Beach Combings …
The Sea flings up her dross
waiting for traveler
“Find me…” this beauty whispers,
lifted out of hiding by the foaming of the waves.
I run to you, knowing that your love will see me through this gathering storm
Cling to grace, knowing it will part the waves that push my craft off shore.
Bend -u- double winds hush to calm
By turn, God-breathed light warms, then fire bakes:
eel grass to paper; tree to kindling…all blown away
lest we be convinced to worship this sun.
“Brace yourself,” the gale answers my Job question…
Brace yourself in heaven’s resounding “I am.”
Smooth warm pebble turns in my hand,
Round and round to feed my palm the reminder
That tomorrow will bring a new dawn
I run to you, knowing that your love will see me through this gathering storm
Cling to grace, knowing it will part the waves that push my craft off shore.
A few weeks ago, as anxious thoughts mounted, I retreated to the beach to find God’s comfort in the care of loved ones. Three of my four children were off, one to canoe the wild rivers of northern Minnesota, one to the jungles of LA, and the third moving toward a scheduled class trip to Israel. In spite of God’s persistent faithfulness, I feel better when I can see my hatchlings…
The offerings of the beach reminded me, that the wind and waves of life’s storms, under God’s precise and careful restraint, reveal the hidden beauty of a thing. So often, we long for the safety and well-being of a loved one. God takes it one solid step further into the well-being of a soul.
God speaks , in Job 39, of how the young of the deer, “thrive and grow strong in the wilds,” and the freedom of the wild donkey though his home is in the wasteland. God understands, more KNOWS, the subtleties of what each of us encounters. He knows what obstacles we will encounter, and what shape those obstacles will give to our character. He knows where the pitfalls lie that too readily fit the shape of each foot.
Me…I’ve been sizing my children’s shoes too small, for too long, for years. Enough such that my tallest daughter, has the smallest feet. So much for my human understanding, of what is required to shape a life that mirrors God.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” These words from Jeremiah 29: 11 to the Israelites, follow God’s instructions to them about how to live IN the place of difficulty and challenge, applied in captivity. They are followed by this assurance, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Lord God, You who see and understand all, we rejoice in the power of your voice to unleash or quiet the storm. We rejoice in your knowing the dust of which we are made, such that you can reorder the grains of sand to reveal YOUR beauty, hidden in us. Thank you for the honor of bearing your image.
Protect us from the confusion of trying to create any other image to wear. Free us from the pursuit of false beauty that would shackle us to this age, rather than free us into eternity with you.
For those under our care or instruction, would you give us again, the assurance that you know exactly what you are doing? Instruct us in our role so that we can participate in the purity of your plan. We pray in Jesus’ name.
Today, neath spectacular sea-blown skies, I met with an old friend to catch-up on family doings. There were some fair weather reports, mixed in with storm after storm after storm. I was reminded anew, what a frontline guerilla warrior she has been, is, and seeing the need, still asks for more. More because she knows God is faithful. More because the call to answer God-spoken needs is in her DNA.
Another friend encounters health challenges and in every other ‘update’ asks for divine appointments. I prefer to think of these and other friends as Steel Magnolias, but as the world asks if women are really ready for combat, experience tells me that the women of God, are guerilla fighters, not because of a passion for war, or hand to hand combat, but because of a passion for God, and a passion for the people they see underneath the clouds and smoke. I see a friend who hesitates to speak before crowds, yet lays out the defining truths of God’s love in no uncertain terms. I don’t know what the garden really required when it welcomed Eve, and after 25 years of marriage I am still with God’s help, figuring out in practice what my Adam needss, but in these ‘Eves’ I see the quiet turning over of a woman’s heart to God, and him, by His Spirit fashioning hearts of great strength. Sacrifice and passion molded in His hands to change the world. Because of love.
A couple things have helped to shape my prayers recently:
My vision is cleared to see others with compassion when I am on my knees, perhaps physically, but more so, spiritually. Landing there sometimes entails a painful stripping away, but God has used it for good, both in me, and for others.
God is powerful. Though my capacity may feel small, HE can do anything. I believe this. He has infinite resources at his disposal. Most days my job is simply to bring people and their needs before him, blanketing them in his word and truth to my mediocre best on the way.
