Search Me, Know Me

Psalm 139

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 61

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Youtube video upload by: Rachel Britton

What Matters Most

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Originally posted on Cindi Gale:

Life can and does sweep us into its cares and concerns: financial woes, relationship conflicts, work stress, dashed dreams, time demands. Those things do matter, but they often take on over-sized, grandiose importance. They loom over our daily lives and darken our perspectives, clouding our outlooks. That’s when a simple, straightforward viewpoint sheds light on what matters most.

I’m reminded of the evening my Dad died, and the day of the World Trade Center attacks. Those were days of shocking clarity, when all the irritations, troubles, and concerns of daily life evaporated into insignificance. On those staggering days, life was re-framed into what matters most.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message) We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us…

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Avoiding The Bunkers

golfcourse bunkers

Since Zach Johnson of nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just won the British Open, let’s talk golf. Specifically, let’s talk hazards.

By definition, a hazard is an area of a golf course which provides a difficult obstacle, and is usually of two types: water hazards such as lakes and rivers; and man-made hazards such as bunkers. Bunkers are designed to be impediments to golfers’ progress toward the green.

There are man-made hazards in life, too. They are abundant in quantity, seeped in varying degrees of injustice or cruelty, and often come from unexpected sources. Who are these people who choose to be bunkers, who aspire to catch us in their traps?

  • They are the trolls at gatherings or on social media, baiting whoever will bite with untrue or bombastic statements. They like to inflame, to goad us into reacting, to pull us into their broiler. The antitheses of peacekeepers, they are Fight Seekers.

golf course with fire hazard  

  • They are the self-serving plotters, strategists who design ways to take from us, to harm us, to come out ahead at our expense. When they succeed at both plotting and implementation of deviousness, we land right where they want us: in the rough; in the sand; in the deep water of injustice.

golf ball underwater

  • They are the malingerers, with goals of living out their days in perpetual trouble. While others endeavor to get out of hazards and put trouble behind, they stubbornly adhere to the bunker they built. They don’t care if we drown in their masterminded troubles, they just want us in there with them.

golf underwater, for blog

  • Unlike those in true need, they are the Hazard Makers. They pose as unaware victims, as having no idea where the trap originated. If they don’t advertise their rotten luck or the contrived injustice done them, they can’t get our sympathy, our anger and action against their so-called “enemies”, or our service to their fabricated needs. These people don’t want solutions, they want problems. Problems put them front and center as the object of our attention.
  • They are the impeccable actors and actresses in everyday life, good at their craft, and unmindful of truth or who they malign. Their bunkers are deceptively attractive; our entrapment essential to their hidden motives. We’re caught the moment we believe their falsehoods.

As the saying goes, “We have but one life to live.” We can choose to avoid the bunkers, battle our way out when we do land there, and play out our lives on the fairways and greens. We can do our best to never be a hazard to others. We can offer to help people out of the rough, point them to the smooth fairways, support their progress toward the greens, and applaud their well-earned victories.

Choose for yourself who you will be — a hazard or not — and how you will play your game. As for me and my house …

She Loves Him

My favorite part of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series is the love between Lucy and Aslan.

He is the depiction of Jesus. And of God. He is massive. Powerful. Immutable. His ferocity is frightening to others.

But not to Lucy. She loves him. She buries her face in the beautiful silkiness of his mane, riding high over the mountains of Narnia. Death is certain should she fall, but she is undaunted. Settled on his broad shoulders, her fists clutch that golden mane. Because it is Aslan that carries her, Lucy is carefree.

Aslan, riding Aslan, for blog

His frame is strong. Unwavering. Secure. Unassailable. He never falters. Never misleads her. Never abandons her. He never lowers her to earth anywhere short of stable, sheltered ground.

Aslan and Lucy face to face

He is insulating. He speaks to her softly, words rich in wisdom. All at once, his heart a blend of tenderness, intensity, and protectiveness. In there also, his own pain.

And so she loves him.

