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view from Chimney Rock

On one of THOSE days, the alarm clock fails to rouse me. After the third slap at the snooze button, I’ll roll off the bed to press my forehead on the carpet in prayer. In my fogginess, I misjudge the distance and crash a bit harder into the floor than I intend.

Please, God, spare my vanity and let there be no rug burn on my head.

The tweeting “sound spa” clock reminds me I didn’t quite turn it off. Red digits glare at me.

“I’m late.”

Protein bar and zip fizz have to make do for breakfast. I glance at my Bible with a pang of regret and grab for my purse. The phone charger cord yanks my arm back. After fumbling to untangle straps, elbow, and cord, its a race to the car.

Traffic slows to a crawl. What’s this? My road is closed. I clench my jaw while probing narrow streets for a new route. A German luxury car cuts me off. The protein bar crumbles onto my lap. I roll down the window to flick out the mess. A swig of carbonated B-vitamins coincides with a ragweed sneeze. Fizz burns into both nostrils. I slap my nose to stop the flow. Pink snot drops adorn my quaking palm. Another luxury car honks me away from the desperate search for a napkin. I return my slimy grip to the steering wheel, shouting the most popular query to heaven.

“Why?”

In this throng of dust-creatures, we bump into one another and grate our flesh on the brokenness of this world. Annoying days fade in comparison to the rampant tragedy filling the earth. None of the chaos, frustration, or pain makes sense. Suffering and loneliness seem to have no end or meaning. We often cry to the Lord in despair, wondering how a loving God can forsake us.

Jesus met us in our experience when He cried out to His Father on the cross,  “’My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” But He didn’t leave the question to hang out there without response. He gave His life with a final declaration, “It is finished.”

Christ resolved our loneliness and met our need for meaning. He stamped an expiration date on the broken world and its suffering. In that sacrificial moment, earth’s curse broke with the gift of wings.

When I use His wings to rise from the dustiness of life, I see things from a broader perspective. Above the smog of pain and sin, a clear sky brings fresh breath and new focus. I hear Truth and see beyond my present darkness. He is with each of us and all of us. Christ appears throughout every crowd and alongside those in solitude. Love gleams onto each rug-burned forehead below, even those too downcast to notice. A sweet breeze shifts my gaze to the horizon. Beyond the gloom, hope peeks from the coming Day with brilliance to outshine the dawn.

There’s more to today than our earth-view reveals. There’s more to life than this day’s gloom.

Instead of getting distracted by my discontent, I can zoom out with the wings I’ve been given. Acknowledging God’s supportive presence allows me to shift the day’s burdens to His shoulders. The weight of my momentary troubles set into His hands, I can direct my energy toward life’s true meaning–blessing.

Let me use this day, no matter how dusty or tragic, to lift the chins of the downcast. Lord, let my life draw attention upward so others see Your love.

 

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ” (Romans 8:18).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…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 8:35, 38-39).

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

From the sun’s wink at the zenith, a blue of immeasurable depth extends in all directions to the horizon. I squint at the brilliant sky, wishing it could swallow me whole. Through a gullet of downy clouds, the stuff of daydreams would carry me into the heavens. I could float, suspended just below the stars. I’d peer through breaks in the clouds to watch over those still locked onto the landscape. A unique perspective for prayers. The rare snap of autumn chills my arms, reminding me a vertical dive would prove colder than I imagine.

What if all our dreams of flight were meant to show a lost part of our inner design? Could the Lord have inscribed upon our unconscious minds that we were meant to fly? The notion remains absurd if ascribed to our mortal bodies, but I have long pondered the spiritual meaning of our penchant for soaring. After all, we were not created for an eternal attachment to things of dust.

Since our souls must rise above earthly desires and things temporal, examining the spiritual aspects of flying could provide significant insights. The need to rise beckons us toward faithfulness in our entire journey with God, not merely the post-mortem span. Christ redeemed us for more than this life, even while we are still living it.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore these magnificent benefits through which Christ provides wings to believing souls.

Freedom

Perspective

Wind-Reliance

Peace

“those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles” Isaiah 40:31

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“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. . . Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:4-6,12-13

In less than twenty minutes of evening news, we see evil circling our community. Spouses lie crushed physically–and worse, emotionally. Parents harm infants. Children shoot classmates by the dozen.  The dark-clad terrorists victimizing lands across the sea are not as far away as they seem. Evil plots against those created in God’s image, conscripting pawns to carry out its destruction.