God of grace and power, YOU are here, and we behold your beauty: the beauty of utter sacrifice and depletion, and the refilling with your amazing love, that you evidenced at the cross, and that you repeat in us if we will let you. Fill us we pray, with your love that overcomes evil. Overcome evil with your good; in us, through us. Eph 4:2-9
If I must wrestle, help me to wrestle against the things that keep me from knowing and understanding you. Help me to turn my flagging energy toward loving the sinner rather than my own sense of righteousness. May my meager attempts at righteousness, serve only to mirror your glory, for righteousness comes from you alone.
Help us not to be debilitated by weariness: renew the joy of knowing you as our strength; the unity of fellowship, spouse-to-spouse, believer-to-believer; as powerful witness to others, but also to us, of who you are. The eternal sustaining nature of your being, breathe in us, as suits your purpose we pray.
God, will you bring your infinite and unmatched power to address the needs of those traumatized by life Will you supply resources, and wisdom, and understanding that will renew the life that you intend; trading poverty for riches, by your definition rather than ours? Will you push the enemy out of the way, such that your purposes will be accomplished? Will you give the thirsty living water, such that they will not thirst again? Always God we pray, as you meet needs, will you see beyond the superficial that sometimes stalls us, and speak into the hearts of your people, we pray. Amen
For some reason, this first week after Easter, the stone has drawn my attention. Propped there for years, in hearing and celebrating the life-breathing message of Christ’s resurrection; it is in the picture, then not. But it has captured my attention this year, as I feel a stone’s weight of concern sit upon my heart – for friends, for family; for the future of the world, backlit by the crossfires of social commentary. And I see that the power that raised Jesus from the dead, also lifted away the stone that would hold us, at least, in the grave.
There are other stones God addresses.
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, God asked Joshua to have one man from each tribe carry a stone of remembrance from the river, gathered from this spot: “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by…Joshua 3:17a “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:6,7 (1)
The river ran a boundary between the Israelites in the wilderness, and their stepping into the land of God’s promise.
I wonder, as they look at the stones, do they also remember another water crossing??? Ex. 13:17.18a “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” (2)
In that desert, at Pharaoh’s approach, the people “were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Ex 14:12
Moses replies, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Ex 14:13a (2)
In between the Red Sea of deliverance, and the river separating them from the land of God’s promise, lay 40 years in the wilderness. It feels like wilderness sometimes, to be rescued by God from the darkness of sin; only to wander in a place of shameful weight, whether the sin is one’s own, or committed against one; wearing clothes the cold gray color of the grave. It is also a place where we again, begin to trust that God is with us, that He has always been with us, a place where we learn anew the truths on which to stand. A place to begin to look up and see the promise. And in that place, we lay down curses and shame. We fold the grave-clothes honorably, for they have brushed our skin, sometimes for years. But they are grave-clothes, and we lay them behind to pick up stones. Not the familiar weights of guilt and shame, the bricks of Egypt, that God knows we are prone to find less terrifying, but stones of remembrance of his power.
Joshua set up the stones east of the Jordan. “He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:23.24 (3)
Powerful God, Mighty Deliverer, we are a people terrified and traumatized by the past; rescued only by your deliverance. Evil runs rampant over the earth. Some of us remain in need of rescue. Will you push back the waters that block our escape, by your merciful grace? Will you do on earth, what you SEE in heaven?
Thank you for the freedom, and the toil of the wilderness, for it teaches us about you; about your provision, your heart. Thank you for wilderness time to re-tapestry our hearts with death and life, to look more like yours. Will you renew mine?
In the wilderness of societal confusion, where factions cry out; will you give us dry ground on which to stand firm? May we see in the stones, 12 of them, the breadth of your reach? As we come into your presence, the Holy of Holies, will you steady us in truthful worship, toe-to-toe, side-by-side; our lives grounded in WHO YOU ARE rather than the politics of the moment?
You have promised…to give what is both meaningful to us, and praise-filled for you. Rivers of deception separate us from the realization of that promise. The subtleties of confusion keep us churning between ‘dry ground’, and desert, looking back…. Make us wholly your own, in fear and awe of you, we pray.
(1,2,3) All scripture references taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version c 1973,1978 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission.
