Saturday, April 30, 2011

God as Kingdom

For the LORD is a great God
and a great King above all gods
In his hand are the deep places of the earth. The strength of the hills is his also. Ps 95

The deep places, the tops of the hills and everywhere in between, God. Noisy joy and thanksgiving companion His greatness. He is solid. Immovable. Everlasting. Our strength. Not only the rock of our salvation but a House of Rock. A habitation, a dwelling, the strong walls surrounding our lives. Not only a place to stand but a place to put our lives and the lives dear to us.

Beth-tsur (House of Rock) of old was well esteemed by the Maccabees who knew its strategic importance. In their day it was the strongest place in all of Judea. It allowed these Hebrew warriors to defeat foreign invaders and retake Jerusalem. Because of its elevation and view of the Valley of Elah an invading army was unable to attack in secret. Because of its natural fortifications invaders were denied access and repelled by God's people who occupied a position of strength.

I have so often known the Lord as my Beth-tsur. My high tower whose cool walls draw the burning from my sometime agitated soul. Whose firm foundation allows me to stand sure footed in a confusing world. Whose view of the landscape sees danger coming while it is yet far off and sounds the alarm. Whose gates have made fast my protection and denied the destroyer access. Whose outcroppings and clefts give me a place from which to fight and win.

God is my House of Rock with a heart of love. The strength of the hills and still the secret places, deep places of wisdom and refreshing hidden and waiting discovery. Places of joy and places of strength in one place, Christ. Not only the best place in the Kingdom but the Kingdom itself.

Our God Who Is Our Kingdom is calling, inviting us to live above, to live protected and aware. They who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1). Abide in Me, and I will abide in you (Jn.15:4).

This is a call I am going to answer.

He is my Beth-tsur and beyond.

Christ is my Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God and Sunflowers

The Sunflowers -- Poem by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines
creak like ship masts,

their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky
sugars of the sun.

Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy
but want to be friends;

they have wonderful stories
of when they were young -
the important weather,
the wandering crows.

Don't be afraid
to ask them questions!

Their bright faces,
which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds -
each one a new life
hopes for a deeper acquaintance;

each flower, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,
is lonely.

the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy.

Come and let us talk
with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Our God is as clever as He is amazing. The detail He has engineered into His Creation is like viewing Seurat's Grande Jatte from across the room while moving closer to the canvas. You discover the images are thousands of individual dots of paint converging to become the the painting. Time, thought and technique are wound in triune agreement and beauty is created.

I discovered a miraculous dot of paint today while listening to a story about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. It turns out that sunflowers were used to rid the soil and water of dangerous contamination because they are little detoxification engines. "All I have needed Thy hand hath provided." Japan is importing sunflower seeds by the tens of thousands.

The thought came to me that the Sovereign who could plan for a 21st century disaster from the first gasp of Creation, who could provide a solution to such a life threatening problem by handing man a sunflower, well, that God is the one I want to serve.

Do you have barren soil in your emotional landscape? Areas where no fruit grows because of some act of carelessness or disaster? Ask our gentle Gardner what He would plant there trusting Him to chose beauty and restoration. If He would do it for a pile of waste how much more will He do it for the Darling of His Heart, you.

Show the Lord the needy ground and pray for seed. The result will be sweet earth a field of flowers and best of all, life. How about some sunflowers in a vase set out before Him in faith? You will find some on my desk today. My life is very much in need of such holy seed.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Jellyfish Sunflower by Kat, colored pencil and ink

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Evening Devotion

If you need hope to be on the menu, keep reading. It is today's special.

If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah! (From the musical Messiah)

He is the One who was, and is, and is to come, The Almighty One.

For the old Hebrews the beginning of the year was around September. The Chinese get to start over in February. For the Romans and for us down through the years, January was the start of a new year.

The last hours of Easter are closing. What if we chose to begin anew tomorrow? What if we consider Monday the first day of a New Year full of hope and grace and Hallelujah?

