not a clue, as usual

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Whales and things

Can you call it a whale watch when you don’t see any whales? Technically, I guess you can because that is what we were doing- watching for whales to show up. But they didn’t, not that day. The seas were calm and the skies were clear. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to enjoy a boat ride. I didn’t even mind that the whales which the captain said had been in the area a day earlier, didn’t show up. We had fun and even got free tickets for another whale watch tour next time we were in the area.

I did start to get a bit nauseous when the boat sped up, causing it to rock a bit. I remembered a very successful whale watch several years earlier during a rain storm with rough seas. Everyone else stayed below in the cabin to stay out of the rain. But my husband and I wanted to see whales so we braved the wind and rain to stay on top with the captain and a naturalist who was leading the tour. We had a blast watching a group of whales as they flipped their tails at us. One even breached right alongside the ship! But the rough seas took a toll on everyone. Most of the other passengers were seasick and I have to admit that I had bouts of queasiness throughout the ride. It was the naturalist who gave me the best advice. She told me find a fixed spot on the horizon and focus. Within minutes the dizziness left me and my stomach calmed down. I used that technique again and again whenever I felt a bit of motion sickness creeping in.

We were on vacation last week and intentionally didn’t watch any news programming, but it was hard to tune the national and international news out. During the week we did the uneventful whale watch, hiked the nature trails and walked the beaches of southeastern Maine. We delighted in the unique environment of tidal flats and forests that grow right up to the rocky beaches. We enjoyed lobster rolls, lobster bisque and even mini lobster tacos. I got to hold a newly caught lobster – he was small and was thrown back in to live another day. We saw two sea birds that were new to us- a gannet and many Wilson’s Storm Petrels while sailing.

And yet, we couldn’t stay away from all that was happening this past week. News from Afghanistan has been heartbreaking. A major storm devastated many states causing 4 confirmed hurricanes in my home state of New Jersey and flooding large parts of the state. We were very lucky with only minor water in our basement which our son quickly took care of for us. There was even controversy over local BOE school board candidates that found its way into my daily newsfeed as much as I tried to ignore it. Every time I felt the news stories start to spin out of control, I searched for a spot on the horizon to recenter myself again and restore the vacation vibe I was struggling to keep going. I will tell you my secret- the horizon spot I was focusing on is Jesus. Focusing on the person of Christ is something that I wish would just come naturally to me but I always need a reminder. Focus on Me, He whispers to me daily and I thank Him for that nudge. Sometimes I hum that old hymn to myself:

“Fix your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

The world has been spinning out of control since that day in Eden when disobedient man rebelled against a loving God and we are still rebelling today. Yes,all of us, all the time.

The world is still spinning wildly and I am often dizzy and nauseous by what I see and hear but there is help on that horizon were Jesus waits for me to focus on Him. Then, suddenly, I realize that He is right here in my own heart and the grace and glory of His presence is enough to center me while the world still spins. Fix your eyes on Jesus and see the world grow dim.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3

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25 years is a long time

Troy – summer of ’96

It’s been 25 years since I last held my infant son Troy in my arms. He died of rare complications from Marfan’s Syndrome. I still struggle to wrap my mind around it all. I try to imagine him in Heaven waiting for me to join him and sometimes I get blessedly lost in that daydream. I know the promises that Jesus gives me for eternity. That assurance makes it all almost bearable. But then I must return to the here and now and deal with grief and loss and painful memories. It would be so much easier if I could just be lost in dreams of a place where there are no tears or pain or illness and Marfan’s Syndrome doesn’t exist.

There’s so much Christian literature that deals with the purpose of pain and suffering and I won’t bore you with that. But I read something today that made me stop and think.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

John 21:20-22

Jesus’ answer is telling. “Focus in the job I gave you, Peter, even if you don’t like that job. Don’t worry about what I am doing in anyone else’s life. Deal with your own issues because everything that I put in your life has a purpose. That’s what it means to follow me.”

