Comfort and Dredging

IMG_5710It’s a sit-and-watch-the-snow-melt kind of Saturday.  Cold, windy, semi-cloudy, outside conditions giving no incentive to step out of the “shelter at home” walls that surround me.

In some ways, the highlight of the day has been watching the USNS COMFORT back out of Naval Station Norfolk and start its journey to the anxiously-waiting New York Harbor.  One of the headlines that caught my eye as I looked for random information about the COMFORT cargo load was,  “New York Harbor dredging underway to clear smooth arrival of USNS COMFORT for its arrival in Manhattan next week.” (nydailynews.com)

Oceanservice.noaa.gov defines “dredging” as “the removal of sediments and debris” from various bodies of water because the constant accumulation of sand, silt, and discarded matter makes the water increasingly shallow.

And I had several thoughts converge at once, all focused on how frequently the “rescue ship” God sends to people, cultures, countries, all require preparation, dredging, deepening in the lives and souls of those who will receive it.  The sediment and debris of the world — heartaches, challenges, failures, pressures – accumulates over time and often without even realizing it, our water has grown shallow and easily polluted.

I thought about significant “dredging operations” in Scripture.

John the Baptist dredged the harbor of Jewish culture for the arrival of Jesus.  (Matt. 3:11)

Jesus dredged the harbor of His disciples’ understanding as preparation for the release of the Holy Spirit.  (John 14:26)

The Holy Spirit dredged the harbor of Saul’s life so that Apostle Paul could step into his divine destiny. (Acts 9:17)

It should bring us comfort and encouragement that God-initiated dredging operations are powerfully ongoing.   He is dredging the lives of leaders, entire cultures and countries, every day.

And we as individuals are not left out.

The Holy Spirit consistently dredges the harbors of our lives so that Jesus’ Words, His Life, His Presence may dwell within us in depth, clarity, and vibrancy.  The Passion Translation proclaims, “He saved us, resurrecting us through the washing of rebirth.  We are made completely new by the Holy Spirit, whom he splashed over us richly by Jesus, the Messiah, our Life Giver. (Titus 3:6)

We all have “watch the snow melt days.”  IMG_5711What a day of opportunity to engage with Him and in our hearts and actions, assist in the “clear smooth arrival” of His provisions and revelations in our lives.

First Day of Spring, 2020: Shine, Jesus, Shine

 

IMG_5692Today is the first day of Spring.  As buckets of snow pour down from the sky, it looks much more like the first day of winter than the heralding of seasonal flowers-and-butterflies.

Restaurants, schools, gyms, theaters, multiple retail stores — all closed; grocery shelves remain unable to meet purchasing demand; Spring breaks, weddings, political rallies and church gatherings equally disrupted. Coronavirus-19 stalks through the countries of the world and the halls of America.

It reminds me of David’s wild hiding spree as he sought to escape Saul’s determination to eliminate him.

First, the Cave of Abdullum.

When you find yourself in the depths of a cave, rock gatewaythe light seems small and far away.  Caves are dark, tension easily runs high, fear of scarcity or being discovered, always at the forefront of your thoughts.

From this scenario David entreated, “Be gracious to me, O God,” which he followed by: “For my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.  I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me.  He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me.  God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth…My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!  Awake, my glory!  Awake, my harp and lyre!  I will awaken the dawn.  I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.  For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens and Your truth to the clouds.” (Psa. 57:1-3, 7-11, NASB)

The graciousness of God.  The lovingkindness of God.  The active participation of God, in our good times and especially in our trials, our cave-time.

Pastor Ray Noah of Portland Christian Center and Petros Network wrote on his blog, “What is the cave?…the cave is the place of testing; it’s the blast furnace for moral fiber.  flames in the campfireThe cave is where your mettle gets tested, your maturity gets revealed, your heart gets exposed!”  He adds, “If Jesus got ‘cave-time,’ the cave won’t be optional for you.”

Ah, Jesus.

I’m so glad His cave-time was mentioned…for we know the end of that episode, and it fills our hearts with joy, a sense of confident victory which yes — we can walk in — a testimony that never fails to inspire, to strengthen, to catapult us forward in good deeds towards others.

In the midst of abundant Coronavirus 24/7 information/news to which we are all exposed right now, travel restrictions, closed businesses, and high anxiety among many among our neighborhoods and friends, I had the most amazing song enter my heart earlier in the week.  I use the description “amazing” because I have not heard or sung this song for at least twenty years.  It’s a melody which I thought was “OK” in its height of popularity, but not one of my personal Top Tens I would find myself humming.

And yet the Spirit injected the chorus melody into my soul and spirit and the tune has not stopped, yet:  “Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory; blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire.  Flow, river, flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy, send forth Your Word and let there be Light.” (Cliff Richard, lyrics)

I think this was not sent merely for my edification, and perhaps not even for yours…but, rather, to serve as a launchpad to prayerfully confront this specific darkness in a time of national need.  Praying for the Father’s glory to be released in every quarter, into every heart, through every scientist, in every economic situation, in wisdom and discernment, to repel every attack of fear, to push back and quell this overarching evil – with all its minions and carriers and banner-bearers.

 

Singing for Joy in the Temple

Overwhelmed by a sense of joy in the Lord, I wrote this quick post and want to share its moment of exultant praise with you!

