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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Smile of Morning

“Smile!” the photographer said.  My heart wasn’t in it, but I dutifully curved my lips into ‘wanna be’ smile.  Then I wondered, who gave me my first smile?  Was it my mother?  A panoramic view of my mother’s face flitted through my mind.  Somehow a smile was not in evidence as much as her actions of joy.  She skipped and jumped even into her 80’s, expressing happiness….when the bread rose just right, the apricots ripened on the tree, or when Dad hugged her for no reason at all.

Smiles are a body language all their own.  We love to see a baby smile, chortle and laugh.  It gives us hope and our heart is renewed.  No wonder we celebrate a baby’s first smile as eagerly as learning to walk or talk.  I remember watching new Grandparents speaking a ‘new’ language in an attempt to coax that smile of their new grandchild into existence.  Baby's first smile, smile of falling in love, smile of parents proud, smile of achievement, smile of the joy of giving, the smile of answered love with a smile, smile of remembering sweet God-given memories and many more moments to smile.

There are so many reasons not to smile in this journey of life.  Pain, of many different kinds, assail us, causing our joy of life to go into hiding.  Death, sickness, loss, pain are a few of the things that are not our favorite experiences, and we wonder why. We wonder why we must go through these hurtful things.  We have forgotten our first love…our first smile from God himself.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
When did he plant eternity in the human heart?  Then I read this, and I know.  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  Psalm 139:13-16

As God created the earth on which we live, it is written, And God saw that it was good.  Good?  Yes, Good…And good can not be said without smiling.  When He formed us in the womb, I can hear Him say, “It is Good”.  You can’t say Good without smiling.  Try it.  “It is Good!”  My first smile, and your first smile, came from God Almighty, the Sovereign One!

God knew just what we would live through, but He gives us hope and joy through these two verses from Psalm 30:4-5.  When I read these two verses in the version, The Voice, I rejoice.
Sing, all you who remain faithful!  Pour out your hearts to the Eternal with praise and melodies; let grateful music fill the air and bless His Name.  His wrath, you see, is fleeting, but His grace lasts a lifetime.  The deepest pains may linger through the night, but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning.

Sing – sing what?  Sing Praise and Melodies.  Who will sing?  Those are to sing are those who remain faithful, godly ones and His saints.  What do we sing with?  With Thanksgiving and remembrances of Him.  Singing about Jesus lifts the soul, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” Revelation 5:12.

How long will the pain last?  It lingers through the night, it lasts a moment, or but a moment.   English Standard Version gives us this in verse 5…. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.

Then comes my favorite part….and it dawns on me why the morning is so full of promise and newness as God steadfastly presents the miracle of a new day in the sunrise.  Each day is the new page of our story in Jesus.  And why not choose to smile as we read from His Word, in the early dawn?  His Presence peers over our shoulder as we read and learn of His Grace and His Promises.  Do you not know that Jesus lovingly smiles, too?  His love and grace are His arms that He wraps around us and gives us hope and joy in every circumstance.

The pain and suffering of the night disappear and we are left with the joy that comes with the morning.  Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 

Have you hurt so deeply that you wonder how long you can live with this hurt? 

The deepest pains may linger through the night, but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning….


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Blue Bag

After the appointment of determining the cataract needs, I sat in a room waiting for a nurse, who handed me The Blue Bag.  For all the six appointments I would bring The Blue Bag.  This rectangular-shaped bag seemed to take on an importance that its appearance belied.  I saw that it had a zipper opening.  I tried to open it.  The nurse assisted me, “You have the bag upside down.” 

Then I investigated its contents:  dark wrap-around glasses, a card with the doctor’s phone number for an emergency, a yellow sheet with a drawing of a human body with the left eye marked, plus an acrylic eye shield with a roll of tape.  The instructions were to keep the eye drops, all three bottles, in The Blue Bag.  I held the blue bag tightly.  I didn’t yet realize its importance.  I knew the cataract surgery would not happen without The Blue Bag I clutched tightly.  I kept my eye on The Blue Bag the week before surgery. I began using the three bottles of eye drops four times a day, I kept them in The Blue Bag.

By the day of the surgery, the significance of The Blue Bag took on new life. It now holds an ID card of the implanted lens model with a number and description.  The Blue Bag signifies much more than convenience and efficiency for surgery.  Suddenly a flash of understanding came –  and The Blue Bag takes on a spiritual importance for me.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.   Ecclesiastes 3:11

Just as living has caused the original lens of my eyes to become more dim and I need an implant.  God planted eternity in our human hearts.  We lose sight of God’s work in our lives and what eternity can mean for us.  It is a gift like no other and causes yearning and longing for eternity with God.  Our ‘eye drops’, God’s Holy Bible, teaches us and fills that part of our hearts with love, joy and peace. We see more clearly God’s will for our lives – each ache, each joy, each sorrow, each moment of peace becomes the essence of who and Whose we are on this earth. 

When our heart does not see clearly, we try to fill the eternity part of our heart with things of this world.  We stuff in the ‘new’ things of this world that rust and decay.  The things of the world can never take the place in our hearts of the eternity God has planted there.

As I ponder our time on earth and realize the care that God has taken to implant eternity in my heart, I wonder why.  It is because of His Great Love He gives first – even to giving us His Grace and Salvation through Jesus Christ.
We love each other because he loved us first. I John 4:19

Who is this God, our Father, who gives?
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.  James 1:17

How can I trust him?
            But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” Psalm 31:14
Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me.  John 12:44
Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off.  Romans 11:22
For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  Hebrews 3:14

Help me to see Your Presence all around me.  Fill my heart with your love and holy living.
Help me to yearn for the Joy of You in your Word.  Help me to see You clearly.  Seal me with the blood Jesus shed that I might belong wholly to you through baptism.