I don’t blame Peter for his question. We all tend to look at what else is going on when we don’t like what we see in front of us. Sometimes the lessons God is teaching us are simple and joyous. Others may be painful and force us to look at parts of ourselves that we would much rather avoid. Each experience that God puts in our path is meant to stretch us and grow us into something that will be much different from who we are right now. And that new person will be just the person God has planned for us to be all along. We will have to follow Jesus as Peter did for this to happen. During the difficult days, know that he is right beside you – guiding you, holding you tight, leading you always. During impossibly painful times, those times when grief or illness or paralyzing fears and doubts cause you to lose your focus on Jesus, know that He is still there.  Lean into Him and He will take you closer to God’s heart as He prepares you for eternity.

I would much rather focus on good things and my memories of Troy are treasured faded snapshots of him gazing at me in his gentle way, his slow little smile with sweet blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. I try to focus on that and not think of the last time I held him. But on the anniversary, I can’t stop my mind from wandering down dark alleys that threaten to rip me apart. So, I reach for Jesus, knowing that He has a purpose in this even if it is beyond me right now.

“…if I believe that God is good, then I need to accept whatever happens to me in life as a gift. And allow Him to take some of the things that hurt, allow Him to take some of the things that sting, some of the things that I think are going to kill me- allow Him to take those things and make of me the person He wants me to be. It may not be the person I want to be, but it’ll be the person He would want me to be.”

Rich Mullins

A quote that brings perspective. Our lives are not about us, but rather it is about what God wants of us and that really turns things around. In John 21, Jesus tells Peter his plan for him when he says. “Feed my sheep”, and then reminds Peter of the love between them. Truly, walking in love is the only way we can follow the path that Jesus beckons us to.

Peter’s journey is our journey too. I can be as headstrong as the wayward apostle was. But as I learn to listen and follow God, I find unexpected twists and turns in my paths. Some of those twists were agonizing, others were fun diversions. With hindsight I can now see how the breaking of my heart (and pride) allows me to experience deeper love and trust as it heals. God is teaching me big lessons with even bigger eternal consequences.

“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.”

Jeremiah 29:11

25 years- today I will allow myself to daydream a bit. Though I yearn for the day of reunion, today I let God heal a bit more of the bleeding parts of my soul. And tomorrow I will ask Him to teach me, to grow me, to stretch me yet again, trusting in His love for me- trusting in the plans he has for me.

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Lessons from a Firefly

We’re in the middle of an early summer heat wave. At the end of the day, as the sky slowly darkens, I stand on the back deck and listen to the quiet. Just the sound of the neighbor’s air conditioner and a lone frog croaking in the distance. Glittering little lights over the lawn and in the trees tell me that the fireflies have arrived. The darker it gets, the more points of light are flickering across the yard and back towards the tree line.

As a child, it always seemed like there were armies of fireflies each night. My sister and our friends would try to catch them in mayo jars with holes punched in the top. We would each catch a dozen or so and watch the flashing lights within the glass. By the morning they would all be gone, having crawled out through the air holes.

I read that we have less fireflies these days due to habitat loss and light pollution. They need open fields to find mates. The males will climb up onto a blade of grass or out on a tree limb to flash their light to attract a mate. The females will then retreat to the woods to lay eggs in the protection of the leaf litter. They need the combination of meadows bordered by woods to survive but suburban sprawl has built on the meadows and cut down the trees. Fortunately, my yard has a large grassy area with a small but thick wooded area behind it and the fireflies are making the most of it.

Light pollution is an issue too. House security lights, street lights, parking lots and even cars driving by all combine to disrupt the insect’s flashing rhythms. It’s difficult for the tiny insects to attract mates when they have to compete with manmade lights.

As I stood there on the deck, enjoying the cool down of the evening and watching the beautiful the little lights dancing over my backyard, I thought about what Jesus told us about light.

