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.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Is There Room at the Inn?



For several weeks now I’ve been busily preparing for the holidays. The house is decked out in its Christmas finery: the tree is lit, garlands cover the stairway and windows, and angels and nativities adorn the tabletops.  Holiday meals are cooked, ready to be eaten, and the pantry is stocked. Lots of high calorie treats wait for children and grandchildren to indulge. Gifts, wrapped in red, blue, and green, sit under the tree, waiting to be opened and enjoyed. After all the hard work and preparations, I’m finally ready for Christmas! Now all I have to do is wait for loved ones to arrive and the celebrating will begin!

While I’ve worked, preparing for the holidays, my mind has wondered about the preparations Mary must have made. Like all pregnant women, she must have made special plans to prepare for the birth of the wee one in her womb. Since Joseph was a skilled carpenter, Mary surely asked him to make a lovely cradle for her soon-to-be-born infant. She must have arranged for her mother and at least one other woman to assist with the birth.

I wonder how the trip to Bethlehem impacted her plans. Did it make her fret and worry? Did she cry, thinking she might have her child while on the trip? Or did she calmly prepare, trusting in God to provide? Did she pack some food for the trip? Perhaps she prepared some bread, dried fish, and some dates and figs for their journey. Surely she carried some swaddling clothes, anticipating the birth of her child.

In spite of her preparations, Mary surely wasn’t prepared when she went into labor in a town so far from home. Did she cry for her mother? Was she frightened when they could not find a room at an inn? In spite of her plans and preparations, this baby was coming! In a quiet corner of a little village, in the company of stable animals, Mary gave birth. Surely this birth didn’t happen the way she had planned. But the birth of the Son of the living God as a tiny, helpless infant happened precisely the way God planned.

In spite of any of Mary’s preparations, her baby was born in a humble stable. I suppose the real question isn’t how Mary planned and prepared for the birth of her son.  The important question is this: as I make my human preparations to celebrate the Savior’s birth, have I left room for Him in my inn? Perhaps I need a little more time to truly prepare for Christmas.

Ephesians 3:16, 17a “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tending the Garden: a Parable (reprise)



There once was a woman who married, had children, worked hard to provide a pleasant home for her family and raise her children in a loving manner.  She worked in her church and did her best to serve her God in the ways she could.  After her children matured, this woman went to work and enjoyed meaningful labor.  In short, she was very typical:  She worked hard, enjoyed leisure time, and honored God.
But deep down inside her was a secret: nestled within the folds of her soul resided two tiny seeds:  seeds of doubt and faith.  Even she didn’t know those two seeds hid in her soul. 

She went to church every Sunday, and she said her prayers.  Her tiny seed of faith opened and grew miniscule hair-like roots.  She joined a bible study, and a small shoot emerged, opening tiny, green leaves.  Her faith grew.  But before long her life became so hectic she was unable to attend bible study, and she fell asleep before saying her prayers.  Life didn’t seem to be the way it should, for a normal woman.

Soon the little seedling of faith withered and drooped.  The seed of doubt opened and sent out strong roots.  The plant grew tall and sprouted many green leaves.  The woman grew restless and discontented.  Praying became difficult.  Doubt grew strong and vigorous, a flourishing weed.

A few weeks later, she tried to pray to God.  “God, where are you?  Why can’t I pray to you?”  Then God allowed her to see the weed of doubt and the tiny seedling of faith struggling in its shadow.

“Oh God!”  She cried out.  “Show me how to eradicate the weed of doubt!  How can I get rid of it?”

“Keep praying and spending time with Me,” a still, small voice seemed to say.  But the weed of doubt flourished and the tiny seedling of faith struggled to stay alive.

The next day she cried out to her God.  “Father, make that weed wither up and die!  Cause the seedling to grow and flourish.”

“Be patient, my child,” came the answer.  “Even though you do not feel my presence, I am here, and I love you.”  The tiny seedling of faith raised its leaves heavenward.

Father God, show me ways to nourish the seed of faith.

Proverbs 22:5 “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Woodland Sanctuary (reprise)

As I walked on the nature trails, I wandered off the beaten path.  Large toadstools nestled under a grove of blue spruce trees attracted my attention.
Pushing aside branches, I walked fifteen feet, entering a small clearing.  The ground, carpeted with years of accumulated needles, felt soft beneath my feet.  A chorus of crickets broke the silence.  In the distance a woodpecker drilled, searching for insects.  Inside my clearing, all was shadow, quiet and still; it became a sanctuary that soothed my soul. A smattering of bright red sumac leaves provided stained-glass windows.  I sat on this carpet, gazing at the beauty all around me, and I felt the presence of God.  Strains of “This Is Holy Ground” ran through my head. 
Looking out an opening between the horizontal branches, I observed the golden radiance of the late afternoon sun. Outside my sanctuary, the seed heads of the natural prairie grasses glowed transparently in the sun’s light, creating a stunning contrast to the shadowy grove.  The scene was breath-taking: I had to capture it on film.  When I put the camera to my eye, it was focused on the branches in the foreground.  They seemed large and dark, like horizontal prison bars, and the golden glow of the grasses in the background was barely noticeable. I refocused the camera. Then the tall, dried grass, shot through with light, became the focus of my picture; the branches in the foreground almost disappeared.
I took my picture, and I thought:  how many times in my life do I focus on the tree branches right in front of me that impede my spiritual way, and thus fail to see God’s light just beyond?  How many times do I allow myself to become discouraged over minor problems instead of focusing my thoughts on the brilliance of God’s majesty or the comforting glow of his love? It’s all a matter of focus.
Remembering the lesson of the camera’s focus enables me to thank God in all situations and focus on His spiritual light shining beyond my earthly troubles.
Father let my eyes see beyond the earthly; let me steadfastly watch your spiritual light.  May I always focus on the wonders you have created, on the wonder of you.
 Hebrews 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”