Archive for December, 2014

Different Naked Trees

New Day, December 31, 2014

Yay! After several days of gray skies and rain, the sun reappeared this morning! I viewed it in Athens, Tennessee, where Cheryl and I are caring for her parents. It was good to view sunrise with a different foreground and through different, winter  naked trees.

Of course, sunrise is always there—everywhere around the globe—each morning to remind us of God, His nature, and His salvation. Put these passages in the slow cooking crock pot of your mind and heart and taste them with delight: Psalm 65; Lamentations 3; Romans 1; and Luke 1:78 from my last post. Funny how these constant themes keep popping up in Scripture to demonstrate God’s steadfast love.

I once had the opportunity to visit an ancient Mayan site in southern Mexico. I can’t forget the towering pyramid to climb near to their gods; the sacrificial rock overlooking a pond with thousands of human bones is etched deep in my heart. Fear permeated their religion. Their gods were aloof, harsh, impersonal, demanding, unpredictable.

As we enter a new year, may creation’s glory around us every day—in the pre-sunrise starry and moonlit sky, the brilliant or subtle actual sunrise, or in the daily wonders all around us—ignite praise to the One God who reveals Himself in creation and offers forever life in His presence through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Happy New Year!

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The Sunrise and Jesus

New Day, December 29, 2014

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Zechariah’s psalm to God includes a figurative use of the sunrise for the soon-coming Messiah and the thoroughness of His deliverance. Each morning, whether gray or bright, our redemption and Redeemer are on display. Jesus is our Sunrise, releasing us from the darkness of death and providing a sure pathway to peace with God, others, and ourselves.

Every sunrise is a praise-worthy reminder of our Creator-Savior!

The Baby Became a Slave

The Rhea Herald-News

December 25, 2014

“…taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…” Philippians 2:7

With a three week old granddaughter in our house, you can imagine Christmas is going to be unique this year. For sure, baby Jesus jumps out of Christmas Scriptures and songs in fresh ways. Naturally, we love the cuteness and funny sounds Avery makes. She, of course, makes the happiest sounds when I hold her.

The cute kid-things of Christmas are certainly memorable and fun. Eventually, though, their baby talk and actions turn into grown-up thoughts and behaviors. Well, usually…

The first disciples of Christ would become mature, bold followers, but in Mark 10 they are like self-centered babies, wrangling over what Jesus could do for them and what their positions would be in the kingdom of King Jesus. Mark records some of the disciples reacted “indignantly” to the requests of James and John. You understand. Have you ever seen kids bicker over who could open their Christmas gift first? Some of those kids grow up to be jealous over parking spots at work or protect their pew at church.

Jesus didn’t mince words either, noting they had no idea what His kingdom would be like or what it would cost to be part of it. He said, “…whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-45).

The God-man came to be a slave? His destiny on earth was to give Himself away for others—and His followers should do the same? Such thoughts seem unimaginable and upside down.

I had an early Christmas last week when I experienced two occasions with Jesus-like, slave-servants in action.

First, I watched four men helped a young family by building two sets of stairs for their home. They gave up an entire day to be outside in the cold and mud to serve a family they don’t know well. No mere do-gooders, on Sunday one of them modestly said, “It was a blessing.”

Then, later in the week I had lunch with an office staff of about fifteen that I used to be part of. They are my friends, and some are deeply so. The supervisor does this in her home. She fills the time with fun activities, gifts, and terrific food—and does it all herself. After serving them all year in a difficult environment, she brings it to a culmination at Christmas. And the cleanup!

Slaves normally have their rights taken away. But Jesus elevates being a slave in the New Testament to those who give up their rights and willingly, lovingly, devotedly attach themselves to a master and others for the purpose of serving. Baby Jesus became a slave and gave Himself away in his life and death for us. It’s part of growing up.

This Christmas, I am praying: Who or where is Jesus calling me to serve sacrificially in 2015?

OK, Gray Again

New Day, December 22, 2014

“For I said, ‘Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.’…Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD…” Psalm 89:2, 5

The wonders of God are not always felt or visible. Yet, even today’s gray sky does not diminish the reality of the active faithfulness of God to us. He is on our side. Always.

Today, Father, push me to walk by faith and not by sight in the midst of Christmas season fatigue, busy-ness, and mixed messages—to rehearse your presence, availability, and steady love all day long.

Early Sky Gawking

New Day, December 19, 2014

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever, to him alone who does great wonders…the sun to rule the day…the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever…” Psalm 136:3-4, 8-9

Early Sky Gawking

Early sky gawking in my front yard

with mammoth naked tree between

morning rise and me.

A quarter moon smiling

bright with rounded edges

beaming.

Dazzling pink heralding daytime’s ruler

kings and queens of the night fading

into slumber.

Great wonders of love

never ceasing

always there.

Neapolitan Ice Cream

New Day, December 15, 2014

“Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” Psalm 104:1-2

It strikes me that we each have different perspectives on the sunrise. Not all of those who read this live where I do, nor do they see what I do from my porch or front yard. One friend likes to describe the sunrise from his high vantage point above a river. Another has different atmospheric influences from a northern state. The Pacific Northwest is represented. Several see it from Florida, suffering as they must but holding up well under the ravages of winter…

Today, I enjoyed a clear pre-sunrise with a smiling moon. As the sun came up, the “tent” had layers of colors and light clouds—sort of like vertical Neapolitan ice cream. I suspect my friend on the river had some fog to enhance his appreciation this morning. (He’s an ice cream lover, too.)

Each new day the splendor and majesty of Yahweh awakens earth wherever we are. Such a gift! From time to time, tell me about your view and what it reminds you about God—no matter if early or as the sunrise has settled in, or through your rearview mirror on your way to work, or from your porch with a cup of something hot.

Thank you!

Babble

New Day, December 12, 2014

“Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as cast metal mirror? Teach us what we shall say to him…” Job 37:18-19a

This morning, horizon’s blend of colors are subtle and freely overlap from one to another. Their beginning and end are indecipherable. With a delicate and broad stroke God has spread out a glimpse of His majesty across the morning sky. Only He can do this.

Our—my—babble merely scratches the “cast metal mirror” of God’s majesty. But we must try and constantly grow in our language of praise. Like our delight in the mispronounced words and the awkward sentences of toddler children, God takes great pleasure in our halting, fumbling, unstoppable, indescribable joy in God and His works.

Interesting, isn’t it, that God calls those who receive Jesus Christ, “children of God” (John 1:12).

Handmade Jewelry

New Day, December 11, 2014

Before the sun would beautifully awaken this new day, the moon held court above the wonderfully refreshing and cold early morning. Like the perfect blend of spices in a winter pot of chicken soup, subtle colors lingered in the wings on the horizon. Ah…

Sunrises have become much more than just a moment. Combined with the pre-dawn experience, the heavens also provide a majestic—though miniscule—reflection of God’s glory. Psalm 8 expresses the leap of our heart, as Yahweh’s “name”—the sum of all His character—pierces through countless universes and galaxies in “macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmaid jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings” (Psalm 8, The Message).

Father, “such thoughts are too wonderful for me.” And to think Yahweh, you crowned us with glory and honor, and sent Your Son to redeem us to enjoy and live in Your presence forever!

Jay, the sun, and the Son

Contrasts seem so vivid today.

The sky is fickle this morning, alternating between cloudy and patches of sunshine. Circumstances–or clouds– don’t change the goodness of God. Each new day is a gift from Him. The sun and Son are always present, but in contrasting ways at times. That reality seems so poignant today.

Avery, our sixth grandchild, was born last Friday. We are joyously celebrating her new life. She is temporarily living with us. It is such a privilege to have her, and especially to watch her two older sisters hold and kiss her. She is having some trouble sleeping, but that will change soon (we hope!).

And then, God sent a blog post this morning that poked my heart real hard. Jay is the adult son of dear college friends in Oregon. Jay posts about his continuing battle with cancer. He is funny, and calls the original tumor Sloth. The post I opened this morning had both his characteristic humor and honest expressions of faith’s struggle.

After a rough week last week and more tests he announced strange things are happening in his liver and it appears the cancer isn’t slowing down.  Jay wrote:

“I was in the shower today praying.  Well, first I felt the Holy Spirit comfort me and remind me He was with me.  Then I begin to ask that if this is going to do me in if I could skip all the hard parts.  And then I felt really foolish because I remembered Jesus didn’t skip any of the hard parts.”

We observed communion at church yesterday, with a wonderful reminder by our youth pastor (Thanks Chad) of God’s most precious gift of His Son for our salvation. Maybe, communion should be everyday.

Because “Jesus didn’t skip any of the hard parts.”

Avery

Very New Day, December 5, 2014

This will be a very new day at our house.

Cheryl and I have Hailie and Shawna while their parents, Robin and Samuel, are having a baby! We just checked in and it won’t be long. Very soon we’ll take the girls to see their new sister, Avery.

New is a distinctive idea with extraordinary implications for followers of Christ. Each day is new; each new life (Avery!) is treasured in God’s sight; God’s mercies are new every morning; we live in the realities and joy of our new, spiritual birth; we will receive new resurrection bodies; and we are waiting for the new heavens and earth.

The uniformly gray sky today can’t take away from this lingering, daily question: In the midst of all the ordinary ways to live faithfully, what new thing does God have each day? Avery, for sure, for us today, but could there be other new people, new tests of faith, new truths to discover in God’s Word, or new opportunities for service for Cheryl and me today?

I especially like the sound of the old word “new” today. Don’t you?



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