A Wedding Surprise

Dust your feet off, put on your best, and scoot alongside. Here’s our chance to be wedding crashers, without the chance of being thrown out by the bride’s family! Let’s tuck ourselves in at the celebration and watch.

Reading the gospel of John, chapter two, is like beginning to  examine a multi-faceted gem in a sunbeam. The result is a stunning realization that there is always more than meets the eye to our Savior.

I’ve made a stop along my journey in Cana, where Jesus, along with His new minted disciples, is invited to a wedding.  Weddings are wonderful affairs–such joy and celebration–until there is a glitch in the preparations. (I speak as a survivor. My daughter’s tented wedding reception took place on a farm. After cake- and guest-withering heat, we found ourselves in the middle of a major electrical storm. It’s always interesting being the highest point on a hillside, under tall canvas held up by a long metal pole.) CCeremonyapgart 2012

At this wedding is a particular family–among them the mother, the firstborn son, and a group of his students from the village. The celebration began like any other, with ordinary focus on the joining of families and weaving of community

I have never before considered the particular manner in which Jesus chose to act on His mother’s request to provide more wine for the guests.  How simple it would have been to just increase the wine, and miraculously fill those six empty stone jars. Yet Jesus chooses not to. Instead, He has them draw 120-130 gallons of water. Why the extra step?

Because as always, in all extra steps, Jesus teaches us. Why does it take so long to realize some of our dreams? Why are there so many diversions and side trips? Because Jesus has something to teach us. In delays and disappointments, extra hoops to jump through and off ramps, He continues to shape our hearts.

Our God is One of great contrasts. His holiness vs. our sinfulness. His unyielding love vs. our fickleness. His saving grace vs. our human perversion of Law.

I’ve been turning the brief conversation between Jesus and His mother over and over in my  mind…“When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

I never have been able to figure out why Jesus would respond to her this way, and then go on to do exactly what He said it was not time to do. What I notice today, though, is that Jesus, being both very human and at the same time Spirit, apppears reluctant to begin an unstoppable chain of events. Once started, there was no going back. I think I get that. We know what we have to do. We know what we are willing to do because the profit of our actions will be worth the cost. At the same time, we dread beginning because the ensuing action is huge, there is no exit strategy, and the sacrifice is great.

Through the years, as I’ve poured over the ancient words God has chosen to keep for us, one of the great constant Truths that He continues to engrave on my heart is that He is deliberate. There is nothing our God does without purposeful intent.

“Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine, but you have kept the good wine until now.

This extra step of water to wine was the “Great Reveal.” It was time to let the whole world in on the Secret. He has come. It really was the right moment. What better time was there to strip the cloak of inadequacy and offer the hope of grace? There is so much to teach us in a blink of an eye, in the empty jars-filled with water-now turned to wine: How much sweeter is the healing covenant with Jesus than the teaching-law of Law! Human hearts are the ultimate empty vessels, and God spent centuries shaping them to see the inadequacies of anything but His given grace. Seemingly satisfied with the house Merlot, we needed the lesson of contrast to awaken our hearts. Pay attention Children. I have come. This colorless liquid isn’t enough for you. Your house wine isn’t worthy of this celebration. Look at the difference–It is I who provides the best wine. I am the vine from which it comes. (And P.S….Guess Who is really the Bridegroom here?!”)

I am giggling a moment here, this side of the cross, envisioning the surprise of the servants, the wedding families, and the guests. They had no idea they had the best wine kept in their storehouses. What a surprise! And they thought it was just another family wedding…

Today’s Take Aways (tuck them in your heart today)…

I have a need. My wine has run out. Jesus is the one to fill that need. He is the one to satisfy.

Breaking with the custom of allowing the guests to drink freely of cheap wine once their senses had been dulled by the bridegroom’s best offerings, as always, Jesus does the unexpected. He underlines what God wants us to know, always: Your best isn’t good enough. It isn’t the best at all! I provide the best. Pay attention to the difference.

We sometimes have the best wine stored away, and Jesus will call it out at the right time.

God devotes time to shaping the empty vessels of our souls until we are ready for the New Wine.

