Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Heavens declare Your glory!

God allowed me to see the eclipse on the 20th.  It was close - that morning was accompanied by severe headaches and muscle pain - but  by the time we were going to leave the meds had done their job

We drove out to Mesquite, a small town that was further in to the eclipse swath - about a 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive.  The hills here would have blocked the last part of it as the sun would sink behind them.

A friend had gotten some welder's glass for us to view through, and it was amazing.  As we drove we saw folks congregating on every high hill accessible from the road - little kids jumping up and down, grabbing safe viewing glasses from one another, racing each other down the hills - oh, for just a tea spoon of that energy!!

But I digress...

We found a parking lot beside a gas station and  whipped out our glass (we had two pieces)  The first tiny bit of shadow had us tingling with excitement - when I really thought about what was happening - the moon passing in front of the sun way out there in space - I felt like a tiny ant perched on a pebble.  Wow!  I could see the shadow move!

I started trying to take some pics thru the welder's glass -  amazingly some of them actually turned out!

More and more shadow filled the circle - the temperature began to drop.  I was really surprised because I expected a large drop, and it went only from scorch to hot - but a definite change.  Little by little it kept going and then, finally, it was complete .  It looked like a cheerio in the sky thru the welder's glass!  At fully eclipsed the sun was still very bright - I was surprised by that - still too bright to view without protection, surely, but noticeably cooler.


Then the moon started moving off, leaving a happy face for a bit, and it was over.  The shadows had gotten longer and now reversed themselves, only to begin lengthening once again.

I love the desert when the shadows lengthen.  The harsh scald of a sky gentles, the nooks and crannies outline themselves in cool blues, and the colors of the sandstones glow. God is such an accomplished artist! As you drive along the roads here the scenery changes every time you turn a corner - yucca forests turn into brush turn into streams with cottonwood trees turn into cactus, ocotillo, palo verdes - and here and there a pronghorn antelope or coyote or roadrunner adds some motion.  Just like the life of a CI, the closer you look, the more color and life you find.

As a CI, it may seem to you that you are locked in a desert  without a key, gasping for water and crawling inch by inch to survive from one day to the next.  But if you know Him, He will provide "streams in the desert", and you will find, here and there, a token of His love for you.  Look around you and you will see Him drop these gifts into your day - for me, a laughing child's voice floating from the park, a singing bird  or nest of hatchlings, a cool, refreshing summer shower, the sound of the wind in the trees.  Certainly these are small things as the world counts them - and what delights me most likely would leave you unimpressed.  But I know Him, I know His loving heart, and I know He loves you just as much as He loves me.   Perhaps for you it is a parking place near the door, a faithful doggie's welcoming waggle, the sound of a tender voice at the end of a rough day - whatever it is, start looking for it.  The same God Who designed eclipses and meteors designed you, and He knows you better than anyone else ever will.  Every day He leaves something on your doorstep, so to speak, something to bring you joy and delight.

Just as we needed special dark glass to view the eclipse, so the "special spectacles" of a trusting heart will unveil the small gifts He has hidden in your day to remind you that you have not been forgotten in the desert.

We serve an awesome God, yes, but He is also tender-hearted and generous.  My prayer for you this day is for a pair special spectacles.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Roses, horses and eclipses

Last week I was blessed by an invitation out.  Out of the bedroom, out of the house, into a restaurant with friends. I've been so grateful the Lord provided energy for it! I'm paying for it now but wouldn't  trade a moment of the time with friends.

It was a balmy 77 degrees when we left the house - equivalent to about 65 degrees with humidity.  Very comfortable, the air fresh and crisp with just a slight breeze - not our usual hot winds from hades! Jupiter shone down in all it's magnificent glory against the dark blue velvet sky.  The man made constellations of planes lined up for the airport also shone down, bright landing lights in a straight procession from whereabouts unknown, sliding down the sky.

On nights like that I always think of how God loves beauty.  I'm so grateful He put a capacity to enjoy it in our hearts.  The desert can be harsh and very demanding, but in Springtime it is lovely - the hills take on the slight green blush of new growth, the trees begin to flower, bushes branch out, and my roses bloom. (They quit when the temps get above 90) so I enjoy the exuberance of Spring! How God loves us!