That’s a tall order, letting your light shine. Sometimes, I feel like that little firefly flashing a light in a vanishing habitat. The world is a dangerous place for him and he is vulnerable. As a Christian, I can relate to that. Between the current political climate and the foolishness and sometimes downright nastiness of some Christians, our habitat and ability to influence the world has dramatically shrunk. I cringed when I saw signs that read, “Jesus Saves” among the crowd at the Capitol building on January 6th. I really can’t blame anyone if they refuse to listen to me talk about Jesus these days. Sadly, many other teachings are starting to look attractive when compared to this rabid, distorted Christianity. Now my little light is often lost among the light pollution of other voices clamoring for attention in a world that confuses truth with half-truths and lies.

It’s full dark outside now and I step outside one last time before turning in. I can’t get over how much brighter the fireflies look now! I think there are even more of them flitting over the grass and through my gardens. Maybe that’s the secret. The Gospel shines and the darker the situation is, the brighter it can shine. I remember hearing that when missionaries were kicked out of China in the 1950’s, western Christians feared that the message would go dark. What we found was that it simply went underground and thrived in the dangerous, repressive atmosphere the Communist party created.

I am not one for arguing apologetics. I shrink back when Christians twist the Gospel into a message of condemnation but God doesn’t. He will shine His light through those who care more for His will and less for their own agenda. Maybe our lights are brighter than we think. I forgot that we have a God whose habitat is the entire world that He created and the light of the Son outshines the many competing stars in the sky. In my weakness I forgot that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Flash away little firefly- there’s more to you than you realize.

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Choose Gratefulness

Sometimes you can read the same verses over and over again and miss the obvious. Other times you read it through once and something will jump out at you that you may have never noticed before.

I am reading thru the book of John and have been reveling in the stories of Jesus’ miracles, healings and teachings. Today, I am reading about the feeding of the five thousand followed by walking on water and then teaching on the bread of life- that’s a lot to pack in! But that’s when I noticed what I hadn’t seen before. Scripture records that Jesus gives thanks before the miracle and that must be an important detail because it is mentioned not once, but twice in the passage.

To recap the story, after the miraculous feeding of the crowd in Chapter 6, Jesus “withdraws” to escape the well-meaning people who are about to crown Him king. Funny really, they are still thinking in earthly terms of naming a king of Israel when they had just been served lunch by the King of Kings. We miss so much that God is doing because we get stuck in a wrong way of thinking. We miss the bigger picture of God’s love. We tend to throw away grace and mercy disregarding it as weakness rather than the strength it is. Jesus leaves the crowd with full bellies but empty hands as He escapes into solitude on a mountain as He often did when He wanted to pray. The disciples take a boat and go ahead to Capernaum, sailing at night. Another miracle is performed as He walks out onto the water towards them. The next day, the people who had enjoyed the unexpected feast, realize that Jesus is gone and head out to find him.

We are told that the people are still in the area where they had eaten the bread the day before. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Jesus performed a miracle. It only says that the people were “in the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. In verse 23 the people are said to be in the place where they had eaten after Jesus prayed. Two very short, very easy to miss verses that describe a miracle with the words “gave/given thanks”.

And maybe that is the miracle we miss- God’s response to grateful hearts. When we are able to give God all that we have with gratefulness, trusting that God will do whatever is needed to be done in our lives, only then will we be able to step outside of our own neediness and into the bigger picture that God is painting.

Think bigger!

It’s amazing, really. The disciples, along with the boy that Andrew found, give all they have to Jesus. Jesus takes all they give and through a simple act of prayer, blesses all the people present. Thankfulness before the miracle. Makes me examine my own prayer habits. Do I thank God, trusting Him to take care of me each day before the day has even begun? Do I pray with requests but no expectations? Do I live in grateful anticipation of what I know God can do? Yes, this is hard to do. In verse 26, Jesus chastises the people looking for him. He says that they have not come because of the miracle they witnessed. They came for the very simple reason that they had full bellies the day before but are now hungry again. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach the crowds that He offers so much more- the bread of life, a food that endures to eternal life. This will be a constant theme in both His public teaching to the crowds but also to His disciples for the next three years. Think bigger! Don’t limit God to your box of needs. Think much bigger!

