..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The ability to give thanks is the ability to see and acknowledge the Holy One working in all circumstances, in each and every corner of your life and mine, in every inch of the universe.  God has allowed the world to be broken because that is what the gift of free will brings to the table but He does not wish it to be so. Perhaps "allowed" is too strong a word because it is we, the collective mankind we, that have chosen evil. It is His nature to begin to pick up the broken and scattered pieces, one by one, to see what marvelous redemption can be wrought in us if we merely just want to be part of it.  It is the gift of His Son sent to restore and rebuild that assures us that nothing that evil can do can trump what God has planned for those who love Him and are called according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28)  

God is not like we think He is. Please give Him that allowance if you are not sure you want to acknowledge Him this thanksgiving. If we only knew how much we are like Him when we are hurt and horrified by cruelty, injustice, evil, we would not think of Him as distant or uninvolved, or worse yet, incapable of acting to rectify the world's wrongs. 

God is a Heart filled with righteous Love.  From Him flows every good and precious gift. In Him is life and light and peace.  From His bounty He pours forth blessing on the good and bad alike.  Cronyism does not suit Him.

Of His riches there is no end, and if we could draw back the veil that keeps us from seeing the true nature of what is actually happening in the world, we would see that "those who are with us are more than those who are against us. (2 Kings 6:16). Angels attend the children of God. 

God, the Mighty Warrior, fights for us. You matter. 

A great war is being raged over you. See life for what it is. Choose life. Choose good. Choose to trust God even when it does not make sense.  He is always good, always able to redeem, always protecting the broken reed from being broken off and the smoldering wick from going out.  Hope is what draws us toward Him. Grace, mercy and unfathomable Love is what washes over us when we come to Him.  Allow yourself to receive the love that He so freely offers.

If we can see just one bit of that this thanksgiving, it will be a thanksgiving indeed.  Dear One, you are exceedingly loved!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Just One Look

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)

It often seems like personal transformation takes a long time, sometimes a lifetime, and in some respectable way it does. We are always journeying deeper into God and thus being transformed by that process. But in God's design there are spiritual wormholes of a sort-- strategic moments that can take you quickly from one place to another, even though the distance traveled is quite vast. If God fixes his eyes upon us, we will be overcome by a mighty interaction that can forever change us, and change us quickly!

 In Mark's gospel we see Jesus gazing upon a spiritual inquirer, with a transformational offer: The rich young man was not seeing the big picture of his life and came to Jesus-- seeking, yes, but seeking in his own small box, for a small answer from a small God. He knew he lacked but couldn't imagine what that lack really was. He thought he wanted to know how much more religious he would have to be to get rid of the dull ache in his quickly emptying soul. Jesus calls him to give up his money, not to Jesus ministry, but to the poor.

Jesus knows he will need a personal gobsmack, and not like what he was getting from the "we'll take your money for God" types, but something truly earth shattering, to ever have hope of being able to fly free. The real bounty here is the gaze of Jesus opening an opportunity to risk it all to get something far better.

 Ponder with me for a moment, these words, " and Jesus, looking at him, loved him"---Can you imagine the power of that look? Can you imagine the compassion pouring forth from the heart of the Father through the eyes of Jesus? Can you sense what Jesus saw as He looked, knowing, understanding, all that stood in this young man's way before He could truly enter the kingdom of God?

Dear ones, one look like that could transform your whole life. Know deeply that God is looking at you with that kind of compassionate gaze. He sees the obstacles, he sees your humanity, he understands all that is clouded and broken. And yet in one instant His look of love has the power to heal and transform.

Gaze upon us, O God!

 And not only that, God wants to impart that same powerful ability to us to gaze compassionately into the eyes and hearts of those around us. There will come a day, and may it be very soon, even today, that we as followers of Jesus are able to gaze into the hearts and souls of men and by one look, bring the opportunity for transformation. May we make the Father's love so apparent to each that we encounter that when they look at us, they see the love of the One who can change impossible situations, the One that can by one look, call us forth and bring that which is dead to life. May we as the corporate people of God look with great compassion on others, and truly love them, so that they find courage to follow Jesus into the life the are meant to lead.

