Journey into the Unknown

 

IMG_1625

 

I confess to being a Star Wars fan. Our family has great memories of waiting in line to see the very first in the movie series, Episode IV-A Lost Hope that was released May 25, 1977. It was a given that we were looking forward to Episode VII-The Force Awakens when it was released December 18, 2015.

 

The series brings back images of westerns of an earlier time period where the battle between good and evil was somehow clearer than many movies today.

 

I think our hearts are captured by the conquest of the good and right standing against the evil. Perhaps it gives us hope in our own battles and conquests that ultimately good will win out over evil, light will prevail over darkness.

 

When Star Wars came on the scene it took us on journeys into the unknown. There were galaxies beyond our own to discover, bizarre and eerie characters to study, and sorting out the truth about “the Force” accompanied by a musical score that accentuated the story unfolding on the screen. That same musical score would be etched in our memories as high school bands learned it and used it as a highlight of their halftime shows at fall football games.

 

I wonder if we recognize movies about treks into space are not the only journeys into the unknown.

 

Each of our days is just such a journey. Yes, I make plans and think of seasons of life common to us all, but each day unfolds revealing how little control I have over its twists and turns. Somehow I can feel less excited about that than I might in a movie.

IMG_1624

 

My journey into the unknown requires so much more of me than a space movie.

 

One of my favorite Bible stories of journeying into the unknown is found in Joshua. For as horrible as conditions in Egypt were for the children of Israel, it became clear soon enough after they crossed the Red Sea that the trek they were beginning would expose them to much they had never seen or experienced. The conditions would not be easy and we know how they faltered under the leadership of Moses and balked at times when Joshua took the lead.

 

The Israelites were stepping off into the unknown, but have we forgotten that it was not unknown to God?

 

God knew the destination and had planned for the route He desired them to take. He also knew it would birth a new level of faith and trust in the people He had called out of slavery in Egypt. The conditions they faced would not be comfortable, but that was less significant to God. He knew these conditions would be temporary, but the development of their faith and trust would endure forever.

 

The Israelites needed to learn God could be trusted.

 

So do we.

 

The Israelites needed to know the land the spies had described that was flowing with milk and honey was not to be the source of their faith. Their faith and trust needed to be in the One who had bequeathed the Promised Land to them.

 

Page by page in the book of Joshua we discover the challenge to grow in faith that God was good and was for their good as they wandered day by day extending into forty years of their lives. The children of Israel also needed to come to grips with the unexpected challenges they faced and the fears that sought to overtake them.

 

I wonder if the journey was less about gaining the Promised Land and more about believing that God could be trusted.

 

Isn’t His first and foremost desire to be in relationship with and for us to know Him as He truly is? To know He is good. To know He is trustworthy. To know that our unknown is not unknown to Him.

 

Consider this…

 

Is that what He also wants us to see on our own journey into the unknown?

 

IMG_1623

Caught in the Act

IMG_2278

 

Attending a one-room schoolhouse is something most people have only read about, but for me it was a reality for the first and second grade. Eight grades in one large room provided an experience like no other.

 

Of course there were only a few students for each grade and as I think about it, those moms today who home school their children probably have a greater feel for the experience than most anyone else. Even so, to have 25 students in one room at different grade levels taught by one teacher meant you needed an extraordinary teacher.

 

My teacher’s name was Mrs. Queen and the name fit her as perfectly as the smile she always wore.

 

The room was arranged with desks in rows and sections according to grade level. A large coal stove stood to one side and was used to heat the room in the winter. Behind the stove were a row of hooks for coats and jackets. Bathrooms were the more primitive outdoor variety. The playground had one set of swings and an abundance of grass.

 

I was one of three little girls in the first grade. Our desks were up front in the room, but the front wall’s black chalkboard gave us a glimpse of what other grades were assigned and we could also hear and benefit from the instruction students above us received.

 

The disadvantage for me was my seeming inability to tune out the instruction for other grades and focus on my own work. It sounded more interesting than the work I was assigned. I also am and was a very auditory learner so I would zero in on all sorts of new information long before that material would be given to me. In fact, I learned a lot by listening.

 

I listened so well to the other girls in my class reading aloud that when it came to my turn, I could read the pages without stumbling over a single word.

 

It seemed like I was the best reader in the class and I got credit for that until Mrs. Queen discovered the truth.

 

I was not reading the words, but imitating. I pretended to read, but had instead memorized the stories in the reading book.

 

It was almost the middle of the first grade and I was caught. My parents were told and I needed to start at the beginning of the first grade reader again.

 

There are many things I learned by imitation and this may not be a bad thing, but some things do not work that way. I can imitate the way my mother crimped a piecrust. I can imitate how I use my camera lens after I watch a You Tube video. I can imitate a British accent after watching Downton Abbey.

 

In the spiritual realm, I cannot imitate the nature of Jesus.

 

It is either in me or it is not.

 

As a believer, I am called to often be and do what is not my duty, to love when it would be easier to resent, to persevere when it would be easier to walk away, to respond with grace when a comment made is less then loving.

