Can You See His Beauty?


Today is a little stormy in my town in Southwest Florida. Not really cold, but with gusty winds, grey clouds crawling across the sky, and temperatures in the mid-sixties, I’m reminded that we’re in the middle of winter. I know it’s snowing in other places, but here in our tropical paradise I forget. Looking at the sun streaming intermittently between the clouds today, it’s hard to believe it’s a frigid winter elsewhere, and we’re already half-way through the first month of 2021.

Thankfully, due to our warmer weather, there is a tree in the area behind our townhouse that spans the view of my patio and living room window. The elongated, dipping branches stretch out a handful of magenta blossoms as if it’s handing me gifts. A blanket of fallen blooms covers the ground beneath the tree. I watch as the wind scatters a shower of them to add to the carpet covering the grass.

Beauty.

In the midst of a dark world, beauty still reigns. I’m grateful this morning for the view. Grateful for the sporadic rays of sunshine and the blustery winds. Grateful that God is on his throne seeing everything, knowing all, and in control.

Time doesn’t exist within his realm. We live according to the clock, but he has already been here this day. Already seen the events still to play out. Nothing surprises him. So I can rest and revel in the beauty he offers us.

When I sit in this place of peace, listening for God’s whispers in the wind, I am transported into his kingdom. He placed man in a garden, after all, didn’t he? His desire was for us to walk and talk with him in the beauty of nature. And God doesn’t change. That’s still his desire today.

I know evil in the world rages. Our voices have been silenced by media, social sites, and masks. Lies are being called truth, and truth is repelled as a lie. Children are discarded through abortion and trafficking. Various religious groups persecute those who choose to follow Jesus in his way of love. Political tempers flare. Those who claim tolerance are intolerant of anything having to do with God. Even those who say they love God, show hate across various platforms. As the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:1-3,

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good…”

Sounds like our world.

But God still offers us beauty. Beauty for ashes, the Bible tells us.

God’s grace and mercy reach far past our sinful, prideful ways. His peace reaches out to us when we’re harried, hassled, fearful, and anxious. He longs for us with the love of a perfect father who wants our company, our input, our devotion, and our good. His call to us is to see him, know him, and love him in response to his immeasurable love for us.

He offers us so much. For so little.

Jesus paid such a great price so that we could belong and be with him forever.

Today, when a bit of beauty crosses your path—when the color of a flower, the majesty of a sunset, a blanket of newly fallen snow, the wave of the mighty ocean, or the towering of stately trees shows up—when the hand of God strokes his paintbrush across your landscape, will you take a moment?

Whisper a thank you. Consider the God in heaven who you may have overlooked, ignored, or forgotten? Recognize that in Jesus, you can live in a place of perfect peace in spite of the crazy ways of the current world. It only takes a moment to reach out in response to God reaching out to you. Quicker than typing out a text, we can say,

“Thank you for all you’ve made. Thank you for your love. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, Jesus. I’m sorry I’ve sinned against you. Please lead me into your kingdom today. I believe you. I trust you.”

Will you join me in beauty today?

If you say, “yes,” I’d love to know. Will you give me a thumbs up in the comments, or tell me your story? Or even just click like. I pray for my readers, and we all need prayer in these times, don’t we?

What About Forgiveness?


During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.

“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”

I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.

So many thoughts and questions.

We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.

What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.

Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.

But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.

We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.

We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?

But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?

I believe that black lives matter.

They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.

And I also believe that every life matters.

Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?

Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.

But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.

And what about forgiveness?

I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.

But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.

What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.

And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.

Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.

He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.

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photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

And his grace to forgive.

 

 

Am I Standing?


Stand.Josh Brinckerhoff - Culprit Media Group

Take your stand.

Stand your ground.

Stand firm.

And after you’ve done everything else, stand.

Hmm…I’m sensing a theme here.

I read these words in a letter Paul wrote to the people in Ephesus. It’s in the sixth chapter of Ephesians in the Bible.

Here’s my take:

Considering the number of times these words are used, it seems that through Paul, God is encouraging us to be strong and take a stand in every area of our life. And our strength to do so is to come from God and his mighty power (vs.10).

Good thing. Because I can be a wimp sometimes. Especially when circumstances seem to come at me in attack mode.

So what does this “take a stand” thing mean for me in my life today?

With my kids…

It says here that it is good for children to obey their parents so it will go well with the kids. Don’t we all want things to go well for our children? Then perhaps we need to stand firm in requiring obedience from them. Not to exasperate them with ridiculous expectations or harsh commands, but to train and instruct them with firm loving kindness. (vs.1-4)

With my boss…

Treat my employer (or other authority) with respect and sincerity of heart. When I’m tempted to gossip or bad mouth them, or a co-worker does, take a stand against that temptation to malign them. Remember that whatever work I do, my real boss is Jesus. I’m actually working for him not men. (vs. 5-8)

With my employees…

If I have people who work for me, I need to take a stand to treat them with kindness, fairness and not threaten them in any way. Bullying seems to have become common in the workplace as a way to extract results from employees, but we can make a difference by being considerate, generous and encouraging. (vs.9)

In my life in general…

Circumstances often batter me and my family. Daily or even hourly at times. Late night  homework, accidents, mishaps, arguments or spilling chocolate smoothies all over my kitchen. (True story all the way to the ceiling!)

But I believe God has more for us in life than constant distraction and putting out fires. (Or as the Bible calls them in Song of Songs, “the little foxes” that ruin the vineyards. You’ll have to read that one in chapter 2:15 to get the gist.)

In the final verses of Ephesians 6, Paul’s telling us that what we’re actually fighting against isn’t things or people, it’s spiritual forces of evil.

Say what? Like zombies or something?

Well, no, not exactly.

God’s enemy, Satan, has evil spirits that badger us and cause mayhem. Like the commercial only worse. (Maybe you thought it was God causing all the trouble flooding the world…?)

Paul is saying that we have “armor” we can put on every day—tools to fight in this battle. But they are spiritual tools for a spiritual battle. Truth, righteousness, peace, the Bible, faith and knowing we are saved by Jesus. Kind of like thinking “happy thoughts.” (Phil.4:8)

And prayer. For help. For others.

But the enemy is out to destroy anyone who even thinks of siding with God, so we have to be alert. Recognize it. Be ready. Stand firm. And keep standing. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Declare that we are taking a stand with God.

And because of God’s mighty power, which he grants us in Jesus’ name, we can command Satan and his army. Really! They actually cower in fear at the feet of Jesus whose name we call on (see Mark 4:33-37, Eph.1:19-20)

So today, I’m asking God to help me be alert, pray, encourage others and take a stand.

Where do you need to take a stand?

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