Saturday, April 30, 2011

Glimpses of His Glory

Early in the morning before the phone starts ringing and the demands of the day begin pressing all around, I love to curl up in my favorite glider rocker and just think. Pre-dawn darkness covers everything, but a soft light gradually steals into the room. The house is quiet, not yet fully awake. With my back to the lace-covered bay window, I gaze out the sliding glass window to the south. The branches of the mulberry trees arch toward earth, heavy with their fruit. A bright red cardinal hops from one branch to another, calling to his mate. A small, sky- blue birdhouse, its door flanked by two birch twigs, hangs from the mulberry tree. A tiny wren flits about, and then dives into the miniature house. The potted plants on the patio steps provide a splash of color: red, trailing geraniums, brilliant against the white pots. Arching asparagus ferns reach toward the patio. Bright yellow moss roses, a hint of red at their centers, peek from beneath the greenery. My cat Tigger prowls, seeking prey. The birds chatter and chastise him, but they need not fear. He is too fat to catch them.

As I sit, still and quiet, contemplating the early morning peace and the beauty of nature, I sense the presence of God. It is in this setting, when I sit quietly and let my mind wander, that I can hear God’s still, quiet voice speaking to me. In this calm, contemplative state, I open my heart to hear His voice. In the quiet, before my mind races with obligations and responsibilities, I watch. I listen. He responds. He makes His presence known.

Some mornings I meditate on His greatness. Other mornings I listen to worshipful music. As the beautiful notes wash over my soul, and the words seep into my heart, they speak volumes of God’s power, majesty, and grandeur. When I open my Bible, God speaks to me through the written word. Passages I may never have noticed before nearly jump off the page. “Listen to My words,” God says to my heart. “These words are my special message, just for you, just for today’s circumstances.” As I ponder the words, I feel Him in the room, His love washing over my entire being. I cherish this time with God.

Too soon, it is time to scurry about and prepare for the busy day ahead. I would love to take these special moments with me and live in this state forever, but I know I cannot. Even though I wish I could, I am unable to have this lengthy quiet time on a daily basis. Too often, my quiet time with God is far too short. But I realize that He does not intend for me to live entirely on the mountaintop experiences of His love; He wants me to spend time in the valleys. For it is only in the valleys that I can share these experiences with others. It is only in the valleys that others can see God’s presence in me. It is only in the valleys that I can learn and grow. So I go about my everyday tasks, longing for insight into more of God’s grandeur. Someday I know I will see Him face to face; someday I will behold, in full, His glory; someday I will go to the mountaintop where I will bask in His presence for all eternity. In the meantime, I obediently walk in the valleys and try to stay content with occasional glimpses of His glory.

Lord of my life, thank you for the mountaintop experiences and for the walks in the valley. In your wisdom, allow each experience to mold me into your image.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Water from Christ's Side

Some of my favorite memories involve a stream near my childhood home. Allow me to take you there. The clear, pristine stream rushes, fed by winter’s heavy snows. Spray flies high, and then plummets home. Children hop from one rock to another, like a game of hopscotch. Their silvery laughter floats above the water. Downstream, boys skip rocks across a still pool. With a sidearm snap, rocks fly and skip, one, two, three, four times.
Adults enjoy water, too. Many like to swim, boat, ski, or fish. More than recreational, water is essential. After exercise, its iciness quenches. Splash it over your face to cool off on a sweltering day. Boiling water cooks our food. A steaming bath relaxes tense muscles. Water and soap keep us clean. Spill food on your shirt? Rinse it with water.

An anonymous medieval writer who penned “The Anima Christi” found a different use for water: Water from Christ’s side, wash out my stains. As Christ’s lifeless body hung from the cross, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out (John 19:34 NKJ). The poet asks that this water wash his stains.

Picture Jesus walking toward you, his countenance loving, his manner firm, yet gentle. He carries a large basin, a pure white cloth draped over one arm. As He nears, you kneel, head down, filled with shame because you are stained. Wordlessly, He sets down His basin filled with water from his pierced side. He dips the cloth and oh, so gently, washes your first stain. He rinses the white cloth and cleans more stains: greed, pride, lust, selfishness, laziness, and self-righteousness. You lift your head and gaze into His eyes. Love, mingled with sorrow, gazes back. You rise cleansed, filled with joy and peace. He turns and leaves silently, knowing you will acquire new stains. But He will return to wash your stains, because he loves you more than life itself and his basin is always full.

Lord of my life, wash away every stain; make me clean.

Ezekiel 36:25a (NIV) “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Palm Sunday

One sleepless night not too long ago, I lay awake, imagining what it must have been like to watch a king enter the ancient city of Jerusalem.

I can still see it vividly in my mind’s eye. Before I can even glimpse the king, trumpets herald his arrival. Soon 40 soldiers enter the crowded city, each proudly straddling a high-stepping stallion. Eyes staring at the road ahead, the men ride ramrod straight, armor and weapons glinting in the sun. Between the two groups of mounted soldiers rolls an ornate carriage, resplendent with gold leaf. Four perfectly matched black stallions, crimson ribbons braided into their manes and tails, pull the carriage effortlessly. In that carriage sits the perfectly tailored king, his brocade coat trimmed in ermine. Rubies and emeralds adorn his fingers. The golden crown, encrusted with precious stones, reflects the bright sunlight. As he passes, the cheering throng bows low, each man hoping the king will scatter some coins his way.