 

If I only imitate, I will be found out as surely as Mrs. Queen detected I was not reading. I will also dishonor the Lord in my life when others discover I was only imitating.

 

His character cannot be imitated. It only happens by the infusion of His life and Spirit at work within me.

 

bed-bible-book-bindings-935944

Do You See Anything?

British Columbia, Canada

What would it have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples, walking along with Him on the dusty roads of Galilee? What was it like to see what they saw?

 

When I consider those questions, it seems easy to understand why they would have written as much as they could in the gospels to give us glimpses of their journey to give us help for our own. The Lord used each of the disciples’ voices to try to give us a fuller orbed understanding of the story of His ministry here on earth.

 

Time and again if we take a moment to imagine it as we are reading, we can come up beside them on the dusty road and possibly get a glimpse of what it must have felt like. Often it seemed that even though they were there, they were often seeing and yet not seeing at the same time. Little wonder that our vision can be blurry.

 

Reading in Mark 8 today I see Jesus teaching the crowds and then expressing concern for how hungry and weary they must all be. What a gift of hospitality He had. He never failed to see to every aspect of those He sought to reach and in this passage He multiplies seven loaves to feed the crowd that had been gathered with Him for three days.

 

He feeds their spirits and hearts and then He gives them food for their physical hunger.

 

Later in that chapter they all arrive at Bethsaida and some friends of a blind man bring him to Jesus and beg that He heal the man. They have heard of His power and miracles. There was no question He could, if only He would.

 

Jesus responds and in this healing, He puts spit in the man’s eyes as He lays hands on him. Then He asks him if he can see anything.

 

I can only imagine the man squinting and squeezing his eyes opened and closed trying to regain perfect sight; but no matter how hard he tries, he tells Jesus he sees men who look like walking trees.

 

So Jesus lays hands on him again and when the man looks carefully, he discovers he has perfect twenty/twenty vision.

 

Sometimes He healed instantly and sometimes He showed us that healing could be progressive. Commentaries make note that He was also showing the disciples (and us) that spiritual blindness might not be healed instantly.

 

What hope that gives me! My limited vision also can be healed to see more clearly, to understand more deeply, to know Him more completely, to begin to see more as He sees.

 

When Jesus looked at someone, He saw beyond what everyone else saw.

 

Remember. He looked at the woman at the well and saw not only what she had done, but also what she could be. He looked up in a tree and saw a wee man; a tax collector hated by one and all, and yet saw the hunger in his heart and went to his house for dinner. He noticed the widow dropping in the two coins and considered her sacrifice.

 

He saw what lay beneath the surface and saw possibility, a precious soul needing healing. He never diminished those others passed over or shunned. He respected each one.

 

What do we see?

 

How do we learn to see more like that?

 

Maybe we who know Him need another touch of His hands to heal us so our eyes and hearts can see beyond what we see now when we look at those around us.

 

Ken Gire writes in Windows of the Soul, “we must learn to look with more than just our eyes and listen with more than just our ears”.

 

To do that, we need to put down our phones, lay aside our assumptions, deal a death blow to our prejudices, pride, and biases, and see in ordinary moments each day that we have the opportunity to see things of eternal worth, people of eternal value. It will take time.

 

There are moments when we slow our pace and get glimpses of that through artists, music, or written words. We get bigger views when we peer closely at the raindrops on a lacey spider web or observe a mountain range come into view. We see it in a star-spangled sky or a rosy sunset.

 

But do we also see what He saw when we look at others?

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 8.49.38 PM

No Longer Paradise

 

IMG_1941

In one moment, with one decision, shadowy death came into paradise and what had been the perfect Garden of Eden. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but the scheme of the serpent to award him a kingdom in this world was granted when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of a tree forbidden to them.

 

The result?

 

Paul expresses it in Colossians 1:21 when he speaks of alienation from God. That wording means Adam and Eve (and also we) were objectively banished from God (not simply the Garden) through the barrier that God’s justice had set against the sin of disunion with Him. This is what caused spiritual death.

 

God had breathed into Adam and Eve “the breath of life” that united them to Him in oneness. The choice they made when they succumbed to the serpent’s guile caused the Spirit to be divorced from the body, the very definition of death.

 

Their one momentary lapse affects every person born on the earth since then. Satan stalks the earth, possessive of his union with man, and determined to assure his kingdom is not diminished. In his arrogance he believed he could seduce the Son of Man, Jesus, when He came to earth. Jesus, one in the Trinity, had left heaven, would He not want the power on the earth Satan believed he could offer Him?

 

But Satan never understood love, that perfect love of God that he abandoned in a bid for power that resulted in what sent him to earth seeking a kingdom of his own.

 

Even when Adam and Eve broke covenant with God on their part for the false promises of Satan, God still loved them.

 

As Dave Hickman writes in Closer Than Close:

 

“…while disunion spreads across the whole earth, God continues to chase after that which He lost at the Fall—union with His bride. Although humans divorced themselves from God, God remained faithful, committed to the union they once shared.”

