Mile High Journey

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This colorful glass sculpture is found in the Denver Botanic Gardens. I photographed this on a glorious day after seeing an overwhelming collection of flowers, herbs, bushes, trees, plants and other earth fare. It was a very special day in other ways, but that is a story for another day… The sculpture seems to reflect the gloriousness and fragility of life. Such was the contrast I experienced between a damaging hail storm in the Mile High City a couple nights prior to seeing varieties (not pictured) of lily pads thriving in these beautiful botanic gardens on a blue sky day! What a contrast!

Psalm 121 (NIV) says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” When I lift up my eyes to the hills, I see His glory and I realize that He is the One who watches over the fragile. He’s the Only One who can.

This summer I’ve been leading a Bible study at my church, digging into the book of I Peter. I Peter has been a big part of my personal mile high spiritual journey (I encourage you to read it; it is only 5 brief chapters). In having lived through probably three-quarters of my life at this point, I am able to catch a glimpse of my life’s influence, who I have affected, and what my words have carried along. Particularly, in my family, this includes both good and bad influences, both glorious and fragile.

I Peter 3:8 reminds me that there are miles more to go to be “like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble” as the Lord watches over my coming and going and helps me to keep my eyes on Him. At the three-quarter mark, the threads and seasons of my family’s lifetimes have become more connected and visible to me, just like the shining glass. God purposely reveals more and more of the intricacies of His Sovereign story as I get older.

I am reminded of a rope that was thrown to me some years ago when I was a participant in a Bible study at church. A mother was the leader/teacher and her adult daughter, in town for a season, was also a participant. At the last class, book recommendations were suggested for further summer reading and some were even distributed around for borrowing. Picking up on a clear vibe between mother and daughter about some past troubled times, I took that as a nudge from God’s Spirit to read the book they both recommended heartily. And so I did. This life-changing story started me on a healing journey with one of my children. I am grateful for that moment, that I was attentive, that this mother and daughter affected me that day, that their words carried life into mine by God’s grace. The Maker of heaven and earth was seriously watching over my coming and going that day!

I Peter 1:18 (The Message) says, “Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God…” Seemingly trivial things (like book recommendations), woven into the fabric of life, are meaningful when there is abiding faith in God who provides, sustains, directs, controls, and saves. Regarding another more recent book recommendation, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (by Rosaria Butterfield), I continue to be blown away by God’s powerful ability to intersect with us and rescue us from darkness and lies. I am recommending this book to you now. It is a true “God’s amazing grace” autobiography. In her book Rosaria says, “The first rule of repentance: requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.” The focus is knowing God. Nothing else.

Glorious and fragile is the mile high journey of a Christ-follower.

Simplehearted

Azaleas at 117 spring 2019

Psalm 116:6 “The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.”

This spring’s Easter celebration was the great reminder to me that God came to make His dwelling among us, and no more in a temple made by human hands. His presence is experienced in a heart, life, and soul redeemed by Him through faith. Jesus, the One and Only, perfect sacrifice, was victorious over death on the cross so that I don’t need credit for anything anymore except my faith in Him. I am free and clear. He paid my debt. This is the simple truth.

After all the excesses and extravagances of King Solomon’s life, and after he veered off the path of godly wisdom, he reached a simple conclusion. Ecclesiastes 11:13-14 says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” This is the simple truth.

I’m wondering, why do we make things harder or more time-consuming than they need to be? Why do we let the train runaway with our time and efforts? Obsessions, compulsions, how do they mount up so quickly? Type-A becomes an excuse for it all, right? A disguise for pride and perfectionism. Yet, pride is what the Lord saves me from again and again. Easter was a sincere reminder. Jesus is the standard, the perfect, the Lord, the Savior. It’s a simple truth.

Raising up the Great Name of God in my daily planning and actions is really the only thing that is important. What a danger to my soul to get off this track and get clogged with complex-hearted thinking. In Psalm 132:3-5, David is quoted as saying, “I will not enter my house or go to my bed – I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” In other words, I must dig my heels in until I experience God’s presence in my life. Not a move will I make until He is with me.

But how can I invite God’s presence? One powerful thing is to soak in God’s Word. But, not just for knowledge. (And not just to check off that I have completed my BSF homework.) Not by programs and methods. Instead, to know Him more fully. Pursue only Him. God is so present in His Word and so available to the simplehearted. And why are people like me so reluctant to spend time in it and absorb it deeply? To be transformed by it, to be sustained by it? To dialogue in prayer with the God Who promises His presence?

So, why am I so often tempted to overlay my idiosyncratic needs for symmetry or lack of clutter or coloring between the lines onto the simple obedience of abiding in Him without distraction? “Just a sec” leads me down the road of activities that make it impossible for me to be that dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob – Jesus Christ. These invented delays threaten my pursuit of God’s presence. The one more text message. The one more phone call. The one more shirt to iron. The one more sauce to make. The one more thing makes impossible simplehearted devotion to Jesus.

Victor Hugo once said, “I advance in life, I grow more simple, and I become more and more patriotic for humanity.” In my mind, patriotism for humanity means love and respect for the Creator and His creation. Living according to the Creator’s Word. Fulfilling His purposes. Knowing Him. Knowing His presence in my life. This I know, the Lord favors the simplehearted – those whose single and simple focus is on glorifying God’s Great Name in thought, word, and deed – no matter what.

 

 

Grandiflora

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One of my “happy” experiences is visiting a dear friend. A “Grandiflora” living room is a personal reminder of one of these wonderful times with my dear friend who lives in Charleston. Grandiflora is the name of her street. But, it was exactly the reunion of friends that made the street name so special. So, I’ve adopted it as one of my “happy places.” Well worth a 10-hour train ride, for sure.

To me, Grandiflora has taken on a whole new meaning. The sweet smelling rose is now a reminder to me of the gift of friendship. Grandiflora is really the name for hybrids of tea roses and floribunda roses. (Now I am truly out of my element since green-thumbing is far from my list of abilities… but, thank you Google.) I simply have been thinking about happy places and what makes them happy… A street named for a rose. A wonderful friend who lives there…

Here’s another. A few hours of quality with my two daughters and my daughter-in-law on a beautiful sunny day in the spring. A 30-minute drive up Route 5 to Upper Shirley Plantation makes it a beloved route – a happy place. But, not because of the means of getting there – on an unclogged 2-lane byway on a pretty day (which is quite nice).  Instead, because of the sweet end – the treasured bonding between sisters and mother, even mother-in-law, the happy place became happy. The delicious food and drink were only reminders of the laughter and “girl time” that we enjoyed for a few hours.

These treasures, these “ends” to be found in and around happy places, remind me of the treasures that are found in a heart rightly related to Jesus Christ. He is the  Grandiflora of my heart. There is a phrase in the hymn Fairest Lord Jesus: “Fair are the meadows, Fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring: Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing.”

Billy Graham said that the message of the Bible is Jesus Christ. It’s about “humanity’s redemption through Jesus Christ. It’s the message of salvation primarily. It is only incidentally concerned with the history of Israel or a system of ethics.” God’s Word becomes a “happy place” only if it leads one to become a true believer. Fair are the Bible stories, Fairer still the faith of saints over the years, but Jesus is fairer.

Fair are happy places. Fairer still the quality relationships with friends and family. But, Jesus is fairer. He is the Giver Who makes hearts thankful. He is the Savior Who redeems us from the destruction of sin. He is the Grandiflora of the Gospel. He is the Provider of life, peace and eternity with Him.

Psalm 30:11,12 “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.”

The happiest place.