What if we determine this is the year we lead more people to Christ than we ever have? Maybe we will lead someone to Him for the first time in our life. Maybe it will be a year of repairing bridges to friends and loved ones. Maybe a year of blowing the dust from a text and returning to studies long ago laid aside. Maybe it will be a year to open the door to our creative gifts and paint, draw, write or sew. Maybe we will remember to say "Please" and "Thank you" more.

Maybe we will receive spiritual giftings once thought only to belong to others. Maybe it will be a year where we out give any other year and send more seed into the Kingdom then we ever thought possible. Maybe we will lose weight, find a spouse, grow our hair long, learn to dance, learn a language, STOP SMOKING, take up public speaking, raise our hands to worship, fall in love all over again, shut the door on the past, forgive a enemy, forgive a friend, forgive ourselves...

Are you sitting there shaking your head no? Are you looking at circumstances instead of the empty tomb? Are you undecided? Or have you already walked away from the computer to kiss your wife or husband, apologize to your child, buy watercolors?

Let's settle something now once and forever...If a man could be nailed to a cross and die, lay dead for the weekend and raise himself to life under his own power then live forever...and if the same man were to say we would do even greater things than he did because he would always have our back...well, what in the world are we waiting for, a better offer?

Oswald Chambers did a sweet and powerful devotional where he pointed out how those closest to Jesus failed Him miserably when He needed them most. When he specifically asked more than once for their help. Just asked them to stay awake and watch with Him in the Garden. You know how they slept and were not there for Him no matter how nicely they were asked to be. No matter how much He needed them to be.

Despair can be the result of such experiences and personal failures but Chambers points out that it is Jesus who comes along and says,"Sleep on now, Yes, that opportunity is lost forever and you cannot alter it, but ARISE and go on to the next thing!" Chambers says that is the spiritual initiative He has given us against despair, "ARISE AND DO THE NEXT THING."

"If we are inspired of God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the ground of His Redemption never letting a sense of failure corrupt our new action." (My Utmost for His Highest)

We can rise with Him, begin again, and do the next thing on Monday. In a Kingdom hungry for laborers our prayers for guidance will be answered.

The starter's pistol is in His hand, He is counting down:

One, I am doing a new thing, do you get it?

Two, If I AM is for you who can be against you?

Three, ARISE, Let us GO!

Philippians 3:12-14 (New International Reader's Version)
I have not yet received all of those things. I have not yet been made perfect. But I move on to take hold of what Christ Jesus took hold of me for. I don't consider that I have taken hold of it yet.

But here is the one thing I do: I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me. I move on toward the goal to win the prize. God has appointed me to win it. The heavenly prize is Christ Jesus himself.

Holy, Holy, Holy...Alive!

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead!
(Chris Tomlin)

Jesus has overcome and the grave has been overwhelmed. The Gates of Hell have been unhinged, its locks burst full open. Yet His body lies behind the stone.

The Overwhelmer is held secure by burial clothes. All is silence. But something is noticeably absent from this particular tomb. The reek of death had been so strong a few days ago that even spice scented linen did not spare the senses of those gentle hands interring Him. There had been no time for a full anointing. Flesh began to die with the first tearing lash. Now not a trace of decay can be detected.

Still, does one third of the Godhead really lie dead, held in silence by borrowed walls of stone? Where is the power, the magic that saved others? No sound escapes. There are no visible exits from this womb of death.

There has been no water turned to wine this Sabbath. The fish baskets are empty. The lepers still hide themselves and the dead remain so. No storms have been silenced. Nets lay untouched. The King of the Jews lies beaten, crucified and without breath. It is finished. Did He not say so Himself? He has gone the way of the Baptist.

What did He say about the third day? Destroy this temple and on the third day...

There is a terrible stillness like a hand clasped over a scream. A sound begins. A groan barely on the edge of human hearing. The earth is in labor bearing down hard. A deep humming comes from rocks and walls-vibrating at the frequency of newly formed stars. Flash blinding-clean scours the air in the tomb. Now dim silence. Earth breathing in half-light.

A cloud is forming in the space where His body rests. A pool fills beneath Him clear as crystal, completely still. Sapphire and emerald webs of lightening now reflected there. Eyes. Eyes everywhere. Wings overspread His inanimate figure chanting low... Holy, Holy, Holy!

