Monday, April 29, 2013

Forgetting the One Who Made Us Beautiful

“Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? 
Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” 
Jeremiah 2:32

When God looks at us in relationship with Him, He sees Himself as the adorning of women. The beauty we lack, the added garments that enhance, and the jewelry that decorates. I hope I continue to see my God in this way. I hope my heart will not become like the heart of Israel in Jeremiah’s time, whose back was to her God. Who forgot God’s wonders when He parted the Red Sea, fed her Manna in the wilderness, and led her through the valley of the shadow of death. Instead, she said to a tree, “Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth.” 

I know I often think that those things my flesh finds attractive are more beautiful than my God. I think my successes are clothed in my own righteousness-my own “beauty.” When this happens, I need to remember to turn around and look at Him. And when I do, He will clothe me with Himself, and I will be as lovely as a bride on her wedding day.

Stehekin, WA (October 2010)

Friday, April 26, 2013


The lady standing there was praying.
She was dressed nicely, looked upper middle class.
Her hands were close together, each index finger touching her lips.
In her eyes was a pleading so desperate.
A wish so real. A hope so far.

In her view was a statue of Brahma, 
With four heads.
In the air was the smell of incense and the chants of request.

Why, though, talk to an image made with hands?
Can a Holy thing dwell in something man-made?
Would a spirit incarnate in something unable to move?
If a god were truly good, wouldn’t he wish to be something mobile? 
Someone whose hands could touch the soul and give comfort so desperately needed?

She was a beautiful woman, who will be in my memory. 
The one standing in my view, reaching out her heart to something that wasn’t there.
And now, my prayer to my God, the One who made the person who made the image,
Lord Jesus, show her Your hands.

Written in March 29, 2000, after I visited Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand.

Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand. (2000)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wisdom and the Foolish Woman

“Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.” 
Proverbs 9:1-2

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say there are two women who cry out to the simple ones, the individuals who are seeking to understand their way in the world. One woman takes great care to prepare for her guests. As the opening verses of this chapter, interestingly, the shortest one in Proverbs, suggests, she builds her house, taking great care in the details. She kills her beasts, she mixes her wine, and she sets her own table. She prepares her servants and then she goes out into the street and calls unto the people who desire understanding. She says to them, “Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” (v. 5) She says to these who are searching to come to her table where she has placed no substitutes, where she has cut no corners, and live of her. Her name is Wisdom and she prepares and serves that which she offers seekers.

Then, there is another woman. She is simple and knows nothing. She sits at her door. Let’s say she’s sitting on her porch, which happens to be conveniently located at a place of high traffic in the city. Because of its location, she just calls out to those who are going along their way. She doesn’t actively pursue those who want understanding. She just picks from the “low-hanging” fruit, only from those who are walking near her door. She calls out to those who want understanding and says, “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” She prepares no table for her guests, but offers what some may call the counterfeit of Wisdom’s nutrients. She is lazy and has no integrity. And the guests at her table are dead and “in the depths of hell.” (v. 18) Her name is the Foolish Woman and the Bible describes her as clamorous—noisy, demanding attention, loud, and insolent.

We are, all of us, sought by these two individuals in every aspect of our lives. One, Wisdom, has the real thing, and she actively seeks out her guests. What she offers them is worked for and earned. At her table are truths that are rich, pleasant, and free.

The other, the Foolish Woman, represents the world. She’s loud and demanding, but lazy and slack, as she just picks from those of us who are near her door. There isn’t a lot of work she has to do to draw us to her table, which is filled with stolen waters and bread eaten in secret. Mere shadows of the real thing. She’s dishonest and only mimics what Wisdom offers and not even very well.

I think of God and all He has to offer those of us seeking understanding. He desires us to eat at His table, from the foods He’s prepared. He’s done all the work and all we have to do is accept His gift.

Then, there is Satan and the world. He cares not for you, only that you eat at his table instead of God’s. He’s lazy and unwilling to even make it attractive, but only through his persistent clamoring some of us cannot and do not refuse his offer of hell.

What a vivid picture of the difference between God’s way of offering us understanding and Satan’s way. 

Lord, help me to choose to sit at Your table and eat what only You can and have prepared for me.

 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”—James 1:17

Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA (2007)

Friday, April 19, 2013

An Excellent Spirit

“A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.”
Proverbs 17:27b

Excellent. What a great word. I love how it ties into understanding. My first favorite verse of the Bible was “Man’s goings are of the Lord, how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24) It reminded me that my understanding, my clarity of purpose and design, were in the hands of God, and it was my duty, my pleasure, to seek answers from Him to understand my place in this world.

When I gave my life to the Lord in my early twenties, it was like I had access to this fountain of understanding that never went dry. I had so much to learn. I had so much time to make up in my relationship with Him. It was then I first experienced the blessings of clarity of mind. And excellent is a great word to describe this feeling.

Oh, how I loved Jesus in those early days. This is not to diminish my love for Him today, but just like a new marriage or relationship, those first days are full of feelings of wonder and love and awe for that person and how they make us feel. It is only in time, that our love grows and matures into something more precious and deeper than we thought we could feel, that is, if we stay constant through the many ups and downs, as well as in the plateaus.

Reflecting on this verse today, could it be the excellent spirit is the result of understanding, rather than the goal? What I mean to say is we could easily get prideful if we walk around thinking we are excellent because we have understanding. With puffed up heads of knowledge, pointing to ourselves, we say, “Look at me. I have an excellent spirit because God has given me so much understanding.”

Why not look at it like because God has graciously given us understanding, our being exudes this “excellent spirit,” that directs praise to God, rather than ourselves. This excellent spirit may be what a non-believer sees when they look at us and wants what we have.

The Peace of God. The Love of God. The Acceptance of God. Not because we’re perfect but because we understand our place in His Kingdom.

Lord, may this river of understanding never run dry. Oh, it may be a trickle at times, and like a waterfall at other times, but help me to gain the understanding you have for me, so that I may be “of an excellent spirit” always and for Your glory.

Pike Place Market. Seattle, Washington. (2007)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God of Hope

The God of hope.”—Romans 15:13

“Ye were without Christ … having no hope.”—Ephesians 2:12

So often I go through the circumstances of life without hope. It’s as if the cynicism of my youth still has its grip on certain areas of my life that I have a difficult time trusting God in. Once I feel that cynicism settle in, my view becomes pessimistic and doubting.

The end result becomes despondency and discouragement, something the old man of my past, the one who lived according to the world’s philosophies, knows intimately. Then, the new man, the one who is of Christ’s workmanship, created in Him unto good works, pleads with the Lord and His Holy Spirit to save me from the sinfulness of my lack of trust.

It is when I trust God that I can begin to feel His hope again.

Hope that He has a plan for my life and the menial and profound circumstances that separate my days.

Hope that because of Him, my life is so much richer, purer, and sweeter than I could have possibly imagined.

Hope in knowing that He is the One Who settles my heart and gives me rest in the day to day.

God, You are so much in our lives and You generously share Your being, Your person, and Your attributes to Your children—hope being just one of them.

Lord, I find myself often in the grips of doubt and unbelief of Your goodness. Thank You for this little reminder that You are the God of hope and that before You, before giving my life to You, I truly was without hope.

Thank You for this beautiful encouragement.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”—Ephesians 3:20-21

Stehekin, WA (2010)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Returning to Our Place

“And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry.”
Genesis 18:30a

“And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord.”
Genesis 18:31a

“And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet this once.
Genesis 18:32a

These three passages show Abraham’s shame in his persistence before God, but not his shyness or indifference before God’s throne. What a picture of intercession. I know God wants His people to be humble before Him in prayer—there is just no room for pride before His throne—and yet there is also no room for indifference and inaction.

