The Peacock

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“Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?” – C. S. Lewis

Last week I met a woman who told me about her daughter Kristy who was diagnosed with cancer at age 31. When the severity of the situation was known and she realized she had only a few months to live, Kristy sat in the backyard of her Georgia home asking God to walk with her through this frightening journey.

As she sat there, a peacock strutted out, opened wide his astounding tail feathers, and just stood there. Kristy immediately knew this peacock was a gift from her heavenly Father who wanted her to know how much He loved her. But it wasn’t until later that she discovered what it really meant.

You see, early Christian tombs were often decorated with symbols showing the deceased’s commitment to Christ. The cross did not come to be the accepted symbol of Christianity until the third century. So, at the Catacombs in Rome, the most common symbols were the fish (ichthus) and the peacock. Why a peacock? In the ancient world the peacock represented eternal life.

God had, indeed, given Kristy a great message. I imagine when she arrived in Heaven a few months later, she said something like “Oh, now I understand.” And it wouldn’t have been just about peacocks – it would have been about her whole life:  the pain, the joys, the brevity, and the promise of eternal life that the peacock represented in her backyard that day.

Sometimes when we need it most, God pulls back the curtain and gives us a peek into His heart and His eternal plan. When He does, we love Him even more!

“I love the Lord because He heard my plea for mercy and listened to me.” – Psalm 116:1-2b (NET)

 

Some of His Best Work

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“I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”Psalm 146:2b

My husband and I are in Colorado at this writing, having arrived a few days ago from our home in Michigan. It is an amazing retreat for us to come here surrounded by several Fourteeners, (14,000+ foot mountain peaks), adjacent to the Arkansas River (known here as the “Mighty Ark”), and under a canopy of sky that is sunny and blue most days.

So why was I so bummed out yesterday? I kind of got on a downward spiral of “If only”s.

• If only it were warmer.
• If only the storm hadn’t rained on the outdoor concert we had planned to attend.
• If only my email account hadn’t jammed.
• If only . . .

For no good reason, I ended the day feeling dissatisfied.

Then this morning, I opened my day with this prayer, as I usually do, “Good morning, heavenly Father. I worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.”

It was as if He said in return, “Do you mean that? Creator? Have you looked around lately? You are sitting here among some of My best work saying ‘if only’. Really?”

Busted! Immediately something came into my mind I could say “thank You” for and I did that. Then another and another and another until a deep sense of satisfaction came over me. From frowns to smiles in about two minutes! God’s way is much better than my way.

And there’s nothing like seeing, really seeing, His creation to remind us of how great our God is. I bet there is some of His best work around you, too. Take a look!

“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.” (Anonymous source)

 

Just Call My Name

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“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.” – Psalm 105:4

My husband and I recently returned from a two-week trip that required adhering to a pretty demanding schedule. As a result, I found it hard to maintain a regular quiet time with God and, halfway through the trip, I began to miss Him.

One day, when we were in a large cathedral, Warren and I sought out a side chapel where we were able to spend some individual time in prayer. After I calmed my hurry and began to focus on God, I expressed my loneliness for Him. Then I simply sat in His presence. After a few minutes, this thought came to my mind:

“I will never leave you. I am always with you wherever you are on My earth. So, even when we don’t have specific time together, you don’t ever need to miss Me. Instead, just call My name. If you say ‘Jesus’, you will become aware of My presence. I am right there – all the time.”

Starting at that very hour, I began to practice saying softly or just thinking “Jesus” throughout the remaining days of our trip. Every time I did, I felt Him with me and knowledge of His presence brought, as it always does, peace, contentment, and satisfaction.

Jesus really wants to be found by us. So much so, that He makes it easy. “Just call My name.

“A close, intimate relationship to Christ should always  be your soul’s only purpose.” – Gene Edwards

 

Photo: Taken at the ancient city of Ephesus (in Turkey)

Distracted

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“Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.” – Matthew 6:28b-29

Lord, what is it that distracts me when I sit in silence before You? Today it is what I am going to wear and, for later, what am I going to serve for our guests. Can you believe it? I am in Your presence at Your gracious invitation. I want to be with You and, yet, I am thinking of food and clothing, things that don’t matter at all.

So now, in Your presence, I take off my sandals for I am on holy ground. I remove that which attaches me to earth – thoughts about the daily stresses and concerns. Instead, I stand with bare feet and open heart waiting for You to fill my deepest needs.

  • Make me like a lily of the field who displays beauty that only You can give.
  • Make me like a bird of the air who gratefully receives the food You provide.
  • Make me, as Your daughter, totally dependent on You for every detail of my life.

Then I can look to You alone and not be distracted by the superficial, the earthly, the transient. I yield to Your transformation in my life. Amen.

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” – Charles Spurgeon

God Started It

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“Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we are in.” – Hebrews 12:2a (MSG)

Nothing significant in our lives is started by us. Everything of value is initiated by God. He initiated salvation by sending Jesus. It is our role to respond by accepting the payment He made for us on the cross.

The Holy Spirit initiates our service by giving various spiritual gifts. Our job is to respond to His gifts and use them for building up the church.

See the pattern? He initiates, we respond. When we start projects or ministries or relationships on our own, we will fail. If we wait for God to start what He wants to grow, it will succeed. So how does that look in our daily lives?

  • We ask what His will is before we pray. Then we pray His will back to Him.
  • We ask Him before we put an event on our calendar. That way, our days will be ordered by Him.
  • We pray throughout the day for direction, so our individual steps, too, can be directed by Him.

Result: Success. We will never fail in a plan that God initiates. What He begins, He completes and we can share joy in accomplishing His will on our patch of the earth.

What to do next? Wait for it. . . He will show you!

“Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!” – Andrew Murray

A No-Hurry Day

I’m having a “no-hurry” day today. That means I didn’t jump out of bed the minute I woke up. I stayed still for ten minutes saying good morning to God.

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“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalm 91:1

Then, as I begin my day, I resolve to

  • Drive in the right-hand lane.
  • Walk at a relaxed pace.
  • Read instead of scan.
  • Speak more slowly.
  • Taste my food.
  • Wait in line without fidgeting.
  • Avoid multi-tasking.

A no-hurry day allows God to speak peace to my soul. It’s OK to slow down sometimes, to not take control of every situation, to let others lead, and to yield every moment, every task, and every relationship to God’s oversight. Try it. You may be surprised at how little time you lose by not hurrying and at how much more fun you have along the way.

“When the soul is understood and attended to, we can be liberated from hurry, preoccupation, unsatisfied desires, and chronic discontent”.  – John Ortberg

Being Still

"Do everything with the awareness that you are acting before God and for His sake. At the sight of God's majesty, calmness and well-being should fill your spirit." - Fenelon

“At the sight of God’s majesty, calmness and well-being should fill your spirit.” -Francois de Fenelon

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Have you ever tried being still? It’s hard to do! When I was talking to God about that one day, it felt like He was telling me that I was going at it backwards: I was trying to be still so I could know Him. He wants me to know Him so I can be still.

“When you know that I am God, you will be still.

Behold Me. Look at Me. See Me for who I am.

You will find I am much, infinitely much, bigger than finances, accidents, cancer, relationships with toxic people, or any other problem you face.

I am God. Just stop for a few minutes and think about who I am. Being still is the only possible response to My glory.”

It seems that the secret of being still in God’s presence is beginning to understand who He really is. When we stop to view Him with amazement and wonder; when we accept the mystery of what we do not know of Him; and when we begin to glimpse His holiness, power, and love, the issues of our lives fade away and awed stillness is our only possible reaction.

Try changing your focus from your restlessness to God’s greatness and see what happens. It helps me a lot!

“Collect yourself in His presence with the one purpose and intent of loving Him.” – Michael Molinos

Feelings Matter

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“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” – Proverbs 27:19

How are you feeling right now? Mad? Sad? Glad? Bad? Sometimes we have to stop and identify our gut reaction to an event or circumstance in our lives. Why? Because it matters to our spiritual health.

God wants us to love Him with our total beings: mind, soul, mind, strength. That “soul” part is emotional. In my soul-focused journey, here’s what I am figuring out so far:

Feelings . . .
. . . help us become aware of God’s  specially-designed ways of calling each of us to Himself.

. . . encourage us to do more of what leads us toward God and joy.

. . . lead us to do less of what leads to sorrow and anxiety.

. . . help us see the difference between good and evil influences.

. . . bring vitality to intimate times with Christ.

One thing that helps me to learn from my emotions is to find time in the evening to review the events of the day in God’s presence asking questions like these:

  • When today did I feel most alive?
  • Was there a time when God felt especially close?
  • What activity or event brought about the deepest emotional response?

Then, I ask myself these questions:

  • What did I observe today that must be faced, embraced, or acted upon?
  • What do I feel God is calling me to do more of? Less of?

Emotions are one part of the way in which God directs our lives. Our feelings matter to us and they matter to Him.

So, what are you feeling today?

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” – – Helen Keller

Pennies on the Path

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“I cannot cause light. The most I can do is to put myself in the path of its beam.”                                    – Annie Dillard

I had an uncle who lived at the other end of a well-worn path between my Grandmother’s house and his. When he knew the grandchildren were coming to visit, he showed up at Grandma’s door, too. Then he would invite one of us to walk with him on the path to his house. As we walked, we were amazed to find pennies all along the way. Even when I became a young adult and Uncle Walt was gone, I couldn’t resist looking for pennies when I walked that path!

I believe God has taken great delight in putting “pennies” on the path we will walk today. One author calls God’s sometimes unnoticed gifts as “small joys and pieces of beauty”. How many of them do we miss because we are not paying attention? We are watching our feet or worried about the obstacles ahead and missing God’s little gifts along the way.

As we enter this new year, let’s have enough faith in our loving heavenly Father to believe that He has “small joys and pieces of beauty” for us every single day. Then, let’s remember to look for them. If we do, 2016 will be a year filled with surprises, smiles, and praise. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s next on the path!

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6a NIV)

Thin Places

"Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it." - Genesis 28:16b

“Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” – Genesis 28:16b

There are places on this planet, where the separation between heaven and earth seems very thin and, in those places, it is said that you can hear God more clearly and feel God more closely than anywhere else. Some see the mountains as thin places, where the peaks reach toward heaven and the majesty of God is revealed. Certain traditions have recognized thin places where people have met God powerfully through the ages. Retreat centers, churches, and monasteries often are cited.

I believe that we can create our own thin places:  For one of my friends, it was her daily hour-long walk where she could talk to God without interruption. For another, it was under the stairs in her home, and another tells me she has her best sense of Jesus’ presence on her backyard deck. For me, it is the couch downstairs where I can open the blinds and wait for the dawn as I read His Word and listen for His voice.

We all need a place where we can go to meet God, leaving everything else behind so, without distraction, we can connect with our Creator. Of course, we can meet Him anywhere along life’s path (and we do!), but for those of us who have been on the journey for awhile, we find there are sacred spots where God seems to break through with ease. Do you have a place like that? If not, I hope you will create one as an invitation to sacred encounters in this new year!

“Until we are able to have at least a little silence every day, both outside and in, . . . we have no hope of coming to know either God or ourselves very well.” – Joan Chittister