Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First Kiss

Frost has kissed the forest.  Many of the leaves and grasses have succumbed to its deadly touch. Yellow and brown leaves flutter from the trees. The stream is littered with autumn’s golden snowfall. As I wander off the soft, sandy trail, my feet crunch noisily through the leafy debris.  Looking up, I see many of the trees lifting dark, barren branches skyward. Others sport a few green and yellow leaves, but these too are destined to drop to the forest floor.

It’s silent here. No birds call. No animals chatter to their mates. High above in the treetops the wind blows, rustling the remaining leaves. The rustling soon grows to a roar as the wind rushes past barren branches. So much around me seems dead, lifeless. Yet, I know the forest lives.  As I walk I hear rustling in the dead leaves and know small animals run and hide from this human invading their territory. I stop a moment at the stream, listening to the rushing waters bouncing over the rocks. The sound soothes my soul.  I look at the brown grass and the barren trees around the stream and I imagine their roots digging deep into the soil. Above the soil they appear dead, yet their roots continue to draw nourishment into the living plants.

So it is with my soul. At times it becomes brown and looks lifeless. Life is difficult, and I struggle from an unresponsive spirit and lack of enthusiasm. But then I go to a still place and listen. Just like the wind rushes through the trees, God’s voice rushes through my soul, giving me peace. I listen. I learn. I allow the roots of my soul to draw up spiritual nourishment. I rejoice, waiting patiently for that first green blush of spring to sprout in my soul.

Psalm 30:5b NIV “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Watching the Lava

Several years ago my husband Scott and I flew to Hawaii for our niece’s wedding.  While there Steve, Blossom, Scott and I spent a couple of days on the big island of Hawaii.  One afternoon we visited an area that had recently been covered by a lava flow.  Since the lava was now cool, we walked on the hardened lava to the newly formed beach, several hundred yards farther into the ocean than the previous beach.  The lava, hard, crusty, and smooth, undulated in small, rolling hills.  When we reached that beach, I was startled to see black sand.  I thought it would take hundreds of years to erode the lava to create this black sand, but one of the local men informed me how the sandy beach actually had been formed.  When the extremely hot, molten lava poured off the land into the much cooler ocean, the extreme difference in temperature caused the lava to explode, instantly creating black sand.

Eager to see a current lava flow, we inquired about the feasibility of viewing the lava.  The breezes blew landward during the day, creating caustic clouds, unsafe to breathe, so we couldn’t go then.  We could, however, view the lava flow at night, when the breezes blew seaward.  That evening, we drove 20 miles on a curving road far from any habitation.  When we reached the barricade, we pulled over and climbed of the car. The soft glow of billions of stars dotting the inky sky provided the only light on this pitch black night.
Flashlights in hand, we walked down the road, and then carefully picked our way along a narrow, rocky path.  Small groups of people, all with flashlights lit, stared in the same direction.  After walking a couple hundred yards, we perched on a large rock, turned off the flashlight, and looked for the lava flow.   Across a small bay, about a quarter of a mile away, we saw it.   Contrasting with the dark water, a red-orange glow illuminated the land behind it.  As the molten lava spilled into the sea, a huge steam-cloud rose into the night sky and drifted slowly over the Pacific Ocean.  By watching carefully, we saw the waves crashing against the flow of the lava.  We sat spellbound for over an hour, staring at the magnificent sight. Then, in the silence of the still, quiet night, Steve began to sing:  Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made….
What a perfect song for the moment, for we beheld our Savior’s creative beauty.  We watched as God created new land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Only the brilliance of the starlight and the red-orange glow of the lava broke the darkness. I imagined the new black sand beach being formed by His hand.  The beauty and power of our God left us amazed and humbled.  Here we sat on a rock, miles from civilization, watching a tiny sliver of His creative power.  I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. 

Oh God, keep us ever mindful of how great Thou art!

Deuteronomy 10:21 “He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Detour Ahead

It happens when we least expect it. We’re traveling down the highway, making great time, knowing we’ll reach our destination on time. And then, out of nowhere, we see it: the bright orange sign. It has two simple words printed on it, “Detour ahead.” Before we know it, we’re off the highway, traveling some winding two lane road. Our speed slows dramatically, and the traffic resembles a caravan of snails inching toward their destination.

Our typical reaction to the detour? We whine, we gripe, we bemoan our fate.

Jesus experienced a detour too. One minute He was in the fast lane. People crowded around Him, begging to see Him and hear Him speak. They called Him “Savior” and wanted to make Him king. They threw palm branches and their robes at His feet, praising Him as He entered Jerusalem. Surely He was traveling quickly toward fame, riches, and royalty.

But a detour caused an abrupt about face to that trip. Jesus was arrested, beaten, humiliated, and nailed, nearly naked, to a rugged wooden cross. How did He react to this detour? He uttered two sentences that illustrate His attitude. “Father…not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42) and “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Because He willingly traveled the detour, believers receive eternal life.

On our highway of life, we will encounter unexpected detours. How will we react? Will we whine and complain? Or will we submit to the One who knows the final destination?

I Peter 1:6, 7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”


Friday, October 4, 2013

Rivers of Peace

In a world torn by conflicts and war, people seek peace.  They question why war exists; hasn’t God has promised peace?  When you listen to the news, it seems peace doesn’t exist.  Even in our homes, it can be elusive.  Couples bicker and divorce, siblings argue and fight.  The book of Isaiah sheds light on peace:  “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river” (48:18a NIV).  One prerequisite to peace is obeying God’s commands.  But what about peace…like a river?  To fully appreciate this concept of peace like a river, imagine a great river running through the land.

The broad river, a constant presence, flows despite obstacles.  Sometimes the river runs smoothly; at other times it runs headlong into a snag, separating and diverting its water to other paths.  The water flows peacefully on, until downstream it smashes full force against the rocks, shattering spray high in the air.  Flowing to the top of a sharp drop-off, the water rushes forward, falling… falling…rushing over the edge, churning and boiling at the bottom.  After a time the waters collect in a still pool, resting, reveling in the quiet. 

During my mother’s last years, her mind ravaged by dementia, my river of peace constantly ran against snags of her lost memory.  My peace plummeted over the precipice of countless hours watching her mind rapidly losing rational thought and memory.  Constantly swirling and eddying, the waters rushed me from work to my parents’ home to assist Dad in caring for her .  Emotional whirlpools threatened to spin out of control.  The only thing that kept my sanity during this difficult time was God’s peace.

You may ask how I can feel peace when my world was turned upside down.  In Galatians 5:22, we learn that peace is a fruit of the Spirit.  Only the spirit of God can give us peace in the midst of the snags, rocks, waterfalls, and whirlpools of life.  So how do we receive this peace?  We can’t buy it in a store; we can only receive it as a gift from God.  Once again, scripture aids us in our search for peace.  “You [God] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV).  Our peace comes when we place complete trust in God and obey His commands (Isaiah 48:18). 

When our life’s circumstances shatter against the rocks, placing trust in God’s perfect will keeps us at peace despite trying circumstances.  Jesus tells us he leaves us peace, but “I do not give you [peace] as the world gives” (John 14:22 NIV).  The countries of the world may continue to fight, and we will still experience difficulties and tragedies.  But when we obey God’s commands and trust Him, no matter how difficult our circumstances, we experience His peace, flowing like a river deep within our souls.