My hand is ‘out of joint’ this morning; I woke up during the night, and something had shifted. Painfully. Thankfully, things are moving better as I go about my morning. My heart is out of joint, too, with the pain of a friend newly diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, old friends painfully grappling with estrangement, a third friend and her family already too many days at Children’s Hospital. My heart and mind keep cautiously approaching these explosive facts, trying to figure out what to do, to help or to understand; wondering when quiet, versus questions is the kindest, least intrusive form of care. Then wondering if intrusion is what the moment needs. Doubting that sequestration in a prayer closet is the answer, but having NO CLUE how to proceed. If I feel vulnerable and at a loss…how do they feel??????
For my friend with cancer, I feel angry and afraid. Very afraid. There are too many pieces of life attached to her, for me to calmly ‘let go’ and trust.
For my friends who are parting, there is so.much.sorrow
For my friends in hospital – there are weeks of wearying work ahead to facilitate recovery.
You likely have loved ones to add to the list.
I feel vulnerable in relationship to all of them – (how am I ever going to help?) I FEAR that I, their sister, their friend, will surely fail them in these moments.
I feel vulnerable for them – these strong , amazing advocates for others, who will now have to ask for themselves. I have lost.. it is not a journey one enters lightly. I have held the stone of sorrow…I have wearied my brain and bones in caregiving work. Perhaps this is why I feel vulnerable FOR them, this glimpse of what lies ahead. None of them are strangers to the journey either. Truthfully, I would not trade those journeys – the intertwine of beauty with ashes – the tracing of one’s hands across the face of God in the heart of Christ, along this journey we call life. But I have not walked their sorrows, and I do not envy them the walking it now.
Vulnerability History helps. I remember a time, when I was invited to flat-out worship God, but found myself in a position of vulnerability. As if on cue, the words flowed, telling God all the ways in which I felt vulnerable, all the fears and questions for which I had no practical answers. I had been circling the problems, puzzling them from different perspectives, rather than bringing them to a Holy God. The God of the Storehouse found in Job 38: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?… Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the evil out of it?” There it is. Job, with a season full of woes, and God reminding him that nothing is beyond his reach; the whole passage a call to worship. Three chapters worth.
Job responds, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” And, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42;2,5
Finally, I know what to do. God of the Storehouse, we stand amazed that you have every resource at your disposal. Bring them to bear, we humbly pray, on this array of needs. Help us to trust not only in your power, but in the goodness of your grace. We worship your goodness, Oh God.
It is not ours to judge one another, but where we need to shift, to repent and change, please show us the way. Help us to RUN in that new-found freedom. We worship your goodness , Oh God.
HELP US TO SEE YOU, over and over as we go about our days. And in seeing, to worship you truthfully; not as we expect you to be, but as you are in power and majesty, in righteousness and glory. May your glory fill the whole earth, as you shake the evil from its dust. No plan of yours can be thwarted. We worship your goodness, OH God.
On Easter Sunday, we spotted the first trilliums in the woods. They remind me again, of the triune completeness of our God; the Father to give us life, his Son to teach and save us, the Holy Spirit to lead and empower, the living of our own resurrected life. He is complete. And in Him, we find the help we need.
1) Quotes from Job Cpts. 38-42. NIV The Holy Bible. Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 1983
A well-worn path runs between the cross and the tomb. The air is permeated with the fragrance of grace.
I used to think a disciple of the Risen Christ, wouldn’t get stuck at the cross, but be out among the masses declaring jubilantly, “Christ is risen!’ I had trouble figuring out why a deeply wounded friend needed so much cross time??? But the past two years have been twilight dark, except for God repeatedly shining his light on deeply entrenched sinful attitudes in me. Their exposure has basically kept me at the foot of the cross, too weak at times to lift my head. That and trundling back and forth to the tomb – to make sure it is still empty. Slowly, as the icons to self drop heavily away, the light has crept up. There is a lot of company along this path… there is a lot of vulnerability and quiet regard and sorrow; a shared knowing that the darkness of sin leaves a residue of pain, whether one is the sinner, or the sinned against. At times, one fills either role. But the path to the cross leads also to the tomb. It’s a journey that Jesus made; and to which we can bear witness. It is a journey I have been unable to make successfully without the company of His Spirit.
The prayers ‘in between’ are prayers of grace, founded in Christ’s journey. They are breathed to life in his sacrificial death on the cross, and burnished in power by his resurrection from the grave. They are prayers woven amongst believers, held in the knowing that sin leaves a residue of darkness, that only Christ’s mercy and grace can dissolve. They are prayers in between earth and heaven, rising as hope’s echo from the empty tomb, and soaring away on the winds of the Spirit to fill kingdom air with God’s intentions. They are prayers that fill the holes in Nehemiah’s wall with that same intent, and guard against Satan’s. They are prayers that you and I can breathe between the utterances of Almighty God…Amen, amen, amen.
Almighty God, move in mercy and grace, to wipe away the sins of this age. Begin with me. I need you desperately to reframe my thinking, to carry me from the cross, to the grave. To show me that the tomb is, in fact, empty. Help me to believe that your power is great – even for me. That your grace is a deep well; deep enough to cover a multitude of sins.
Almighty God, move in mercy and grace, and help me to move to the nuances of that same dance. Help me to leave the judging to you. Help me to understand that every turning from sin is covered by the blood of Christ.
Almighty God, help me to guard my heart against sin, not against the sinner – so that you can use me as a vehicle of reconciliation, a conveyor of truth.
Almighty God, help me to remember what this powerful grace cost in the giving, and receiving of your Son. Help me to bear the banner of that cost, not proudly, but thankfully.
May my life bear the fragrance of your grace, a sweet aroma to those in need of you.
Spring is coming early to the Northwest. One would have to squeeze her eyes tightly shut to miss the glory of God in the pristine yellow of daffodils, the pink light of dawn breaking over foothills, made majestic by their unwavering bulk alone; the constant chatter of birds at play. Momentarily, these things boost my sagging winter spirits. But what lifts them enough to catch the Spirit’s prevailing wind, is the imprints. Imprints of God’s heart, his power and strength at work in people.
Isaiah 61:11 says it this way: “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” (1)
Thank God for spring! For his working and amending of the soil of our lives to reveal HIM. I hope that I no longer operate under the Eden lie that I should be like God. But I deeply believe that we are meant to look like him; that He is pleased when a single facet of his amazing being is revealed, even midst the intricacies of our individuality.
Thank God for spring!
For growth shared on facebook: 1 year sober. There is nothing trivial about God, permission granted, taking hold of a life and transforming behavior, since we all know how easy behavior is to change… Imprint of an all-powerful God
For a college student stating in simple conversation, that she has learned that the most helpful thing in walking along side her youth group students, as they navigate yOuThful stuff like cutting, and the question of promiscuity; is listening to God for direction, and helping them to find their answers in scripture, rather than telling them what they should do. She went on to say that she does not think she can ‘fix’ their problems, but she knows who can. Distillations…of spring nectar…in a twenty-something who is not out to change the world in her own right, but to make space for God to do so. I AM print
For a young woman, excitiedly sharing that after dutiful obedience and hard work, God has lit the doorway on the next step! The gift of his orchestration appearing all over her treasure map: God knowing, KNOWING her; and along the way, her knowing Him, flowering under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage. Imprint: glorious, cup running over, life.
For a no longer young, not yet old woman, uprooted by terrible loss; yet in its midst, hearing God speak to her of his protection, and provision. For her knowing that voice enough to trust it, and its message. I AM print
For a couple who feels old, the interweaving of their lives patterned both functionally and dys-so, like painfully tangled blackberry vines. God’s precise grafting enables them to cut out the deadwood, and retrain growth; to salvage the antioxidant benefits, and continue on to bear more fruit. Imprint of a God of Abundant Graces
In these fresh, upturned, vulnerable faces, I see the imprint of God; both the tracings of his preparatory handiwork in the garden loam of their lives, but also his living Spirit literally breathing in them; re-aerating this ground toward the springing up of righteousness and praise. Glory to God!
Prayers for growth: You, Almighty God, are the God of growth, the one who breathes life into us, and nurtures that life with all that you are. Your word tells us that you planted in us your image, the imprint of a Holy and righteous God. Rescue us, by the blood of your Son Jesus, from the tangling suffocation of sin in our lives. Free us, we pray, to grow in righteousness and praise, and to nurture and celebrate that growth in one another, as we root ourselves in you. Thank you, for your goodness, your careful, knowing, tending of this garden, we pray…
(1) The Holy Bible, NIV. Zondervan Bible Publishers Grand Rapids, Michigan