I believe I have held a lie in my heart about how to squelch my pride before God and that has been inaction on my part. I thought to myself, if I don’t embark on those areas of my life that puff me up, then somehow I am more spiritual. I don’t believe this anymore. Something has changed in my heart since I yielded my writing to Him a little while back. That’s not to say I am free from my pride when writing, but that I am willing to let God use my writing while He works with me on my pride.

So how does this tie into this reading on prayer? Abraham’s prayer was filled with humility and action. He feared the LORD in the correct way by honoring His divine character but not in the fleshly way that leads to inaction (or indifference) on our parts.

The result was a sweet communion with God and a conscious remembrance and knowledge of his place before Him.


“And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: And Abraham returned unto his place.”—Genesis 18:33

Rupea, Romania. (2005)

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Sand that Binds the Sea

“Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?”Jeremiah 5:22

This tremendous verse speaks to me of man’s ceaseless and futile struggle with God. We, strangely enough, are like that ocean with its waves tossing and roaring - never able to prevail. Such drama and visual displays of angst and turmoil in reaction to the circumstances of our lives. And then, there is this sand, this “weak instrumentality” that represents God. This humble, yet fixed point, that maintains our existence. No matter how violent we become, how visibly we react, God is this sand that keeps us always where we need to be. Granted, God is the Creator of this part of nature and is far superior than the sand, but in concept, we cause all the ruckus, while God contains our sea. 

Lake Sullivan near Ione, Washington. (Fall 2007)

Friday, April 05, 2013

Five Minute Friday: After

After the pain, after the rain
After the tears, after the years
After the waiting, after the hurting
After the when, after the then
We need, we feed
On God’s Word
Come what may, come what might
Let us not be afraid or in flight
Be still, be real
For God is near
Never fear
Jesus waits on us
Yearns for us
To come to Him and find Him
In the ashes, in the dust
Our lives, never complete
For without Him,
We can do nothing.
There is a before, there is a behind
We know not what we will find
In the coming days
Of God’s ways
Just stay the course
Begin again if you must
But never forget
That He has an eternal
Where we will put our face
In His hands
And rest there

Monday, April 01, 2013

Who Did Hinder You?

“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?”Galatians 5:7

This verse is a gentle rebuke of how I allow the lies of the devil to pierce through my heart and diminish my love for my Savior. I feel as though I not only allow his lies to affect my walk, but also the cares of this world and my own flesh to hinder me from the freedom that is in Christ Jesus.

The cares of this world choke the fruits of God’s Spirit, like weeds choke out the beauty of a once thriving and healthy garden. My own fleshly complacency in tending to my love for my Savior has probably been the biggest factor, though, as it is truly weak by laziness and not really liking to hear God’s rebukes no matter how tender He is with me.

How easy is it for all of us to turn from the truths of God to the lies of Satan? I hate that it is very easy, especially when we walk in the flesh. I would so much rather hear the praises of men, than the gentle whispers of God’s correction.

I keep bringing up this idea of listening to the devil’s lies because I think this is from whence many of our paths get off course. One lie and then another, and slowly, our Christian life becomes a shell of what it once was.

For example, I can easily believe Satan’s lie that God only tells me what I am doing wrong never what I am doing right. God just criticizes me. So, why listen to Him at all? God will ask too much of me or what He asks will be just too unbearable. I have to remind myself all those thoughts are lies.  In fact, it is only through God’s correction that I am liberated from bondage to those things that hinder my walk with Him.

Thankfully, I believe God has given me the strength to stay the course in one area of my Christian life: Bible reading. I continue to read His Word regularly, only occasionally missing a day. I firmly believe I am not equipped or complete without His truth guiding me through the various lies the devil throws at me, as well as the lies my flesh simply likes to entertain.

Oh, Lord, so much hinders me. I’m so sorry. Please help me to recognize any of those hindrances, help me in my weaknesses and remove far from me those things that will hurt me, hurt others, and make my relationship with you less than what it should be.

Ayutthaya, Thailand (2000)

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