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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stepping Up!

It was a warm spring evening in Oklahoma. We drove in our Model A Ford car to church as the sun began its drop in the West. I sat in the back seat, no seat belts, between my younger brothers. We always argued about ‘who got the window’. This day I lost. When we drove around the church, I caught a glimpse of the long flight of steps that led to the front double doors of the tall white wooden church building. The steps seemed to go forever.

Yes, in my mind, those 24 steps seems to lead into heaven. They were girl-sized steps and not difficult to climb. I am sure now that they would not seem so extensive and intimidating. Dad parked a half block away and we walked back to the church. For some reason there was time to not hurry into church. I climbed up the stairs and then looked back…and studied the steps. I turned and began a descent, skipping a step and landing on two steps below side ways. Then moving up one step, and skipping down a step and landing on two feet on two different steps. The pattern I created of skipping and gradually going down the steps became a game.

Mother taught me about the ‘steps’ on the piano…it made perfect sense to think of the steps as a keyboard on the piano. I continued to play my game on the steps, totally engrossed. Soon Dad called to me, and I climbed the steps again to enter in the church.

We sat on wooden pews, and pulled the brown hardbacked ‘Favorite Hymns’ songbook from the rack to sing hymns, “In the Garden”, “Wonderful Words of Life”, “The Old Rugged Grace” and “Amazing Grace”. Dad and I sat on the back bench in church. He found the page, propped it up on his knee and then traced the words of each verse with one hand. I learned the concept of verses and that music was ‘spelled’ from the little circles that decorated the lines above.

I learned how to behave in church on the short pew in the front of the church under the watchful eyes of Dad and Mom who sang in the choir every Sunday morning. Mom had ‘that look’ that spoke volumes if we didn’t behave. My brothers and I learned patience and perseverance on that short front pew, plus lots of obedience on that short wooden bench at the front of the church.

Life is like a flight of steps. Many times I thought of the games on the steps from the 1930’s. In life we travel up the stairs to our proclaimed goal. Sometimes we are distracted and play games on our way. Our progress is halted because of the games we play. When we are called back to our climb to the top of the stairs we resume our journey up the steps of life.

As age has laid its mantle on my shoulders, my physical steps are slower. I no longer skip up and down the steps, except in my heart. Now the inward steps of life have a deeper meaning….for there are always spiritual goals to aspire to. As I look back, I see mis-steps and detours in my life. Now I look forward to entering the sanctuary of peace that awaits us through Jesus Christ. My energy doesn’t come from bread alone, but the spiritual truths I find in God’s Word.

When I falter and become indecisive, I turn my face to the Lord and my spirit skips as I climb the steps to Heaven.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? Proverbs 20:24

I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. Psalm 119:59

The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; Psalm 37:23

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. Psalm 85:13

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. I Peter 2:21


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is Rhythm?

One-and-two-and-three-and-four-and. The quarter notes, half notes and whole notes with a sprinkling of eighth notes swam before my eyes. I knew my piano teacher (Mom) was listening from the kitchen and knew when the notes were wrong or not in rhythm. My mouth grew dry as I kept the chant going as I played, piece after piece for a long hour. If I hesitated Mom would wind up the fascinating Metronome that looked like a pyramid on a diet. When the weight was moved to the right speed, it began to click with maddening regularity. That metronome wouldn’t wait for me as I interpreted the letter names, right fingering and the length of the beat indicated. Playing music seemed a hopeless endeavor.

I resisted rhythm in music, and loved a new word, Rubato, that sped up the music and then slowed it down to provide an emotional tone as opposed to a strict rhythm. Presto, very fast, sometimes was the best when I was ecstatically happy. Largo was too somber and slow for me. But each spoke of its own rhythm.

Beat, cadence, flow, pattern and accent of sound in music is the definition of rhythm. But is it just music? Curious, I began searching the internet for information. Perhaps that is the wrong place, although I found many studies of patterns in animal sounds, weather, seasons, the spinning of the earth, the tides of the ocean, the appearance of the super moon (a largo – every 20 years rhythm). How often does a hurricane, a tornado or a tsunami or earthquake appear? Who regulates that flow or rhythm? Can any government or man of wealth?

Man obstructs our vision of the sky. God sends the rippling melody of clouds and sun and wind that sweep the sky. Sometimes I hear the melody that accompanies the snow and the rain that waters the fields, for I see God’s glory in the skies. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

Who regulates the seasons? Who holds our life’s length? Job 38 fascinates me as God answers Job’s question and mine:

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? 
Tell me, if you understand. 
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 
6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 
9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 
10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, 
13 that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? 
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment. 
15 The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? 
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? 
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? 
20 Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? 
21 Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, 
23 which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? 
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? 
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, 
and a path for the thunderstorm, 
26 to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, 
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? 
28 Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? 
29 From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens 
30 when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen

There is a cadence in time that creates a flow and a pattern in so many areas of our lives – put into motion by God our Creator. Time, power and the seasons affect the very lives of all people. True, there are ‘do-overs’ with the 1st & 2nd endings. Repetition and Da Capo until we reach the Fine of music. Then often there is the Coda, the final melody or afterglow of the song. This is reflected in life. The Tulip Tree in all its glory, lifts its petals, painted in a stroke of pink and white, to God in praise. Then, one by one, the wind loosens the petals’ hold and they drift to the ground, making a pink jeweled carpet under the tree, a coda of color.

