FRUSTRATED PLANS!

Have you ever had a plan that you had all ready to go and then it was frustrated by something outside your control?  If  you are one of the few people in the world who has not had this experience, here is one that I had on a vacation trip to Alaska. 

We took the train from Anchorage to Healy, and then from Healy to the national park.  Along the way, we were told that we should look out the window and we could see this unique house.

I placed myself at a perfect vantage point, found the house in the viewfinder, clicked the picture and this is what I found.

picture with trees in the way
Trees obliterating the view I had hoped to capture!

The train went a bit farther and, given the blessing of digital photography, I snapped another picture.

picture without trees
There is the Tower House as seen from the train to Denali National Park.

I got it!  Here is the house, enlarged for better viewing.

picture with intended site enlarged

We had been told about the Dr. Seuss House outside Willow, Alaska.  The local folks say that it is 12 stories tall, sufficient to stand above the surrounding trees.  The owner built the house after a forest fire and as a result of the fire, he had incredible unobstructed views of Mount McKinley (also known as Mount Denali) and of the Denali National Park as well.

However, as trees will do, the forest rejuvenated itself and new trees grew up after the fire so that the owner lost the view that he coveted.   Not willing to concede defeat, he simply built another story on top of the existing house so he could see above the trees. This continued and, ultimately, he had a 12-story house, but at least he could see above the trees!  The locals call it “The Dr. Seuss Tower House”.

 [For more information about this unique house, you can find an article written by Alexa Carrasco, dated April 17, 2015 at http://www.curbed.com/2015/4/7/9972998/dr-seuss-willow-alaska-house.  The article includes an aerial video of the house as well as some photographs of the entire building.] 

My plan to take a picture of the Tower House was frustrated because between the time I saw the house and clicked the camera for the picture, trees intervened and blocked my view. 

This, of course, is quite mundane, all I had to do to get my plan accomplished was to wait a moment and snap another picture.  But, many of our plans that we create are not so trivial. 

That same trip to Alaska actually was frustrated shortly after I snapped the picture when, after eating lunch at the End of the Road Restaurant in Denali National Park, I fell and severely broke my ankle.  I didn’t know when I was taking the picture or when I was eating lunch that my Alaska train tour was going to end moments later.  I spent the rest of the time in Alaska either riding for 6 hours in an ambulance out of the national park, riding  for 6 hours in a taxi taking me from Healy to an Anchorage hospital (the nearest place that had x-rays), spending the rest of the week at doctor’s offices, surgery with 9 weeks of non-weight bearing ahead of me.

Our plans were frustrated big time!  But God.  Don’t you love reading those words in Scripture?  But God had other plans for us. 

Scripture tells us:

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Proverbs 19:21

While the trip took a dramatic turn which we did not expect, the trip was in every way a success, and I even have the plates and screws in my ankle as souvenirs that most other people don’t receive!  The Lord was especially present with us during this time.  For example, we met people from the train who were missionaries to native Alaskans on remote islands prayed when they saw me fall and I learned that they told our traveling companions along the way that they were praying for healing. 

On the only day after surgery that I could go anywhere to see any sights in Alaska, we drove to Seward and saw a landscape rainbow.  It was as if God was saying “I know you only see the clouds of pain and difficulty ahead, but I am with you even protecting you from the clouds.  Trust me.  You are in my hands.”

Landscape Rainbow
Landscape Rainbow, Alaska

My husband took a picture and then we rounded the corner to come back and get the picture from another angle … but the rainbow was gone.  God’s message was received and He didn’t need to let it hang around any longer.   It is my favorite picture from Alaska and we had it enlarged so that it hangs in our family room reminding us of God’s incredible love and constant care.

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

Isaiah 25:1

At the end of the trip, we were singing the Lord’s praises along with the prophet Isaiah.  You see, God’s plans are not frustrated by anything.  He knew I was going to fall and He also knew that He had put in place people that He wanted us to meet and experiences to have during this time.  His love never fails and He is faithful and sure. 

Beloved, when our plans are frustrated and we feel that we have been robbed of opportunity, don’t believe Satan’s lie – don’t think that God has let you down or that God is not in control of all things.

Our God is omniscient and omnipotent.  He knows all things and He is all powerful.  This Almighty God loves you and His plans for your life will be accomplished, even if they are seemingly interrupted by negative events.  Trust Him and believe His unfailing Word.

Father, I praise your name for your steadfast love and endless mercy and grace.  Thank You for your mercy in  your provision of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, Who provides salvation for all those who believe in His name.  Thank You for your promise that You are always with us and that You will never leave us or forsake us, even when it seems that all is going wrong.  We praise your holy Name. 

THE POWER OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD

Today we are seeing, once again, the power of the Almighty God as we observe Hurricane Florence pummeling the eastern coast of the United States.  While her winds are “only” 90 miles per hour, she is traveling across the countryside at a mere 5 miles per hour as she pours rain down on thousands of people at a rate of 1 inch per hour. 

Numbers like that are staggering when you consider them for even a little while.  The trees split asunder from the stress caused by the sustained winds and they fall over from the weakening of their root systems in the over-soaked land around them.  All this, plus debris flying through the wind, is downing power lines and causing widespread loss of power to thousands of people.  Reports have been coming in about incredible flooding of their homes both from rain and the storm surge pushing the water inland.

Moreover, the hurricane is forecast to affect people and communities in multiple states, hundreds of miles from the coastline.   Indeed, we are told that the rain and wind from this hurricane will affect us for almost a week … and then comes the aftermath which will have ramifications for many months, if not years.

I’m not a meteorologist and I certainly don’t have any equipment to measure the weather – I am just pointing out what I have read and heard on the news reports of the storm. 

cropped-mountains-view-in-alaska-c.jpg
Mountain view in Alaska

I am, however, a Christian and my Bible tells of a flood in which the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.  And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

Genesis 7:11-12

Verses 17 – 20 of this chapter continue describing the deluge of water:

The flood continued forty days on the earth.  The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.  The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

By the way, a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters, so 15 cubits above the mountains would be 270 inches, or 22.5 feet.

Yosemite half dome scenic 6-2011 019
Yosemite half dome scenic view

We should pray for those who are in the path of Hurricane Florence and we should seek God’s providential grace that they be kept safe from harm.  We should pray for the first responders to be given safe passage as they seek to help others, for the news reporters as they try to let us know what is happening to others in our land, and for those who have been displaced by evacuation that they be given comfort and peace even as their lives have been upended by the storm.

While the storm is devastating, we can find peace even in this hard time when we remember that the Almighty God is in control and His purposes will not be thwarted by anything.  He loves His children with a love that is greater and that is stronger than any hurricane or any other power on earth.  Therefore, even in this, or any other, disaster we can praise His Name.

Blessings to you today – and forever more.

Father, there are times when no words can express our concern, our fear, and our awe at the manifestation of Your mighty power.  We tend to think of You in terms of humanity when You are the Creator and Sustainer, the Giver of Life and the Redeemer of our souls.  Your power is unlimited and Your love is unmatched.  I praise You, Father.  Please comfort all those who are going through the hurricane now.  Protect them and may Your perfect will prevail in all things.

VACATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

In recognition of the 2 year anniversary of The Ruminant Scribe, I am reposting the first blog post dated April 15, 2015:  VACATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENTS posted April 15, 2015

Sometimes we plan one thing only to find that God’s plan is a bit different than what we had intended. That was our experience when we, and another couple from church, flew to Anchorage, Alaska for an Alaskan train tour!

Day one of the tour was a train trip to Healy, Alaska where, the next day, we would board a bus for a 13-hour tour of the Denali National Park.

Mt. McKinley from train to Denali National Park
Mt. McKinley from train on the way to Denali National Park.

This is a view of Mt. McKinley [now known as Mt. Denali] from the train on the way to the national park. God’s handiwork was on display with mountains, streams, lakes, and wild animals that were everywhere to be seen. At lunch, we visited with a family traveling on a mission trip to an Eskimo village. We talked about our faith, churches, missions, and our tour day transformed into a personal time of worship and praise as we thanked the Lord for His goodness and power.

Then it happened – as we were preparing to get back on the bus for the return trip along the 92.5 mile road to exit the park (there is only 1 road in/out) – I fell down three steps onto a wooden deck. Not a long way, but it was far enough to severely break my left ankle. This ended our participation in the tour and it marked the beginning of a marvelous adventure with the Lord and an outpouring of love from Christians we did not know and who, even now, we cannot identify.

Fellow-travelers came up to me as I sat with ice bags on my ankle, and they simply touched my shoulder and said “we’re praying for you”.   The mission family repeatedly said they were praying during the balance of the trip. One man who saw me fall said he was praying for healing and for my back and head, due to the severity of the fall.

The park ranger/EMT arrived and tended to my ankle, getting me into the first of three ambulances I would ride to the Park exit. He was a tender, caring young man, notwithstanding his bulletproof vest and sidearm (the ranger also is the law enforcement officer in the park). We spoke of God’s intervention and protection as it appeared that my back and head were not injured.

Over 5 hours after I fell, we exited the Park only to find that the clinic in Healy had a doctor but no x-ray available for treatment so clinic personnel called for a taxi to take us to the hospital in Anchorage (it was either that or Fairbanks as the closest x-ray facilities), and the office assistant promised to pray for healing.

The taxi driver was a wonderful Christian lady who had moved from San Antonio to Anchorage with her mother and sibling when she was very young. We had an incredible time speaking of the Lord’s hand in her life and in ours. We said we would pray for her children and grandchildren and she said she would pray for healing and successful treatment of my ankle. The 6-hour trip through the night was transformed from a mere taxi ride to a time of praise for our Sovereign God.

We reached the Emergency Room at Anchorage Regional Hospital 12 hours after my fall. The ER was empty and we were met at the door by a nurse with a wheel chair.   They expertly treated my ankle, contacted a trauma orthopedic surgeon and made a doctor’s appointment for Thursday with surgery the following day. There, too, various persons gave encouragement and promised to pray for us during our time in Alaska. The flight home was scheduled for Sunday.

For various reasons we needed much more than merely medical assistance. For example, we had hotel reservations for that evening in Anchorage, but since we were on a train tour, we had reservations at different hotels at the various stops along the tour. It was obvious that our tour was over. Thus, we had no hotel room for the rest of the week before our flight home, and no rooms could be found in the Anchorage hotels since we were there at the height of tourist season. But God was in control.

