Monday, April 29, 2013

Sanctified by Tears & Perfume

A special guest was invited so that made it a dinner party. The lofty host surely knew the proper etiquette for welcoming a visitor to his home. 

So why didn't he 
provide water for the guest to wash his feet, nor offer the kiss of fellowship, nor anoint his head with oil?

Word got out where the guest was expected to dine. The woman surely knew her public sins would prevent the host from welcoming her.

So why did she enter the house and place herself at the feet of the guest, 
weep, wetting his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair, 
kiss his feet and pour perfume on them?

The host's behavior expressed an ignorant and arrogant heart.

He thought water, affection, and oil were too valuable to spend on this guest.

The woman's behavior expressed an understanding and repentant heart.

She offered mournful tears, rightful affection, priceless treasures, her entire self as a reasonable sacrifice to the Son of God.

The host sat in his sin.

The woman was forgiven.

Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace."  
Luke 7:50 NIV 1984

Father, teach us all to be wisely repentant and to live in your peace. Amen

Luke 7:36-50; Luke 5; Matthew 5:4; Romans 12:1

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The REAL Us and Them

Living in a country, culture, circumstances that are different from what we're familiar with can feel a bit . . . 

shall we say . . . 

stretch - i - n - g.

Some differences, such as language and currency are obvious touch points in the need to make adjustments. 

We find hidden distinctions, such as customs and traditions far more significant topics in the acculturation process.

It's the host of subtle, unspoken, delicate variations among people that requires intentionality, alertness, commitment, sensitivity, finesse, and above all grounding in biblical Truth. 

For example, 'conversation distance' and/or 'body space' change from place to place. Being aware of and willing to adjust to these local zones can positively affect communication. 

On the other hand, if local practice in relationships is to engage in casual sexual encounters, adjusting is impossible since it would involve compromise to biblical standards. 

In the first category of differences it's easy enough to blend the 'Us' and the 'Them' under the overarching descriptions Paul provides in Romans 1.

The second category of differences requires a high level of wisdom, love, strength, courage, and so much more to discern the 'Us' and 'Them' and respond in God-honoring and -pleasing ways.

How is this possible with any accuracy, any regularity, any success?

First, we need to recognize that the true distinguishing factors are not physical or cultural, local or global though these are categories we must address in this life. 

God clarifies the REAL 'Us' and 'Them' as spiritual divisions - sheep and goats, saved and lost, heaven and hell, good and evil. We are engaged in the battle of the centuries and He has given us all we need to prevail with accuracy, regularity, and victory.

Hear and heed the Father's holy provision.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Comfort . . . COMFORT

When I'm in hard times I find myself thinking of Jesus posed as this modern day shepherd. 

I yearn with expectation for Him to come out into the wasteland and rescue me. 

I am content to picture my Shepherd ignoring the needs of others to care for me alone, sheltering me from every hardship and sensitivity in His loving arms.

I've had confidants encourage me to "climb into Jesus' lap and rest". 

I've often found these images comforting. Maybe their sweet and tender softness comes to us because we're ladies. 

But not today!

Today I call out with David for a different kind of comfort. 

This artist's imagination captures the essence of my prayers in the midst of the spiritual battle. 

Savior, please step into the hand-to-hand combat on my behalf. Oppose those who oppose me. 

Wield Your sword and shield to block their attacks.

Show Yourself as this type of conquering warrior.

Make Your presence and power known to all. 

You are my only salvation. Amen

Psalm 35 NIV, 1984

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
Take up shield and buckler;
arise and come to my aid.
Brandish spear and javelin*
against those who pursue me.
Say to my soul, "I am your salvation."

*Or and block the way

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Out of the Gray Envelope

One of the things I've noticed about myself is that when something I'm used to having around is missing for a while I appreciate and enjoy it all the more when it re-appears. 

Know what I mean?

Take sunshine for example. 

I wrote about Cloud Out a while back and it was a glorious experience. Right after I wrote that post sky-blocking clouds moved back in and re-enveloped us in the gray that's been our environment for months. 

It continued that way for several more seemingly endless weeks to the day this photo was taken. 

