Living Wisely and Well

     Recently, a sweet friend left this life and stepped into the presence of our Lord. We, along with a crowd of family and friends attended her celebration of life this past weekend. And surely as I’m sitting her, I know there was a great crowd of witnesses welcoming her home. For she knew, as cancer ravaged the clay vessel of her temporary dwelling, she had an eternal home with a heavenly body waiting for her.

Although we celebrate the indescribably and glorious joy set before her, we also mourn, as I know she must have when she first received her death sentence, her diagnosis of cancer. We mourn because we have eternity set in our hearts and we long for death to be swallowed up in victory. We mourn because we know we have been created for more than this, more than suffering, more than disease, more than death. So we groan (and mourn) with all of creation, awaiting redemption, awaiting for all things to be made new.

As I joined others in the worship and the message (my friend wanted the focus to be on our Savior and not on herself) we couldn’t help but contemplate, appreciate, participate in the bitter blessing she was given to live out in her finals years. For she was more aware of the coming day when her life on this earth would be done.

We all know our days have been numbered and the Lord knows each one, but we are not always privy to that news. Too often our life here is done before we had the chance to do it well. We are too busy striving, too busy planning, too busy worrying to truly live.

Jesus had a few words to say about that. And they comfort us when things are hard. They seem a nice thought for one day, when things settle down. But now. Well, we’ve got this and that and the other.

My friend however, knowing she was not promised the years to come, lived life big, lived life abundantly, lived life colorful and lived life well. In doing so, she also died well.

As I wiped the tears from my eyes, my heart was challenged, my soul convicted, my spirit confronted. How will I live each day? That thing I’m afraid of, will I take the leap? (my friend went skydiving!). That thing I’ve been putting off, will I do? (my friend did the things now she knew she couldn’t do later). That conversation I’ve been avoiding, will I speak? (my friend always asked the hard questions).

The choice, as I consider my friend’s life and death, is to do as she did, to set aside the Chayei sha’ah, the fleeting life, and embrace Chayei olam, the lasting life. To live life well.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

Scriptures referenced:
crowd of witnesses – Hebrews 12:1
clay vessel, temporary dwelling, eternal home, heavenly body – 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
eternity set in our hearts – Ecclesiastes 3:11
death to be swallowed up in victory – 1 Corinthians 15:4
groan with all creation – Romans 8:22
Lord knows each one – Psalm 139:16
Jesus had a few words – Matthew 6:25-34

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Answers in the quiet

quietSometimes it would be nice if we had signposts set out for us. “This way.” “Turn here.” “Left up ahead.”

We might even appreciate, “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”

But instead we often feel like Bilbo in the goblin caves.

”’Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’ So up he got and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”

I’ve got my sword (the word of God) and on I trot, but my heart is often all of a patter and a pitter, hoping for some clear direction

Still. The time of quiet. Prayer. Listening. It draws me close to the Father’s heart. Refreshes me. And only one thing to do, go forward. So on I go. Trusting him to open what needs to open. Close what should be closed. Make straight the way ahead.

Jon and I have finished Wonder, our second book in our photo devotionals, the Be Still series. I will step out in faith and do a little marketing for a November release, just in time for the holidays (and various fairs and book events).

I have to say, it’s been an incredible blessing to be able to work with my talented, sweet husband in putting the books together. God revealed to me Jon’s heart through his photographs. When we were dating, Jon put together a slide show (yes, slides, the old slide carousel, and a projector) with piano background music. The slides were his photos, showing God’s creation from sunup to sundown. The pictures provided a glimpse of how he saw the world, a peek into his heart and soul. And I loved what I saw.

Ever since, wherever we lived, we have always found a sunset watching spot and he has always taken pictures. Up until recently, his pictures have lived in a box (pre digital) or on his computer. They captured a bit of God’s creation and gave glimpses of God’s glory and I wanted to share them with others. Thus, the inspiration of our first book, Praise: Proclaiming the Glory of God. I included “Book One” on the cover, as a promise to myself that there would be others. As I sought direction for the second, the Lord brought to mind the many notes I took in a woman’s bible study on Isaiah. I poured over and prayed over the notes, identified twenty-four verses and wrote twenty-four devotionals. Wonder: Contemplating the Mysteries of God slowly came together. But we needed pictures. New pictures. Ones to complement and communicate the accompanying truths.

So we set out on a journey, a trip from Texas, to Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and home again. Our goal, besides visiting places we hadn’t been to, was for Jon to take pictures for the book. Before we left, a sweet friend in my writer’s group prayed that the Lord would show off during our trip. That become our prayer of expectation.

Lord, how will you show up and show off today?

Every day he did. And when I look at some of the photos, and remember the challenging opportunities those days presented, I am amazed (but not really surprised, actually) that they made for some of the best photographs for the devotional.
Of course.

Because isn’t that how the Lord is?

secret gate
“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

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Showing off in the quiet

My morning outings

Sometimes life’s interruptions provide the opportunity to rest.

And reflection

Such has been my experience this week.

The past two months (maybe more) have been quite hectic and while the unexpected, unplanned trip to my dad’s seemed like another thing on the long list of busyness, it actually kept me from jumping right back into everything.

It gave me a chance to take a deep breath.

In our task-oriented and achievement-minded culture, it is easy to be caught up in work, service and activities. They may be good things. They may be distractions. They may energize us. They may exhaust us. They may be the very things we should be doing. They may keep us from doing the things we aught.

My mornings have been a time to be alone, to listen, to breathe, to let my praise reflect back to the Lord the beauty of his creation. And to ask, “What do you have for me, Lord?”

To begin with, be refreshed, restored, recharged.

“Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 28:11

 

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Matthew 6:31

 

And He said,
“My presence shall go with you,
and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 20:8-10.

 

“In peace
I will lie down and sleep (rest),
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

 

Then

“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you wonderful and marvelous things that you know nothing about. ”
Jeremiah 33:3

The LORD says, “I will teach you the way you should go; I will instruct you and advise you.”
Psalm 32:8

Next time: What the Lord has shown me in the midst of the quiet.

 

One might hope a thing to be a certain way, then smile with delight of it being true.

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Showing off in our fear, anxiety and worry

In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks we noticed warnings posted everywhere instructing what to do in a bear encounter. Bear spray was encouraged for hikers. For $50 a can, I thought it was a scam. But after a little investigation, I discovered it to be real (basically pepper spray complete with instructions on how to use it and make a calm getaway, in case we startled a bear and it came after us). “The best life insurance you can buy out here,” the gal at the park gas station said. She informed us there were two momma grizzlies in the area, each with a pair of cubs. Not something I wanted to run into unprepared. Since we planned on doing a little bit of hiking, we bought the can of spray. When I told my sister,  she said, “That’s nice. No worries, because you have the bear spray. But in all honesty, I’d be scared silly.” Although we, along with a park ranger and two-to-three dozen others, saw both grizzlies and their cubs on separate occasions (one was a bit to close to the campground) we never had to use the spray.

I laughed when we found the perfect T-shirt.

Seriously though, most bears typically avoid people and do not want to attack; they usually just want to be left alone. But we had the spray just in case.

Healthy fear can be a good thing, making us be smart, be prepared and be alert.

But destructive fear can be, well, destructive.

Unlike the bear, we have an enemy described as prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. We are told, “Stay alert! Watch out!” (1 Peter 5:8)

The enemy creeps in whenever there is an opportunity. He can slink in at night with whispers of fears that keep you awake. He can skulk into the hospital waiting room with murmurs of worry. He can hover about the cell phone as you wait for news. He pokes, he prods, he prowls, wanting to devour joy, hope, confidence and faith.

The Lord has not left us unprepared. He has given us what we need in an enemy encounter.  He tells us to be strong in Him and in his mighty power, to put on the his full armor, so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11)

He has given us his Word as a can of enemy spray. When the enemy comes in with fears, worries and anxieties, we spray him with God’s word, standing firm in God’s promises.

If we submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee. (James 4:7)

When we trust God, when our thoughts are fixed on him, he will keep us in perfect peace!  (Isaiah 26:3)

We can turn all of our anxieties over to God, because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

When we’re burdened with worries, God comforts us and fills us with joy. (Psalm 94:19)

When we’re worried and anxious, we’re to pray and tell God what we need and his peace will fill and protect our hearts. (Philippians 4:6-7)

When the enemy chases us, when he pursues and attacks us, when we are afraid, we can trust God, we can praise him for his promises, we can know he will deliver us. (Psalm 56:1-4)

And in the midst of the clouds of fear, anxieties and worries, the Lord will show off in unexpected ways.

He did so for me recently, he continues to do so and he will for you as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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Showing Off in the Heights

 

IMG_7178IMG_6813Heights.
My husband loves heights. Mountain tops. Soaring overlooks. Lofty vistas. When we get to any place high, he grabs his camera and races to the edge.

Which gives me a heart attack every time.

If there’s a railing or rock wall, I have no problem. It adds a sense of security. I don’t worry about my husband (or anyone else near the edge) and I’ll confidently walk right up and look over.

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Of course, I don’t want to miss the view, either. So, even without a barrier, I will eventually take a fews deep breaths, check my footing and get close enough to take a peek over the edge.

But it definitely takes my breath away.

 

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The view is always worth it. Sweeping valleys. Deep ravines. Spectacular canyons. Something I don’t want to miss. Definitely worth the effort.

As I’m seeking the Lord, what if He wants to take me to new places, new heights, new vistas? Do I hesitate? Do I look to see if its safe? Do I pause to catch my breath or check my footing? Do I consider missing it?

Or do I trust Him and run to the edge to see what He wants to show me?

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His word tells me He will make me surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. (From Psalm 18:33, NLT)

He says when I trust in Him I will find new strength and will soar high on wings like eagles. (From Isaiah 40:31, NLT)

 

 

 

IMG_7267.jpgI want to see what He has to show me. Because His majestic name fills the earth! His glory is higher than the heavens. (Psalm 8:1, NLT) His unfailing love is as high as the heavens. His faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Psalm 57:10, NLT) And when I worship at His throne, He is eternal, high, and glorious! (Jeremiah 17:12, NLT)

 

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