Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Caterpillar's Change

II Corinthians 5:17 (NKJ) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

Picture the caterpillar. With its belly nearly dragging the earth and its tiny legs working furiously, it inches along, making its way from one plant to another. On the plant it blends in, its green color camouflaged by leaves. It spends its life contentedly munching its leafy green diet. But one day the caterpillar drastically changes. It stops eating and spins a cocoon around itself. Here it stays, snug and secure for a time. We don’t know exactly what happens to the caterpillar while in its cocoon, but we do know it emerges totally changed. The caterpillar, once confined to traveling slowly on its little legs, can now fly. In its freedom, it flits from one flower to another, its diet no longer green leaves, but the sweet nectar of the flowers. It no longer shows dull green, but instead displays beautiful colors in its gossamer thin wings. What was once a slow-moving, plain creature has become a free-flying, colorful work of art. The old caterpillar has passed away; it has become a new creation.

Like the caterpillar, we are to become new creations. When we are “in Christ” we no longer crawl with our bellies close to the ground; we no longer see ourselves or others from an earthly perspective. With Christ, our perspectives change. Before, hundreds of earthly concerns reigned central in our lives: making more money, driving the latest cars, wearing the latest up-to-date fashions. When we crawled like a caterpillar, we saw other people from an earthly perspective: how they looked, how we could judge them, whether or not they were part of the “in-crowd.” We loved to gossip about others; we loved to tear others down in order to build ourselves up.

But we who are “in Christ” have become new creations; we have gossamer wings with which we can fly. Christ in us lets our thoughts soar heavenward. Suddenly, our earthly concerns seem less important; we are more concerned with gaining fruits of the spirit. Acquiring these becomes more important than acquiring material goods. We now view others from a different, higher perspective. Christ in us can love others through us. Instead of seeing other’s faults, Christ lets us glimpse what He sees in each of His beautiful human creations. He lets us see what each person could become through His love. Instead of gossiping about others, we now talk to God about them, lifting them up in prayer.

Are you concerned that you haven’t undergone this metamorphosis? Then look to the example of the caterpillar. Before the caterpillar could change, it needed to spend time in the cocoon: sustained time alone with God, studying His word, listening to His still small voice, talking with Him, and hearing the testimonies of all the “new creations” in His word.

Father, wrap us in the cocoon of your love and wisdom and make us butterflies. Work the miracle of change in our lives. Create us anew as beautiful new creatures flying on the wings of your spirit.

Wordless Love

I Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

I don’t remember hearing my parents say to me, “I love you,” but I know that they do. They have always shown their love in countless ways. When I was growing up they worked hard to provide a comfortable home, food, and clothing. They made sure my brothers didn’t pick on me, at least not too much. Even today, they still listen when I have something important to say. They encourage me when I’m discouraged or when I start a new venture. Their eyes shine with pride at my smallest accomplishments. Their actions, not their words, have always left me feeling secure and loved.

I have never heard Jesus say to me, “I love you,” but I know that he does. He provides my every need. He sometimes allows difficulties in my life, but never more than I can bear. He always listens to me and knows my heart, even when I don’t talk to Him as often as I should. He is the source of my abilities and is pleased when I work hard to develop them. When I’m discouraged he wraps loving arms around me, encouraging me to continue. And those very same arms stretched wide open on the cross for me. Because of His willingness to become sin, I have been adopted into his family and will live forever with him in heaven. His actions leave me feeling secure and loved.

Through our own wordless love we let others glimpse how loving our savior is. When we understand another’s feelings, or listen to his problems, we show God’s love. When we assist an elderly neighbor or babysit a friend’s children, they are aware of his love. When we accept others without judging them, they can see God’s love.

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brother, love one another, deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (I Peter 3:22-23).

Oh God,  humble so we recognize your demonstrations of love, and show us how to act in loving ways for others.

The Golden Key

Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

Angela stirred under her down comforter, reluctant to get out of bed. She yawned and stretched her entire body like a cat waking from a nap. Consciousness gradually dawned on her sleepy brain; she rubbed both fists in her still-closed eyes, and then slowly opened them, one at a time. The awareness of something hard in her right hand startled her, removing the last fog of sleepiness from her mind. Gingerly, she opened her hand and peered at her palm. “What’s this?” She muttered to herself. Radiant in the early morning light, a golden key lay in the middle of her palm. Never had she seen a key like this. It resembled an old fashioned skeleton key, covered with an intricate design. Strangely drawn to its beauty, she held the key up to bedroom window, examining it closely in the early morning sunlight. Its design looked vaguely familiar, yet unlike anything she had ever known. Each curving line softly caressed its neighbor. How did I get this key? What does it open? She whispered as she turned the key over in her hand.

Angela gasped as a golden door suddenly materialized in her bedroom. Trembling, she approached the glittering door and placed the key in the keyhole. With a loud click, it opened and Angela ventured into another room where everything dripped with opulence. A six foot long chandelier lighted the room, its thousand crystal teardrops reflecting the artificial light. She noticed her reflection in the dark, rich, mahogany furniture. How surprised she was to see she was no longer wearing her pajamas. Instead she wore a full-length white satin gown and a mink stole. Earrings studded with diamonds sparkled in her ears. They coordinated with the diamonds in her necklace, bracelet and rings. She heard herself speaking on the telephone: I don’t care who you step on, just make the deal. A shiver as cold as diamonds ran through Angela’s body.