God’s ultimate act of grace was revealed for all at a wedding, and ends at the arrival of the Bridegroom to gather His Bride.

Blessings on your day and journey back from Cana to wherever you walk today, and hoping that you know Him more.

Rainbow

All Scripture from the Revised Standard Version. Thank you, Matthew Henry, for your insights.

P.S

Water. What a marvelous teaching tool! From water to blood, there was the first escape. We are born again in the waters of baptism, after our burial with Jesus. Someday I am going to put on my galoshes and slosh around in the marvelous wetness and gather the blessings of God there!

 

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Restablishing the Awe

I’m falling in love again. I just thought I’d mention it.  Heart Hands TApgar 2011
Whenever I find myself not quite focused spiritually, not quite in daily sync with God–whenever His calls of faith and service become muffled by life’s responsibilities, distractions, or religious controversy–I go back to Jesus, and fall in love all over again. I remember Who He is, and Whose I am. I strip down my faith to its core–Jesus, the Son of God, my Redeemer.
I have recently committed myself to a journey with Jesus through the apostle John’s eyes, and to get to know Him all over again.

In the hustle and bustle of life, and straining under the stress of church family stretched thin, I feel like I have completely lost my focus. Each morning, I stand convicted of God’s truth and He awakens my desire to serve, and as soon as I close the front door behind me, my brain and energy are pulled elsewhere. Evening arrives and nothing has changed. Feeling like my devotions have been scattered and without direction, I haven’t been writing or sharing regularly. The desire and intention is there, but ‘things’ seem to be getting in the way. I feel burdened by work demands on most of my time at home.

There are always seasons like this. I’ve been here before. I venture to say, you have also. I know I should be taking action, DOING something, putting feet on my faith–not for me, but for Jesus and the humanity that He loves and died for.

I am stuck in inertia, bound by the ties of work and other life demands.

So, I go where I always go, where we MUST go, to reestablish direction and power. To Jesus. I have committed to joining John in the coming weeks, which is, of course, living with a close eye on Jesus. I will walk at His side, with the purpose of letting the Spirit continue His work in me, guiding me to reflect Him more where I am.

Off  I go to Jerusalem and the surrounding area! I am drawing near, and will scoot aside on the path for anyone who wants to join me.

John makes it easy for me to hear God’s calling. He helps me reestablish the awe. The awe calls my heart to praise and action, as it is convicted of God’s holiness and purpose not only for me, but for all mankind. It is this awe, in God’s power and plan and redeeming love that massages my heart and prepares my feet.

John 1

I always knew it. I knew it while walking in the woods. I knew it while standing ankle-deep in pulsing ocean waves. I knew it while trekking across lava fields. I knew it when nose-to-nose with singular snowflakes caught upon my mitten, as I marveled at their unique beauty.  Daffodils TApgar 2013

Even at work, as I coach my little ones through a study of animals diverse and fascinating, unlike anything outside our front doors, I know it.

He was there. He IS here. And the natural world declares His character and creativity.

In the beginning was the Word (the Reason!), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.   John 1:1-3

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him… v. 10

…for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.  Col. 1:16

…in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. Heb. 1:2,3

…for it is fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist… Heb. 2:10

This is the one Truth that can be known and spread without special training or confidence. It doesn’t require weeks of language study to be shared cross-culturally. No age or stage, physical or mental attribute is required.

The HEAVENS declare the glory of God and the firmament His handiwork, the skies proclaim the work of his hands! Psalm 19:1 NIV

What is it, exactly, that the heavens declare? What glory is this?

God is mighty!

God is powerful! Clouds rays and farm

God is exacting, and detail-oriented. He does care deeply about the details of our lives, not just the sweeping generalizations of another saved soul.

There is no one region in particular that He loves more. Deserts, canyons, ocean depths, grassy knolls, deep woods, lush rainforests—they all receive His care. How’s THAT for a wonderful metaphor of Jesus’ view of our souls?!

Today’s “Take Aways”…
Pay attention to the way the natural world works together. Notice the intricacies and grandeur of nature and absorb them. Revel in their taste, their texture, their colors. Notice them not only for the beauty and power themselves, but for the character of Jesus they reflect. Remember, that’s OUR Jesus!

