Category: Just About Life

A Valentine’s Day Prayer

Source: flickr.com via Pinterest

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

European Winter 2012

We’ve been having colder than normal temperatures and moderate snow here in Hungary, but the weather has been severe all across Europe.  Today I’m reminded of the need to pray for those struggling with the cold, especially the homeless, those without heat and those cut off from supplies by the storms and heavy snowfalls.

May we, the church, take every opportunity to remember those who are in need.

The trees outside my window – Budafok, Hungary

Sarajevo

Hockey on Lake Bled, Slovenia
(I’ll be there next weekend!)

Ice in the canal – Venice, Italy

Senj, Croatia

Woman looks through frozen bus window – Bucharest, Romania

A New Day, A New Year

For all my good intentions, I fell short of my plan to do a photo post a day in December.  Events conspired and I didn’t measure up to my own desires.

Can you relate?

Today is New Year’s Day.  The season of fresh starts.  New resolutions.

This year I am looking at things through different eyes.  I’ve spent the last year studying, learning and growing in the reality of the knowledge that God does not want us to do better and try harder.  That’s the message we often tell ourselves.  At least that’s the message I often tell myself.  But our Savior has a different message for us as we embark upon the journey of 2012.

“Rest in my grace.  Live in my strength alone.  Give up on trying to ‘be all that you can be’ and sit quietly on my potter’s wheel.

I am in the business of shaping and forming you.  And oh my beloved clay, you can’t assist with this process.  All your striving won’t produce anything of value.  All I ask of you is that you yield to my touch.  Give yourself to me and I will make you into the self that I planned before the foundation of time.

Oh, my beloved child, I have such plans for you!  I plan to fill you with myself and mold you into a vessel that will pour my very life out into the world.

You will be full.  You will be emptied.  You will be filled once again.  And you will bring me glory.

So give me all your plans.  Give me all your desires.  Give me all your dreams.  Give me all your heart.  Don’t hold anything back.

And I will give you myself.

You don’t fully understand it now, but I am your heart’s desire.  I am the greatest dream you could ever dream.  And my plans for you are so much better for your soul, your own unique self,  than any plan you could ever imagine.

So on this New Year’s Day and in every new dawn of every new day that I give, resolve to seek after me with your whole heart, your whole life.

May every other good thing take it’s proper place after me.

May you yield all that you have and all that you are to the forming work of my hands.

Trust me and be amazed, for I make beautiful things.”

On New Year’s Eve

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

Excerpt from At the End of the Year by John O’Donohue: To Bless the Space Between Us

Journey – I’m Thankful – Day 14

Kierkegaard (1813-1855) said,

…if I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.  For even if the word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise.  Therefore, create silence.

In my time traveling finding silence never came easy.  This Advent, finding silence remains a struggle.

Not only is the world around me loud, my own heart is filled with the clutter of competing clatter: noisy thoughts that won’t be still.

And when I do encounter silence, I don’t always find it a comfortable friend.  Sometimes silence is a like a yawning chasm, echoing with emptiness, far from inviting.

Yet, it is often into the silence that God speaks.

The psalmist says:

…but I have stilled and quieted my soul. (Psalm 131)

So I stop.  And I pray.  And I wait, in the silence of a stilled and quieted heart.

I wait.

And I start to hear the flutter of wings and the arrival of impossible things.

I was sitting on the porch in Avila and a hummingbird arrived, wings beating impossibly fast, too fast to see, too fast even for my camera, a tiny miracle of creation.

And I stop.  And I pray.  And I wait, in the silence of a stilled and quieted heart.

Today, I am sitting in my home in Budapest marveling at the arrival of impossible news, impossible events, a miracle of redemption.

In the turmoil of a busy, noisy world – in a town overflowing with travelers arriving for census – in a whirlwind of everyday activities and the extra demands of governmental procedures –a sacred moment was born.  A woman had stilled her heart and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”  And the impossible came to pass for “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1)

The impossible was made possible in Christ! What a reason to be thankful today!

In the turmoil of this busy, noisy world – in a season overflowing with social invitations and expectations – in a whirlwind of everyday activities and the extra demands of the holidays – will you prepare to receive the sacred this Christmas?  Will you still and quiet your heart to receive His miracle?

I’m Thankful – Day 13

After a couple of really busy days I’m back to my thankfulness journal and today I’m thankful for wonder.

