"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Noise


I feel it creeping it's way into my mind and my soul.  A cacophony.

Pushing in and crowding out, the noises of the Christmas season, circle and engulf.  Do you feel this way?

The "to-do" list is long and the activities are in full swing.  Advent noises...

And actually most of the Christmas noise is truly joyful.

They are noises I have chosen.  And, noises I invite...

...The extra reading times, playing times, fun times with my kids off school...
...Friends over and Christmas carols pulsating around my home.
...The wrapping of carefully chosen gifts.
...The making of ornaments for dear friends.
...The "baking day" my kids look forward to each year and opening our home to any who might come join us to decorate that special ginger bread man!
And, the plans to cook, to clean, to give this and give that---  sweet joys of Christmas, really, sweet noise.

But, piled up and stacked high these joys can feel heavy and overly loud.  Creeping, pressuring, pulsing noise can fill my soul.

I have been asking Father God to help me slow down each day enough to hear Him, to see Him, to worship Him.  And, as I sit... I find it hard.  I feel the noises running around my mind crowding out His voice.

So, I had a thought last night as I discussed this with my Father in Heaven.

I don't feel He is asking me to stop the activities of Christmas--- the joys of giving, serving, singing, playing --- the people and the parties.  I feel He is inviting me to stop the "extra" noises I can control and choose.  I can turn off any excess noise I don't really need this week.  I can "turn down" the knobs that I don't need this week.

And, so, I am choosing Advent Silence this week.  ---no media, no computer, and nothing extra to add to the beautiful noises of advent.  That means no television.  No movies.  No internet.  No blog.  No email.(only one daily uick scan of email to keep in contact with my widely spread overseas family!)

I am shutting down all and any extra noise.  And, I will go looking for quiet and silence.

When I wrap those presents,  I will do it in silence and quiet.
When I write the Christmas cards, I will do it with no extra noise around me (minus the beautiful noises of my children, the ringing phone and the wizzing of the washing machine).

I don't really need to watch "another" Christmas movie? Do I?  Or, read that blog right now?  Or, just check facebook one more time.  I can turn off those noises.

So, this will be my last post until after Christmas.  I am shutting down.  ...in search of a bit of silence to balance the beautiful noises of the Season.
"Silence means rest, rest of body and mind, in which we become available for God."  ~Henri Nouwen, "Training"
 "Silence is the discipline that helps us to go beyond the entertainment quality of our lives." ~Henri Nouwen, "Can you drink the cup"
"What finally matters is that our hearts become like quiet cells where God can dwell, wherever we go and whatever we do.  The more we train ourselves to spend time with God and God alone, the more we will discover that God is with us at all times and in all places.  Then we will be able to recognize God even in midst of a busy and active life."  ~Henri Nouwen, "Making All Things New"
May you find God's sweet voice and know His tender Presence in the midst of the lovely noises of the Advent Season.  May you have a Merry and Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Comfort for the Crooked

Each year we have a wonderful Christmas tradition:  we listen to Handel's Messiah.

Written in 1741, and taken from directly from Scripture, this piece of music is a masterpiece and profoundly moving.  This year one line seemed to jump out at me and sing itself deep into my soul.  One line repeated, and repeated-- filled my insides with hope and longing.   For days now it has been playing and replaying in my mind.  Would you take a minute to listen---this is only a small snip-it...


The crooked straight and the rough places plain.

Broken.  This world, our world,  is crooked and misshapen.  His People are dirty and messed up.  We are broken and twisted.   Sometimes we think very wrongly and we act very badly.  Our world.  You.

...and me.

God certainly knows this!

But, gentle words of comfort filled my soul this morning as I opened Scripture.  "Comfort!  Be comforted, my people", says God (Isaiah 40)  Tender, gentle words pour forth from the Living Word, "Speak to my people and tell her that her sins have been paid for!"  

Her sins have been paid for...  

"And every valley shall be raised up.  Every crooked place shall be made straight.  Every rough place shall be made smooth".

The crooked straight and the rough places plain.

Planned from the beginning, this babe---my sweet Jesus---was born into our crooked world.  He came on purpose, prophesied in Isaiah.  He took on our flesh and made His dwelling among us.  He walked our paths and felt our pain.

And, He will make all things new!  He is making all things new.  He is straightening our world.  He is straightening you.

He is making me straight.  Crooked-me is being straightened.  Low valley-Stephanie has been and is being raised up!  Rough-me is being smoothed.  ...by His hand.

In this I find deep comfort and hope--- just as He said I would in Isaiah 40.

Welcome to our world, Jesus!  Welcome to our broken and crooked world!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Grief

One of the difficulties of living and working overseas is that bad news comes in the form of black-typed letters on a computer screen.