There is a rhythm to live by, that is given to us, that gives us peace…not as the world gives. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27.

There is joy - no matter how much sadness we encounter. There is hope - no matter how frustrating the events of our lives are. There is an eternal security - no matter how events threaten our lives and the lives of those we love. We embrace life and in Christ Jesus we have it abundantly - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

Rhythm, where can we find God’s rhythm? It is in the rhythm of faith, trust and the knowledge of our Lord. There is a rhythm of gentleness, kindness, faithfulness. There is the cadence of forgiveness that cleanses; and patience that is repeated over and over. There is the self-control that counts “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and” keeping us in rhythm with our Lord and His precepts. It is in the love that He teaches that flows from His heart to ours and flows to others in service that gives life’s meaningful phrases. Rubato of life creates an eternal melody in Jesus for an eternity.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 49:14


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In God's Presence

Glorious….My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord…

Each time we sing this song my heart fills up with the wonder and mystery of the Lord. The presence of God is one of those things that we can only see and feel with spiritual eyes and the heart.

As Mom lay on her hospital bed in the rose-colored bedroom near death, she once told me, God is here, I feel His presence.

I asked, "Where is He?"

She motioned toward the head of her bed, “He’s right there.” I looked and saw an empty space. It was enough for me to know that Mom was aware of His presence.

Tonight in the prayer meeting, our minister gave us a sheet of paper with scriptures to begin the 40 Days of Prayer. Each one contained a description of the glory of God.

We see movie after movie, we see television on end, we listen to music endlessly – but are we aware of the presence of God? Do we see God working all around us or hear the angels sing?

Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)

1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The skies display his craftsmanship.

2 Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make him known.

3 They speak without a sound or word;

their voice is never heard.

4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

and their words to all the world.

Psalm 24:7-10 (NLT)

7 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.

8 Who is the King of glory? 
The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle.

9 Open up, ancient gates! 
Open up, ancient doors,
 and let the King of glory enter.

10 Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies— He is the King of glory.

Psalm 26:8 (NLT)

I love your sanctuary, Lord, the place where your glorious presence dwells.

Psalm 57:5 (NLT)

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!
May your glory shine over all the earth.

Psalm 79:9 (NLT)

Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name.
Save us and forgive our sins
for the honor of your name.

Psalm 115:1-3 (NLT)

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to your name goes all the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness.

2 Why let the nations say,
“Where is their God?”

3 Our God is in the heavens,
and he does as he wishes.

The Glory of the Lord! These words aren’t just lyrics to be sung, but words from the heart. When we recognize the power of God, when we know His Awesomeness, then we know His Presence.

God’s Presence cannot be put in a box or an appointment book. God’s Presence is breathing His Name with the breath He breathed into each of us at our birth. It is talking with Him. It is getting to know Him, really know Him. Knowing His heart and what gives Him joy. We give Him obedience, trust, hope, an expectant joy of what is to come.

It is thinking of Him and the world He created for His pleasure. The ever-changing colors of the skies, the mighty seas, the towering trees, the songs of the birds and the budding flowers.

How can we look into the face of a flower and not see the handiwork of God reflected back to us.

Another way of knowing the glory of God is through prayer. A prayer consists of confession of sins and thanksgiving.

A poet wrote these words:

Prayer is....

...knowing that God is real see His power praise His name know He is dear

Prayer is....

...trusting and believing

...asking for guidance

...placing my Hand in His

...and knowing His fragrance.

Prayer is... hope that is ours know that He hears

...and know He answers

...having faith until He appears



Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Living in Expectation

Living in expectation is to wait. Waiting is a way of serving our Lord. Waiting develops patience.

Waiting is the last thing we want to do each day. Waiting at a stop light, waiting in line to check out, waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting for a meatloaf to bake or waiting for a cup of coffee in the morning. We see waiting as wasted time. A time that can be put to another use.


In the NIV version of the Bible, there are 129 results for the word wait.

  • In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3
  • Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
  • Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked scheme. Psalm 37:7
  • For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed…But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:19, 25

Each verse uses the word – wait. To wait is a part of the fruit of the spirit in the quality of patience and clarifies the expectation that we wait for – Jesus, Lord of all. Waiting becomes sweet when we pray for God to lead us that day, for the person waiting at the red light, too, for the check-out clerk, or those the doctor is seeing…prayer is an acknowledgement of our faith in God. It is a bridge of faith. It is loving others.

Last Sunday I noticed a grandfather sitting in front of me. In his strong arms he held his sweet young sleeping granddaughter. He looked down into her innocent face and I could see the smile crinkles around his eyes. What was he thinking? Was he seeing what his granddaughter would become?