When I was a kid, the tide pools at the beach were the epitome of wonder.  All the fabulous, unique and colorful ocean creations sparked my sense of awe and that hasn’t really changed much over the years. A starfish or sea anemone still takes me back to that childlike place of amazement.

Here are a couple of photos I snapped of the sea-life attached to the piles under the pier in Avila.

And today as I write this post I am drawn into an even deeper sense of wonder than the mystery of the starfish and sea life.  As I listen to Christmas music playing softly in the background I am captivated with wonder at the mystery of the incarnation.  How beyond my understanding is the reality that “the Lord of heaven to earth came down”.  The thought takes me to a place of stillness and I sit in childlike amazement as I gaze deeply at a love that is far beyond my comprehension.

Have you stopped to ponder the depth of the beauty of the incarnation this Advent season?

What is it that moves you to wonder?

I’m Thankful – Day 12

This little lizard captivated me with a deep truth that resonated in my soul, an illustration of many things that I have been pondering lately.  I am thankful for his visual illustration of moving toward life.

-  -  –

He hides, afraid of predators lurking, afraid of pain, afraid of death.

Self-preservation is evidenced as he hunkers down and blends into his surroundings.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

Shakespeare

He moves, tentative now, unsure that it is wise, unsure that it is safe.

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis

The redeemed heart hungers for beauty.  But the sword cuts both ways.  While our heart grows in its capacity for pleasure, it grows in its capacity to know pain.  The two go hand in hand.  What, then, shall we do with disappointment?  We can be our own enemy, depending on how we handle the heartache that comes with desire.  To want is to suffer; the word passion means to suffer.  This is why many Christians are reluctant to listen to their hearts: They know that their dullness is keeping them from feeling the pain of life.  Many of us have chosen simply not to want so much; it’s safer that way.  It’s also godless.  That’s stoicism, not Christianity.  Sanctification is an awakening, the rousing of our souls from the dead sleep of sin into the fullness of their capacity for life.

Curtis/Eldridge

And now he stands in all the beauty that is within him, fully alive, fully displayed for the glory of the One who created him and endowed him with splendor.

All things proclaim Him, all things speak.  Their beauty is the voice by which they announce God, by which they sing, “It is you who made me beautiful, not myself but you.”

Augustine

I’m Thankful – Day 11

As I continue to record moments from my travels captured in photos…

Today I am thankful for robins,

and the mornings that they always remind me of,

(although I know that will come as a surprise to some of you).

I’m thankful that every new day is a chance to rise and shine for the glory of God.

Rise and Shine, Andrew Peterson

Buy Andrew’s CD – Carried Along here

This is my thankfulness journal, a record of thanksgiving, that I am blogging about for the month of December.  If you want to go back and scroll through these photos of gratitude you can start here.

I’m Thankful – Day 10 – An Advent Reading

In the book Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning speaks of the mystic, saying “Those who look beyond the literal see the world as a metaphor for God.”

Today I’m thankful that God created me to be a mystic. 

I’m thankful that I see reminders of God everywhere I look.

This image calls to mind the many prophecies of

the Root,

the Branch,

Immanuel:

The One who has come, the One who will yet come again, the very Truth we celebrate this advent.

Here is a tree.

And a wound.

And a sprout.

I know this post will take time to read, but I’d encourage you to take a moment to still and quiet your soul.

Read these verses in the spirit of Advent.  Read them aloud if you can.

Celebrate the Promised One.


They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior.  They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.  They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God – gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear.  You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.

The Lord saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters.  “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.  They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols.  I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

“See now that I myself am he!  There is no god besides me.  I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal…”

Duet. 32:15b-21, 39a

”Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.  He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.  In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

Isaiah 42:1-3

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.  The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan!  The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!  Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.  The angel said to him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”

Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.

The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.’”

“’Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua!  There are seven eyes on that one stone and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”

Zechariah 3:1-9

”Come, let us return to the LORD, He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us, on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.  Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises; he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

Hosea 6:1-3

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:1-6

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.  Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10

The moon will shine like the sun and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.

Isaiah 30:26

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.  And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.  They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.

Revelation 5

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Let the one who hears say, “Come!”  Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:16-17

What about you? Do you have a bit of mystic in you? Today, where are you looking beyond the literal to see God?