The email.  That dreaded, infamous email.

...news of a terminal illness, or a cancer found.  In "the inbox" these emails slide in quietly and sit, hidden like a landmine under the earth, ...just one click and bam! bad news on the screen.

But, yesterday the news felt even heavier to my soul than a disease, or even the terminal illness.  I heard news of sin.  From two separate corners of the globe came news of sin.

Sin in the camp.

This was not news of bad choices being made by unbelievers or the unredeemed,... no.  This is sin--- heavy and dark sin---found and revealed inside the fold.  Habitual sin that lingers and destroys...

Does it matter what the sin is?  Scripture tells us to "put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature:  sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry".  He tell us to, "get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice".

The sins that destroy... anger, greed, lust, slander, impurity...

My heart sank at the news found in these emails.

Where do I go when I feel this way?  When I feel angry and frustrated with Your people, Lord?
My natural-Stephanie response to sin in myself  and in others is usually one of anger or frustration.  But, I need Your heart, Lord.

I lifted my hands and asked...  What is it that you feel, Father?  What say You?  
When You look on, when You draw near, how do You feel, Jesus?  What is Your heart on the matter, Spirit of God?  These questioning words flowed from my gut as I held my hands out and up to the Lord.

In that moment, that quiet moment in my bedroom, I felt deep, heart-wrenching sadness.  A wash of profound sadness flooded my soul.   Is this what You feel God Almighty? 


I can't presume to know God's feelings.  But, in that moment, did He share just a piece of His heart with me?  Waves of grief filled my soul at the thought of His children walking in sin---so unnecessarily bound and caught in the cycle of habitual sin.  It doesn't have to be this way.


Oh, Jesus!! my heart cried out as my eyes welled with tears.
Oh dear Jesus!  It is not as it should be.  Oh, my God, I am so sorry.  I grieve with you, you the Son of Man, the Man of sorrows---well acquainted with grief.  


Brothers, these things ought not be so!  He has freed us from sin by His blood and has made us a Kingdom of Priests, holy to Him!  
   
For days now I have been meditating on the anticipation and hope of advent.  Waiting with expectation, I have turned my heart up and out and I have worshiped.  I have tasted just a small bit of the joy and the hope that Simeon and Anna may have felt waiting for the consolation of Israel.

But, just like the first Christmas, there is still significant pain around the corner.  The thoughts of many hearts will be revealed and a sword will pierce you very own soul!  

For, the story does not end at the manger or the temple with Simeon's prophecy.   Nor does it end at the cross or tomb!  No, no...
This epic journey ends when Jesus comes the second time with King of Kings written on His thigh.  The end comes when all sadness is wiped away!  My Man of Sorrow will weep no more...

He will make all things new!  He will eat with His clean, white, pure Bride.  He will heal the nations and we will see His face.The story ends with the brilliant Second Advent!  I can wait patiently and hope in You alone, my God.  

Feeling the lingering sadness left by the coming news of sin... this is where I turn my heart and my face today!

And I say with John, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"  (Revelation 22)

Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stand Up and Lift Your hands...

We are told that she remained in the temple, worshiping Almighty God day and night.  He was her everything, her all in all---her husband, her family, her God.

Painting by Gwen Meharg
 Photo Source
This beautiful Anna, the prophetess of the Lord.  (Luke 2:36-38)


Day and night she worshiped, prayed and fasted.

While worshiping, with Simeon and others devoted to God, she watched for the redemption of Israel, the advent of God's Holy One. 

The waited together.

Keep awake.  Stay alert, Stephanie.  God speaks to me, over and over again, through His word this week. (Mark 13)

Be dressed and ready and keep your lamps burning.  (Luke 12:35)

Keep your eyes looking up and out!  His Spirit whispers into my heart.

...when these things happen stand up, lift up your hands, because your redemption is near! (Luke 21:25)

Lift your eyes! Stand up and lift your hands, Stephanie.

These words are a sweet, tender invitation to relationship and to worship.  My head can drop sometimes.  Do your eyes drop down sometimes?

My eyes can be downcast--- looking at me, my little world, my friends, my circumstances, or even that other load of laundry.  But, NO!, He says with excitement in His voice...  look up and out!  Your redemption is near!  Very near.  

Stand up and lift up your hands!  

I, too, can worship while I wait.  This thought makes my heart excited with anticipation.

I can wait and worship, just like old-Anna.

"when he began his tasks and his daily duties, he said to God, with trust, 'O my God since You are with me and I must now in obedience to Your commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I ask You to grant me the grace to continue in Your Presence;  receive all my works [as worship] and possess all my affections." ~Brother Lawrence



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How many days 'til...