 Can you feel God looking at you in that way?

I can..... and you can, too.

Open your heart. Jesus is looking at you, dear friend, right now.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Notwithstanding, Joseph

from Matthew 2

Merry Christmas, Everyone! here is something I was pondering from the Christmas story in Matthew's gospel today...

In this portion of the Christmas story, this difficult and heart wrenching portion, we see God's sovereignty and His Provision amidst the humanity and nobility of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. God must have loved and respected Joseph very much for the place that he is called to stand in was a very difficult one. Yet, we see the character of Joseph rising up to meet the challenge in the best way he knows how. God does not have perfect people to work with, the only perfect One in this scene is still a vulnerable Baby who is put into the hands of the two people God felt would do Him right.

The Holy Family is off to a difficult start. An entourage of wise men show up in Jerusalem inquiring where the "King of the Jews" might be. Scripture says "When Herod the king heard of this, he was
troubled and all of Jerusalem with him." Oh dear. This one statement most likely sums up a scene of complete uproar. Herod is not so stupid as to dismiss the Magi as misguided mystics. They know something he does not and he demands they, and the local priests, tell him the truth so that he can make evil use of their spiritual gifts. He feigns spiritual interest in wanting to worship this king and you see the cinematic closeup shot of his face twisted in jealous horror hidden by a wan grin. The Magi have come in good faith, they do not, it appears, understand the rotting political and spiritual milieu of first century Israel. There is no king but Herod. There will not be another king if Herod has anything to do with it. Then God begins to intervene. He warns the Magi and they escape by another path, leaving a tricked-by-God Herod angrily left to vent his cruel anger.

God then warns dear Joseph, to take the sweet family to Egypt. "To Egypt?" echoes Joseph, but he has already faced far more difficult things to believe and so to Egypt they go. All that "it might be fulfilled." Meanwhile, Herod, possessed with indignant, vengeful rage, decrees the horrific slaughter of the holy innocents : no child under two years old escapes Bethlehem and the surrounding towns alive. No doubt "the lamentations of Rachel weeping" are heard all the way to Egypt, Joseph pondering and worrying and keeping watch over his adopted, precious Son: each night never really sleeping soundly but listening for things that go bump in the night.

 Later, another dream comes, the angel of the Lord announcing the "all clear" to dear Joseph. "Return to Israel, for those who seek to kill the Child are dead." And now here is my point in all this: Joseph takes Mary and Jesus back to Israel "not withstanding" says the King James version. Joseph only half believes that God has gotten it straight. After all, Archelaus, Herod's son, was now king, and does the fruit fall any closer to the tree than that? Cruel and tyrannical; murderous and treacherous, Archelaus was not exactly safe. "Does the Good God have all the facts?" thinks Joseph. So just to be sure, just to be safe, Joseph heads not back to Bethlehem, where the only two year old boy would stick out like a sore thumb in the bereaved township, but into the backwoods of the Galilee. And who can blame him? In this we see that God is watching all the way, guiding Joseph as the leader of his dear family, and that even when God says it is safe, overcautious Joseph is obsessively diligent: no one shall hurt the boy on his watch! Dreams are dreams, and guidance from God a luxury mostly for the rabbis, but in the real world of carpenters, knives and swords are real dangers and death a real possibility. And thus unfolds the heavenly story come to earth and the fulfillment of scripture even because of Joseph's overkill. Matthew records all this and notes "so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "Jesus comes to live in Nazareth for the prophet says, "He shall be a Nazarene."

 Can you see yourself in this story of Joseph? I can. When God says, "Go!" it is easy to ask,
"But are You sure?"
"Yes, I AM"
"But are You, sure, sure?"