Our friends have a gelding named Blackjack - all black, of course, with a lovely white star on his forehead.  They had bought him for hardly anything because he was paralyzed by fear.  My friend had worked and worked with him to get him used to stuff - like a rope lying on the ground, water puddles, small everyday things - and had helped him enormously. When they found a place that used the horse whisperer techniques they shipped him out.  They went to visit him and found him chest deep in a pond, with a small filly as a friend, afraid of nothing and happy as a horse could be.  I could only think how wonderful God is to allow a person to discover a way to reach animals like that.

There are areas a little way from here where you can still see wild horses racing across the mesa.  The BLM (bureau of land management)  thins them a little more each year, selling them off to buyers for small amounts of money,( among whom are folks who kill them for dog food )  It's very controversial here - the pressure is mainly from the cattle owners who also graze their herds on the mesa.  They want the horses out so they have more grazing land.  The BLM claims not enough people buy them and it's too expensive to feed and care for them in the pens.  The heart breaks for these critters who have run with the wind since birth and now face a terrifying gather and confinement in pens.  One of the local prisons has lent non-violent offenders to the BLM to gentle and train the horses, usually it takes a year or more to get a horse that is gentle and lead broken.  It teaches the men patience and how rewarding it is to work with their hands and hearts.  The horses are never returned as unworkable as some of the unbroken ones are, and garners a few more dollars for the govt.

Why am I telling you all this?  I've been thinking about how the Israelites are not the only ones who are stiff necked.  We are all stiff-necked before He gentles us and gets us lead broken.  His patience is amazing - His approach so gentle.  He is compassionate and slow to anger, abundant with mercy - and how grateful I am for that mercy!  Like a horse afraid of a piece of rope on the ground, we are afraid of what He will ask of us, afraid  of what He will have us do.  How interesting that the evil one will fill us with fear so often when we face something difficult - instead of trusting our Master to lead us through whatever faces us.  It keeps us  from resting in Him and seeing His hand right in front of our faces, ready for us to grab and hang onto.

I've been reading in Isaiah lately - how different the earth will be when its rightful Ruler is once again in command, and the earth is renewed -Isaiah 55 :12 says,"You shall go out with joy and be lead forth with peace, and the mountains and the hills will break forth into singing  before you, and all the trees of the fields will clap their hands." For a kid raised on Walt Disney it's not hard to imagine that scene! LOL! But it is one more example of the wonder and joy that lie in our future with Him.  We have no idea what He has planned - and I don't think singing mountains or clapping trees are beyond his ability to create. Did you know that if you speed up a recording of a humpback singing, it sounds just like a bird chirping? - and both sounds were created for our enjoyment.  When you see a robin in Springtime, he's just gotta sing - he can't do anything else.  The joy of life can't be held in and expresses itself in song.  Young colts and calves have to run and buck and jump - they're so full of the joy of being that your heart leaps with them.

Just so are we who know the Joy of Life in Jesus - there are times when the heart is so full of joy that there is nothing else to do but worship.  And sometimes the heart is so full of sorrow that there is nothing else one can do but worship.  He is a God whose everlasting arms are always underneath us. He never pulls away because we have fallen - for the zillionth time - He picks us up, washes us off, and sets us back on the narrow road.

This year a total eclipse of the sun, complete with corona, will occur May 20th - and will be visible in all its glory here.  The  only other  eclipse I have seen was only partial, but I remember how the temperature decreased by 20 degrees - and that was in San Diego!  I wonder what will happen in the desert heat?  I'm so looking fwd to that - we may go over by the Grand Canyon to view it - or the valley of fire here.  But it will be an exciting event.

It never ceases to fill me with wonder to look at the desert sky and know that He knows each star by name. He knows each of us by name, too and has placed us just so, exactly where He wants us, including the state of our health.  I keep thinking of the time people were looking at the healed blind man and saying, which one sinned, the blind man or the parents (they believed that illness was a sign of God's ill favor) that this illness fell upon him..  Jesus's next words are lovely to me ; He said neither , that this illness was to show the glory of God.

Those words electrify my heart - to think that it is possible that God favored me with this illness as a means to glorify Him in ways no other thing can.  What an awesome responsibility!  (of course, people may also say it's  possible this illness is because of my sins, which are many, but since Jesus paid the penalty for any and all of the sins I would someday commit on the cross before my DNA ever existed, there would be no reason to punish for sins already forgiven.)