The nursing supervisor saw us sitting in the hallway and asked if she could help us. She was able to arrange for us to stay at the Alaska House, the 7th floor of the hospital which was available for families of patients who could not get home due to the long distances involved in getting medical care in Alaska. (Remember, 6 hours away from the national park!) When we checked into the Alaska House on August 6, we found out that the program was being eliminated on August 30. God was in control, even over the contractor’s schedule so that the room was available when we needed it!

Multiple people we met offered assistance and said they would pray – the family on a mission trip, a minister friend of our son-in-law’s brother who lived in Anchorage, a young server at a neighborhood restaurant who gave my name to her mother’s prayer circle and then asked permission to do so, the counter clerk at the Subway in the hospital cafeteria, to name just a few.   In short, what started out as a simple vacation turned into a series of “Divine Appointments.”

On Saturday, before our Sunday flight, we drove along the Seward Highway in an attempt to salvage some sightseeing during our visit to the state. The sky was overcast and there had been rain along the way. As we rounded a curve, we saw a beautiful landscape rainbow. The clouds were above the rainbow and the ground was beneath: it appeared to be hovering over the ground. Bill stopped the car and grabbed the camera, as we looked out the window in awe at the beautiful display of God’s handiwork. He took the picture and it appeared that the rainbow was around the next curve as well. We drove to that spot but it was not visible; when we returned to the place of this picture, it was gone.

Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska
Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska

When I saw the rainbow, my spirit soared. It was as if God had sent that bow in the sky to remind me that there is no place that escapes His presence and to also remind me that He was present in my accident, pain and confusion. Further, He was providing an illustration through His creation of His protection for me. Yes, I had fallen and broken my ankle; that is the rain cloud. But, He was between me and the cloud – His protection was covering me so that I did not receive significant back or head injuries. It was yet again further confirmation that He is in control and I am in His care, no matter how the circumstances may appear.

In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus said: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” David says: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” In Psalms 139:4. If you want to know whether God cares about you, just ruminate on these statements from Scripture! (Even I don’t know every word before it is on my tongue! Oh for the times that I have spoken without thinking of the words I was saying …, but I digress!)

When the rainbow disappeared, it was a reminder that God’s presence is always with us, even though it is not always obvious to us at the time. The rainbow did not need to be stationary for a long time to accomplish God’s purpose – it just needed to be visible when we rounded the corner.

Often we tend to look at our situation in our microcosm of life and our focus is limited to that which we see here and now. We work and are active in our assigned tasks but we do not see what God is doing elsewhere. Praise the Lord – He is alive and well and His church can be found all over the place, even in the “wilds” of Alaska.   Praise the Lord that we had our eyes open to see His visible promise of protection. If we had been drowning in self-pity, we would have missed His beautiful presence. He knows where we are and what we are doing, and He will send His messengers to give comfort and reassurance to us, even if that comes in the form of a rainbow.

What my husband and I saw of Alaska was beautiful; but what we experienced through God’s Divine Appointments was enriching beyond measure. Praise the Lord!

I pray that no matter what you are going through at this moment, you will be encouraged by the knowledge that He will be your strength through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Open your eyes, you might just see a rainbow sheltering you from the storm clouds of life!

Father, two years after this was originally written, this is still my prayer.  Thank You for loving us and for sending Your Son so He could prepare the way for us to live with You eternally, through faith in Him alone.

Repost – Vacations and Divine Appointments

Sometimes we need to remember a point in our life when things were a bit difficult, shall we say, so that we can reflect on all that our Lord has done in and for us.  One such time was a trip to Alaska that was to be one week of train tours, but it wound up being filled with doctor appointments, waiting and surgery.  I present a repost of the blog written two years ago, detailing our vacation and the “divine appointments” that followed.  I pray that it will be an encouragement and a blessing to you as you begin this new year.


 

Have you ever planned one thing only to find that God’s plan is a bit different from what you expected?  That was our experience when we, and another couple from church,  flew to Anchorage, Alaska for an Alaskan train tour!

Day one of the tour was a train trip to Healy, Alaska where, the next day, we would board a bus for a 13-hour tour of the Denali National Park. [DSC_0187This is a view of Mt. McKinley from the train on the way to the national park. (The name of the mountain was changed since this post was first written and it is now Denali.)] God’s handiwork was on display with mountains, streams, lakes, and wild animals that were everywhere to be seen. At lunch, we visited with a family traveling on a mission trip to an Eskimo village. We talked about our faith, churches, missions, and our tour day transformed into a personal time of worship and praise as we thanked the Lord for His goodness and power.

Then it happened – as we were preparing to get back on the bus for the return trip along the 92.5 mile road to exit the park (there is only 1 road in/out) – I fell down three steps onto a wooden deck. Not a long way, but it was far enough to severely break my left ankle. While our tour was over, a marvelous adventure with the Lord was just beginning as we experienced an outpouring of love from Christians we did not know and who, even now, we cannot identify.

Fellow-travelers came up to me as I sat with ice bags on my ankle, and they simply touched my shoulder and said “we’re praying for you”.   The mission family repeatedly said they would pray for me during the balance of the trip. One man who saw me fall said he was praying for healing and for my back and head, due to the severity of the fall.  (He had no idea that I had undergone significant back surgery 3 years earlier,  with the surgeon instructing “Don’t fall!”)

The park ranger/EMT arrived and tended to my ankle, getting me into the first of three ambulances I would ride to the Park exit. He was a tender, caring young man, notwithstanding his bulletproof vest and sidearm (the ranger also is the law enforcement officer in the park). We spoke of God’s intervention and protection as it appeared that my back and head were not injured. 

Over 5 hours after I fell, we exited the Park only to find that the clinic in Healy had a doctor but no x-ray available for treatment so clinic personnel called for a taxi to take us to the hospital in Anchorage (it was either that or Fairbanks as the closest x-ray facilities), and the office assistant promised to pray for healing.

The taxi driver was a wonderful Christian lady who had moved from San Antonio to Anchorage with her mother and sibling when she was very young. We had an incredible time speaking of the Lord’s hand in her life and in ours. We said we would pray for her children and grandchildren and she said she would pray for healing and successful treatment of my ankle. The 6-hour trip through the night was transformed from a mere taxi ride to a time of praise for our Sovereign God.

We reached the Emergency Room at Anchorage Regional Hospital 12 hours after my fall. The ER was empty and we were met at the door by a nurse with a wheel chair, and shortly thereafter the first pain medication was given.  They expertly treated my ankle, contacted a trauma orthopedic surgeon and made a doctor’s appointment for Thursday with surgery the following day. There, too, various persons gave encouragement and promised to pray for us during our time in Alaska. The flight home was scheduled for Sunday.

For various reasons we needed much more than merely medical assistance. For example, we had hotel reservations for that evening in Anchorage, but since we were on a train tour, we had reservations at different hotels at the various stops along the tour. It was obvious that our tour was over. Thus, we had no hotel room for the rest of the week before our flight home, and no rooms could be found in the Anchorage hotels since we were there at the height of tourist season. But God was in control.

The nursing supervisor saw us sitting in the hallway and asked if she could help us. She was able to arrange for us to stay at the Alaska House, the 7th floor of the hospital which was available for families of patients who could not get home due to the long distances involved in getting medical care in Alaska. (Remember, 6 hours away from the national park!) When we checked into the Alaska House on August 6, we found out that the program was being eliminated on August 30. God was in control, even over the contractor’s schedule so that the room was available when we needed it!

Multiple people we met offered assistance and said they would pray –  a minister friend of our son-in-law’s brother who lived in Anchorage, a young server at a neighborhood restaurant who gave my name to her mother’s prayer circle and then asked permission to do so, the counter clerk at the Subway in the hospital cafeteria, to name just a few.   In short, what started out as a simple vacation turned into a series of “Divine Appointments.”

On Saturday, before our Sunday flight, we drove along the Seward Highway in an attempt to salvage some sightseeing during our visit to the state. The sky was overcast and there had been rain along th?????????????????????????????????????????e way. As we rounded a curve, we saw a beautiful landscape rainbow. The clouds were above the rainbow and the ground was beneath: it appeared to be hovering over the ground. Bill stopped the car and grabbed the camera, as we looked out the window in awe at the beautiful display of God’s handiwork. 

When I saw the rainbow, my spirit soared. It was as if God had sent that bow in the sky to remind me that there is no place that escapes His presence and to also remind me that He was present in my accident, pain and confusion. Further, He was providing an illustration through His creation of His protection for me. Yes, I had fallen and broken my ankle; that is the rain cloud. But, He was between me and the cloud – His protection was covering me so that I did not receive significant back or head injuries. It was yet again further confirmation that He is in control and I am in His care, no matter how the circumstances may appear.

After Bill took the picture, it appeared that the rainbow was around the next curve as well. We drove to that spot but it was not visible.  When we returned to the place of this picture, it was gone.  God had given us His message.  He didn’t need to repeat it!

In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus said:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

David says:

“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”

Psalms 139:4.

If you want to know whether God cares about you, just ruminate on these statements from Scripture! (Even I don’t know every word before it is on my tongue! Oh for the times that I have spoken without thinking of the words I was saying …, but I digress!)

When the rainbow disappeared, it was a reminder that God’s presence is always with us, even though it is not always obvious to us at the time. The rainbow did not need to be stationary for a long time to accomplish God’s purpose – it just needed to be visible when we rounded the corner.

Often we tend to look at our situation in our microcosm of life and our focus is limited to that which we see here and now. We work and are active in our assigned tasks but we do not see what God is doing elsewhere. Praise the Lord – He is alive and well and His church can be found all over the place, even in the “wilds” of Alaska.   Praise the Lord that we had our eyes open to see His visible promise of protection. If we had been drowning in self-pity, we would have missed His beautiful presence. He knows where we are and what we are doing, and He will send His messengers to give comfort and reassurance to us, even if that comes in the form of a rainbow.

What my husband and I saw of Alaska was beautiful; but what we experienced through God’s Divine Appointments was enriching beyond measure. Praise the Lord!

I pray that no matter what you are going through at this moment, you will be encouraged by the knowledge that He will be your strength through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Open your eyes, you might just see a rainbow sheltering you from the storm clouds of life!

Father, we praise Your Name and thank You for Your presence with us even when we are unaware of it.  Thank You for Your people who minister to others.  May I be a witness in ministry to others today, and each day that You give to me as I live out life in the fullness of Your Church, through the power of Your Holy Spirit. 

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Have you ever been asked “Where do you live?”

 

Childhood home on Olympia Street '59
Childhood home on Olympia Street in Chicago, Illinois.