I remembered the scripture - For you created my inmost being; 
 you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13. Suddenly I could see God holding each of us in His strong arms, one by one as we were created, whispering His love into our hearts as we are formed. In that moment He embeds His expectations for our lives in our hearts. Once we are born, we choose what we will follow.

And God waits for us, ever loving, ever forgiving, throughout our lives. The world offers many avenues of expectations to fulfill to achieve fame and fortune with powerful abandon. Often we forget that moment of God’s Presence and His Forever Love even when God’s Banner surrounds us in his creation.

Each day I ask, what am I expecting this day? Do my expectations simply reflect the world? Or do my expectations create the presence of God in my day? Lord, help me to wait on You.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 57:11.

Expectation Living

Who writes the expectations / That fill my heart each day?

Who holds the pen that writes / Frustration in a myriad of ways?

The names are Confusion Chaos / And Confounding Commotion

That fill my every moment with / Increasing defeat and frustration.

From the depths of despair / I raise longing eyes to You

“Lord, write on my heart your message / Of eternal expectations true.”

Fill my heart and my mind / That Jesus is Lord of all

So world expectations will dim / And all I hear is your sweet call.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Pondering Faith

The sun comes up….after a night of anxiety, a night of tears, a night when all seems lost. The sun comes up and brings hope. The sun comes up and brings a new tomorrow. And I cry, how can this be? The sun is brilliant, it lights dark corners and brings vibrancy. Faith is knowing the sun will shine.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

The definition of faith is a confidence or trust, belief that is not based on proof, the obligation of loyalty. Faith is the future, faith is a surety in life that extends into eternity. For years I have pondered Abraham’s faith in God. This man did not have the Bible, but he had faith. How did this happen? God asked this man to leave his home, without a set destination. He encountered many people and adventures. Abraham waited for the promise that he would have a son. The Lord promised that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. His son Isaac appeared when Abraham and Sarah were old. (All things are possible with God). Abraham’s crowning act of faith was obedience when called to sacrifice his son, Isaac. At the very last moment God stayed his hand.

When I read Abraham’s story in Genesis, I wonder if I could leave the known for the unknown. But is the known really sure or what we perceive it to be? Can it be that keeping the known shuts us off from a faith-blessing of the unknown?

When my great-grandparents, Mennonites, left their home in Russia, what did they know of life in America? They left the known for the unknown. They only knew that their lives in Russia no longer allowed them the freedom to worship God. Were there warnings about living in United States? Yes…Indians continued to roam freely. Were there hardships traveling to United States? Yes. Preparation included provisions of food for the entire trip. Seeds for planting and small goods placed in a heavy wooden crate. In 1870’s they traveled on the Dnieper River, then crossed a good part of Europe, England, the Atlantic Ocean. Crossing the Atlantic in steerage was cheaper, but was seasickness. Babies were born. They traveled then from New York City to Kansas.

Were there hardships settling in this country? Yes. Hardships included the language barrier, relying on the their few belongings, buying land and building homes, planting the seeds in order to survive on the land in Kansas. Crop failures caused food to be very scarce. For a time, their main diet was dark bread and watermelon syrup. What kept them going?

Had our ancestors stayed in Russia, they would have seen the World War I Russian Revolution when the communists took full command of the country. Anarchy reigned, torture and death followed for many. Their food and cattle were stolen by marauding gangs.

Without faith, our ancestors would have perished in South Russia. God blessed their lives because of their faith and trust in Him. Their ‘known’ would have become terror and death. Despite hardships in America, they clung to their faith in God and continue to be blessed.

How do I know faith Рthat confidence of the substance hoped for, and the evidence of that which we do not see Рis real? Would it sound like a clich̩ of what faith is said to be? Or is it the faith that continues to grow in my heart? From a child, I learned faith by watching my parents and their unbroken trust in Jesus. It became mine as I trusted and followed Jesus throughout my adult life.

Validation of faith came when I watched both of my parents as they stepped from this life into an eternity with Jesus. Dad smiled as God took him home. Mom’s pain-filled face became one of alabaster-peace with her last breath. I knew the presence of God in those moments. A presence of God that continues to fill me with hope, trust and expectation that one day the faith I have in Jesus will draw me Home. Each one of us makes the commitment, each one of us searches his or her heart. When the sun goes down, it is then that a trusting faith becomes difficult. And I think of the examples I have known of lives filled with faith. During the darkest part of night the Son of God takes my hand!

Faith is putting our hands in the hand of God and letting him lead us into the future. Having faith is amazing to Jesus. “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” - Luke 7:9. These are the words Jesus said to the Roman centurion when he told Jesus that He did not need to come to heal his son.

Faith releases divine power – “….who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” I Peter 1:5

“Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23b-24

The apostles did not ask for riches or power, they asked for faith. 'The Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”' Luke 17:5

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:6

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:17

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6b

Find Us Faithful (Steve Green)

Note: The picture is of great-grand-nephew, Jude, son of Josh & Heather Cook