Remember that all creation declares His love of contrast and uniqueness. We don’t have to look like, or serve like, or be like any other of His children in order to reflect Him. His power and majesty is cast forth through Him working in all our differences.

Be blessed. See Him in everything. Butterfly1 TApgar 2013

 

 

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When You Think You Need More

I am pondering satisfaction over here, in the dark and cold dawn.
I love Psalm 145. It contains some of the “10,000 Reasons” for my heart to sing.
“Thou openest Thy hand,
Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” v. 16 (RSV)

“satisfied”…The Hebrew word here means be fulfilled.

In a world that brews and nurtures DISsatisfaction and misplaced longing, it can be tough to maintain an understanding of true satisfaction. Daffodils1apgart 2011

My mind is drawn toward God’s faithfulness at a time of perceived lacking.  Come with me to the Exodus, as the Israelites are released from slavery and wander in wilderness while God shapes their hearts.
How quickly the Israelites became worried and discontent! (How much like them I am…)  How interesting that what was demanded, but LEAST expected, and not really understood, was given to the Israelites to SATISFY them.

Ex. 16:12 “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” (NAS)

Manna from the Lord.

The satisfaction of hunger, provided by God, was at the same time both temporary (there could not be any leftovers), and ongoing (it happened multiple times a day, every day). It met their needs in abundance, while fitting their nomadic lifestyle. (storage needs were minimal, it was portable, they didn’t need to settle in one part of the land in order to grow this, it could be provided anywhere.) More importantly, it was for the purpose of the people knowing that He was the LORD their God. (Exodus 16:12)

In all of His care (His faithful, continuous, perfect care), He satisfied. Wasn’t that the biggest lesson He was engraving on His beloveds’ hearts?  “I satisfy.”

Psalm 81:13-16

 13 “If my people would only listen to me,     if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. (NIV)

I love the heart of God revealed here. It’s like a longing on His part for us to allow Him to fill us up, to be abundantly enough.

I wonder how often I am more a complaining Israelite than a filled-up, fulfilled child of God as He intends and longs for…? I am thinking about how many times in my life (daily) I struggle with the temptation of dissatisfaction.

Here is some of my list. (I am breathing deeply here and counting on His grace, and yours, as I lay a bit of myself bare.)

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I am often dissatisfied with…

…the amount of time I have to accomplish something

…how long certain tasks take (or seasons of life)

…the brevity of certain blessings, like vacations, or reunions with sweet people

…a particular nuance to an opportunity that has been granted me

…a certain level of financial blessing

…the timing of an event, opportunity, responsibility, blessing

…the behavior or response from the people in my life (children, husband, coworkers, church family…)

…weather

…wait time

…leadership

…my own output (writing, cooking, house maintenance, household management, relationship contribution, employment tasks—Really, I could go on forever…)

…what’s in my refrigerator

Ugh, I have to stop. No, really, I MUST stop. As I start to write and think about this, I am becoming ashamed and too embarrassed to reveal it all here. I will take this ugly list and let God work His healing grace in my soul in our private corners together.

If I am truly, deeply honest with myself, and my Maker, here’s what my heart too often echoes (and I cringe to know He hears it loudly) Like Charles Dickens’, Oliver:

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

For me, and it’s different for everyone, when I reflect on my list of dissatisfaction, I see that TIME is a frequent guest. I have known this all along, on some level, and it’s a frequent struggle. God is tilting my focus toward it so, I believe, I can allow Him to do His good work there. After all, I did ask for His help.

You know, when we pray the prayer of David, and honestly make it our own, He’ll get to work.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23, 24, (NIV)

The first step to growth is acknowledging a need for it and being open to the lessons and tools God uses to nurture it.

Today I am arming myself with God’s faithful words of admonition and promise.

He is enough:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (RSV)

“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.   And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work…(keep reading, because it’s good news!) 2 Corinthians 9:6ff (RSV)

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Here’s the SECRET revealed!)  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13 (NIV)

I’ll continue my list, because through it, He’s teaching me, and I continue to learn.

