger, "The Total Package" visited our church last month, and we have his sermon on the church podcast. Lex talks about the strength that comes only from God, how he got all he reached for, but never found the happiness that fame and fortune bring without the Rock. He gives his testimony of how he went through drug problems, the death of the "other woman," arrest, jail, divorce, and finally paralysis, to be remarkably healed by Jesus Christ. You can listen in on the player below, or check out Pastor Scott's Living on Purpose Ministries Podcast page for more of the details of the sermon. http://livingonpurpose.libsyn.com/webpage
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Lex spoke about the strength that comes from God. He also signed autographs and stood for photos with everybody. Adults & children alike were excited to meet him.
The Self-proclaimed Narcissist Found God in the Mirror!