Even as I contemplate the surgery on the right eye in a week, I see with new clarity the colors of the creation God placed on this earth.  The new vividness clears my spiritual sight and seeing anew the wonder and mystery of our Father in Heaven and the Eternity to come. 

It is with thanksgiving, I approach the second cataract surgery.  I rest in His Marvelous Grace. I belong to Him for He has placed eternity in my heart.  And one day the things I see now, become this eternity, where there is no more death, weeping or crying.  I will live an eternity of Love, Joy and Peace.  A place where Time has ceased.  And I will see the glory of God and see Him Face to Face.

Can there be any other joy so great as realizing the eternity that God placed in our hearts when he formed us in our mothers’ wombs? 
I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory.  Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Revelation 22:22-27
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.  Psalm 94:19
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.  Psalm 28:7
Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees.  Psalm 119:64
But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  Psalm 86:15
So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  Ephesians 1:6


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Art of Rejoicing

This art form of rejoicing begins in the mind.  Rejoicing is purposing in the spirit.  It is not a reaction to what is in our lives, but a firm belief in Who God Is.  Rejoicing is a state of mind and being. Rejoicing usually comes through tears and sorrow.  Rejoicing appears like gentle drops of refreshing rain on a blistering day.  Rejoicing is the preparation for the worst by believing in the best. 

In this season of difficulties, I look at the calendar and see that two ‘in and out’ surgeries for me are this month.  A year ago we traveled to witness our eldest son being buried in death.  My husband of sixty-three years continues to travel the Dementia Road marked by confusion and near blindness.  Old age becomes a forest of unknown undergrowth that entangles our feet.  The world seems to be aflame with angst, anger and death.  Where is joy?  Where is peace?  How can there be rejoicing?

One of my favorite portions of scripture is this missive about rejoicing.  It contains the essence – the art form – of rejoicing for me.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:4-9

Always be full of joy in the Lord.
But this cannot be!  How can I always be full of joy, don’t you know the trouble that is on me?  The bills that come due, the pain I live through each day, the ridicule I face day after day?  How can I be full of Joy?
            “Child, you are so impatient!  You didn’t read the rest of the     
            phrase!  “In the Lord!” In the LORD I have peace and rest.  In the
           Lord, I find love, unconditional love! In the Lord, I find forgiveness 
           – forgiveness through Jesus Christ”. 
Pure Joy is not the fleeting ‘ha-ha-ha’s’ of life, the ‘tickling of the ear’ phrases of ‘feel good’ philosophy.  Pure Joy is knowing Jesus and His all encompassing love that cleanses my life forever.

I say it again—rejoice!
That sounds like a television re-run of the same thing.  Why would it be repeated? 
            “Child, have you not remembered how many times repetition is
           used so you can learn truth and believe?  I say it again and again
           – Rejoice.  Rejoice to wash away despair and discouragement. 
           Replace the woes in life with the rainbows of hope – Rejoice.”

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.
            “Child, are you being considerate in all you do?”
What do you mean considerate?  I do many things.  I don’t have time to think of consideration.  I must get everything done.
   “Child, don’t you realize that I accomplished all that is necessary in your life?  Being considerate is putting others before yourself.  Considerate living is an attitude that comes through rejoicing and knowing Me.  Encourage others to rejoice in me. All you need is love – loving me is loving others in all you do.”
Remember, the Lord is coming soon
People have said You are coming forever.  Are You really coming?  How do we know You are coming?  And why should I rejoice because You are coming?  Won’t that change things?  Will the earth be changed?  Will I have bills to pay?  Will the sun go down and never rise again?  I want to know how I will know.
   “Child, there is only one thing to know about my coming again.  ‘Watch and Pray.’ No one knows the day or the hour.  Be ready at all times.  Do you remember the days when someone planned a surprise and that feeling of anticipation that swelled in your heart?  That is what it is all about.  A surprise that makes earthly surprises seem like nothing in comparison.  The wonders and joys that will be yours as a child of God far surpass anything you ever could imagine.

Don’t worry about anything
How can you say don’t worry about anything?   If I didn’t worry, nothing would get done.
“Child, I managed to create the universe without you, I can move mountains, I control kingdoms and principalities without you worrying.  You can trust me, you can relax and not worry.  I have a plan for you.  It is simple…trust!”

Pray about everything. Tell God what you need.
Pray?  You want me to pray about everything?  You surely don’t want to be bothered for the test I am taking tomorrow, or what I will eat or wear today, or that tiny niggling pain I feel in my shoulder, right?  Sometimes in a prayer I mention what I need and I don’t get it, why should I ask for big things, if you don’t give me the little things?
“Child, even as you enjoy giving gifts to others, I enjoy giving gifts to those who love Me.  You are important to me because I love you.  When I love you, I also know what is good for you, therefore some of the things you say you need, would not be good for you.  I will answer every prayer you pray in My Way.  You may not understand – or know the Why, you may become angry at Me.  Just know the bottom line…I love you, dear Child.”

And thank Him for all He has done.
How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me?  I look back on my life and see your Hand guiding me, bending time and events to give me what I need.  I am in awe of You.  I am in love with You, my Creator, my Comforter, my Savior.  You give me peace, You give me joy, You teach me patience. 

“Child, you are just beginning to know me, there are riches to come that are beyond comprehension.  You can thank me by being my Child!  You can thank me by encouraging others in their walk with Me.  You can thank me by being faithful and trusting.  You can thank me by holy living in your thoughts, speech and life.  You can thank me by passionately pursing Jesus Christ every moment of your life.  I love you!”