May you blessed today with awareness of rich satisfaction, in your work, your play, your love, your relationships, your struggles.

Some treasures to ponder:

In Phil 4:11  content is the Greek word, autarkes, which mea

ns: sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances; contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest

The word God uses in  2 Corinthians 9:8  for enough is autarkeia  (derived from the same as above).  I am especially struck by how externals do not penetrate this contentment.

Philippians 4:19, 20 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our god and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Some of those meanings of supply (pleroo) are:

to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full

to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally

to complete

to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, f

ill to the brim

to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking)

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.”  Hence we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?” (RSV)

Back to the beginning…

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In a world that brews and nurtures DISsatisfaction and misplaced longing, it can be tough to maintain an understanding of true satisfaction. Look around, we are pelted with stones of discontentment daily through media and social connections. The LORD, however is faithful and gracious. He satisfies our sin debt and through that, our varied longings, in ways that often surprise. May you blessed today with awareness of rich satisfaction, in your work, your play, your love, your struggles.

Let’s help each other (the second step!)…

Where do you struggle with honoring God with grateful contentment? What helps you in this battle? 

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When You Need a Valentine Every Day

Yesterday, a sweet-faced and gentle-spirited student of mine carefully carried a beautiful orchid and little box of chocolates into school and left them on my desk for me to find. His family takes every opportunity heralded by Hallmark to bless me with acknowledgement and appreciation. I am so grateful for them. The children were lining up to go to the libraryValentine from Johnapgart2014 when I called out and asked who placed these gifts on my desk, and who were they for? Little John quietly acknowledged his gift, and smiled sweetly as I exclaimed their beauty. “I feel so special!” I called out. Another student, standing right in front of me, one of my thoroughly all-boy “Tiggers”, said quietly, “You are special.” You know my heart soared in that moment. That’s all it took–those three simple words (and the shy grin)—to lift me beyond the fatigue, above the countlessly ignored “Voices off Everyone” commands, over the neverending list of ‘to-dos”, and through the doubting of why I drag myself into that building on days when my nose won’t stop running and my head is full of fog.

You ARE special.

THAT is my best valentine–delivered two days early, and right on time.

I don’t need chocolate to be validated. (Remind me I said that when I go begging down the corridor for someone to open their secret stash, or find myself rummaging through cabinets to find remnants and ending up in the chocolate morsels intended for cookies…)

My heart doesn’t need flowers, or dinner at a restaurant, or a ring to be strengthened by love. In fact, it doesn’t need anything in particular on February 14th.

What my heart does need, is that echo of Truth called out on every day of the year, reminding me of how special I am. Doesn’t every heart need this?

I’m not one for succumbing to a culturally-pressed obligation to celebrate.  By nature, I am a Hallmark rebel. It seems to me, that what’s all wrong with this ‘holiday’ is that once again, our culture presses an external conception of what it is to be loved and valued into our needy human hearts. With it comes a set of expectations and values that we swallow. The external interpretations of love get it all wrong. They lead us to discontent and deflation when these expectations are not met.

Husband and wife love is expressed through costly purchases and contrived occasions. If your spouse does not buy an overpriced piece of decorated cardboard, accompanied by cellophaned decadence or floral arrangement, he or she does not love you.” Really? What about going to work every day, even when it’s hard, to provide for your life together? Or getting you ibuprofen for your aches, or fixing that gadget that won’t work, or getting gas for your car, or rubbing your neck, or cooking you a favorite treat, or saying yes to an activity they’d rather not go to, because you enjoy it? How about when they stay, every day, even when it’s hard?

Love is for the beautifully fit, flawlessly faced, working-off-a-Hollywood script type of people. The truth is, those are just two-dimensional characters, written to perpetuate a profit. Real humans love raw and rarely say things as poetically as authors who sacrifice endless hours to turn a phrase. They stumble over words and look foolish, gain and lose weight, lose hair and limbs. In all of it, the truth is, they are the special ones. They are real, and noticed, and loved by God.

