Sunday, February 28, 2016

Throw Open the Windows

Spring weather in the Midwest can sometimes be felt in late February, starting with days of sunshine spilling out; warming everything with the touch of bright rays. Tempestuous weather begins in this season; snow may be flying tomorrow, tornadoes or rain can come, and between are the sweetest of early spring days. As the ground starts to thaw, I can smell the warming moist earth. Greens show themselves in subtle shading of rose canes and early tree buds swelling with new life. The sun is coming earlier and leaving later in the day; delighting me to find the darkest days of winter behind.

Yesterday was one of those sun-warmed days. The back of my house is sun-facing for the majority of the day so I was able to throw up open the windows to let in fresh air. After a long shuttered winter, there is something invigorating and fresh about opening a house to days feeling of spring. I could hear neighbors out visiting, smell grills behind fired up, and enjoyed the giggles and squeals of children playing in their yards – set free to stretch after their winter confinement. The smell of closed-up house leaves and fresh air enters with the breeze, sweetening each room.

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:5-9

Sitting at the table, doing a little research, I could feel the breeze touching my face. As I appreciated the feel of the fresh air and its cleaning touch, I thought about how the cleansing of grace offers me the same refreshing. It blows away the old, stale and stagnant air to replace it with what is pure and clean. The words in 1 John struck me newly as I opened the windows at home. I choose to open the windows, but I cannot force the fresh air to enter. It enters as a gift, a movement of wind which I have no power to control.

In the same way, I choose to open the windows of my heart in confession to be instructed by God. I cannot choose to make mercy or grace enter my heart. It is God’s gift that they come and cleanse and freshen with their presence. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What an incredible gift, a taste of which arrives in early spring days.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sent and Made – Giving up the Credit

We are in the midst of the political process that will ramp up to the presidential election. It is rather remarkable, a process culminating in a change of leadership with no tanks rolling through the streets nor fear of an incoming coup. In the midst of this change, it seems we are provided a bevy of each candidate touting their beliefs and qualifications as loudly and proficiently as they can. At times, to my ears it becomes a noise of egos and polls to me.

 We all have some ego involved in our life; this is the sense of self-importance and self-respect we need to act with healthy confidence. It impacts how we decide to treat ourselves and others, to distinguish our identity. A healthy ego helps us create the needed sense of respect which establishes good esteem and helps us to pursue wholesome options. An unhealthy ego could show itself with a range of issues; bottoming out by seeing ourselves as disvalued and damaged or ratcheting up to a point where the self is more important than others around them.

Joseph was sent to Egypt as a sold slave, betrayed by his family and placed through what must have been a terrifying sequence of events. That would have been an ego blow, confidence and identify would seemingly be completely devastating. Yet, with every twist and turn of Joseph’s story, when he had supposed justification to throw his hands up in disgust at the situations or the opportunity to claim the credit of preserving a people through a drought, he instead pointed always back to God.

Nearly at the end of Joseph’s story, as the loose ends are being tied up, Joseph’s ego perspective is clearly displayed.

“And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come near to me.’ So they came near. Then he said: ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.’”
Genesis 45:4-8

God sent, the phrase is said over and over in these words. In just a few strokes of a pen Joseph displays a maximum amount of confidence along with great humility; giving God credit for all of the good things and in giving God faith through all of the bad things. Joseph’s sense of identity and trust, of being able to focus on using his talents for the good of the people around him did not falter. That is a healthy ego attitude of credit. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Israel in the Womb

My quiet time this morning was focused on Genesis 40 and 41. As I read about the events that lead to what became Israel’s captivity, the devotional portion referred to this as a sort of a time in the womb of Egyptian confinement; first as survivors of the famine and then as slaves freed by God. The premise that this was a time intentionally used to let a nation be grown as a baby grows in his or her mother’s womb is an intriguing one. I believe that this was a purposeful time, but I have never thought of it as such a transformative period.

The concept has stayed with me throughout the day, of how a nation is formed and launched into the world is probably in some ways metaphorical to the process of an infant growing and then laboring to be born. However, it was the reference to approximately 400 hundred years of captivity being that womb, turning the people from an embryonic tribe into a full-fledged infant nation, this really sunk in 

We have news reports of captivity today, people fleeing their homes due to bombing raids, dictatorial leadership, waves of refugees on neighboring borders and extremely unsafe conditions. I would think it would be common, even normal, to rail against this type of captivity rather than to see it as a time of purposeful growth. In no ways are the behaviors causing the crisis to occur acceptable. But, as I listen to the news I wonder what I can do in the face of such strife to impact a life positively. This becomes a reassurance to me that God can use the disastrous, the actions that rend nations to their core, to bring good.

Whether your world is safe from civil war or being torn to its foundation, let this be a reminder that the times of captivity are used as the growth period before the start of something new and wondrous. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shelter in the Lamp

My eyes followed a tall white wooden post to the top, where a lamp shines out against the dark. Inside, tucked between the glass panes and the light bulb sits a tiny bird. It has found this tucking away place in the midst of winter’s wet cold, a source of shelter and warmth. Every time I see movement of the little bird inside the lamp, I smile and think of how we also receive needed shelter in the midst of cold storms. We all need places sometimes to gather into when a new wave of snow and ice is lashing at the door.  

“You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. 
Psalm 32:7
There is a sight I pass on my way to work most mornings of a mother putting her child on the school bus. The sight itself is not bothersome, it is as natural and as correct as can be. Where I find the tugging on my heart is that instead of being outside a house or apartment, these two are bundled against the weather outside of a local shelter. As I pass, I pray for this family. For stability and economic success, but more importantly that in this time of difficulty, they will also be tucked into the sheltering warmth of God’s love.

We all need a spot to be hidden from the world as it can be a vast place and quite messy with the needs and perceptions of people. How I rejoice that in the midst of trouble, we are surrounded with songs of deliverance. Go, seek out encouragement – it is right there on the light post.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Gift of Hope

Christmas is coming! Just like the stockings I will be hanging and stuffing soon, the days ahead will be full of people, music, family, long enjoyed recipes and of course beautifully lit Christmas trees. Amidst all of the wrapping, parties, concerts, carols, card writing and family visits, this time seems to me to be one that is saturated with hope. Hope, in the form of a God designed plan, the sound of prophets’ pleas, in steadfast hearts of many. Hope in the action of God becoming man.

Jesus came in the most unlikely of circumstances; not what the random observer expected for the 
Creator God and Holy King. He came, fully God and fully man, in a method that brings hope still today - as a baby. He who designed our legs to walk and knows every language, chose to come as a baby who learned to walk and speak by toddling and jabbering. Tiny, dependent, and utterly precious; he chose to defy our expectations of the extraordinary.

Hanging ornaments and singing songs, the memories of family come flooding back. Ornaments remind me of my own family, a perfect time for considering again God’s use of the ordinary to create the extraordinary. The cry did not well up from the streets that the King of Kings had come. It was the arrival of a baby and the gift of life to give us the most extraordinary thing of all, giving us grace.
Luke’s excitement over the details of these events were captured in his letter to Theophilus. He shared the story of the gift of hope with us. 

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Luke 1:1-4