An excerpt of their reunion, from “Prince Caspian”: The Return to Narnia …

And then—oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him.

But for the movement of his tail he might have been a stone lion, but Lucy never thought of that. She never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment. And the next thing she knew was that she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful rich silkiness of his mane.

Aslan and Lucy reunion cropped

“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.”

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia The Chronicles of Narnia (1951, this edition Harper Collins, 1994) 141.

Joy With The Morning

DSCN2236.jpg with psalm 30.5

When we find ourselves thrust into difficult, (even devastating) seasons of life, we should fully expect to survive those times of despair. We should know this too: they are but passing storms.

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace. — Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT)

Beyond Expectations

DSCN2229.jpg, edit for blog

I call it my “geranium on steroids”. It was just a wee little thing when I planted it, and if I’d thought about it at all (which I didn’t), I would have predicted the plant to reach twelve inches or so in height, and produce a few flowers at once. That’s what “normal” geraniums do. I didn’t do anything special to it. I simply watered it a couple times per week, as I do all my outdoor potted plants.

DSCN2232Yet, that wee little geranium quickly grew oversized leaves, shot up to a height of thirty-six inches, burst forth a plethora of extravagant blooms, and is loaded with buds still to flower.

That’s the kind of abundance God wants to provide for us. We hope, we pray, and we envision His response within the confines of “normalcy” … and yet He is infinitely more than we ask or imagine.

We are to follow Him, not lead; trust and obey Him; serve, not be served; humbly yield to His ways. When we do that, we shouldn’t be surprised when He bursts forth in our lives in ways that far exceed our expectations.

He is who He is, afterall.

Ephesians 3:20 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) – 

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us–

Matthew 7:11 (ESV) –

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

James 1:5 (ESV) – 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 

Freedom Of Choice

We’re all familiar with disappointment. Some disappointments in life are mild, some are severe. The greater our investments of time, resources, and emotions into specific areas of our lives, the more devastated we are when we find ourselves halted on our roads of choice.

The more we care, the more it hurts.

If we’re making big emotional deposits into a person at the exact time that person decides to withdraw from our shared lives, the abrupt end is shocking. We are devastated. We’re traumatized.

The one left holding an abandoned partnership or thwarted interest wonders, What about what I want? What happened to my freedom of choice? Why am I suddenly powerless? How did I miss the signs of this happening? Is it too late to force us back on track? Are my options exhausted? Should I grovel? Should I relent? Why is it that the time I most need my senses is the time my abilities fail me?

Powerlessness to affect a desired outcome is excruciating.

Friendships end. Marriages end. Partnerships end. Injuries end careers. Bankruptcies end ventures. Relationships fail. All kinds of dreams end. Some conclude relatively painlessly — they were fortunate enough to agree that the road together had run its course; it was time to part ways — but oftentimes, the end was unwanted.

When one person opted out while the other wanted in, it’s uniquely difficult for the one left holding the dream. They were denied choice. Their dreams for life together hadn’t dimmed; they remained committed. For the jilted, it takes time to acknowledge and accept the harsh reality:

One person can’t hold together what another is determined to dismantle. 

It’s so much easier when both parties agree. When one wants out while the other is still very invested, terrible pain results. Those left holding the original vision have some catching up to do. Their freedom of choice was denied. Their dreams were brought to an end for them. They didn’t get a say in what was extremely important to them.

It takes time to grieve the death of dreams that can no longer be. 

Some time after deep grief lessens, more truths surface — brighter truths, encouraging truths; hope for the future:

You are not powerless after-all. Life options exist aplenty. You still have choice. 

New roads will appear on the road-map of your life. Your passions will be paired with opportunities and people who will embrace them. As you forge new paths, one of many remnants will emerge from the debris of your past: an appreciation for freedom of choice. Because you know what loss of freedom feels like, you won’t overlook it this time — you will treasure it; you won’t want to waste it.

You have freedom to select from a vast array of life options going forward. Choose wisely, appreciate much, and like never before, value the gift of your freedom of choice.