I trust you can tell how joyful we were. We grabbed our lunch and dashed to the balcony. We didn't even take time to bring up the proper outdoor seating, opting instead to simply set out our dining room chairs. That's how much we appreciated the sunshine and its accompanying warmth. 

We even took some extra time to worship the One who not only made the sun but caused it to shine on us that particular day. 

Hallelujah to the goodness of God!

The reappearance of the sun by day was matched by views of the moon. We've seen a lot of celestial wonders from our balcony, but I don't think I appreciated or enjoyed any of them as much as I did the sliver of light that gave testimony to the disappearance of the clouds last night.

An interesting application comes to mind. 

My usual, comforting sense that God is near has been missing for a while now. My mind remains convinced of the Truth, but my heart has been covered with joy-blocking challenges and frustrations for months. My spiritual life has been enveloped in gray for seemingly endless weeks. 

Today, this very morning, God spoke to my heart in my re-dedicated morning devotions. He reminded me of His gracious care for those who belong to Him through Psalm 34:17,18.

Once again I rejoice in the faithfulness of God, the assurance of His presence, and the security of His plan for my life. These simple words can not describe the Hallelujah my heart is singing!

"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and  mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:12,13 (NIV 1984) 

Wherever you are today, in the gray envelope or under sunny skies, God is there.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Human Efforts & Divine Benefits

MY DUTIES                                         GOD'S CARE

           EXTOL at all times                               ANSWERS me         
BOAST in the LORD                         DELIVERS me from all fears
GLORIFY the LORD                         SETS His eyes on righteous
SEEK the LORD x2                           TUNES His ears to my cry
FEAR the LORD                                TURNS His face from evil-doers
KEEP tongue from evil                      ERASES the memory of evil-doers
KEEP lips from lies                            HEARS & DELIVERS x2
TURN from evil                                  CLOSE to brokenhearted
DO good                                             SAVES crushed souls
PURSUE peace                                 PROTECTS my bones
CRY out                                              REDEEMS His servants

Psalm 34
Of David.
When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, 
who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted her and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, 
and he delivers them

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, 
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life 
and desires to see many good days, 
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, 
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous man may have many troubles, 
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems his servants;
the one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Breathless in Prague

A renovation project nearby brought heavy memories sweeping back into my mind and heart. 

It was scary . . . just plain scary.

That guy is hanging by a rope, sitting on a small piece of wood - no helmet, no harness, no safety net, no personal protection of any kind. 

He's just dangling there on a few strands of nylon material. 

Are you holding your breath as I was when I saw him?

Actually holding my breath was pretty much what I did throughout the years when my Honey and I were divided. I had turned to Jesus in my need for a Savior while he was still making his own way. 

I often said I felt as if I were hanging out an upper story window, clutching a brick ledge by my fingernails - no helmet, no harness, no safety net, no personal protection of any kind.

It was many years before I realized that none of those protective measures were necessary. The feeling of being in an uncertain, unpredictable position was real, but the fact was quite opposite. 

I was as secure as any person could ever be because God's hand was right underneath me; supporting, sustaining, cradling me in His infinite power and grace, endless mercy and love.

Carry this Truth into the present with me. 

My Honey and I have been united as servants of the Living God for more than 35 years. He has filled our lives with millions of blessings and mountains of joy. I know what it means to be wrapped in His comforting and transforming grace. May His Name be exalted forever.

Yet, even in these days, I still find myself overwhelmed by frustration, insecurity, and hopelessness. I cry out to the Lord, asking if He intends for me to dangle over the ledge all the days of my life. I feel as if I'm hanging out there next to the renovation guy again.

Tap . . . tap . . . tap. 

The Holy Spirit calls for my attention. I ponder the Truth anew.

Hallelujah! The fickle, human feeling runs up against the same, unchangeable fact. God is always with me and His hand is always supporting, sustaining, cradling me in His infinite power and grace, endless mercy and love.

Where are you today - dangling or delighting? Let me know so we can praise and pray together.  

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen" Jude 24

Monday, April 8, 2013

Here Today, Gone Too Soon

My Honey knows tulips are my favorite flower.