“You must be romantically attached to someone in order to be celebrated and worthy of love.” And another sour falsehood: “Romantic love is the only love worth celebrating.” This turns Valentine’s Day into (as my college-aged daughter once said) Singleness Awareness Day, and is quite frankly, a lie that Satan would have many believe. You alone, yes, alone, are loved and worthy of that love by the grace and creation of your Maker. He says it. I would not argue with God.

The truth is, however we are– single or married, broken or healed, successful or struggling, widowed, young, old…

Heart in Shadows 2011apgart

We are so loved, we have been found worth dying for.

We are so loved, we are worth saving and spending eternity with.

We are so loved, we have been crafted by God.

When these Truths become covered by culture, and obscured by Hollywood, it’s up to us to stand for what is real and right. Someone we know may need our help erasing the damage of misplaced expectations, or may need reminding they are loved.

So today, the day BEFORE Valentine’s Day, and on every other day of the year, BE that herald of truth! Remind each other of the uncontrived and pure love of God. Look for ways to let your children, your friends, the teens in your youth group, the person you hardly know (yes, the one that sits alone all the time!), your preacher, your coworkers, your family KNOW that they too, are welcome to the well of deep love in Christ.

Faith in Action…

One of my favorite memories is the tucked-into-the-lunchbag love from my mother each

Valentine’s Day: a tiny (was it Russell Stover?) box of chocolates and a note with her little smiley face.

What are ways YOU can live a valentine of God’s love today? (Oh, please do pop in and let’s share ideas!)

**********************************************************
**********************Bird tracks in winter apgart 2010

God’s TRUTHS to ponder…

For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for LOVE COMES FROM GOD. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is LOVE. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but HE LOVED US and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:16 (NIV)

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through HIM WHO LOVED US. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

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Something You Can Count On

There’s just something about the midnight blue dawning, where Night meets Day to hand off the sheltering of all that is living. There’s a strip of beauty in this relay of ending and beginning. As the baton of time changes hands, a growing glow highlights hidden color of night and joins it with promising brightness of day. Woven within this morning ritual, is color and fire that sings. The soft and steady chorus proclaims the steadfastness of our Jehovah Creator. He who tucked the first blanket of dark rest around our planet, Oahusunriseapgart 2011and folded over its edge with light and promise of day, continues this dawning of care, day after day. The sun still rises. Morning always comes, until He declares it done. Above every grey and cold cloud, laden heavily with rain or snow, is a new beginning. Some days we can’t see the dawn of hope, covered as it is by persistent grey, but above the hovering mists, we can count on its steadfastness. What a lesson our Father provides for us every day! Despite what we see, what we live, His steady hand of promise is there. Some seasons are parched, and the clouds of refreshment and cleansing never gather in the places we would call them, but the sun always rises. Even after funnels of destruction unexpectedly rip through our sweet places, carrying away who or what we had the privilege to love or live, the sun rises. Day after day, and if we rise early enough, we can witness this declaration of God’s care. Some seasons are full with vibrant beauty. In them, there are not the bright lines of contrast – dark vs. light, despair vs. hope– rather there is a steady stream of blessings to count, that we can miss because of their abundance and our tendency to overlook the details. Let us rejoice also in them and remember God’s steady love is proclaimed just as loudly in peaceful days.

There are some attributes of our holy God that are more precious to me than others. In a world, a job, a family that keeps changing, I treasure this holy steadfastness. When He says:

For I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6 (RSV)

and

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV),

I cling to those truths. Every sunrise underlines them. Every moonglow calls them forth.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8

I’ve been up for a while now, watching the sun rise and proclaim a day of hope. What beauty God has wrought!

Beloved, always look up, for beyond what grey and rain-laden heaviness is above your roof, the sun always rises, as a reminder of Hope and evidence of its Giver.

What do you see above your roof today? Snow? Clear skies? Grey thickness? Come let us remind ourselves of what’s above that. WHO is above all of that.