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They count each and every day 'till Christmas.

My children love Christmas!!  They wake up waiting, counting, and anticipating the "arrival" of December 25th.

We are told of another person who was waiting for Christmas... counting the days, expecting, and hoping with excitement. 

Scripture tells us of Simeon, a devout and righteous man.  (Luke 2: 25)

He watched with anticipation.  He knew that he would see... and so he waited.

This man walked and talked with God.  He knew the Holy Spirit and His Presence.  He heard whispers and he felt nudges.  What must it have been for him to wait?  ...the Word tells us he was waiting for Israel's comfort and exhortation:  the consolation of Israel.   Isn't this the beauty of what Christ brought to earth--- both comfort and exhortation--- our consolation?

I imagine this is what Simeon woke up in the morning thinking about and what he walked around each day wondering upon.  He knew it would come--- of that he was very sure; but, when? ...When will it come, Almighty God?  When will You send the Messiah?   


Scripture tells us that Simeon was devout.  Devotion speaks to me of faithfulness and steadfast hope.  Waiting.  Watching.  Expecting.  (My children are devout in their Advent Calendar counting, too!!)

Scripture speaks of him being led by the Spirit to the temple that day.  What must it felt like to be led to the temple that day?  Can you just imagine him and his enthusiasm in making his way to the temple that morning?  Did he rush as he was getting dressed?  Did his feet move a bit faster on his walk to the temple that morning?

 How long had he waited?

And, then, when he saw Jesus!  What joy!  What relief!

...the one waited for...

...the anticipated one...

This is what advent is--  from the Latin word adventus, it means "the arrival, the approach".

We celebrate advent by waiting and anticipating "the arrival and approach of God", like Simeon.  We know He will come--- of that we are very sure!  But, when?  When will it come, Almighty God?  When will You send the Messiah?  

If we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently.  (Romans 8: 25)

We wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2)

This same Jesus will come back in the same way He has been taken into heaven.  (Acts 1)

This waiting... our advent waiting, is not only in anticipating the beauty and majesty of His Second Coming, but also in the day-to-day waiting of His today-coming.

"Every prayer-filled day sees a meeting with the God who comes; every night which we faithfully put at his disposal is full of his presence.  And his coming and his presence are not only a result of our waiting or a prize for our efforts; they are his decision, based on his love freely poured out.  His coming is bound to his promise, not our works or our virtue.  We have not earned the meeting with God because we have served him faithfully, or because we have heaped up such a pile of virtue as to shine before Heaven.  God is thrust onward by his love, not attracted by our beauty.  He comes in moment when we have done everything wrong, when we have done nothing...He comes."  ~Carlo Carretto

We wait for You, Lord Jesus!  I wait and watch for Your coming, your arrival, your approach... today.  Open my eyes to see You.  Make me Your today-Simeon.  


Come Thou Long-expected Jesus!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Will it run out?

Will it run out?  my heart wondered, in the quietness of the morning.

Today I came to my Heavenly Father with a burden of sin.  Conviction of my sin weighed heavy on my soul.
  
Will your mercy and your forgiveness have a limit?  Will it run out?  


I know the Biblical, Theological, head-truth answer to my heart's question:  Of course not!!  Never!

When it says His love as unfailing in Scripture, does it mean anything less than un-failing?  When it says eternal, can it mean less than eternal?  When it speaks of His faithfulness being as high or long as the heavens?  Or, His love being as deep as the oceans?

When the Word of God tells me that God's mercies are new every morning, could He possibly be out of fresh mercy for today?  Could it be that He might finally say, 'Nope, not this morning, I am afraid.

Of course not! ...No!  Never!

His love.

His grace.

His mercy.

Each unfailing.  All boundless, unconditional, faithful and steadfast.  Always enduring and eternal.  Always new and freshly offered.  This, this!, is the truth of the matter...

And yet my heart wondered this morning, When will your grace to me run out?  When will you be fed-up with my wandering heart?  When will it be the "last straw"?


In the very moment of wondering, my Father answered this morning with a in-my-face real life example.

Here, let me show you...  He whispered.

As I was praying and seeking and wondering, right then!, my son disobeyed me.  Again.  Same disobedience.  How many times have we talked about this?  How many times have I reprimanded him and corrected his behavior.  He was doing it again... I could hear him in the other room.  Again.

Does your love and grace run out for your son?  my kind Father whispered into my aching, sinful heart.
  
Are you done with him, your sweet boy?  Is this the last straw?  You done loving him, Stephanie?  
  