And for our part, it starts with grateful prayer. Perhaps that is the real lesson of the Feeding of the 5,000. Start each day with grateful prayer, expecting Him to move in a miraculous way. Even Jonah, in the belly of that crazy fish, prayed gratefully before God rescued him. Granted, Jonah was still disobedient but he had one thing right. He thanked God first and then watched God roll up His sleeves and get to work.

This will take some rethinking on my part. I am not a morning person and struggle to start my day in prayer. Honestly, I am so much better with evening prayers! But if this is the example that Jesus sets and I claim to follow Him, then it’s pretty obvious what is needed.

Grateful prayers, grateful hearts and grateful expectations today and everyday.

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Heaven’s Child (for Troy)

I wrote this about 15 years ago and always think of it on Good Friday. Here’s an updated version

I tend to think of Mary

as a mother only can

standing on that hillside,

was she questioning your plan?

for You trusted her with your Son

an infant needing care,

then you made her watch him suffer

as her eyes filled with tears.

for that baby was a man now

and the hope at his birth,

had given way to your purpose

a mother’s tears fill the earth.

and did Mary say….

If he can’t be in my arms, I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning, mine for just a while.

I held and I rocked him this precious Heaven’s child.

now though you are the Master

a father’s heartbeat I have felt,

and I know you were with Joseph

at the manger as he knelt.

and if Mary cried her tears

at the foot of Calvary,

how much greater was your sorrow

you could have stopped the tragedy.

you could have reached and stilled the hand

of the soldier with the nails

but you let the thing play out

with all the pain that it entails

and did Mary say…

if he can’t be in my arms

then I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning

 mine for just a while.

I held him and I rocked him

this precious Heaven’s child

And this child showed us Love

beyond our abilities

the work that He finished

calls us into eternity

The mercy and grace of God

meet us at the cross

You gave all You are

so that I would no longer be lost

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 20:30

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Palms, Cloaks and Rocks Crying Out

Easter has snuck up on me this year. The change from snow covered frozen ground to tulips pushing their tender leaves through the soil just in time for the hungry neighborhood deer to munch.

Gardening tip- plant daffodils, critters don’t like them so they will thrive.

Back to my Easter ramblings. I have been reading the Easter story in the Gospels this week starting with the Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday. There is so much rich symbolism in this event. Though much if it is lost on the modern reader, those present in Jerusalem that day knew what was happening and responded from the openness or the coldness of their hearts.

It starts with Jesus telling his disciples to get him a donkey to ride into the city on. This would fulfill the prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 announcing His Messianic claims to the Jewish people. It was also a message on a secular level. In those times a king would ride a donkey during peace times but a horse during battle. It makes it all the more poignant to think that Jesus rode that donkey – not just any donkey but a young colt that had never been ridden symbolizing His own purity – into Jerusalem. The people were still thinking in terms of a Messiah who would lead them into battle against Rome but Jesus’s battle to submit for our sakes would be fought and won alone in the Garden of Gethsemane several nights later and the Cross after that. He came in peace and gained the ultimate victory over death. Compare that with Revelation 19:11-16 when He will arrive on a white horse with a sword and the armies of Heaven following Him, ready for the ultimate battle. He will be called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.

His disciples put their cloaks on the young colt for Jesus to sit upon. As they entered the city, His followers were joyfully praising God, rousing the whole city to ask, “Who is this?” As more crowds gathered and realization hits them, they threw their own cloaks in the ground and waved palm branches before him. Placing their cloaks on the ground was a way to show submission to a ruling king. Jesus is announcing His Kingship and the people of the city are accepting Him as their King. The palm branches too, are significant. Palms were used to represent victory and were often used as a symbol of Jewish nationalism even appearing on coins and banners. People are joining in the celebration showing homage to Jesus and the victory they expect from the Messiah. They have no idea of what the true victory will look like.

But Jesus does. He knows exactly what He is doing and what will happen.

The Pharisees are not happy with this parade of nationalism right under the noses of the Roman authorities. They tell Jesus to quiet His followers.

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Luke 19:40

Jesus’ response to them is dripping with meaning for us. He is saying that all creation is made to worship God. We cannot help ourselves but to worship as we come to understand who God is and what His love had done for us. Try to keep someone quiet when they have experienced God’s power in their lives – you cannot! That is what the people of Jerusalem were feeling that day two thousand years ago.

The prophet Habakkuk’s words may have provided a backdrop for Jesus’ words.

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
    to set his nest on high,
    to be safe from the reach of harm!
 You have devised shame for your house
    by cutting off many peoples;
    you have forfeited your life.
 For the stone will cry out from the wall,
    and the beam from the woodwork respond.

“Woe to him who builds a town with blood
    and founds a city on iniquity!

Habakkuk 2:9-12

Habakkuk reminds us that a life built on lies will eventually crumble into dust. We were created to worship God and when we don’t, we feel an emptiness that is hard to identify until someone shines the light of Gospel truth upon our hearts. Only then, when God calls us, can we respond to Him. When we deny God, our souls – that part of us specifically designed to connect with God – will cry out for the intimacy we were created for. When we base our lives on anything other than the truth of Christ, the very fiber of our souls will respond in protest. If Jesus had silenced His followers that day, the rest of creation would have picked up the need to worship their King as He marched towards a victory that they could not even comprehend.

I will be spending some time in the Gospels this week reading through the Easter story from the Triumphal entry to the Resurrection. I will cry and yet be comforted. I will allow myself to get caught up in the most amazing and agonizing story of all time. And I will pray that I too, will throw cloaks and wave palms as I proclaim my King. May we, right along with the rocks, cry out the praise that is often drowned out by our world.

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Is it spring yet?

first flower of spring

Tomorrow is the first day of spring and during a year of covid quarantine, the sight of crocuses has never been more welcome. As I write this, I can still see the remnants of the huge snow piles left in my yard that will be melted by the end of the day. True, this winter wasn’t as desperate as the Donner party stranded in a high mountain pass, but still….

We have dealt with the drama of political turmoil, manipulation of all news sources, lonely Thanksgiving and Christmas without extended family around, several major snow storms last month and the daily isolation that Zoom doesn’t quite satisfy. But now, we have vaccines becoming more available and schools moving to reopen. There is actually a chance that we may get some limited travel in this summer- still masked and hand sanitized of course!

As I look back over this extraordinary year, I think of all the ugly and the beauty that we’ve seen. The blessings and the sacrifices we have made. The fear and devastating losses that families have endured. We saw violence, hate and rage. But we have also seen compassion, neighbors reaching out and shining examples of love. From the street riots and murder to volunteers shopping for those in need, and brave souls still going to blood banks to fill a growing need even though it was risky. Cheers to our grocery store clerks who continued to work and truckers who continued to drive. I loved seeing puzzle, book and toy contactless exchanges spring up in my town.

I am fascinated to look back and see that just a few years before I had been working in a job that I would have been laid off from but made a huge career switch just 6 months before the shut down and was able to work from home. My kids had also been kept employed even though both had been seriously looking at work in fields that have been closed through out the pandemic. My husband’s work is considered essential and kept him employed all year. More importantly we have stayed healthy throughout. I have watched those I care about suffer with this dreaded virus and felt the sting of unemployment hover over us all. There is a definite feeling of turning a welcome corner now with the return of warm sunshine and tiny crocuses poking thru the remaining snow drifts.

Last week at church, I could feel the lightening of spirit in the congregation. Not just the light of daylight savings time but a lightness of attitude in truer smiles and a willingness to stick around and talk. This Easter we have so much to be grateful for and the long dark winter does have an end after all (I was seriously starting to doubt that!).

Thank you, Jesus, for your constant love for us. As we remember what you did for us, may we let go of control of our own lives and learn to trust in you more and more. Thank you for what you are doing today in my life, in my family, in my church. Thank you for what you will do tomorrow and into eternity for your children. Thank you for suffering in my place and yet still walking with me when these temporary, though very real struggles paralyze me with fears and doubts. Thank you my Jesus!

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The Heart of the Matter

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.    1 Samuel 16:7b

Israel needed a new king badly. God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a king from among his sons. When Samuel saw the eldest son, Eliab, he was ready with the anointing oil. This young man was tall and handsome, obviously king material. But God told him to keep looking. Don’t get distracted by the exterior- God was looking at hearts. By the next chapter when the army is being taunted by the Philistine champion Goliath, we see why God didn’t choose Eliab. His didn’t have a heart attitude that God could work with. He belittles his brother David when David is only obeying his father and trying to help.

Verses like this show how backward our thinking can be. It reminds us that the LORD looks at our hearts first. He dismisses our outward beauty, success or wealth. God looks at what we love, why we love and who we love. This is the true person. Not their height, eye color or weight. Not their profession, education level or talents. God meets us at a heart level and shows His love for us there.

How about the flip side of this coin? What if the exterior isn’t polished and refined? Would that affect how we react?

I remember one time when I was about 10 years old and my father was hospitalized for many months with a severe stroke that paralyzed his right side and left him unable to speak. We had a neighbor with a teenage son who was always in trouble with local law but it was this kid who came over one day and helped us by taking out the window air conditioner units and doing a few other chores. My mom tried to pay him but he kept refusing. When he left, we found the few dollars that my mother had tried to stuff in his pockets on the kitchen table. “He may have a rough exterior but inside he has a heart of gold”, mom said with a sweet smile on her face. Now I am sure that his mother ordered him to help us and that she forbade him to take any money but he still gets credit for obeying his mom and helping a neighbor. Tough on the outside while having a soft heart inside.

Imagine if God was scared off – if God can be scared off- by our tough exterior. Every time we allow our pridefulness to turn us away from Jesus we show an ugliness that must break God’s heart. Yet, God sets the example of how to love without the prejudice or fear that hinders us. He looks at his sinful creation and loves us anyway. Make no mistake about it, sin is ugly to God. The world has become a twisted version of what God intended because of sin. We have become grotesque, straining under the weight of our own sin. Yet we have a God who sees more than the outward appearance, stained as it is. Only in repentance does Jesus covers our sin with His robe of righteousness, creating the beauty that God sees in us. Whether we appear outwardly beautiful or ugly by the world’s standards, these are things that are of no consequence to God. He sees what we so often fail to see. God sees our hearts ……… and loves us.