How different was our King’s triumphal entry! No trumpets heralded his arrival. No soldiers, no horses came before Him. Instead of an elaborate entourage, He was accompanied by a few simple men, broad shouldered and tanned from hard, outdoor work. They walked alongside Him, wearing roughly woven clothes. Jesus sat astride a young donkey. He wore no gold nor gems, but only a simple cloak and sandals. Although Jesus had no coins to throw to the people, His intangible gifts were far more costly than gold. A slight smile played at the corners of His mouth, but the dark brown eyes filled with sorrow. In spite of His poverty and ordinary appearance, the people sensed something special about this man. They loudly cheered, “Hosanna, King of Kings!” and lay palm branches at His feet.

How quickly the cries of the crowd changed! A few short days later the cheers of “Hosanna” changed to jeers and shouts of “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Many of those who had proclaimed Him king now clamored for his death. Even his closest friends ran away and denied they even knew him.

How, I wonder, could these people change so quickly? How could they proclaim him king one day, and not even acknowledge his existence the next? As I sit quietly and think, I realize, with humility and shame, that I have done the very same thing. How many times do I go on my merry way, never acknowledging Christ as the king of my life, never seeking His divine guidance? How many times do I deny His existence by failing to speak out against injustice or not sharing His good news with another? If He is truly king of my life, why do I not get down on my knees every day and praise my spiritual king?

Jesus, king of my life, help me to bow in humble obedience and recognition of your lordship in my life.

John 12:14 “Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, ‘Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Today is the first day of my spring break. I look forward to leisurely mornings, a time to write, to work on some lesson plans, to visit with family, and, yes, to do some spring cleaning (Come to think of it, this doesn’t sound like much of a break, does it?). Even though spring cleaning involves work, I do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. It’s a wonderful feeling to see a clean, organized house and to smell the freshness of a recently cleaned room. I enjoy taking a throw rug or bath mat out in the brisk spring air, grabbing it by the edges and shaking the dust out. With a quick jerk of the arms the rug snaps and the dust flies out. After repeatedly shaking and snapping the rug, it’s cleaned of the dust, and the pile stands up, making the rug look new again.

Just as I periodically need to shake out the rugs and spring clean my house, so I need to shake out my spirit and spring clean my soul. It’s easy to allow the mind to become cluttered and the dust of disuse to settle over my spirit. If I don’t take the time to meditate on God’s word, I allow the ideas of the world to clutter my mind. If I don’t spend time with others, studying and discussing how to apply God’s word, I allow the dust of apathy to coat my soul. Without this regular cleaning, my spirit can become lazy, indifferent, or self-righteous. When I accepted Christ and agreed to follow him, all the dirt and grime of my soul was washed away. But dust, unseen, floats into my heart, covering it with the grime of sin. I cannot become complacent with my soul; I must shake it out, snap it by the corners and keep it clean.

I can just picture God, sitting on high on his throne, commanding the dawn to pick up the earth at its edges and give it a good shake, just like I might snap that rug to shake all the dust out of it. The wickedness thrives, unseen, in the darkness, just as the dust hides deep in the nap of the rug. So sins lie, unseen by others, deep within the soul. But God sees into the dark recesses of all souls. He knows what dirty places lurk within. Only God can give the command to shake my soul clean.

Oh God, just as I love a clean house, so you love a clean heart. Create that clean heart in me, Lord; spring clean my spirit. Take my soul by the edges and shake the wickedness out of it.

Job 38:12&13 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?”

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Rising Son

Early in the morning, in the pre-dawn gray light, I wander around the retreat center. As I meander past the ghostlike trees, my feet crunch in the gravel path. The wind sighing high above in the treetops provides an oasis of peace and quiet away from the noise and bustle of the city. While the day slumbers, my feet turn toward Vesper Lookout, the highest land in the area. Short of breath, I soon reach the top of the steep hill and gaze at the beauty all around me. Gently rolling hills dotted with cedars, sycamores, and burr oaks await the new day. Below my feet the buildings of the campground rest gray and colorless, waiting for the sunrise to bring them to light and life. A strong wind blows at the top of Vesper Lookout, whispering God’s name through the cedars at its crest. I turn and face a six foot tall wooden cross fashioned from tree trunks. The cross faces due east, facing the impending sunrise. I kneel at its base, humbly acknowledging my risen Savior, the creator of all this beauty. This is why I’ve climbed to the top of the hill, to view God’s glorious sunrise.
I turn and face the east. I wait…I watch, nearly holding my breath. Gradually the sky reflects the light approaching beyond the horizon. As I wait, the world around me changes, heralding the coming of the light. Gray fades, changing to light blue. Colors become more distinct, details pop out, and the birds sing “good morning” to a new day. Soft pale pink emerges in the sky, spreading from the east around my right to the southern sky. The golden grasses and brown-black tree tops bow low in the wind. I wait…I watch. Gradually the pink wash turns brighter and deeper, rejoicing in the coming of the sun. All around me the clouds turn a vivid pink. The eastern sky brightens, streaks of yellow shining through the clouds. The winds nearly shout, “The sun is coming! The sun is coming!” I wait with bated breath. At last it comes. A slice of the brilliant, bright red-orange sphere peeks over the horizon. The great ball of light rises above the horizon, illuminating a new day.

Just so the Son of God rose on a spiritually dark world. All of creation waited; all of creation held its breath, waiting for the wind of His spirit to blow across the land. The risen Son brought the brilliance of a new spiritual day. The light of salvation now shines for all to see.

Dear God, thank you for the risen light of your Son. Help me to reflect His light for others to see.

II Samuel 22:29 “You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light.”