 

Few passages of scripture describe this so well as the book of Hosea. The story illustrates His faithfulness as He instructs Hosea to marry a prostitute and who then returns to her adulterous lifestyle after the wedding. Hosea, God’s prophet, is instructed to go after her and bring her back to himself.

 

And so God has done that with each of us.

 

His mission? To once again be in union with man.

 

His plan was one Satan could not have imagined or begun to understand. Satan would even believe despite what he saw with Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, and the rest of the patriarchs that union (re-union) was not possible. If God loved them and gave them laws to follow and sacrifices to make, fine! But what He had hoped for in the beginning when He breathed the breath of Life into Adam could not be undone. Of that, Satan was certain.

 

Satan’s pride forever caused him to miss the vibrant living truth of God and the power of His love for His creation.

 

When he did discover the plan, he was determined to upend it. What a preposterous idea! Jesus in perfect union in the Trinity would leave heaven and be planted by the Spirit in the womb of a woman as an infant? Certainly not likely and yet, Satan knew if God pulled it off it would change everything.

 

Jesus would have all power and be carried by a woman just like the one who had betrayed the union and covenant with God in the first place. He could not let anything to chance.

 

Max Lucado depicts the struggle in the heavenlies over the story of the Spirit hovering over the woman, Mary, chosen by God to bear His Son, in exciting images in Cosmic Christmas (later reprinted as The Angel’s Story).

 

 Of course we know the devices of the enemy do not succeed. Jesus is born and all the efforts of Satan through Herod fail completely. But Satan is determined and waits for another chance. He could not comprehend salvation and how it could be possible.

 

I wonder if we truly understand it. In Closer Than Close Dave Hickman states it clearly:

 

“But for salvation to be possible by faith, Jesus had to unite the fullness of humanity with the fullness of divinity within his own person. In order for human sin to be forgiven, an actual human had to die. God’s justice demanded this since it was humans who sinned and not God himself.

 

And yet, only one who was absolutely God could atone for sin! Therefore, Christ had to serve as an atonement (at-one-ment) uniting divinity and humanity within his person. If not, then humanity’s sin could not be divinely forgiven.”

 

Without this, there could be no re-union and there could be no hope for man.

 

What a paradox for us to long to be close or closer to the Lord when He has done everything to be as close as He can possibly be and restore us to Himself.

 

Is it possible Satan has sought to seduce us once again into believing He is not close, even after salvation?

 

IMG_1660

Standing on Tiptoes

photo-of-person-wearing-denim-jeans-2516649
Photo by Valeriia Miller from Pexels

 

I remember so well that day some years ago when I walked down the hall at the hospital holding my grandson’s hand. What excitement and anticipation I was feeling as we went to look at his new little sister on the other side of the glass!

 

All the bassinets were lined up in a row facing the glass so that everyone could get a better look at these new little ones. We had both seen her the previous day, but we were back for another visit to continue to get acquainted with this new little lady with the dark hair and round cheeks.adorable-baby-cute-64242

 

As we stood there, my grandson inched up closer on tiptoes, holding onto the ledge at the front of the window watching his new sister as she lay sleeping. He wanted to see as much as he could even though he could not yet imagine how this sleeping beauty would change his world.

 

No matter what our age, there are times we all stand on our tiptoes. Most of the time, we do so because we want to be certain not to miss something, something very special.

 

I remember standing on tiptoes to see Santa Claus at a Christmas parade, to reach a particular book on the library shelf, to catch a glimpse of a bird’s nest resting on a tree branch near my front porch.

 

I also remember standing on tiptoes to give someone I love a kiss, to watch my children march into our local high school stadium for graduation, and to catch the first glimpse of the plane that carried my husband back home after fourteen months in a war zone.

 

camouflage-engagement-ring-hands-794576

When I stand on tiptoes, my heart flutters with expectation at seeing or experiencing something special that I do not want to miss. I wait for a first glimpse, a first touch, and a first sound. Everything else in my life gets suspended as I push the pause button to experience this moment. All my focus strains forward.

 

As I read the gospels, so often Jesus was followed or surrounded by large crowds. Certainly, many stood on tiptoes to see Him better, to hear Him more clearly, to discover who this man was, to not miss this moment. He was right there. They could see Him and hear Him. There were many who touched Him. Some came to know Him.

 

Even though I was not in the crowd then, I came to know Him also. Jesus is not here in person, but I read about the promise of His return.

 

Am I standing on tiptoes looking for Him, listening for His voice, anticipating His return?

 

He lives within my heart.

 

Each day I seek to sense His voice within me to live the day as He would want, but too often the tasks of the day dull my senses to the anticipation and excitement of seeing Him return, of hearing His voice audibly, of seeing the look in His eyes.

 

Today as I recalled that day at the nursery window with my grandson, I felt a flutter inside and realized that I want to be standing on tiptoes filled with anticipation when He returns. I don’t want to miss a thing about that moment!

 

What about you?

 

Are you standing on tiptoes?

 

What are you anticipating?

 

What do you want to see and hear?

 

Are you listening?

 

clouds-hd-wallpaper-landscape-67832