Presence suffuses this otherwise lightless world with radiant warmth. Like a shower of crystal rain, power and strength saturate the burial clothes freeing crusty flesh from fabric, closing some wounds, preserving others.

Light as sunlight through branches dapples His feet nibbling its way up. Flesh is warming, stretching. It has reached His hands. They are pierced but beautiful under the cloth. The cloth itself melts away but is not consumed. Light falls upon His open side to a sound the wind makes rushing down a mountain side.

Frankincense. The ever glowing space is awash in royal perfume.

The light is on His face and His features are transformed. The battered and bruised evidence of man's unkindness has been smoothed away. His eyes are fully open now and for a moment they are filled with the green mist of the ocean and the pure blue of a cloudless sky before they return of the color of rich brown earth.

His hair is sable full of tiny embers. The terrible bloody matting is a memory. He stands on wounded feet under His own power. Lungs breathing air He steps forward and owns His life again. Holy, Holy, Holy...Alive!

The ground is shaking, the stone is moving and God's love is escaping the tomb. God's perfect Lamb has become a force of terrible, obedient beauty. Death cannot stand before such a Lamb. Hell has been raided. The breech has been closed. Jesus has triumphed. He is risen just as He said. Overwhelming Death has been overwhelmed by His Cross of Love and the Resurrection of amazing second chances. He has died and raised Himself up and not only Himself but all those who call upon His Name.

The stone has been rolled away. Mary, her own side pierced, will be waiting. Peter will need restoring. Thomas will need convincing. The world will need saving. He was born for this, to bring Himself back from the dead and to bring our souls, hopes and dreams back to pulsing, breathing life. The Third Day. The sun will not set on such a day.

Christ the Lord is risen today,
Sons of men and angels say,
Raise your joys and triumphs high,
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply,

Love's redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won,
Death in vain forbids Him rise,
Christ has opened Paradise,

Surely He has brought us from death to life.

It is a new day!

All our stones be rolled away!

He is Risen as He said. Matthew 28:6

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Countdown by Kim Lorentzen

Counting down the last eight minutes -
Babies tucked into bed, asleep
Dough tucked into the bowl, rising
Seven minutes now...

Good Friday is over
and we've remembered our Hero
who did the greatest thing ever done.
Saturday has passed
and I thought about that procession He led out of captivity right to His Father:
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob...Moses and Aaron...Joseph...Rahab...David! Oh, David, you must have danced on that day!

And now, four minutes to Sunday.
I'm watching the clock.
I stayed up for this.
Three minutes now!
My eyes are wet (I'm a crier, alas).
Two minutes!
My thoughts drift off toward tomorrow's celebration.
One minute to go!
Sunday! Resurrection Sunday is here! I love Resurrection Sunday!


I would shout and jump if it weren't for sleeping babies and downstairs neighbors.
But my insides are having a party!

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come away, come awake
Come and rise up from the dead!
(Matt Maher)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Nutshell

"Here it is in a nutshell:

Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

Passing laws against sinning only produced more lawbreakers. But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end." Romans 5 The Message

It was high summer and I had found a labyrinth built into a secluded grove at St. John's Episcopal Church. Flagstones planted in the soil spiraled out from the center. Surrounded by fireweed and forget-me-nots I stepped into the center of that spiral Universe and began my prayer journey.

If you know me and have been in a worship service with me, you have seen a full on Holy Ghost Holy Dancer. I am a Catholic who discovered Pentecost. I get unashamedly jubilant when God is in the House, a true joyful noise maker, a Riverdancer barefoot in the sacred river. I love the free expression of worship Pentecostals encourage.

Most people would not guess that the quiet, thoughtful, patient prayer life sings to me as well. The closed within garden walls, "Let's walk just the two of us," day trip where Christ whispers, feeds me. This particular day I was looking for quiet and almost found it. What I got was sacred stillness.

Cars passed in the distance, planes flew overhead, bees buzzed, grass in the corners of the stones sighed under my steps. I quieted my mind and turned my thoughts to a familiar scripture from Isaiah, "Thou wilt keep in perfect peace one whose mind is stayed on Thee." I moved slowly drinking in the semi-stillness. I stopped on each stone breathing in and letting it out slowly on a whispered prayer.