P.S. I began this post yesterday, and ironically, today’s dawning was very different. Instead of the gentle ebbing of blue night giving way to orange dawn, I awoke to a sky cloaked in a snow-filled veil. There was no view of the glowing orb that God placed in the sky so long ago, to mark our days and shout His faithfulness. I noticed, though, proof that it is still there, rising and warming. From dark, there grows a gradual distinction of Cardinalinsnowapgart2014trees and flakes. There remains, even in the storm, the coming of light. Diffused as it is, behind the veil of steadily falling snow, it cannot be kept hidden. Daylight in a snowstorm still comes. This storm, as all others, shall also pass. How true that is for us! God is faithfully present, day after day, in both clear weather and storm. I love these physical reminders of His character, and am grateful for His wisdom in providing them.

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. Luke 19:39, 40 (RSV)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

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More than Death and Taxes

Today I am thinking about what we can really count on in this life.

There aren’t many things that are a sure thing.

Yes, death, taxes. What else?

That we will eventually be hungry again–hungry for food, hungry for time, hungry for relationship.

Our bodies will fail us, our minds will stutter.

We will disappoint—ourselves…other people…those we love…God.

We can’t be in two places at once, no matter how rent our hearts are.

Perfect outcomes of all our decisions will not total 100%.

The list is actually quite long, when you think about it, and rather depressing,

unless we look at the weight of what else is offered as a guarantee.

Oahu sun

Sunrise. Yes, even if it’s obscured by clouds, the sun always rises until the One who hung it there declares its rest. Begun on day four and continuing to this day, the sun is also always shining. I am reminded of this each time I soar above greyness in a plane. This was evident as we flew into the sunrise from Hawaii to the mainland. How amazing it always is to me, that once you fly out of the perimeter of a storm, or night, the sun is shining. It never stops. Now there is a lesson God exclaims to us each day!

 The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecc 1:5

The constant love of God in Christ Jesus. We cannot allow Satan to dull this truth with the temptation of familiarity. We must take each word, each morsel and savor its promise, its security.

“I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39.

Help. We are guaranteed God’s own Spirit as a constant and present Helper. Parakletos… “the one called alongside in order to help”– Advocate, the same word found only one other time in the New Testament, used of Christ. How blessed are we to not be deserted and left to flounder while on Earth!

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  Romans 8:26

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:5

“…but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” 1 John 2:1

The weight of what’s guaranteed as a child of God tips and maintains the scales decidedly in our favor. With all that is slippery and transient in this world- relationships, finances, church structure, family, health-we can moor ourselves to the immutable strength of these promises that are sure.

Some of us have lost our mooring, maybe for an hour, or a day, perhaps for a season. The rope that ties us there has slipped out of its knot, or at the very least, dangerously loosened. As long as it is called “Today” let us encourage one another to stay anchored in Truth and Hope.

Here’s to our journey today, and the good Company we keep. May we feel the strength of the mooring, and the power of promises guaranteed.

Blessings on your steps today. Oahu sunset tapgar 2011

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up… and encourage the fainthearted, help the weak..” 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14

Question of the Day: Sometimes we mean well, and mean to uplift, but our words or actions fall flat and do more harm than good. What are some ways YOU are most encouraged by others to stay moored and reminded of God’s promises?

Posted in Deflecting the Weapon of Discouragement, One Another, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Uncommon Song

Today I have been granted the quiet beauty of a Snow Day, no morning headache, and only the residual seal-barking of a cold. So here I sit, watching nature’s best television series out my bay window, quieting my soul to God. And I feel it, again. It’s still there… TApgar Birdview Bay 2014

Do you ever feel a prodding of your heart, like a gentle knocking that won’t relent? Less like an unwelcome visitor that carries a search warrant (Perhaps if you don’t open the door, you can’t be served…), it feels more like an insistent call to join a quest, as if you have something in particular to offer the mission. No, that’s not quite it. It’s as though the One at the door recognizes both a hidden need in your heart that can be fulfilled in joining the journey, and the potential that will flourish and contribute once that need is fulfilled.

Have you ever felt that knocking?

Before I digress into all sorts of wonderful, but distracting, analogies related to my recent viewing of The Hobbit, let me tether my mind and tapping fingers to the crux of the matter: In recent years, I have felt the Spirit calling me to worship. By call, I mean this: We are (I am) commanded and invited to be in the Presence of God while we reside here on this planet. The longer I spend in His Presence, the greater grows a desire to make my company pleasing to Him. That’s the calling. The more I gaze at God’s glory, revealed in His character, the more starkly aware I become of my human inadequacies, and with it, the humanity of His church. Then comes a tidal wave of relief and appreciation of God’s gift of grace through Jesus.  The longer I spend contemplating His character, the more I am aware that He deserves, and demands my best. Remember all those teaching rules of sacrifice: the FIRST fruits, the UNBLEMISHED lambs?

The question that is held in the Spirit’s hand that knocks, then, is …. Am I giving Him my best?

I am in Exodus once again, faced with the design of God for an element of worship that pervades all His plan. Time and again, it’s the anointing oil that I am drawn to: So very particular…so costly…so abundant. Holy. “It shall not be poured upon the bodies of ordinary men, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall by holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.” Exodus 30:22ff (RSV).

This anointing oil was set apart, different from ordinary. This has me thinking about what God teaches us as He moves through history:

‘I am holy. You are not. By the blood of perfect sacrifice—My Son –you are made acceptable to Me.’ Over and over again, He drove home the point that He is above all. He is unique and is worthy of something different than what we naturally give.

I am struck and convicted, shamed and inspired, by how very COMMON we seem to have made Him and our worship.

I wonder if it’s because we try to jam too many varied aspects of our relationship with God into the time that we set aside to try and do this thing called ‘worship’.

Fellowship…singing…prayerful petitions…announcements…a 3 point lesson…coffee and pastries…’church business’ conversations…social connection…financial contribution…the Lord’s Supper…

By trying to fit in so many things that both meet our needs and satisfy God, are we doing anything well? Let me rephrase that…are we offering anything holy? Do we give Him unhurried, set apart, consecrated time to whisper, to say, to cry out the acknowledgement of His holiness? Do we dwell there, or skim it by. Worse yet, do we include it in a cursory manner so that we can check off the “praise” section of the order of worship list and get to the teaching portion? God does invite us to cast all our cares on Him, to bring Him our needs, to share our sorrows. He does command us to be the unified Body of Christ that brings light into the world. He does expect us to exhort and teach each other His word. However, I don’t believe His word will support the practice of doing all that in the majority while reducing pure, uncluttered worship of Him to the minority.

Maybe it’s because we stay cloaked in culture that is constantly trying to mold God into a shape ‘relevant’ to humanity instead of molding humanity in relevance to God? Perhaps we are so busy with the holy job of building community that we neglect this truth: When it comes down to the core, it is the individual, it is you, it is me that is called to bow down before the Holy One and offer our bruised and battered heart to Him while clinging to the precious grace-covering of His Son. It is the responsibility of our shepherding leadership to help us do this. It is my ministry to help you ready your sacrifice, and yours to help me. It is my responsibility to offer my heart in a manner that pleases Him.

Today, my goal is to make my heart sing an UNcommon song to Him. A holy song. Call it a resolution, if you will.  My aim will also be to refine my heart toward true worship when I meet with the saints. This may mean I close my eyes when I sing so I am not distracted by a lyric-laden screen or the thread on my pants. I will sing the part I know well and not practice my new-found love of tenor. This will allow me to concentrate on the words and not the melody which delivers the words. I will try not to chatter and laugh or rustle my belongings up to and through the first moments of song or prayer. (Please pardon me if I stop our conversation in mid-sentence.) I may even walk into the room and take my seat without talking to you. It’s not because I don’t see you or love you—it’s because I am preparing my heart and mind to be quiet before the Lord. I will beg our leadership to have seamless movement from song to song, to prayer, to meditation on holy words, to songs again. Please don’t clutter the silence with distracting commentary or conversation. Help me build an atmosphere of consecration.

This is a work in progress. I am a work in progress.

Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father;
    we are the clay, and thou art our potter;
    we are all the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8 RSV

Today I pray you are safe and strong, no matter where you are.
May your UNcommon song today and in worship forever be:

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! Rev. 4:8 RSV

TApgarSnow-covered Japanese holly 2014

Posted in Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment