Friday, April 6, 2018

God is...Eternal!

Rev. 22:13  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

Tonight I feel very finite, but it is an illusion.  My grin is large and my heart is full but my body is very tired and a little sore.  My energy, my days, my body-life may have limits, but my God doesn't.  He has been from before time and will continue to be throughout time.  He created time and isn't bound by it.  He created sequence, and remains outside of it.  He starts things and brings them to a conclusion but is, Himself, without beginning or end. 

I quoted my life verse last night: 

"He has set eternity in the hearts of men, but they cannot fathom the scope of it from beginning to end."  Ecc. 3:11 (my paraphrase)

Like God, we are also eternal, or at least semi-eternal.  We have a beginning but our end is in Him and therefore has no end.  Billy Graham said of his own death, "Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now."  Still, death remains a valid shock.  Every person you have ever met, prince or pauper, will outlast the stars themselves.  C.S. Lewis said:

"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

This is where the danger lies.  Despite our semi-eternal nature, we treat our own existence as a frantic rush from here to somewhere out there.  We forget the part that we play in building up or tearing down the rest of our immortal race.  Lewis goes on to say: 

"The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.  It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations."  

That thought is rightfully intimidating, but take heart!  God takes our life formation as seriously as it demands even when we forget.  We may rush about, but He never does.  We forget the context of eternity but He never will.  The character we build into our heart's will is what we take with us into forever and it is too precious to be treated lightly.  You can curse and moan about the trouble you face, but it is that very trouble He is using to craft you into your eternal shape.  Paul tells us, "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." (Phil 1:6) 

How have you honored your neighbor's glory today?  Did you push them toward Christ, imprinting His image on them or did you drive them away?  What can you do tomorrow?

Thank You Father for the way You so carefully tend our eternal hearts.  We have no idea how precious You have made us to be.  We trust You to make us like You and to use us to build others up too.  


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

God is...Absolute


Ps. 147:5 "How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!"

This month, the scripture writing exercises all look at the Attributes of God.  Every day, my bullet journal has a different Bible Verse for me to write that highlights one of God's attributes.  Today, the word was (theoretically) "Infinite" and in several versions, this verse focuses on that word.  

But today I need a God who is Absolute! 

I love that His zero is truly zero.  His One means one, single, alone, solitary.  I love that He encompasses all the numbers through to infinity and beyond.  I love that He has my past through to negative infinity.  His white is white and includes all the colors of the spectrum.  His black is black and includes none of them.

He Is.  

Because He Is, He has made me to be.  Because He is, all the laws of the universe function as He set them out and do not stray.  Gravity works--I don't have to go chasing my drink around the room in tiny balls, but I am also aware I can't just jump off a balcony.  I feel comfortable flying in a plane because gravity and air-flow and a hundred different laws of the universe are consistent and repeatable. 

Right is right and wrong is wrong and how I feel about it makes no difference whatsoever--wow is that a relief!!  I'd make a terrible god.  Even more amazing, He notices how I feel about what goes on in my life and stoops to comfort me, correct me, and restore me.  

For brief moments, people may want to discard the absolutes of the universe created by God because they disagree with them, yet without Him, there is ultimately no purpose to existence.  There is no good to be honored for and no evil to be reviled if there is no one that has the authority to say what is good or evil.  All pass from existence as a vapor with even less impact.  

God has "placed eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the scope of it from beginning to end." (Ecc 3:11)  We instinctively know this is not all there is.  We catch glimpses of a world that is far more real than the one we tangibly experience and are left speechless in awe.  We recognize the darkness where His presence is thin, just as a fish recognizes when it is out of the water--and gasp for his goodness in the face of that darkness.

Thank You, Father.  You anchor us in reality and show us Yourself beyond it.  I am amazed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Suspending skepticism

Hidden Berries--Peter Wood
"Our culture has cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes...(yet) We are required to 'bet our life' that the visible world, while real, is not reality itself."--Dallas Willard.