Fields, once green with potential, stand browned and dry. Clouds gather over love’s light, and the earth shudders. Christians murmur about end times. Some huddle in fear as persecution mounts across the world. Ripened wheat fields look rather dead, even hopeless, to the untrained eye. Farm folks know the signs of harvest, as should Christians.

The advancing darkness casts an ominous hue over the world’s landscape. It comes, as Jesus said it would. When things appear beyond all hope of rescue, expect the Savior to show up for harvest. Not just at the end of times, but whenever dry circumstances creep in and threaten to steal our faith. Bleak days occur far ahead of the end days, for the world and for each individual’s personal experience. Instead of growing fearful, we should prepare to offer our fruit.

When things feel uncertain and situations drain your vigor, it’s time to raise your head. Declare and demonstrate your purpose. Show the tasseling Spirit’s power to reap unbelievable benefit when all the worth seems lost. Congratulations on your coming victory over evil’s doom. Thank the Lord for looming challenges, because it’s a certain sign of a magnificent harvest on its way.

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Yellow and white blooms wilted under the blood moon. Their papery remnants clung to the vine until autumn’s breeze tore them away. For a day or two, the evidence of fallen beauty littered gardens across the countryside. Within the base of those flowers who had used their season to pollinate beyond their temporary moment of loveliness, something more substantial had developed.

Lacy petal-cardigans slipped away to reveal which ones carried deep-colored treasures. Gourds expanded from the places once held for them by passing flowers. Skins thickened and bubbled with warts and valleys, guarding the prize within. Stout and solid, their weight anchored them more and more in steadfast positions. Each tough vine-dweller grew while patiently awaiting the harvest.

One must look deep to find the gourd’s riches. Beyond the tough, uneven skin lies a wealth of nourishment. At its life’s end, the harvester breaks open the body to feed his family with vitamins, minerals, seed protein, and fiber. Extra seeds and inedible matter provide an entire garden from one individual hull. He wastes nothing from the pollinated vinedweller’s life.

I gaze across the pumpkin patches and butternut squash displays, considering the investments of my time dwelling on Christ’s vine. Have I pollinated the inner station of my soul so it will bear lasting fruit for generations to come? What part of my life will feed the family of God after my body’s earth season has ended? How much have temporary things distracted me from investing in the eternal?

Lord, help me stay focused on things of lasting value instead of the less important matters which pass away. Pollinate my spirit and expand my heart. Let my thoughts grow solid and steadfast in Your Truth, impenetrable to the pestilence of toxic attitudes. Cultivate rich nourishment within me until I am beautiful in Your sight, regardless of how I appear to passers by. Make me gourdgeous to You, Lord. Thank You, for planting me in Your garden.

What about you? Ready to grow gourdgeous on His vine?

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. . .I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8

“I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. . .Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Phil.1:20-27

“if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” – Phil. 2:17

I don’t venture up onto my roof often. In fact, I only brave that weak-kneed climb if no one else volunteers to help with an annual task. My core tightens as I wobble those initial steps. After I reach the center and grip onto an anchoring structure, my lungs relax for a full breath. I look out across the treetops as dusk honeys the heads of our neighborhood live oaks. My view extends beyond our street to the school, ballparks, and the mass of homes further outward.

A moment on the peak shifts my perspective. The sunshine’s caress penetrates my cheekbones. The breath of a fresh season revives my senses. I consider distant homes as my neighbors. At this moment, when God secures my quivering frame, the world feels both larger and more intimate. Standing on the rooftop, I recognize myself as a saint.

As twilight darkens my view, time demands my return to life on the level earth below. I resume my daily routines, walking across the dust of the past toward the tomorrow from which it will grow. The miseries and burdens of passers-by permeate the stagnant air. I see despair in their eyes and feel the pull of hopelessness from their hearts. So much pain. I reach out with an urge to help, but hesitation quivers in my fingertips. I, too, have knees prone to buckling. Who am I to offer them strength? What if I let these fragile neighbors down? My doubts and fears tire me, and I begin to sink onto the curb of purposelessness. The suffering of life on the roads and in the alleyways tempts me to forget I am a saint.

Rays warmer than sunbeams lift my drooping chin. I need not search with my eyes to know Who is there.

“You are not made to be a saint for the rooftop,” He says. “Nor are you made to pour your own strength out to sustain these others.”

I want to leap from the curb and snuggle in His arms. Every muscle of my body, to the core of my soul, longs to soak in His presence forever. “Keep me with You,” I say.

My spirit inhales a heady draft of His invigorating fragrance.

“You are a saint because I am with you. Here on the road…” He turns my shoulders to face out across the vast neighborhood, through the nearby fences and into the world beyond them. “And out there. I am the strength you offer, the healing you convey. You got your bearings on the rooftop so you can live My purpose while you’re down here.”

I crane my neck, attempting to glimpse His brilliance. Though my eyes fail to capture a view of the Son, He has not left me alone. The Word of my promise-keeping God anchors my certainty about His location–within my heart.

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).

The confidence that He remains with me girds my weak knees to venture out into the world and steadies my frail arms to reach out to bless those who suffer. I do not merely give myself to those in need, but I offer Someone far better. He alone can transform the unsteady roof climber into a earth-treading saint. The Son Who did so for me can change any willing soul. With such immense suffering, the world needs more saints to climb down and share His love on the roadway. Let’s reach out together, in His strength, to leave no neighbors to despair of hope.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John17:20-23).

 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:18-20).

20140521_164204Bridges draw my eyes up and across their magnificent structures. Age and wear tug at my slumbering imagination, inspiring me to wonder at a bridge’s creation and years of shouldering live burdens toward safety. The builder invested careful engineering before setting the first stone at its foundation. Intense toil erected its magnificent path. The suffering laborer knew his work would provide means to cross a treacherous divide. For those who would follow his work, the bridge offered freedom from grave pitfalls below. The number of bridge goers would continue to increase beyond the end of the worker’s life. How many life stories plodded across this divide? Who paused to gaze into the ravine below and consider the passion required to secure their way?

So it is with our Bridge to Eternal Hope. Our Father, the Great Bridge Builder, engineered our way as soon as its need began. When sin ruptured the earth and triggered an epic collapse, a ravine gaped between the Father and His children. Deadly pitfalls threatened us, and we could not reach Him. The Father placed each stone with precise engineering, His heart empassioned to carry His children home securely. At the perfect moment, He set the Cornerstone which would never falter. Christ toiled and suffered, rending His body as building materials for the cross beams. He crafted a bridge to traverse the impossible divide.

We no more need linger on this forsaken shore. The passage welcomes us, drawing our wondering eyes up and over its secure structure. Let’s cross together with thankful and joyous hearts, pausing to cast a tearful gaze across the ravine. Thank You, Lord, for making the Way for us.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. ..But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christand seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:1-9

“God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1Timothy 2:3-6

She brushed past us in the school hallway. Her shoulders sagged beneath the weight of brimming tears. Flushed cheeks and nose betrayed her struggle to withhold sobs. She avoided eye contact.  The girl continued down the hall in silence, as if she hoped to take cover before the cry burst forth.

Did she know I prayed for her? As a complete stranger to her, I didn’t dare stop her or say anything that might add embarrassment to her morning. Of the dozen sorrow triggers I can imagine for high school orientation, I had no idea which one crushed her heart. I cannot say whether she whisked home without a single friend to ask what was wrong. I don’t know where she broke open to release that imminent flood of tears.

Perhaps the girl believed her stifled cries went unnoticed. If so, I pray she learns the truth. Though she’ll never know I cared, may her heart come to know One Who loves her without limit. If she sobs in a subterranean cave or weeps at the bottom of the sea, His heart will feel each stab of her pain. No cry is hidden from His ear.

I plead with the Holy Spirit to bring her a friend who will impart Christ’s love to her. She should not continue to feel unheard, unseen, or alone in her suffering. In more ways than one, she is not alone. Far too many people struggle in silent isolation from others, unaware of how precious they are to God. Christ reaches toward the lost and broken with compassion-scarred hands. I wish more people knew that He hears every moan and cherishes each tear as part of His own heart’s pain.

We can become the flesh of His embrace, reaching out to share love with the outcasts and the crushed souls. Whether today’s call is to prayer, an intimate conversation, or a blog post, the Spirit will prompt us. Offer hope. Show them Who cares. Though culture insists on qualifications like intelligence, vigor, or status, God seeks heartfelt obedience. Those who listen to the Spirit can brighten the world. One shivering soul at a time. In these chilling times, a throng of suffering hearts depends on us.

 

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

“When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate” (Exodus 22:27).

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed” (Psalm 10:17-18)

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4).

“You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your records?” (Psalm 56:7-8)

 

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16

Drought left the western earth thirsty, a tinder box waiting to catch with little more than a warm breath. One stray ember sparks a relentless blaze. Forest fires rage across thousands of acres and acrid smoke plumes across an entire state. Ready conditions require little to spur great flames.

We searched through sodden ditches. Green wood and rain soaked logs filled the truck bed. After an hour of persistent effort, we nurtured forth a glimmer of light. We fed the resistant stack, refusing to lose hope. A sweet reward loomed ahead, so  we worked with undaunted perseverance. Soon, the glow warmed all who surrounded it.

On fire

Joy overwhelmed me, since I had no intention of missing out on s’mores.

Christ calls us to act as His fire starters in the world. Some territories will receive the healing light of Jesus’ grace like parched brush. Flames will blaze from their hearts with an instant wildfire and spread to thousands of souls. Other ground we must cover lies sodden with resistance, and might not respond to our friendly invitation right away. We must not give up hope on those who question the truth, but continue reaching out to build light into the soggy pits of this world. Focus on the eternal goal and persist in love.

Imagine embracing the glimmering hearts of those Christ has sparked through your life of loving friendship. What joy we have in that hope, for a reward far sweeter than s’mores awaits us.

High tide waves glide ashore. The foamy caress adds a kiss of salt to the sugar sand. Water and pristine beach glimmer together in sunbathed glory. Breezes carry the fresh hint of brine, a lovely scent for visitors to carry home in their hair. As the weary sun droops, visitors retreat to their cars. Waves recede by the hour. The water abandons its affair with the sparkling sand. The beach reddens as the evening bares its hidden layers. Low tide reveals its messy and broken elements. Dead matter lends itself to the wind, no longer a delightful aroma. A lone beachcomber searches through the seaweed tangles, believing this moment a prime opportunity to find the most beautiful shells. I prefer high tide moments. My faith glows like noon’s rays. I feel connected to and appreciated by others.  Endless possibilities shine around me. Purpose scents the air I breathe, and its fragrance blesses all passersby. I work harder, finish more projects, and smile. Happiness and motivation ebb as low tide hits. The hidden regions of my heart, mind, and soul rise to the surface. Brokenness and mess glare at me, demanding attention. I resent my odorous attitude, but must deal with the source of the problem to remedy the symptoms. Dealing with the litter looms as an impossible task to conquer alone. Thanks to my Helper, I don’t have to face the ordeal alone. The Holy Spirit combs through my inmost being. The Lord identifies the gunk stinking up my soul and helps clean it out. He also untangles the mess to illuminate my unrecognized treasures. Were it not for low tide, the latent needs and assets would remain underwater. Thank you, Lord, for creating value during the low points of life. I praise You for restoration, healing, and renewed purpose. Let my next bright day glorify You all the more.

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; 

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation     and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,     so that sinners will turn back to you… Open my lips, Lord,     and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;     you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;     a broken and contrite heart     you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:7,10,12-13,15-17).

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;     he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted     and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him” (Psalm 34:17-19).

Some vow to scale a cliff, visit a world wonder, or learn five languages. Others plan to taste exotic delicacies or indulge in the arts. Aimed toward travel, achievement, or adrenaline-laced adventure, most call these goals a bucket list. This litany of tasks aspires to define the completeness of one’s life. Measure the quality of life by the percentage of items checked off before kicking the bucket.

I tried to set a list in high school, with the following included among my goals:

  • Visit Mont Saint Michel.
  • Go to Australia.
  • Become CEO of a company.

I added, subtracted, tweaked. In college, I aspired to own a Lexus AND a company. Dreams of castle tours and grand success eroded in the wind like sand sculptures.

During recent decisions about travel, a shift in my attitude took me by surprise. Once a type-A, goal-oriented individual, I found myself feeling an unusual lack of concern about the agenda. A fresh perspective dawned upon my spirit—what I do-see-visit on this earth is of little consequence. Though I still enjoy experiences, circumstances alone cannot offer fulfillment to my life.

A visit to the mountains will fade from memory, but worship on the summit could change my impact upon others. It isn’t the castle tour that adds treasure to my spirit, but the love shared with those on the tour along with me. Whether I own a company, publish a blog post, or mop the kitchen floor in vain, my accomplishments will be measured by how I honor Jesus in each moment of my day.

My bucket list has shortened to one item–obey the Lord. While it sounds more like a rule, this solitary goal offers a view of the most miraculous wonders, the adventure of a lifetime, and an eternal crown of glory. I might never wear a crown or dwell in a castle before I kick the proverbial bucket, but my goal extends to eternity. More of a post-bucket list, really.

Whether I travel the world or communicate to it via twitter, my dream is to serve Jesus well along the way. If I have millions to donate or a word of truth to offer, let me glorify the Lord in the way I give. Whatever I become, wherever I go, and in all I do, Lord help me honor You.

That’s a goal I have to keep working on for the rest of my life. What about you? What’s on your bucket list?

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

“’Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘…I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.’ …But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God… For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well…Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:15-17,20-21,30-31,33-34)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

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