And that alone, to me , is a cause for worship. Forgiven sins and a chance to glorify God in ways the AB have no means to comprehend.  But what if I'm confined to a single room? I never have chances to tell people what He does for me, ways to make use of this chance.

In answer to that I say, the One Who placed you where you are, in the exact circumstances He has put you in, is glorified every time we raise our eyes and give thanks when some new hard aspect of our CI becomes known and must be dealt with.  It is in the gentleness of spirit we can cultivate by appreciating our caregivers and expressing our thanks.  It is in not complaining (the English word for murmuring),  and  being gracious through the pain, and not excusing ourselves from snapping at others because it is a bad day.

I am not saying I am a paragon of virtue here.  Every CI knows that bad days seem to come straight from the pit.  They are unsettling and energy consuming and it's hard not to groan when you try to move or watch the last tiny drop of your energy and self-control circling the drain (don't you just hate that?) I am not always walking in the Spirit on those days, and my spirit aches at yet another example of my lack of perfection as His child.

But He has taught me that that sin is paid for, and He sees how yet another blatant failure at the narrow way makes me feel;  but what He asks of me at such a time is this: get up, dust yourself off, and start again - forgetting the things that are behind and pressing forward instead.

The evil one, of course, wants us to continue looking behind, and, I am convinced, keeps a detailed list of our failures for just that purpose.  Things you haven't thought of in years come bustling to the front dressed in red, waving their arms.  Every embarrassing one, every cruel thing you've ever said,  anything to make us feel unworthy,  And he hits it on the head because, of course, we are unworthy.  What he doesn't want us to think of is that God doesn't even see our unworthiness - He sees His Son, spotless and pure,  He sees His child, stuck in the mud, just waiting for us to reach up and take His offer of help. He's already separated  our sin from us as far as the East is from the West,

And so He waits.  Waits for us to get up, dust ourselves off, and trust Him to lead us on the path that draws us to Him.

What an Awesome God we serve!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Soaring Spirit

Isaiah 45:2-3
"I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will  break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.  I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I , the LORD, Who call  you by your name, Am the God of Israel."

This spoke to my heart today - for what is chronic illness if not gates of bronze and bars of iron?

This passage was originally addressed to Cyrus, hundreds of years before he was born, and resulted in his giving permission to his Israelite captives to return to Israel and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

But the words stood up and waved to me today - the bronze gates and iron bars may be present but the Spirit of the Living God is certainly able to remove them - physically, yes, but more importantly, the shackles of the spirit.  Our bodies may be held fast by the parameters of our illnesses - but our spirits need not be, if our faces are lifted to the the One Who calls us by name.

I'm not chirping here in the corner, as if any of this were easy.  Those who have been ill for some time know it is not.  But captive bodies need not be enslaved in their spirits, even though  chronic illness is filled with darkness.

Some days it seems to shroud the sun in the sky, and some days warrant lying in a darkened room, shut away from the busy lives that go on right outside the door; but in the secret places of the heart there are hidden riches - the treasures of darkness.

Superficial relationships with the God of Israel don't cut it when CI takes over your life.  And the secret places are secret because there is no way, no words yet invented that can explain the difference to those who have never tasted CI.  Many times our illnesses dictate plans and activities - its influence reaches every second of every day.

But inside of that dark imprisonment, there are riches no one else can find - riches that lift the spirit from its cage and send it soaring to the Father's presence. I have found this to be true especially during hard days, when the will must be wrestled into submission, when prayer and praise are done through faith alone - no warm fuzzies here - this is a battle, make no mistake about it.

And then - then His peace comes - not always, but often, when the bruised heart is at rest, when the songs in the night Job speaks of fall gently on the soul, when He calls you by name and reveals Himself as Adonai, as the Great I Am, as the God so personal He whispers your name and sings over you.

The next time the darkness tries to swallow you whole, listen - and wait for His riches to come to you, remembering it takes time for the eyes to get accustomed to the darkness. Pour out before Him the pain, the brokenness, the unfairness you feel - He knows it already anyway, and it cleanses the soul to speak with deeply felt honesty.  Bring before Him the self-pity, the sullenness, the hopelessness that sometimes rules the weakened spirit - then wait before Him, trusting Him to touch those places blistered by solitude and touched by the sour taste that being dependent carries in its back pocket.

I pray you will be overwhelmed by treasures, and find the bronze gates and iron bars crumble to dust before you.