I ran across the quote above last night and it brought home to me the profound gulf that exists in our society between the skeptical and those who believe.  The skeptic is elevated to the highest positions of thought in our culture.  All statements must be backed up by multiple corroborating sources and hedged in tightly by arrogant doubt alongside the caveat that more research should be conducted. Once, when I said I could see both sides of an issue, my husband responded, "but which side are you on?"  I love his clarity. 

As a consultant, I need to see all sides of an issue.  As an engineer, I have to make a decision and rely on it.  I have to recognize that I will never know everything I want to know about an issue and choose to believe some things and disregard others.  Having a life with God is contingent on recognizing skepticism and intentionally choosing to let it go. In the Amplified version, Hebrews 11:6 tells us: 

"Without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him."

Ironically, our "prove it" culture has a macabre fascination with the supernatural--as long as it's not related to God.  So many see occult practices as innocent and exciting while God is boring and confining. We can revel in meditation or astrology but a belief in God would require something from us, not the least of which could be giving up our right to be our own god.  

So where's the problem?  The problem is that there is real power in the unseen and a war that is being waged for the unseen souls of mankind. Those who are dead to it are easily robbed in their blindness but could never recognize what has been stolen. Those who dabble in spiritual matters are like toddlers playing with loaded handguns. The battlefield is only measurably safe for hardened, trained soldiers, yet we are born into that battlefield and casualties surround us all.  

Dallas goes on to say, "God's spiritual invasions into human life seem, by their very gentleness, to invite us to explain them away...We are hindered in our progress toward becoming spiritually competent people by how easily we can explain away the movements of God toward us.  They go meekly without much protest.  Of course God's day will come, but for now he cooperates with the desires and inclinations that make up our character, as we gradually become the kind of people we will forever be.  That should send a chill down our spine."  

God is not the forceful lover of a rape fantasy romance novel.  He respects us and waits for us to come to Him as free agents, of our own accord.  Even in the Bible, there are remarkably few times that God steps unveiled before the eyes of mankind.  He stopped Saul on the road to Damascus, but Saul honestly believed he was doing God's will, and an honest follower will be corrected.  A wandering dilettante will be allowed to meander.  

So what about you?  Is it possible to relinquish the need to know it all fully before being fully known?  Can you hear the still, unseen voice that pleads for your heart?  Interestingly enough, what has been seen and experienced cannot then be "unseen."  Suspend disbelief for even a moment and the spirit realm comes alive, like the gentle flutter of a butterfly's wings or sweet berries hidden behind lush foliage. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Special Type of Gratitude

20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Eph 5:20

This was the verse the Holy Spirit stopped me on this morning, so I began to thank Him for all He has provided:

  • the ability to work
  • my children
  • the clicking of Sally's nails on the tile as she follows me around the house
  • a Sophie ball
  • pain that shows me boundaries
  • healing that frees me to follow
This felt surprisingly empty.  

Then the Spirit stopped me and made me reread the verse.  Give thanks to the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This means thanking Him for what Jesus is thankful for not just for what I'm thankful for.  When I asked what Jesus was thankful for, the answers stirred my sleeping heart:
  • Friendship with God
  • the closeness provided by Your Spirit
  • growing peace
  • images to understand how You make all things new
  • eyes to see both Your work and how you work with us to create beauty
  • rescues through intercession
I could feel the gratitude of the Son welling up in me toward the Father and the Spirit for all they do.  I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit breathing new life into my praise.  What a grace!

Now you try!



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Where's the Brakes????

There comes a time in every parent's life here in the US, when they have the task of teaching their budding youth the most primary task in our society:  driving.  (I can hear you all screaming with me).  Honestly, I've been looking forward to this.  I need help with the chauffeuring.  P.J. knows this so he has dreaded learning to drive and fought the process tooth and nail. 

Ok, so I get him out in a parking lot to practice.  This is where I discover the secret to the terror of driving lessons: 

I don't have brakes.

He now has the brakes.  I can tell him to stop.  I can scream in horror.  I can faint dead away, but none of this matters.  If he doesn't hit the brakes, the car won't stop.  Control over direction is nice, but when things are coming at you fast, it's the brakes you want. 

I have discovered that this is a profound observation.  It seems like this comes up as a constant issue in raising a teenager.  I can tell him "No" but it just doesn't have the same punch these days.  He has to make his own decisions and even if I scream at him about getting up at a decent hour or making sure that all of his assignments are turned in, he is still the one who has to execute.  I can't do it for him.  Letting go of that control isn't easy for anyone, but when you care so much about that person, it's ridiculously hard to let them do things that you know will hurt them.  At some point they have to learn for themselves and that means letting them make mistakes. 

This is one of the most amazing things about God.  The fact that He ever let us make our own choices astounds me.  It looks like the supreme misstep in all creation.  I understand that He is far wiser than I am, but wow--talk about giving up the brakes!  I know we couldn't truly love Him if we didn't have the choice to love him or not, but what a cosmic scale risk!  He endows us with His very own image--so that all of creation does a double-take when comparing us to Him, and then He lets us loose to run the show here on earth.  From the foundation of the world, He had a plan to handle our disasters, but how it must hurt the heart of God to see us make the choices we constantly, foolishly make.  Yet He still chooses intentionally not to take our free will back as some "What was I thinking!?!?!?" mistake. 

Yet, I hear Him whisper, "For every terror of a bad decision, I remember even more the delight of choices made that honor Me, reject self, and grow into the image I have placed on you.  Even more, I have given you the opportunity to rely on Me, and at that choice, I place My Holy Spirit within you so that you have the chance to complete My joy at your freedom in Me."

And I remember the joy I have at seeing PJ grow and succeed and those delights far outweigh the terror of our afternoon driving lesson--white knuckles and all...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Treasuring the lull between the years

 

This Christmas break has been fraught with sicknesses many and varied from all quarters that kept nearly all of our gatherings far smaller than they could have been.  I could bemoan missing so many people, but it has made the holiday much sweeter in so many ways.  We could have cleaned furiously so many different days, but we were sick.  We could have decorated to the nines, but didn't have the energy.  We could have gone to parties, hosted parties, gone shopping...but we couldn't.  I'm glad.

I missed family, but they're coming anyway--just later than expected and not all at the same time.  I missed overwhelming piles of wrapping paper on Christmas morning, but instead we had contented kids playing with the one major gift they received from just us--because that's all that were there.  We did clean a little each day, but nothing frantic or crazy. 

Last night, on New Year's Eve, I asked my Father again, in another one of those still spaces created by our minimalistic holiday, what the word for the year was to be.  You cannot imagine the peace that flooded my heart as he sweetly whispered:

"Enough."

You have enough.  You are enough.  You will have enough.  You will do enough.  You will feel enough.  You need no more.  I AM enough. 

Yep. He is enough.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why I fight Down Syndrome...Our story.

My sweet Katie just turned 12 and she is more than I could have ever dreamed on that overwhelming night she was born.  It's hard to describe the disbelief and uncertainty of hearing from your OB the gentle, mournful sounds of "I think she has Down's."  Believe it or not, my husband's first panicked question was, "What are we going to do about her college?"  We had just purchased a prepaid college plan for our two year old son and had planned to do the same for Katie as soon as we could.  We were waiting that night to hear back on a counter-offer for our house.  John's questions about the house sale and my work were completely unanswerable at that time.  The future just seemed completely uncertain.  There was only one thing I knew.  God was still in control and I had been following Him as hard as I knew how for my whole life.  This was no surprise to Him, even if it was a surprise to me. 

As Katie grew, my research instincts kicked in.  As an engineer, I found some peace in finding answers, praying as I go.  My cousin had a little one about 6 months older than Kate with Down syndrome (DS).  She had started her daughter on a set of vitamins formulated for kids with DS, so I researched it and the research was sound.  Her daughter, Charity, was thriving.  I prayed about it and got a clear, "No."  I held off for a few weeks.  During that time, Kate got so constipated, I felt helpless.  So I tried it anyway--just a tiny amount.  Katie had projectile vomiting for 6 days--just once each day, but shooting a foot away from her mouth.  I humbly went back to the Lord and promised that I would never disobey His direction again.  He promised that if I would wait on Him, He would provide the answers I needed, when I needed them. 