 I am not condoning questioning God when He tells us something, but our response may not always be an expression of rebellion but of the very human feeling that we do not want to endanger those in our spiritual care or the work of God given to us. To the degree that this is predictably how decent humans think and not open disobedience, God weaves our moments of hesitation and the resulting detours, into the grand story of His Redemption, "notwithstanding". I reckon He weaves all our downright failures in too, for "all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose."

 What is beautiful, and fearful, about this story is that we can see God being God over tragedy and over the tiny, narrow, glorious road that led to our salvation. In all our humanity we try our best, we put our trust in God and obey, sometimes a bit slowly, a bit to the left or a bit to the right, but God is still well in control, well overseeing the details, well able to perfect all that concerns His kingdom. 

The more we see this truth, the more we see that it is really all God and very little of us, and because of that we can really start to enjoy the bit parts we play in the Kingdom of His Dear Son. So find your place, and say your line in the Christmas play, and rejoice in God and celebrate that He is the One who scripts the Christmas and Easter and Happily- Ever-After story
for His People. We are blessed. So very blessed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Greater Than all My Failures

 Some One larger than all of my failures is stirring inside of me. .. Let the Holy
Spirit  arise within you and do His Work. God is not worried about what you are not or not
yet. He is jealously guarding what He has planted within you. Let it rise up amidst the weeds.
His life will mold you and make you even  in challenging circumstances. It is immutable life.
It is eternal. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

The God-Sent God

It is Easter Sunday. It is a reminder that our problems here were so big that they could not
be fixed from afar. Some problems are like that. In an age where I can look through a webcam
at some distant part of the earth, or have a doctor diagnose my condition remotely, or speak
with people at the far end of the globe instantaneously, we tend to forget that some problems
are too big for any of that to help. .

It would be a pitiless God who created people, set them upon the earth, watched them
bring ruin upon themselves and yet do nothing about it.  If He merely watched from
afar, what would that say to us? But He sent us His Son. In humility. Incognito to those
who would not see.

Sometimes, when something is really broken, you have to send the right Man to fix the
problem, and sometimes He might have to come a long way. Such is the Christmas
and Easter story. We weren't sent just anybody to fix our problem. We were sent the
God-sent God. God did not send a messenger, someone to get the job done (as if
just a messenger could), and check to see  the delivery confirmation number to
see if he arrived.  No, God sent God to help us. What that means exactly and how
He did it, we shall only understand One Day. But today we can know that He did
not send just anybody, but His Only Begotten Son. Spirit of His Spirit. Eternally One.
He sent Himself.    Sometimes there is only one Man for the job. Thankfully, it was
the Right and Righteous One, Jesus. Thank God for the God-sent God.

Hallelujah, He is Risen! Happy Easter!. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

On the Old Landmarks Disappearing

Today, I walked to the corner of the street where I have lived a good deal of my life.
Today, it was so very different.  The house on the corner of my street was sitting mostly in
a dumpster: knocked down to make progress. I honestly did not recognize what I was looking
at. The old landmark was gone. This is the fourth time that this has happened this year
and its strangely symbolic.  The local developer decided to buy up as much land  as he
could going down my street.. This last house was 30 year hold out. They just wouldn't sell
even though the house was abandoned, derelict, and had not been inhabited for decades.
In some ways it should have been demolished long ago, in others, it should have been
restored. Nevertheless, it was still a landmark with its own warning message.

The house next to it was demolished just before this one.  My friends lived there when
I was a child and when I told them, we were upset together. Before it was demolished
I went up to the empty window, stuck my head inside, and what hit me was a wave
of happy childhood memories.  Scores of people had lived there since the days that
I had  played there but just for a moment, it was 1967. Time is wobbly like that..

The house next to that one had been demolished last fall.  The last occupants were
a black lady and her son and her dog, Precious. That's how I got Precious.--the
people  had to move to make way for "progress" and progress didn't care one whit
that Precious would not be permitted to stay in the only other housing available
to the family.  So, while I leave out a lot of the story, I inherited the dog I vote most
like Jesus. My other dogs have not been the greatest Christians, this one outdoes me,
paws down.

