A death and an invitation

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. Matthew 27:51

Have you ever stood, feet bare or protected, in a river’s rushing water? The river’s rocks slippery under your soles, the water colliding with your body somewhere between  ankle and knee? The river’s water pressure as it rushes by you feels strong enough to sweep you away too, taking you unwillingly along it’s travels downstream.

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Yet you stay placed, as the water sweeps by. Your body stronger against the current, your confidence deepening in your stance as moments pass along with the hastening river.

As the calm confidence settles your mind, the once roar of the rushing waves becomes a symphony to you, and the greasy rocks now glisten with polished colours like sun illuminated stain glass.

And you breathe, breathe freely and openly in this place now that the fear is edged out, replaced with the assurance that your posture will hold you from being swept away.

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My friend, I believe, know that is what God wants for you too. He wants you to breathe even when those thundering waves of difficulty threaten to sweep over you, to take you places along the currents you swore you would never go.

Sometimes these threats are pressures from relationships, where convictions and obedience are strongly opposed. That friendship, that mentor, that boss, that potential romantic partner you seemed to have waited for forever, is now asking you to join in to activities that once was the old way of living you turned from when cleansed that day in baptism, in acceptance of His way.

Sometimes threats can be from circumstances we never imagined we’d be in: a divorce, an estranged child, disease, a crime against us, and injustices.

We may even create our own threatening waves from our brokenness leading us to seek solace in things of this world that harm rather than bring life.

Yet Life is where we can turn to–no threat can defeat it.

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We celebrate this weekend the Hope that was given to us, the new way of freely living that opened to us with the tearing away of the veil.

Paul reminds us in Hebrews:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23

This gift of freedom, this forever grace from our transgressions is due to the shed of blood on that cross of an innocent Man by ones who were slaves to their pride and self-righteousness–ones who felt threatened by the freedom that was being offered to them.

But you, my friend, can accept this freedom gifted through His offering to have your heart cleansed with the sprinkling of His grace, and your body washed to purity.

There is no barrier between You and the One who will not let the threatening rivers sweep over you. Will you accept His invitation to draw near to Him, the forever faithful One who will be your help, your protector, and your strength giving you His peace no matter how thunderous the rivers waters rush around you?

Will you, my friend, accept the invitation of an unconditional Love that surpasses all our understanding?

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins, my self-centeredness, and every part of my life that does not please you. I choose you. I give myself to you. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. Retrieved from Ransom Heart

 

Roads still traveled

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way. Isaiah 35:8-

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During this season, just before another year has ended,  I’ll often find myself looking back down old roads. Some of these roads were crowded highways of twists and turns with various travel speeds dictated by traffic ahead. Also on these busy roads were detours created by others mishaps, or necessary repairs, or new construction.

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Other roads were quieter, with a clear destination ahead. Sometimes there were a few twists and turns to reach these new places, new people, new learning, however never was the way removed from my vision.

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And then there were those roads that I started on, with excitement and anticipation of hopes and dreams coming true. But to only lead to a complete dead end, barren and dry except for my own grieving tears.

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There were roads with bridges to cross but never to burn, and roads with intersections to navigate, choices to make.

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And then there were those times that the road could be barely seen, if at all. There seemed to be no way to go, my vision of my future gone and not seeing any new route at all. And I wonder if Mary felt this way when suddenly her life road was gone with the news from the angel Gabriel.

 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:30-31

Many plans of the road she would be taking as a young woman engaged to be married, now gone with this startling news.

And she chose a new route, a new way by surrendering to this unseen road.

Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!” Then the angel went away. Luke 1:38

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I don’t know what twists and turns, detours and dead-ends, completions and horizons are on the roads ahead in this soon turning of a new year.

What I do know though, The Way is always there even if unseen. And sometimes surrender brings the best gift of all.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”  (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

(All photos are mine taken in Iceland, summer of 2015).

 

The Illusion (Stop IT! Part II)

But I’m not sentimental. This skin and bones is a rental. And no one makes it out alive. Lyrics from Up Where I Belong, by Switchfoot

Wintry droplets of water from a scatter of rain clouds overhead settle, soften and slip on the palms of my hands, and the back of my neck. My spine shivers, then calms, stretched straight as my eyes are drawn, lifted and squared on a strip of light ahead. I stride toward the glow, my hikers silently bending tall blades of wild grass. The bright beckons.

And my mind, even though observing my thoughts and perceiving my senses, is hushed in this place. Hushed even as I move, focused on a strip of light, a glow and bright that beckons. But this shine that invites also dims my sight to my temporal surroundings, and I’m tempted, my body favored to feel the pains of thistle needles or the ache of a marathoner’s lungs, to look away from this light.

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My body is pulled toward the concrete of the world, to cement itself in the securities it proclaims: money, food, possessions, relationships and careers. This is the concrete that not only through doing one possesses, but is also the concrete that possesses. The cement, the element of concrete, when believed to lead us to security, to freedom, instead I know, hardens and enslaves.

For when serving the system of doing, the system of gaining that which is only temporal to obtain security, we do not receive freedom, only death.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

 What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.  Ecclesiastes 1:1-4

But the allure of the glossy, polished and sparkling, the satiny, slick, and silken is tempestuous with promises of instant gratification and stimulated sensory fulfillment.

Cold, letting my thoughts interpret the water as uncomfortable dampness, a shadowed shelter I see lies just steps to my right, on another path away from the light. This path is not wild grasses, but instead concrete, not unlike a walkway to a neighbour’s front door.

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I hesitate. I draw my eyes from the right and look ahead again. I see a glow, but no shelter, no structured comfort can my worldly eyes see. Yet, my skin warms, my thoughts hush. The eternal beckons. I step seeking the light, my hikers silently bending the wild grasses. 

And as I walk, I don’t look but just know. Know that if I was to look behind, the shelter would not be there–the shelter that is only an illusion, an illusion of safety, disappeared from sight.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light on my path. 119:105

And even though I step, I stop inside this journey, peaceful when turned toward the Light, beginning to understand, the journey is more than a means to a destination. The journey is the end itself.

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May you be resting in Him in all that you do today, knowing you are already complete with Him and in Him.

 

It was very good

 

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I heard the snap first. But still didn’t dodge in time. And as I stared dumb-founded at the pine bough in my hand dislodged from the threads of my fleece hat, the tapping sound from above became fiercer. I glanced up at the tall pine trees, and then quickly side-stepped as I watched two more pine boughs tumble down and grace my hikers.

What’s going on?

Grasping my camera with one hand while shielding my eyes with the other from a sun that only a cloudless, fall Alberta sky day can spawn, I took a couple steps back, and waited for the mischief-maker.

I didn’t wait long.

Continue reading “It was very good”