Around the time Katie was 9 months old, I was reading my alumni magazine when I stumbled on Dr. Cade's research into gluten and casein intolerance.  He reported that a full elimination diet avoiding all gluten and casein could reverse autism symptoms in about 90% of the patients they treated.  Turns out that gluten and casein had morphine-like properties when they were absorbed undigested and that interfered with kids development--in autism, schizophrenia and DS.  I knew what this kind of elimination diet would mean to our family and I just wasn't able to do it.  So I went back to the Father and told Him so.  He responded again for me to wait--that He had could handle that. 

Around the time she was 12 months old, I had a horrible nightmare--except it was so sweet and delightful while I was asleep.  In the dream, I was spoon-feeding an adorable baby and we laughed and flirted with complete joy.  I woke up sobbing because I knew Katie didn't do any of those things and I thought it was my own fault.  I assumed that I was so depressed that I had interfered with her development. 

A few weeks later, I was reading online and found a website talking about enzymes that would break gluten and casein down in the stomach before they could be absorbed in the intestines and cause problems.  Dr. Cade's research had criticized this approach, so I dismissed it as someone just trying to make a buck.  The very next day, I met Dr. Houston at a conference here in Orlando and he just handed me a bottle and told me to try it.  Of course, at that point, I had a 12 month old baby and he had just handed me a bottle of capsules.  It took me 4 months to figure out how to get them into her.  It turned out that we could put the enzymes in tempered chocolate and they would last for about 2 weeks in the freezer.  I started her on a Friday and she took them without too much complaint.  So I waited to see the results.

Nothing. 

I kept giving them to her every meal.  Why not?  I had 2 weeks worth.  On Monday, we had our normal speech appointment.  At the end of the session, our therapist came running out of the room demanding to know what I had done to her.  She was making more sound than ever and had even tried to say a word or two.  I mumbled something about trying a new supplement, but she looked the same to me.  The same thing happened on Friday with our OT appointment.  Hmm...that's enough evidence for me to keep trying.  At three weeks, I asked the PT if he had seen any changes.  He responded exuberantly, "Oh my yes!"  Before he had needed to hover over her so that he could catch her if she fell, but if he accidently touched her, she would stop everything and look down to see where he had touched her.  He told me, "Now, I could touch her anywhere.  She doesn't care--She's so into everything around her."  That week, she started walking--at 17 months.  I finally noticed around a month after we started.  It was like the light came on in her eyes.  Suddenly she was all there with us.  No more space cadet.  Again, I cried, but this time for the joy of seeing Katie, herself, rather than the fog that DS had imposed upon her.  I promised myself I would do my best to figure out whatever it takes to remove the layers of bondage that this disorder has imposed upon her because I liked seeing her without the extra baggage. 

Today she is a bouncy 12 year old and will start 4th grade next week, still in a typical classroom after all these years.  Her language remains delayed and her cognition is still fairly concrete, though she is unbelievably aware spiritually.  She prayed our Thanksgiving prayer at 7 years old, thanking Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins and coming back to life.  What a delightful surprise!  Her physical coordination is pretty typical and she loves cheerleading and dance.  Through the last 4 years she has gone to Nationals every year--of course, when you're on the Challenger team, all you have to do is show up and they will give you the big trophy.  She's cute and funny.  When I asked her today what a million times zero is, she responded, "Lots and lots of zeros..."  She and her brother fight like cats and dogs but they also hug until they break into a new fight. 

I still research like crazy.  We've seen several things that have helped along the way and I look forward to finding more.  I believe that since God has placed mankind in authority over this world (and we have messed it up pretty badly) that we have a responsibility to redeem it in every way God grants.  Of course that has a spiritual component, but it has a physical outworking as well.  The process of understanding and fighting disease is a sacred trust that God has bequeathed to us.  Thankfully, He gives us the following promise: "Call on Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know."  I have been grateful to be a part of that process within our own family and am happy to share what I have found just as a beggar shares with other beggars where he found a loaf of bread.