Suddenly the elegant room disappeared, and another door glowing with a veneer of vibrant colors materialized. Come in, a voice hissed. Quickly she unlocked the door and walked in. Bright lights flashed from the ceiling, casting eerie shadows. Liquor flowed freely from a fountain in the center of the room. Young dancing couples swayed in every corner of the spacious room. Looking into the full-length mirror in the entry-way, she saw herself with an attractive young man. Her tight leather mini-skirt showed off her long legs. Her see-through blouse shimmered in the light. She walked unsteadily in her three-inch heels, spilling her drink on the young man. As she giggled, he smiled, took her by the elbow, and lead her into a nearby bedroom.

Instantly the music and the partygoers vanished, and a third door, made of rough-cut wood, appeared. Quickly Angela unlocked and opened the door. This room was plainly furnished with hard wooden furniture. The only sound she detected was muffled crying in the corner. In the glow of the candle-lit room, she saw herself, wearing a plain brown dress. Swiftly she walked to the woman who sobbed in the corner, sat down beside her, and put her arms around her. “There, there,” she crooned, “how can I help you?” Her hands patted the other woman’s back and smoothed the hair from her tear-stained face.

“Thank you for your help,” the woman stammered. As Angela felt a warm glow run throughout her body, the room faded away. Once again Angela found herself in her own room, still basking in the warm glow. She heard a gentle voice speak softly to her heart. “The golden key you hold in your hand is the key to your future. Use it wisely.”

God, help us to make wise choices in our lives.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Stagnant Pond

John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
All is still. Cars scurry by on nearby 13th street, rushing off to their various destinations. Sitting here at the park I hear the distant laughter of children playing. A basketball bounces off the cement court; the clang as it hits the backboard echoes across the grass. A Cessna drones, far overhead. An occasional jogger puffs by, the slap of his running shoes spanking the pavement.

Activity surrounds me, but my world stands still, as if I’m dreaming or sleepwalking. I observe everyone else’s activities, yet I sit, only my writing hand and pen moving across the page. This stillness provides blessed relief.

I sit on a large gray rock six feet above a man-made pond; more rocks rim this small pond’s perimeter. The lowest twelve inches of the rocks surrounding the pond are blackened, evidence that the water has receded. The remaining water, brown and stagnant, is filled with yellow-green algae. Its surface is littered with yellow and brown leaves. Small branches broken from the tree overreaching this pond lie lifelessly on its murky surface. Human trash adds to the dismal scene: a red cup, a white plastic fork, a Styrofoam plate, and a half-submerged Coke can.
Lord, today my body and soul feel dried up and wasted like this little pond. I come here today for a time of rest, reflection, and renewal. I seek rest—wanting Your strength to re-invigorate my body. I seek peace and quiet to allow Your peace to wash over my mind. I seek Your spirit here in Your beautiful creation, so that Your living water will fill my soul, allowing it to bubble over. Make me a sparkling spiritual pond, not stagnant, not filled with trash, but alive with living water, so clean and beautiful that anyone who thirsts for Your living spirit will drink her fill.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lift Up Your Eyes

Isaiah 40:26 “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens; Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Have you ever had the opportunity to spend some time away from the lights of a city? Try it sometime. Drive at night to the most remote spot you can find, get out of your car, spread out a blanket and lie on your back. Look up at the stars. If you have never spent time just looking at the stars, you are in for a treat. Look up… at the stars! What a marvel they are, scattered like diamonds across the sky! Clustered together so far away, the stars in the Milky Way stretch like silver dust strewn in the expanse of the heavens by God’s mighty hand. His power is awesome. He threw the stars, vast burning furnaces, so far away that they don’t consume us with their flames, but instead cast a soft, faint glow in the blackness of night. How amazing He is! In their own quiet way, the stars scream the wonder of their creator, our God. What a testimony they give to His power and greatness!

How often do we actually see the stars? How often do we consciously look at them? How often do we acknowledge their Creator? Think about all the other wonders God surrounds us with that we don’t even see, let alone thank Him for creating. Do we see the beauty in the curve and greenness of a blade of grass? Do we see the wonder of a sunny yellow dandelion or of its delicate seeds? Do we appreciate how marvelous a flower is? The colors, scents, textures, and shapes of each flower are uniquely beautiful. Do we admire the various blues of the sky? Or the changing shapes and colors of the clouds? If we only look, we can see God’s creation. If we only look, we can see God’s miracles. His creation and His miracles literally surround us. How often do we acknowledge them? How often do we take them for granted and allow them to become ordinary? Instead of appreciating God’s miracles, we trudge, head down, through life, oblivious to His splendor.

God, forgive us for failing to recognize Your hand in the seemingly everyday things which surround us. Show us how to walk with our heads up and our eyes open that we may see Your marvelous creation! Open our understanding that we may acknowledge Your holy presence in our lives. Open our hearts that we may be filled with praise for the wonder of You.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

As The Deer Pants for Water

Psalms 42:1&2 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

It is late August. The hot sun scorches the earth. The brittle grass browns and breaks. Moisture-starved leaves yellow and flutter to the ground. The baked earth, cracked in every direction, cries for rain. Insects buzz in erratic dances—nothing else moves. The stifling heat rises in nearly invisible waves.

Safe in her thicket, the deer stirs. She must drink. Gingerly, she ventures to the brook to quench her thirst. Frequently, she pauses to sniff the air, sensing wolves and other predators lurking nearby, eager to taste her flesh. They too must drink, so her danger heightens as she nears the life-giving water. In spite of the danger, her extreme thirst drives her to the stream, for she pants for water. She must drink.

On a hot summer’s day we guzzle glass after glass of cold, refreshing water, attempting to slake our thirst. If our souls truly pant for God the way the deer pants for water, what would we do?

O God, give me a thirst for You. Make the thirst in me so strong I must satisfy it. Give me the discipline to drink deeply at your never-ending stream.