That question often came up when I was a young child … neighborhood children ask this question to find out if my house was near enough so that they could come visit without having to ask their mother or father.

 

Even as an adult we often ask “Where do you live?”  Sometimes the answer is a physical street address and sometimes it is a city, or a county, or a country.  But it is guaranteed that we all live somewhere.

 

One of the most unusual houses I have seen is the one pictured below, near Willow, Alaska.  It was visible from the train ride as we made our way to Denali National Park.  Looking at the vista, you might think you were looking at a cell tower rather than a house.  It stands tall … over the neighboring trees.

Alaska - 7 layer house in woods (C)
View from Alaska Railroad on trip to the Denali National Park.

 

A close up of the house reveals that it is, in fact, a structure made up of at least 7 “houses”, built on top of each other, above the surrounding forest.

Alaska - Dr Seuss Tower House outside Denali - close up (C)
Close up view of “The Dr. Seuss House” outside Willow, Alaska.

According to the locals, the 12-story house stands above the surrounding trees with each “house” stacked so that it appears to be either an afterthought or a layer on a very tall cake.  The owner built the house after a forest fire, and the house originally had views of Mount Denali (former Mount McKinley) as well as the neighboring Denali National Park.  However, as nature will do, trees regrow after a fire and, as a result, the owner lost the view that he prized so dearly.  So, not being a quitter, he added more and more stories to his house.  The result is the 12-story tower that appears to be another tall tree in the forest, at least it did from the train!  The locals call it “The Dr. Seuss Tower House”.  [There is an aerial video of the house as well as some photographs of the entire building in an article written by Alexa Carrasco, dated April 7, 2015, and found at http://www.curbed.com/2015/4/7/9972998/dr-seuss-willow-alaska-house.]

Where do you live?

For the Christian, the answer to that question is not just our physical address or city in which we reside.  While that information is a correct answer to the inquiry, it is not the definitive statement of where our true ultimate home is.

 

In John 14:2-3, Jesus says:

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

So, where is your home?  Here or there?

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21.

So, where is your treasure?  Here or there?

 

An old country gospel hymn says, in part:

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door;

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

 

Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like You.

If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door;

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

 

We have a job to do on this spinning planet called Earth; we are here to do the Lord’s work.  He has commissioned His people to witness to others about His life, death, resurrection, ascension and intercession for us before the Father.  We are to tell others of His sacrifice on the cross so that His righteousness could be applied to those who come to Him in faith and believe in Him, following His commandments and loving others as He loved us.   We are to present the gospel when the opportunity is made available to us.

 

We cannot just sit and pine for our home in Glory.  In short, we should not be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good!

 

But, we also should not have a strangle-hold on this world and its treasures because they are only temporary.  They will not go into eternity with us.  The Psalmist knew this truth!

Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.

Psalm 49:16-17.

Our treasures are to be with the Lord, while we are temporary residents of this world.

 

So, where do you live?  Where is your house?

However, the far more important questions are:  Where is your home?  Where is your treasure?  Where is your heart?

 

Father, I pray that I would keep my eyes on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, rather than on this world and the lure of money, position, power, ease, etc.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would attune my heart to His song and that I would look for the places that He wants me to go and do that which He directs.  May my treasures and my heart be in Heaven, through Jesus Christ, my Lord.

 

GOD’S WOODLAND CREATURES AND US!

Often, we think of God’s woodland creatures in terms of big animals. Such as the caribou that we saw in Alaska. Tall, heavy with incredible racks on the top of their head. The muscles that are necessary to hold their head up are incredibly strong, they would have to be to carry the antlers as they do. And they are fast, when speed is needed.

Caribou close up
Caribou with large rack grazing in the Denali National Park., Alaska.

 

Out west we have the buffalo, certainly a handsome specimen of strength and endurance!

Buffalo in ND
Buffalo in the American West, specifically in the plains of North Dakota.

 

Then, of course, we think of the bear. Huge, frightful jaws and paws with claws that can rip almost anything, certainly a person if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time! He is certainly not someone I want to encounter without a bus surrounding me!

Bear in Denali
Bear walking across the plane in Denali National Park, Alaska.

 

Another of God’s creatures is the deer that inhabits the wooded areas of our country. Traveling through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you can drive an 11 mile loop road around Cades Cove, the first settlement in the Smoky Mountains, and deer are always visible. Of course we are not afraid of deer – we remember Bambi!

Deer in woods Oregon 2009 178 (C)
Deer grazing in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park along the loop road in Cades Cove.

 

But there are also the small woodland creatures, and many of them are not confined to the “woods” as in forest, take squirrels and chipmunks for example. Many abide in urban areas, finding shelter and food in unique places.

 

It is not very hard to find food in our backyard. Not only do we feed the squirrels and chipmunks by hand, when possible – we also have several feeders around the yard. They provide continued amusement, as long as the food supply is available!

Squirrel at corn cobs on feeder (C)
Squirrel eating corn at the backyard “picnic table” just below the bird feeder.

 

Not all squirrels have their own private restaurant, however. Many have to forage for their dinner. Consider the squirrels and chipmunks seen in Oregon at the Lava Butte Lookout. This squirrel blends in with the lava rocks and minimal vegetation so well that we almost missed him. [Hint: if you can’t find him, he is in the very center of the picture, nibbling on some greenery right in front of him.]

Squirrel can you see him Oregon 2009 229
Squirrel seen in Oregon nibbling on greenery growing among the rocks.

 

This little chipmunk apparently made a home in the lava cone near Bend, Oregon. Not much in the way of greenery, but he must find food in the area.

Chipmunk in cinder cone Oregon 2009 190
A chipmunk in a cinder cone in Oregon.

 

Here, the little guy running down the steps must be successful in spotting some food that looked good to him.

Chipmonk on steps Oregon 2009 199 (C)
A chipmunk trotting down the wooden stairs at the Lave Butte lookout, near Bend, Oregon.

 

Clearly, our Creator God has equipped the squirrels, chipmunks, caribou, deer and all His creatures with the ability to find sustenance, even in the harshest of places. Rocks are not edible, but there is an abundance of food for this chipmunk as he is seemingly protected in his rocky restaurant.

Chipmunk in cinder cone (C)Oregon 2009 232
A chipmunk standing in a cinder cone, Oregon.

 

This Alaskan squirrel appears to be ready for winter, although it was only August when we saw him, but winter comes quickly so it is best to be prepared!

Alaskan squirrel (C)
An Alaskan squirrel, looking for goodies before winter covered the landscape with snow and ice.

 

The Creator God cares for each member of His creation. Jesus says, in Matthew 6:26:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

 

This same passage expands God’s care for His creation by including care for even the flowers and grass of the field. See Matthew 6:30 where Jesus says:

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

 

I don’t believe that Jesus intended to say that birds and grass were the only parts of creation that God tends with His loving hand. Rather, they are illustrative of the depth of love God has for His creation. Grass is temporal and is burned when its short life is over. Birds may seem insignificant to us, but not to God.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.   Matthew 10:29-31.

 

Jesus is teaching by comparison. God loves these seemingly insignificant parts of His creation so that He knows even when a sparrow falls out of a tree, so that he knows even the number of hairs on our heads, even the insignificant parts of His creation illustrate His love and care to those for whom He sent His Son to die!

 

God has a plan for His creation and, for those who are in Christ Jesus, God has a specific plan for us to accomplish during our time on this earth. We are not insignificant even though we may feel that way at times. Whatever our age, whatever our station in life, whatever our physical or mental abilities, we are not insignificant.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.    Ephesians 2:10.

 

When negative thoughts attack you, when you feel like no one sees or cares, remember the chipmunk or the squirrel, or the sparrow or the grass. Those features of God’s creation merit His attention at all times … how much more does He care for those He created in His image and into which He breathed the breath of life. Genesis 2:27.
Praise His Holy Name.

 

Father, thank you for providing for the little critters you created. Thank you for giving us the wide variety in animals to look at and care for. Thank you for telling us that we are not insignificant. But most of all, thank you for sending your Son to die for our sins, and to provide redemption for us so that we can be your children. Thank you for your love, mercy and grace.

PAPERWHITES – LOST IN THE SEASONS!

This year we, in the southern United States, had a very mild fall and early winter. The temperatures were in the 60s and 70s when they should have been much colder than that. I’m not talking in the below freezing range, but surely colder than flip flops and tank tops for Christmas shopping attire.

 

The front lawn at our house is a challenge for us. Grass does not want to grow there because of the big trees that suck up the water and provide too much shade, especially along the street. We had a lawn service come in and put in new plants, but I don’t believe that the lawn service considered the fact that there is not a green thumb among any of the 20 fingers resident in our home.

 

front yard
Front yard along street where grass doesn’t like to grow!

 

Nonetheless, every year we try something new, trying to have our yard at least a little bit visually attractive.   This fall, we went to The Home Depot and picked up 2 bags of tulip bulbs and 1 bag of paperwhite bulbs. According to the instructions, they both would be good along the street and would provide some pretty flowers for cutting, etc. in the Spring.

 

So, my husband went to digging holes and (since my ankle was still not useable) I would sit on a chair and toss him a bulb to put into the ground. I wasn’t much help, in reality, since often my toss would send him out into the street to retrieve the bulb, but at least I felt like I was participating in this gardening effort.

 

We were very proud of the area along the street that had been cleaned, dug up and planted, with new top soil and a hearty dose of water, all according to the directions. Now all we had to do was to wait for Spring and we would have flowers galore.

paperwhites
Paperwhites coming up shortly before Christmas.

 

Imagine our surprise when, in early December we saw green spikes coming up in our tilled soil. They were not all over the space, just in the center where we had planted the paperwhites. The weather continued to be cool, not cold, and the spikes grew taller.

paperwhites 2
Two of the paperwhite plants up close.

 

Indeed, by mid-December we had a crop of precious paperwhites. They stood along the street so tall and proud of themselves, unaware of our laughter as we drove down the driveway and saw them waving in the breeze. In our effort to have the yard visually appealing in the Spring, we now were the only ones on the street to have flowers blooming beside the piles of dried leaves waiting for the collection truck.

paperwhites 3
The paperwhites share the curb with dried leaves waiting for the leaf truck.

 

The tulips apparently were a bit smarter, they are still in the dirt (unless the squirrels got them without our knowledge, always a possibility!) and we are anticipating some beautiful blooms in the Spring. Of course, we were expecting that from the paperwhites too, so our anticipation may not be well-founded.

 

And of course there is the next question, “What are the paperwhites going to do in the spring, when they are supposed to come up since they already made their appearance?” I don’t know … that is outside my area of expertise!

 

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes said:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

 

What the Preacher is saying is that God has ordained the seasons and, indeed, every matter under heaven. This, of course, includes the time to plant and to pluck up that which is planted. To put it bluntly, the Preacher is saying that God is sovereign.

 

God’s sovereignty encompasses all aspects of our world, its operation and workings, and humanity’s work, even each individual’s life and actions. The concept of God’s sovereignty is overwhelming to me. My finite mind simply cannot comprehend the scope of that which is subject to His control. His sovereignty is total – it is without limit – it is untouched by human plan or design. His decree will come to pass, without exception and without interference.

Yosemite scenic view  2011 cropped
Yosemite National Park

 

He is the Creator and has created and ordained the heavens and all beings therein, even the mountains and oceans do His work. Read Psalm 148 where the Psalmist commands that we and all of creation “Praise the Lord” and where he further says that what God has decreed will pass away.

Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska
Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska

 

One of the most beautiful statements of God’s sovereignty and majesty is found in the book of Job, chapters 38-41 where God responds to the questions Job has raised in his own defense to the situations presented to him. I encourage you to read the entire book of Job, but particularly these chapters. After listening what God has said, and after considering the chasm between God’s omnipotence and Job’s helplessness, Job replied, quoting his earlier statements and recanting from them, as follows:

 

Then Job answered the LORD and said:  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:1-6 [ESV]

God knows the animals and has created them to accomplish that which He decrees.  Remember the story of Balaam and his donkey in Number 22, where the donkey saw the angels of the Lord standing in the road, blocking the way that Balaam wanted to go. In this case, God even opened the donkey’s mouth so that he could instruct Balaam! Also, remember the great fish that swallowed Jonah and then spit him up on to the land where God had told him to go! And remember the fish with the shekel in its mouth in Matthew 17, providing the money to pay the tax.

 

God even knows about the flowers in the field.

Flowers - Lillies (C)
Lilies blooming in the backyard.

 

How God sees the flowers of the field is revealed in Matthew 6 where Jesus is speaking:

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Matthew 6:28-30 [ESV]

 

Take time today to consider the magnitude and majesty of God’s sovereignty as it is revealed in creation and in His Word, the Holy Bible.   Spend some time pondering the omnipotence of the Creator God, and then thank Him for his grace, mercy and sovereignty.  Thank Him for knowing you, not just as part of the universal creation but on an intimate, personal basis, and thank Him for letting us know Him, as revealed by Jesus Christ and as expressed in His Word and His indwelling Spirit.

 

Father, I cannot comprehend your power, magnificence and majesty.  I cannot begin to understand the scope of your sovereignty.  All I can do is bow in humble reverence and awe, and claim your Son as my Savior and Lord.  Thank you for your grace, mercy and love, through Jesus Christ, I pray.

THE BEAUTY OF HUMILITY

The Christmas Season. A time marked by packages to buy, wrap and send; cards to sign and post; food to prepare for the family and food to take to gatherings of friends; church events to attend; civic concerts of beautiful music hear. Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?
When the world’s focus is on giving and “doing good” during this season, we can even become arrogant in boasting about our busyness; the calls that we have upon our time, talents and finances; and what we have done for others.
Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.
But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite, sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God. Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?
When I have forgotten the priority of humility, I have to confess, seek forgiveness, and then refocus on the right attitude before God. For me, the best way to remember just who I am is to look at God’s creation and to read His Word.
• The majesty of the mountains.

Mountains view in Alaska (C)
Alaskan mountain range with Mt. McKinley, now Mt. Denali, in background.

The strength of the hummingbird. Beauty with wings fluttering going so fast we can’t see them with the naked eye!

Hummingbid getting a drink (C)
Hummingbird getting a drink without standing on the feeder, still using wing power even while eating.

The vastness of the ocean.

Ocean waves  (C)
The ocean, continually moving and teeming with life.

The incredible variety of creatures that inhabit the seas.

Fish from Mississippi Marine exhibit 3
Coral animals alive in the Gulf Marine Specimen Lab.
Fish from Mississippi Marine exhibit 8
Are you looking at me? Fish in Gulf Marine Specimen Lab.

 

Fish - Florida Spiny Lobster
Florida spiny lobsters.

 

The detail in a flower.

Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska,
Flowers in the mountains of Alaska, at Hotel Alyeska.
Flowers (3)
Flowers blooming in brilliant purple.

The beauty of the newborn baby. All the parts of an adult but in miniature.

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

 

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.
What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly is not strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!
Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

When the people of Israel were standing outside Jericho and Joshua, their leader after Moses’ death, was looking for guidance from the Lord:

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:13-15.

It should be the response that Ezekiel had when he had a vision of the Lord in His heaven.

Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel 1:28

When confronted with the holiness of God, we come face to face with the reality that we are sinners and the magnitude of our unrighteousness is directly before us. There is no puffing or grandstanding before God – we bend the knee, we bow our head, we prostrate ourselves and we submit to Him.
We should have the same attitude that Mary expressed to the angel after being told that she would be the mother of Jesus.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38.

Of course, the ultimate example of humility is found in our own Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Babe in the manger grew up into our Savior. In His teaching, Jesus said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12.

Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?

The one who left heaven to come to earth, not as a king or mighty ruler but as a baby, was found in a manger, the rough feeding trough for the animals. It was not the sterile, washed and well-padded baby bed that we find necessary for our newborn children.  It is this Babe that Paul is talking about in Philippians 2 when he exhorted the Christian believers to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ had when He came to earth … humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8.

May this Christmas find us with an attitude of humble thanksgiving for the grace and mercy God has showered upon us through Jesus Christ His Son. The Babe in the manger became the Lamb on the cross who was crucified for our sins and transgressions. The Babe in the manger then rose from the dead and became our resurrected Lord and Savior. Salvation is possible because of that Babe’s obedience to the will of our Sovereign God and Father, and we receive that salvation through faith and trust in that Babe whose name is Jesus Christ.
Let your Christmas be blessed by our Lord as we serve Him with His heart of humility and peace. Humility is the mark of our Lord on His children, and it creates beautiful lives lived in His Spirit for His glory and honor, this Christmas as well as each day that He grants us life.
Father, I pray that I would live my life in humble obedience to your will, as exhibited by Mary upon the angel’s announcement to her. I pray that you would empower me to do that which you direct, and that you would receive honor and glory as we celebrate our Lord’s birth and your work in human history on Christmas Day.

A CALL TO WAKE UP AND REPENT – Scripture reference corrected

I suspect that the question of how long our life will be is far from our normal conscious thought, until something happens to jar us out of our lethargy and into the reality that none of us is as big, as strong, as indestructible, or as far from leaving this life as we believe ourselves to be.

These thoughts are on my mind today because we just came back from the memorial service for a dear lady in our church who died this week after an extended illness.  While it was difficult to learn of her passing, we were relieved that she was no longer in pain, that her husband was no longer watching her suffer, and that he and the rest of her family could rest in the knowledge that she was with her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Family at my grandfather's grave
Family at my grandfather’s grave

Unlike our friend who suffered the ravages of disease for many years, the picture above is of the family after my grandfather suffered a premature, and unexpected death in 1956.  As I recall, his death was sudden, without an extended illness.  There was no way for the family to prepare themselves, one day he was with us, the next he was gone.

I know this is true of my own mother.  She died when I was 21.  I was living several states away so we communicated by phone.  I spoke with her on Sunday and we expressed concern about my father’s cancer.  He was in the hospital preparing for surgery, but we were not sure what the outcome would be. (Back then, you did not prepare for cancer surgery by sitting at home, you waited in the hospital bed for multiple procedures in preparation for surgery.) She was comforting me about my father, telling me that the Lord was with her and with Daddy and that He would take care of both of them.  I was not to worry.

That was the last time I heard my mother’s voice. Two days later, on Tuesday, I received a phone call that she had suffered a massive stroke.  She never came out of the coma and on Thursday she went to meet her Lord and Savior.  She was only 54 years old when she was called home.

Mother's tombstone
Mother’s tombstone

Hard to concentrate on trivial things when your life is turned upside down by a sudden death of a loved one.

No one has an answer to the multitude of questions that are raised when death comes like a thief in the night nor are there answers when we watch a loved one die a slow, excruciating death.  That simply is not within our sphere of knowledge.

Like it or not, we are the creation, not the Creator.

Mountain view in Alaska with caribou rack in foreground
Mountain view in Alaska with caribou rack in foreground

God is sovereign in all things, even in the length of time his creation exists.  Even before we are born, God knows when we will arrive as that bundle of joy and when we will leave this earthly existence.

Proverbs 90:12 says –OOPS —  CORRECTION:  Proverbs only has 31 chapters so clearly this is an incorrect reference.  Thanks to my dear friend Claudette Starr who noticed this mistake.  I do apologize for this error; my proofreading will have to improve in the future!  Now, back to the thought.  If you look at PSALMS 90:12 you will find the following text:

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

There are numerous lessons that can be learned when we attend a funeral, or when we learn that a loved one has died suddenly, not the least of which is that we are reminded that we need to be ready for “our own personal end of days” as well as “the end of days,” when Christ returns.

He sent His Son to be our Savior.  His Son, Jesus, died as an atonement for our sin, all of it.  Because he died for us, we no longer have to suffer the punishment that our sin places on us.  He rose from the dead and, because He lives and is interceding on our behalf, those who believe in Jesus’ Name will live eternally.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the Apostle Paul says it as clearly as possible:

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

That Tuesday, my mother had no idea that such day would be the irreversible beginning of herlast days”.

As Reformed Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ will bodily return one day.   Indeed, Paul affirms this in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Then, there will not be any more time to repent.  The die, as we say, will have been cast and the game of this world will be abruptly ended.  There will be no more time.  Even if Jesus does not return during our lifetime, we know that we will all have to face death, some sooner and some later; but it is inevitable.

It is a certainty that time will run out – whether it is when Jesus returns or at our own personal “end of days” — and there is absolutely no way that you or I know when that day will come.

The Apostle Paul was right – Repent, for today is the day of salvation!

Father, often we live our lives as if we will continue on for decades before anything major will happen, certainly before death knocks at our heart’s door; forgive us for being so callous and foolish.  Forgive us, Father, for thinking of salvation as a type of fire insurance.  Forgive us when we have marginalized Jesus’ work on the cross rather than bowing in humble obedience to Him.  Forgive us when we have ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting for a living, dynamic relationship with the Almighty Sovereign Creator God.  Father, forgive us!