Then I heard it, the absolute and utter, fully alive, shattering stillness. How long had it been there enveloping me? Surely only seconds before I noticed it. Then a sound. A faint but determined pounding. A sustained rhythm. A heart beat. My soul leaps soundlessly as a child turns inside its mother. I am hearing God's beating heart as a child sheltered deep within its mother hears her heart pumping life into its own limbs. Life-life. Life-life.

He is here in this garden and I am in Him. Not in Him in some Pagan Pantheistic way, but really in the One, True, Living God. The God of all Creation is enfolding me, embracing me and body, mind, soul, spirit I am aware, My Wonderful God, am I aware of it. The life of God is pulsing throughout the Creation and I hear it. The answer to "Is there life out there?" is YES!

The scriptures tell us that in Christ all things consist. In Him we live and move and have our being. That knowledge was driven home to me in a spiral of stones, in a moment where what had been true in my mind became evident by experience, became a moment I remember and treasure. Like Adam I walked with God in the Garden. My awareness of how vast that garden really is increased exponentially.

The scripture in the Message says "Christ got us into life. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end."

No wonder the earth became shrouded in darkness as he suffered and died in our place. In Him all things consist. But as life left His body, grace was reanimating us so that our life in Him could go on forever and sin and death be vanquished, silenced, so that God's own beating heart of love could be heard by every soul on its journey. Jesus got us into Life! A World-Without-End-Life. A life where wild worship dances and quiet soulful walks in a spiritual garden or companionable journeys on the Emmaus road are possible.

Remove your shoes and dance or hush your soul, whichever you choose but open your heart and listen to the blood drops striking the cold, hard ground of sin. His heart beats. A drop falls. Drop-drop. Drop-drop. Grace embracing us. Drop-drop. Drop-drop. Pumping through us. His dying heart pumping Life into ours. Life-life! Life-life! Life-life! Life-life! Ours! The Beginning of a New Beginning. First death then Resurrection. The Garden calling. Perfume escaping.

Jesus Messiah
Anointed One of Our Desire
Jesus Our Life
Our Grace Giver
Our Aggressive Forgiver
Our On-And-On

At the Cross, at the Cross, where I first saw the light...

He has packed so much life into that nutshell!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Read a Blessing

One Thousand Gifts:
A Dare to Live Fully
Right Where You Are
Ann Voskamp

This is a lovely and jarring little book that smells of lentil soup and incense. It will give you an egg tooth to break the shell of ingratitude that often surrounds us. It is a thankful-heart read, a bird nest worth climbing out on a limb to view, a word fitly spoken.

Read a blessing.

holy experience

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bless the Lord in His Place

Bless the LORD, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding,* and hearken to the voice of his word. Bless the LORD, all you his hosts,* you ministers of his who do his will. Bless the LORD, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion;* bless the LORD, O my soul. Psalm 103:20–22

In the place of His dominion. The place of His sovereignty. The place of His Lordship. The place where He is God. Everywhere. Bless the Lord everywhere. Lowest valley to highest mountain, darkest forest to full sun.

May the Lord be blessed as winter loses its grip and slips into spring. Bless the Lord as cold love thaws and melts and washes away hopelessness and barrenness. Bless the Lord who brings His love in the spring of every age and to every one of us upon this earth.

Frozen dreams warm and expand. River swell, rush forward and overflow their banks changing old boundaries forever in all the places of His conquering dominion.

"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness there of." Psalm 24

Winter's wistfulness yields to spring's anticipation. My soul stretches itself and digs its toes into fresh moist earth. Something new is coming. Silence is broken by buzzing bees. The mission is honey sweetness. Like the birds I am full of eggs.

There are no ordinary days or ordinary tasks. We are not ordinary. We are loved uncommonly. So the Spirit calls to me, "Wake up and build. Bless the Lord in all the places of His dominion."


Come out.

And the wrens have returned and they're nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again
And the streams are all swollen with winter
Winter unfrozen and free...
Rich Mullins the Color Green

Dedicated to John David and Vanessa on the 5th anniversary of their building a life together. My spring always claim its rightful place in your hearts.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

God Is Good

It was St. Dominic's Roman Catholic Church. It was High Mass and the priest was singing the Mass in Latin but I was still too young to know what Latin was. I was earnestly in love with church. The candles, the bells, the saints, the cross, the green embroidered vestments, the host...I was smitten. I was five and I had already taken sides.

That service was the day I "Got God" for the first time. I understood Him. At some point during the service I became aware of His God-ness. I knew He was real and wonderful. I knew God was good. It was a sentinel event. I began to know a lot of things after that but the God-is-good revelation was the foundation supporting everything that came after. It was something He told me about Himself and I listened.

Every day of Creation God paused to pronounce that day's work to be good. The light was good, the fish good, animals good, man good. The tragedy of the Garden story is that the sin of man blinded us all to that goodness. Man looked at the goodness of the Garden but doubted the goodness of the Gardner. It was anti-truth then and it still is.

His goodness is as unfailing as His love. Sometimes only a child heart can see it, trusting it to be so in that unconscious way children have about such things. Doors wide open, the Almighty comes. No one has taken up arms against Him...yet. I would do that later and have to discover Him all over again. Christ at the heart of it.

The truth is that the defect was in there all along but as a pastor shared tonight in a Bible study, "foreknown is foreloved" and God had a plan for my knowing Him long before day one of Creation. He had a plan for me to know Him as He is, a God who is good. Who is as good as His word. Who remains good even when our lives are coming apart. Who sent us word of His steadfast love in the person of His Son, Jesus.

When my son was in Iraq and returned in one piece, I found myself telling people, as often as they themselves reminded me, "God is good." One day I was confronted with the realization that God would remain good even if John David had perished.

God was just as good when my son was sent back to war a second time because He does not change to conform to our circumstance. He is what He is and He is a God of Goodness and Truth who loves us unflinchingly. That is some good news and it is a realization that always takes me back to the first time His goodness marked my life.

There is a scripture that has become a daily prayer. It is a gift. It is my profession of faith in my Father's trustworthy goodness. I wrote it on a rock after I wrote it on my heart.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love for I have put my trust in you. Psalm 143:8 NIV

May that word come to your mind when the sun comes up tomorrow...or even if it doesn't.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I bought myself a birthday present. I always buy something for myself. This year it was a book called Nests. Bird nests fascinate me and are a favorite element in my drawings. To me they are a solid reminder of hope.

Once I watched a small bird laboring over many hours to construct a lovely nursery only to have the wind knock it from its branch and smash her hopes flat out on our driveway. She rebuilt that nest three times before it knew one egg.

Sometimes I have felt that I was that nest and The Lord that bird. So many different experiences and gifts woven together to produce a fruitful place, but the driveway...

The determination, perseverance and patience God seeded into that bird came from His own character. The do-over is done with as much engineering skill and pride as the original attempt. Something good will live here. Build it again and again and again. Nothing will be wasted. It will be wonderful.

My heart is a nest He builds on a Kingdom branch. Life is here. The number of years I have racked up are less about age and more a suggested cruising speed. God is thinking Kathy thoughts. I can feel them!

My life is full of His blessing and provision. He has been generous beyond measure and my heart is grateful. Thank you, Lord, for making me and for making me yours. Thank you for friends and family (I count John twice), co-workers, good bosses, health and hope and for your Holy Spirit. Your gifts are beyond my ability to number them.

Many, O LORD my God, are your wonderful works and your thoughts which are toward us...they are more than can be counted. Psalm 40

David said it all: I saw God before me for all time. Nothing can shake me; he's right by my side. I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic; I've pitched my tent in the land of hope... You've got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around. Acts Chapter 2

The available branches outnumber the driveways in our lives.
Keep building, God! Good things will live in us!

I have beheld many beautifully fashioned nests among members of my family, friends and co-workers. People who allowed themselves to be simply, some extravagantly, re- engineered in response to divorce, death, illness and disappointment. You leave me breathless and inspired. You know who you are. Beautiful. kl

How to paint a bird nest: