Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Ice Storm



On January 4, 2005, the worst ice storm in decades hit Wichita. Over three quarters of an inch of ice coated the area, downing power lines and plunging more than 60,000 homes and businesses into darkness. The icy outdoors created a surreal fantasy world, with homes, grass, trees, streets, and mailboxes painted with a clear, icy glaze. Trees bent over, their limbs dragging the ground under their heavy loads. Many, unable to bear the load, snapped, littering roofs, yards, sidewalks, and streets with their crystal branches. By Saturday, the clouds cleared; nature’s ice castles sparkled brilliantly, their prisms of ice flinging crystal colors everywhere.

Saturday afternoon, I ventured outdoors to watch the sun glisten off the icy trees. Everything drooped under the weight of the ice—according to newscasters the ice was four times the weight of the trees it covered. The trees bent so far from the tips of their branches brushed the snow-covered ground. I stood in the middle of the back yard and gazed at the trees surrounding me. The sun, striking the ice-covered branches, turned my back-yard world brilliant, but what really struck me were all the new sounds. As I stood there, a whole chorus sang. The main melody: the constant drip, drip, drip of water falling from thousands of icicles. All around me I heard this constant dripping as the sun melted the ice. With the breeze, the click and clack of ice-covered branches brushing each other added to the tune. Plop!  I turned and looked at trembling tree branches, freed from their weight of ice. Every few seconds I heard another plop as chunks of ice tumbled to the ground. Occasionally a loud crash resounded as a large ice fragment hit the branch below and tumbled from branch to branch before landing on the softer earth. Before long, I noticed the lower branches of the mulberry tree no longer touching the ground. I wondered how long it would take before all the ice melted from the trees, and the branches, freed from their burden, would once more reach heavenward.

How often do our souls become ice-coated?  We are burdened and bent over, not with the weight of ice, but with the weight of our guilt and our sins. Heavy with guilt, we labor to lift our arms heavenward. Some, unable to bear this burden, snap and break. Others merely look down, unable to praise God. Fortunately, we can eliminate the burdens weighing us down. Like the sun shining on the ice-laden trees, God’s grace frees us from our burdens. When in repentance we sincerely beg God’s son to shine his light of forgiveness, the hard shell of guilt begins to crack. Before long, the hard shells of ice coating our souls melt. Soon we can raise our arms heavenward, look up and praise our maker.

Father, thank you for melting away my heavy burden of guilt.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Putting Away the Decorations


          The holiday season is over. The tree is down, the lights are off, and the decorations are packed. But what do we do with the Christ child? Do we wrap him in bubble wrap and place him in storage until next December? If we do, then we’ve missed the whole point of Christmas.

 Every child needs nourishment, love, and care, including the Christ child living within us. If He only resides on a shelf in the storage closet, He has no opportunity to grow in our lives. If He only appears on Sunday morning, we miss the daily joy of His presence. Caring for our Christ child involves dedicated effort, but the results are worth the time and energy. 

Jesus has promised us peace, abundant life, and spiritual riches beyond measure. If we desire these gifts, we must unroll the bubble wrap and place Christ in a prominent place in our hearts all twelve months of the year.

Father, thank you for the gift of the Christ child. May we keep Him close in our hearts all year.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Banquet

You enter a banquet hall; before you is a long, beautifully carved wooden table set with fine china, crystal goblets, polished silverware, and linen napkins. You may eat whatever you desire. Perhaps your first choice is a juicy steak, cooked to perfection. With it you may desire a baked potato, loaded with butter and sour cream, perhaps topped with bacon and green onion. A tossed salad, chock full of your favorite vegetables and topped with your favorite dressing, rounds out the meal. Perhaps instead of steak, you prefer a different dish? A crispy taco, filled with flavorful meat, shredded lettuce, tomato, and two kinds of cheese. Guacamole, chips, and salsa come with the dinner. Whatever your favorite meal, you may eat to your heart’s content. Next, of course, is dessert. Would you care for a chewy brownie, topped with creamy vanilla ice cream and hot fudge? Or perhaps a bowl of juicy, ripe red strawberries with a dollop of whipped cream?
Would the opportunity to eat your fill of your favorite dishes make you glad? Just looking at the delicious food and inhaling its wonderful odors would make most of us quite happy. Unfortunately for our waistlines and our pocketbooks, we cannot indulge in a feast like this, at least not very often.

Now it is easy to imagine joy in a feast of delicious food, but “joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16) from eating God’s word? Do we desire the word of God as much as we desire delicious food? Is reading God’s word something we eagerly anticipate? Probably not, but this is a feast in which we can indulge. We need not fear gaining weight and depleting our wealth; we only fear gaining knowledge of God’s wisdom and love and depleting our sinfulness.

Oh God, creator of the entire universe, I desire delicious food more than I desire Your word. I don’t regard Your words as a sumptuous banquet for my soul. Forgive me. Change my heart, O God. Create in me a create in me a hunger to feast at the banquet of Your word.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJ) “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In the Palm of Your Hand


 

Softer than a breeze rustling the cottonwood trees

Sweeter than a first kiss

Your almighty hands cradle my soul.

 

The very hands that created the stars, the moon, and the fiery sun

That formed every animal—the fierce tiger, the massive whale, the purring kitten

That “knit me together in my mother’s womb”

 Cradle my soul.

 

As a mother cradles her baby, you cradle me.

Your hands guide, protect, and, yes, like a mother with her baby,

Rock away all my doubts and fears.

 

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Whispering Wings



In the beginning, you hovered over the waters, wings beating like a mother bird watching her young. Wings strong, silent, stirring the waters, whispering to all of creation, bestowing life. You who hovered in the beginning, you who made the heavens and the earth, you also made me. Your wings beat and the “breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).

I have known your presence and seen you hover, heard the whispering beat of your wings as you watch over me. I have felt the quickening of life within, the first breath, the stirring of spirit within my soul. I know your presence in day’s first light, the infant’s cry, the pull of ocean waves, and the gnarled trees raising their arms heavenward. All around and all within, you hover. I feel the wind of your wings and hear their whispering beat. 

Let the whispering wind of your wings become a violent storm within my inner being. Spark the embers of your spirit within my soul that it may flame brightly with your power and love.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Hungry Soul


The little soul lived for many years in the same woods. The sun shone on her leafy branches and she produced much fruit. After many years the trees around this soul grew and their branches met above her head. Those branches provided comfortable shade. She was content in the place she’d always grown. She knew every plant in the woods.

After a time the little soul felt discontent. When a storm raged overhead, the towering branches swayed and clashed together. Sometimes huge branches broke off the trees and crashed to the forest floor, clipping her own branches. On sunny days, she never saw the sun, for the shade had grown too deep. After a time, the little soul realized she was not being fed; she was no longer growing. She no longer felt the sun’s rays stimulating growth. Even though she was content in her comfortable shady woods, she was hungry. Her leaves drooped. Her fruit dried up and dropped to the ground. She no longer produced new fruit. She had become stagnant.

She pondered her situation. The woods were dark, deep, and comfortable. She wanted to stay, but she longed to grow and once again bear fruit.


After much thought, she made her decision. With great effort and great sadness, she pulled her roots out of the familiar soil and moved from her shady spot. She traveled to another, less familiar location. Here she lived with strangers. Here she was the outsider. Here the summer was harsh and hot with the unfamiliar and the new. But she planted her roots in the sunny spot where she knew she’d appease her hunger. She longed for the challenge of new growth. She looked up at the sun, lifted her branches heavenward, sighed as the breeze rustled through her leaves, and grew once again. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hear the Crying




Imagine if you will, Christmas day in history, more than 2000 years ago in the small town of Bethlehem.  Jesus is born.  Do you feel the crisp early morning air?  Do you smell the animals and the hay?  Listen.  Do you hear the newborn crying?  Can you see Mary, seated on the floor of the stable, holding her tiny son?  Can you see her rock back and forth, back and forth, to comfort and quiet this tiny babe?

Thirty years later, behold a dry and barren land.  The voice of John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness. “Make straight the way for the Lord,” he calls to any who will listen.  Now that the crying baby is grown, his cousin John cries for the repentance of his people.
Three years later it is the mother of Jesus who cries.  She kneels and weeps at the foot of a rugged Roman cross.  High above her head is the broken body of her baby boy.  The once tiny babe is grown and men have nailed him on this cross.  She cries for her son who is suffering and dying.
In just a few days, everything changes. Now those bitter tears, those agonizing cries have turned to miraculous cries of joy.  The son who was crucified on a cross is no longer in the tomb.  He is alive!
As you contemplate these cries, think about your own preparations for Christmas.  Did you spend many exhausting hours shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, and baking to prepare for Christmas?  Did you cry in anger, frustration, or fatigue? 
Through your tears, remember, the babe who cried in the manger is the Lord who died on the cross.  He is the same Lord who was resurrected and is alive.  He is the same Lord who takes away our sins so that we, too, may be blameless and live forever in heaven. 
Once again we hear crying, the crying of our hearts.  We cry,  remembering our sins.  We cry in repentance, preparing our hearts for His coming and living in our lives.  We cry in grief, remembering His sacrifice for us.  We cry in joy, recognizing His resurrected life in us and anticipating eternity with Him in heaven.  We cry tears of delight, for we realize that even though all the preparations are not yet finished, we are, finally, truly ready for Christmas.