Exteriors/ Interiors

Exteriors give us our first impression

But they can be so wrong

Interiors show the heart of the house

True character that can’t be seen from the sidewalk

Exteriors show how to enter

And what the best escape route is

Interiors show us how to stay

And live and love within those walls

God looks at our hearts

And loves the possibilities within

While we may turn aside, turned off

By what is outward, what is first seen

God looks at the heart

I Samuel 16:7b

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Ideas are born to fly

They are not meant to be tethered

To a rock solid earth

They live on outstretched wings

To soar over the mountains of our doubts

Ideas are the light of sunbeams

Refraction will break them into a rainbow of colors

Each more beautiful than the original

With an explosion of new thoughts

Ideas do not recognize boundaries

They do not realize that lines have even been drawn

They cross paths with other ideas

And the crossing makes them grow

We used to gather around new ideas

A moon landing

An experimental surgery

A soldier’s return to peacetime

And ideas that may clash would be voluntarily put aside

They could always be pulled out later for debate

But for that moment of celebration

Such ideas would be put on hold so that we could

Hug and laugh, enjoy a victory or mourn a loss together

Now, it seems that ideas separate us

They are held in higher regard than morals

And thus cannot be let go

Ideas that take on a life of their own

Backing us into corners where we can

Only point fingers, call names and

Cower behind our fears

One day ideas will be free again

Free to soar on majestic winds

Free to multiply and not divide

Free to cross borders

And we will be free again to share words

And not fear retribution

Idea now live within us but

Long to cross swords with a worthy opponent

In debates and discussions from which will spring

New ideas that will soar to even higher heights

Ideas that glitter in sunlight

Sparkling like diamonds

But for now are encased in stony minds

Awaiting the freedoms that ideas are born to thrive in

Ideas can only be stopped by our fears

And all that is born of fear

Things like prejudice and anger and cowardness

While difference will always try to separate us

 ideas can unite us when allowed to grow with the freedom to share and explore

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Seeing Past the Snowdrifts

The Northeast just got clobbered with a major snowstorm dumping over two feet in many places and lasting several days. I have had fun watching the birds at my backyard feeders adapt to this winter wonderland. Flocks of crows– or should I say a “murder of crows”- have been showing up daily trying to snag some of the seed that has fallen in the snow. Since they are too large to perch on the feeders, they are ground feeders. Now the height of the snow has put one feeder that is on a short shepherd’s pole near the top of the snow drift. It is much too close for comfort for the crows. I watched one big boy creep up to the feeder, eyeing the seed that had fallen directly beneath it. The bottom of the feeder is hanging only about a foot over the snow which does not leave enough clearance for the crow to get under it to feed. He has been giving the feeder the side-eye and then quickly jabbing his huge beak into the snow at the seed. I don’t think that I have ever seen a crow so scared before! They are usually the bullies of the feeders but this much snow has completely changed the landscape and left everything in confusion.

Whenever we are forced to look at something familiar from a different perspective, we can feel confused and disoriented too. I have just experienced something like this as the Bible study group that I belong to have been working our way thru passages in the New Testament that describe Heaven. These are the verses that we will sing about on Easter Sunday but otherwise we tend to gloss over them. They force us to look at Heaven from a different perspective. Just as snow can completely transform a landscape and erase old reference points, I am finding that the deeper we go into these verses, the more questions are surfacing.

As we wind up this study, I have found two points that resonate with me.

The first is that Heaven is all about God. If we are honest, this is a complete turnaround from how we normally think of Heaven. I want to focus on the fact that there will be no more sickness, no tears and no death. I long to see loved ones who have preceded me there. But the description that is related from visions given to John, Isaiah and Ezekiel are all centered around the One on the Throne. If we can admit that Heaven is all about God who lives there, then we can start to see how Heaven reflects God’s character and not our wishes. It’s about what He – Jesus – did for us and not what we can do to earn it. The very existence of Heaven shows that God loves us and He wants us with Him. He wants all of us with Him. Not just the really good people, but all of us. That in itself is a stunning thought. The thief on the cross was welcomed. Matthew, the tax collector who cheated his own people was welcomed. The women at the well whose life had not exactly been saintly was welcomed.

If entrance to heaven depended on us, none of us would be allowed to enter. Mercifully, it does not. It all hinges on what Jesus did at the cross and how we accept that. Our golden ticket is in the hands of Christ and because of that, all can enter. Acknowledge Christ as King and watch that realization seep into every phase of your life, changing how you think, how you act and react.

Which leads to the second thing that struck me:

How do you live with Christ as King? Jesus Himself always sets the perfect example for us to follow. No one can doubt that Jesus was completely focused on Heaven and His Father. The goal of His earthly life was to provide a way into Heaven for all of us. He is the only one with the ability to surmount the problem of our sin which currently separates us from God. Yet He was also completely engaged in the present. He loved all the people that He met. His disciples were always telling Him to send the crowds away so they could get some rest but Jesus never did that. He put all His energy into teaching, preaching and healing while in earthly form. We, too, can be completely engaged with our present surroundings, doing whatever God has put before us to do. We can love our neighbor by responding to needs around us. In this way we will find ourselves living lives of humble service. Pray for each other, care for each other, using the gifts that God has given uniquely to you.

In this way we will find ourselves living with a Godly purpose that is anchored in the Godly hope of Heaven. Heaven, where we belong. Heaven, where He lives and reigns.