February 27, 2019:  It is a beautiful morning and I have received a wonderful and unexpected gift:  this warm, sun-filled morning with many different species of birds passing through, singing and wing-flapping and chirping on the way.  Psalm 84:1 reads…Fall-Winter Journal, 2018-19

bird on feeder roof macro

2019: The Year to Transform Our Thinking and Discourse from “Anti-” to “Pro-“

IMG_7787It’s mid-January.  The snow falling outside may not be leaving particularly deep mounds of white on the ground, but the air is swirling ferociously with the conflict of storm fronts colliding and wind streams circling around one another in perfect ambush.  Dancing, falling, whipped-around snowflakes both drift and plummet downward as unseen forces manipulate and twist their normal course.

It is a nasty day outside.

And in my estimation, it rather closely mirrors the political climate in our country, right now.

So much so, I am strongly feeling that leaning into focused prayer should be an immediate response regarding a growing intolerance towards publicly living and celebrating a faith-based life.  I am inspired anew by the admonition in I Tim 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity.”  (NASB, italics added)

I believe that the “we” in this scripture is both a personal “we” – you and I – as well as a collective “we” for those who had come to know Christ in that era.  In our present case, here in America, a collective “we” – as in, “We, the people.”IMG_7295

While flipping through emails, I read the heading, “They Will Come for the Churches Next” and immediately clicked in to a politically foreboding article authored by Matt Walsh.  It was a follow-up piece to a day-before article regarding the startling amount of publicity being given to Second Lady Karen Pence’s return to a former employer as a current part-time employee.

When I first heard that announcement, I had two reactions of surprise:  first, I didn’t realize that the position of “Second Lady” would allow Pence to take on a “normal job” simultaneously, primarily for security reasons.  Secondly, I assumed she already had a full schedule of doing those goodwill-gesture and support activities necessary to whatever-it-is Second Ladies choose to highlight.  I found her choice a little puzzling, but thought it was rather down-to-earth and remarkable of her to engage in private-citizen employment while maintaining a public-citizen role.

Then followed a variety of Pence-focused announcements released on different days by different media sources, all of which easily summarize as pretty much one single statement — “Vice President’s Wife Takes Job at Anti-Gay Private School.”

And the descriptive twisting of facts almost made the truth of the issue unrecognizable.Concealing storm

Yes, Karen Pence was returning to work in a school she had already worked for, in former years.  Yes, it was a private school, the very school from which her daughter had graduated years earlier.

However, it is not an “anti-gay school.”  It is a pro-Christian-morality school.  And because we who identify as Christ-ians are constantly being described as “anti” rather than “pro” when represented by those who are not-Christ-ians, I believe we have fallen into a self-injuring trap:  we define ourselves in the same way, as being “anti” rather than “pro.”  We are therefore re-active to their agenda and narrative, rather than pro-active to His.

And therein lies the problem.  Here’s an example:

Pro-life…that would mean anti-abortion, I can hear the conversation shift.  No, “pro-life” is pro-life…pro-unborn, pro-just born, pro-toddler-through-adult, pro-geriatric, pro-working-years and pro-retirement-years, pro-adoption into both natural families and Jesus’ spiritual family. Pro-you-moving-forward-positively in wherever you fit in any of those scenarios.  Pro you-discovering-the-purpose-and-giftings-of-your-life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB, italics added) The Common English Bible translates Jesus’ phrase as, “I came so that they might have life—indeed so that they could live life to the fullest.”

Silhouette of pine branch2Yes, pro-life – verbally and actively supporting those principles, laws, philosophies and theologies that allow for abundant life, “life to the fullest.”

Our thinking and discourse are significantly limited, tainted, and shrouded by the restrictions of working within an “anti” mindset. It turns a reality of “us, together” into a perspective of division, you-and-me-on-opposite-sides.  Thus, we end up speaking from a defensive or holier-than-thou posture when talking to others.  Yet in a pro- stance, we are better able to stand firm as representatives of Jesus’ Kingdom, gladly extending His open invitation for all to believe in Him and step into the Light to join Him there.   We are encouraged by Jude 1:22-23, “Try to help those who argue against you.  Be merciful to those who doubt.  Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself.  And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them…” (The Living Bible)

It is now the start of February.  In the last two-plus weeks, much publicity has revolved around four Covington High School Catholic teenagers wearing MAGA hats to the Right to Life March and the various encounters that occurred.  Judicial nominee Brian Buescher was verbally grilled regarding his charitable volunteering through the KnightsDownload April 18 031 of Columbus and how his political views may be impacted by serving in a faith-based organization.  New York State has signed into law legislation that allows for “legal” abortion to be performed right up to the minute of a baby’s birth, and other states are pursuing similar laws.  On January 1 of his year, Hawaii became the eighth state/province in America to allow assisted suicide for the elderly.

None of these – nor the dozens of issues that will erupt over the next year – are no-opinion issues about which we should be prayer-less, complacent or silent in expressing a pro-life opinion, not an anti-this-or-that opinion.  Jude 1:3 encourages us, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all handed down to the saints.” (NASB)

Once for all.  Our pro-humanity, pro-generational Abba contends for us, singing and speaking Truth into every circumstance.  Let us do the same regarding the issues that impact our freedoms, our witness, the soul of our country