The other day he bought me a pot of spiky, tulip-shaped leaves with a wrapper claiming they would grow up to be red.

Within a couple of days green buds appeared and in a few more days, sure enough, we had five lovely flowers.

The blossoms reached toward the sun-filled windows from their coffee table perch during the day. Then they graced our dinner table in the evening. Their beauty reflected the creative hand of God as well as the loving attention of my faithful one.

I noticed the deterioration this morning. It seems like it happened over night.

The beauty of the tulips has faded, but I'm loathe to throw them away. There's still something visually appealing about them. I'm going to be sad when I have to toss them. 

Not so the word of God. 

The beauty of the Scriptures behaves in reverse. The more time I spend taking in divine Truth, the more its loveliness is released; the more brilliant the colors become and the stronger the design appears. The grandeur is unveiled over a lifetime and causes a cherishing of every aspect. 

I rejoice at the prospect.

All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, 
but the word of the Lord stands forever.
                         Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 Peter 1:24-25

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easy as 1, 2, 3. Oh yeah?

I can count. 

I've been counting for longer than a half century. 

So when I go looking for a dozen eggs I know how many that means.

The first time I bought a carton of eggs over here I didn't really notice anything. I think I'm a fairly alert individual, then again, maybe I'm not.

Anyway, it took me a while to figure out that when I buy a dozen eggs it doesn't mean I purchase 12 eggs.

Not in the Czech Republic.

Well, I mean they have cartons of eggs.

They have a word for dozen, tucet

But the carton and the word result in 10 eggs.

Maybe a dozen means 10 in Czech because that's how many eggs come in the little cartons we put in our cart week after week. I haven't had the right set of circumstances to try to clarify my confusion yet by asking a local. Maybe I never will. 

"What's the big deal?" you ask.

You're right. This one small difference is pretty much an easy adjustment. It didn't take me long to pick up a carton, say 'dozen' in my head and be prepared to have 10 eggs when I got home.

Please pause right here.

Take a moment and consider how many items you place in your cart each time you go to the grocery store. Imagine just a quick stop with a short list. Are there 15 or maybe 20 items? Do you find that usually you have way more than that? 

Now, think about the minor adjustment needed to consider a dozen to mean only 10 eggs. Multiply that accommodation times the number of items in your cart and, unless I'm mistaken, you've got a whopping MAJOR ADJUSTMENT in front of you.

Please pause again.

Take a moment to consider the various places you go in an average week. There's the grocery of course and maybe a retail store, a coffee shop or restaurant, a mall, take-out pizza, etc. Feel free to choose a week when you stayed pretty close to home. 

How many different locations did you count?

Take that MAJOR ADJUSTMENT we recognized for the grocery store and multiply it times the number of destinations you have in an average week. Yup, it's HUGE, maybe even INSURMOUNTABLE.

You're starting to get an idea of what it's like to live cross-culturally.

Oh, I forgot to mention. While you're doing your best to handle all the changes around you, you have to give up your ability to communicate. That's because everybody else speaks a different language.

Is your mind totally boggled?

The appropriate question at this point might be, "How do you do that?"

The answer is simple, by the grace of God. 

"But [Jesus] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fill the Day with Praise

I will exalt You. 

You lifted me out of the pits.

I cried out to you for help.

You healed me.
You kept me from the grave.

Your anger lasts a moment.

Your favor lasts a lifetime.

Weepings lasts overnight.

Rejoicing refreshes each new day.

You showed me favor.
My heart is secure.

You turned from me.
Dismay filles me.

I cried to You for mercy.
You caused me to dance.

I pleaded for You to be my help.
You covered me with joy.

O may my heart fill heaven with songs of praise.

Dear God, I will thank you forever and ever. Amen

Psalm 30  (NIV 1984)

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O Lord my God, I called to you for help
    and you healed me.
Lord, you brought me up from the realm of the grave;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing to the Lord, you saints of his;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said,
    “I will never be shaken.”
O Lord, when you favored me,
    you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
    I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What gain is there in my destruction,
    in my going down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me;
    O Lord, be my help.
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.