Then the house two doors down from me, also fell to the wrecking ball. It shook
our house for two days and I couldn't bear to look.  It was Miss White's old house
and it was built the same year that ours was. Now instead of telling people that are
trying to find my house that I am the sixth house on the right, I will have to tell them
something entirely different. Somehow, that is just plain eerie.

Do you know why I've told you all this? Because in a similar way our spiritual
landmarks are disappearing and the wrecking ball is right next door shaking our
houses and I wanted you to ponder that with me.

 The dictionary describes landmark as "a prominent or conspicuous object on land 
that serves as a guide, especially to ships at sea or to travelers on a road, a 
distinguishing landscape feature marking a site or location."

Today when I walked down to the corner, I felt the exact same feeling of dis-ease
 that I've been feeling for several years spiritually.  I will miss the sense of coming
toward home and seeing that which marks my home area, that which is familiar
and comforting in its gift of stability. It's all changed and until I get used to it,
its going to bother me. Some change is required, some contains a deeper message.

Those landmarks had been there since I was a child. I had watched similar
ones fall along the way, but now it was right next to me, Likewise spiritually.
Proverbs tells us:"Remove not the ancient landmark," (Proverbs 22:28) 

There is good spiritual reason for that:  remove what is meant to guard
and soon a generation and all that come after will not be able to find their way.

If the foundations be shaken, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)
Our spiritual landscape is changing and nothing much looks or feels familiar.
Landmarks give us a sense of stability and order. They guide us.  They help us know
our boundaries and  respect our space. If they disappear how will we
know that we are still on the right path?

Most of the people I respected as leaders as I grew up spiritually are now
with the Lord. I heartily lament this. I often sit and wonder what they would be
preaching or saying now, here, this very minute. Others have lost their way or changed
their path, or I'm not sure.what. They don't feel the same. They don't sound the
same.  They don't preach the same--if they still preach and not just chat.from
the pulpit, if there even still is a pulpit.

When did everything change? When did the One Way sign change to Multiplex Rotary
Ahead?  When did the Stop sign change to Pause and then Sneak Through?
When did the Red Light have a Rainbow painted over it? When did  the Wrong Way
sign get replaced with Any Way You Want Will Get You There? Our landmarks
have disappeared, shifted, or are being replaced.  Some may have needed to be, most
did not

Much earlier in our North American history explorers would set a landmark  to mark
a land claim as their own. Later, unscrupulous others would come and remove the landmarks
thus taking things that were not theirs to take. A very different America emerges
if that had not happened. Compare that to the current spiritual landscape.

The Book of Job says, "Some remove the landmarks, they seize and devour the flocks"
(Job 24:2). Landmarks are removed to confuse and erase boundaries. They undo order and
leave the flocks open to danger.  So what are we to do?

God says, "One more time will I shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the
dry land and I will shake all nations and the Desire of  Nations shall come" (Haggai
2: 6 &7, )

Now we must set our eyes on Jesus alone. All is being stripped away in the purposes
and plan of God. We must seek the Truth that is revealed in and by Christ Jesus. He
alone must now be our Landmark and our High Tower. Lesser things, even all things
that are not built on the Firm Foundation of Christ, will be swept away in the coming
storm.  On Christ the Solid Rock I now must stand, for surely all other ground is sinking

Peter wrote to early Christians, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery
trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you, But
rejoice inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ suffering, that , when His glory
shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy "(I Peter 4:12, 13) .

Beloved, this is not gong to be an easy time.  We find ourselves in a sea of confusion
and we must navigate by the Son alone.  All shall be well if we are focused on Him,
but do take care.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Finding God in the Great Silence

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls. 
--Mother Theresa 

winter walk in Robinson State Forest. Agawam, MA

“It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don't worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.” 
― Gordon B. Hinckley