No, Lord!  May it never be!!  my heart welled up with deep truth and emotion...  Of course not!! Never!!  
  
And He reminds me of this beautiful, theological, Biblical truth ...right in my today-home.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask." (Matthew 7:11)
photo source

Oh! How He surprises me with His eternal, everlasting, ever reaching love!!  Oh how He loves us!!  Oh how gracious our gentle, kind and loving Father is!!  I am struck a new today...  Fresh grace.  Fresh mercy.  Fresh love. ....that will never run out.  
"I know not a word which can express the surprise and wonder our souls ought to feel at God's goodness to us. Our hearts playing the harlot; our lives far from perfect; our faith, almost blown out; our unbelief often prevailing; our pride lifting up its accursed head; our patience a poor sickly plant, almost nipped by one night's frost; our courage little better than cowardice; our love lukewarmness; are ardor but as ice -- oh, my dear brethren!... we should indeed be surprised that the sun of divine grace should continue so perpetually to shine upon us, and that the abundance of heaven's mercy should be revealed in us." - Charles Spurgeon

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Eyes to See

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Sometimes I just don't see very well.

My eyes work just fine, but my mind and heart occupy another world... and I don't see those around me.  Rushed.  Hurried.  Busy.  I can miss life around me.  Distracted.  Focused.  Task oriented--Or, me oriented?  My world.  Me and those I love.

The outerworld and others can pass me by at rapid speed and I just don't see.
Sometimes I just don't see.

Often, maybe, I don't see very well.

Yesterday we visited the massive city of London.  I had come to enjoy the brilliant lights of Christmas.  We had ventured to this big city to relish the Christmas markets- busy and full of sellers and German sausages.  And I did.  I saw them, savored the moments, and loved every bit!  What a joy!  

While walking down the busy streets of London, though, I stopped looking.  Hundreds and hundreds of people on the street walking, hurrying, as we skillfully avoided collision with each other.  With masterful movements we darted and weaved and bobbed... so as not to touch.  So very separate. And if we did happen to touch, we ignored the fact that we did.  We pretended it didn't happen.

I don't see or feel you, you don't see or feel me.  Fascinating, really, this dance of strangers.

  
At one point, my husband leaned in while we walked.  He asked for some change from my pocket.  He saw.  He was asking for a bit of help to give the man sitting on the side of the street.  In that moment, I realized.   I was not seeing.

I had missed him---this deeply sad man.  Entirely!  I hadn't even seen him there.  ...my feet only inches away and I didn't see.

We then headed to the underground subway and I just walked on.  Eyes forward, I moved carefully but with speed.  Very little thought really, I just walked forward.  Bustling and busy... the noises of this underground city were jarring to my senses.  I am not used to these crowds any more.

What used to be a normal, almost every day, way of transport has now become a bit overwhelming. The noises, the smells, the movement--- something that had been so normal before is now strange to me again.

The metro, the tube, the bus, the American mall, the Walmarts, whatever you call it, I shut down quite a bit in that context.  I guess I always have---even when I lived in LA, or Almaty, or Istanbul.  Always vigilantly aware of issues of safety and direction, yes; but, the rest of me dives deep within and takes a hide away---a internal retreat of sorts.

I am not the only one who shuts down.  We all seem to be awake and asleep at the same time.  Together and yet separate in the same dream.

Hundreds of people moved to get on these subways.  Hundreds.  We walked together, almost in one choreographed dance:  all moving together toward the same destination.  We entered together.  Then we moved together in this small machine underground... together.  And, yet very separate 

I don't look at you.  You don't look at me.  We are alone here--- just lots of us alone together.

And I begin to wonder.    I wonder, of course, as I carefully and surreptitiously steal a glance at the man sitting across from me. ...what are you thinking about, sir?

Certainly, I can't be so bold as to actually look at you in the face.  I have to pretend to not care.  ...not to see.

We all sit or stand and stare off into...  we are about our own business.  ...our own worlds.

What are we all looking at?  All in unity "not caring", not seeing and utterly unconcerned about each other.

But, strangely, I do care.  In one moment of time, one brief moment, I care.  I become aware of the fact that I am inhabiting the space together with other human souls.  Each one in this subway is loved by Almighty God and offered grace from his hand.  And I wonder.   I wonder what you, young man, might feel or think?  I wonder if you, old Asian woman, know you are loved?  You, beautiful tired African woman, what is your story?  

Strangers.  All strangers together and so very separate.

Not a big city problem, to be sure--- I do it in my small town, too.  Sometimes I just don't see very well.

Help me to see with Your eyes, Lord.  What do you see?  What do you know and hear?  Open my eyes and keep me aware and awake...  Give me eyes to see You and Your world.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcomed Wind

The wind here can be intense.  It feels fierce.  It wakes us at night, as it howls through our little town!  It is a beautiful, deep, surrounding and powerful sound...

And, it makes me think...

He is likened to the wind.

He blows where He wills. (John 3:8)

He hovers and overshadows and broods.  He dwells.  He abides.  (Genesis 1:2, Romans 8:11)

He fills and surrounds.  (Acts 2:4)

We see Him descend like a dove and also like fire. (Mathew 3:16)  He counsels.  He comforts. (John 14:16)

He teaches us and leads us into all Truth. (John 14:26)  He is the Truth.  (I John 5:6)

He helps us in our weakness.  (Romans 8:26)

He is our Lord.  (2 Cor. 3:16-18)   The Spirit of God.  This Holy Spirit, Jesus tells His disciples to wait for---to anticipate. (John 14)

He gives us wisdom and understanding.  (Colossians 1:9)

He gives joy (Luke 10:21, I Thessalonians 1:6)
  
He searches me.  He searches all things. (I Corinthians 2:10)
  
He convicts.  (John 16:8)
 
He leads and He forbids.  (Rom. 8:14)  He can be lied to and resisted.  (Acts 5:3, Acts 7:51)
 
He can be grieved.  (Ephesians 4:30)

He speaks.  (2 Sam. 23:2)

He speaks.  (Acts 11:12)

He speaks.  (I Tim. 4:1, Heb. 3:7-8, Rev. 22:17)


The sound of the wind makes me think of You, Holy Spirit of God!  Speak today, I ask!  


"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev. 2:7)




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Ugly Game

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We play the comparison game way too much.  Is it just ladies who do this?  I don't know.  But, it can be so harmful.  And, it is so random...like rolling dice.  Who can predict the winner?  

The ability to judge and compare is a significant gift from God.

God compares.  Scripture's stories and Truth are full of His judging, His statements of comparison.  He judges.  I believe this ability to see and compare is a beautiful piece of His image in us.

We use this God-like ability in our every day lives.  From when we are young, we learn to compare and judge the safety of one situation to another.  We make early judgments and decide from very early who we will "go-to", reaching out our hands...  "this one I know."  "This one I trust", a small toddler will make these judgments, won't he?  

The difference, of course, is that God Almighty always judges rightly.  His judgments are always couched in His love, His grace and His mercy.  He is holy, perfect and without sin. He sees clearly, righteously and He is always good.  I am not.

Isn't that crying baby, who won't come to me, making a wrong judgement about my being unsafe?

Now, I do believe that using God's Word allows us to make some pretty sure judgments.  Scripture does certainly name some things as clearly right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, godly and ungodly.    

But, that said, when I use this comparison with my sinful, inperfect, or twisted "lens" on---not the clear lens of Scripture--- well, then I have a problem, don't I ?!  

And, I do it all the time.  I don't think I am alone here.  I think we do it all the time.  

We make judgements.  We make comparisons.

And, then we play a game---the comparison game.  This is when we get into trouble.   Not only do we make a comparison--- but we then place a value on our comparison.  We call one thing right and one thing wrong.  One thing is better and one thing is worse.  There is a winner and a loser in our comparison game!

Sometimes I win.  And sometimes I lose.

He is smarter, I am not as smart.  He wins.  I lose.  She is prettier.  I am not as pretty.  She wins.  I lose.  She is fat.  I am not.  She loses. I win.  She is creative.  I am not as creative.  She wins.  I lose.  ...stupid, silly comparisons begin to plague our thinking about ourselves and our thinking about others.

He is better at this ...she is better at that...

Then we get into bigger, not so small--- deeply harmful, comparisons.  Relational comparisons--- seriously dangerous ground!  She has her quiet time at this time.  I don't.  She does this for God.  But, I do that.  He hears God in this way.  I don't.  She does.  I can do this.  She can't.  She can do this.  I can't.   I struggle with this.  She doesn't.  She struggles with this... I don't!  On and on it goes.  All the while we are making comparisons and judging our "place".  Winners and losers.   Do you ever play this game?  When does it ever stop?!

What a mess we have made of a sweet gift!

Instead of our God-created differences being something that we can see, judge rightly, and deeply value; it brings animosity, or insecurity.  Instead of unity, our comparisons bring disunity.   Instead of your strengths bringing hope and a compliment to my weakness... I feel badly or wrong.  Or, I feel better or self-righteous.

We just win or lose.  This game playing brings distance, a massive chasm, between you and me.

These judgments bring a block to trust, intimacy and vulnerability between him and her.   We see it in marriages.  We see it in sisters.  Brothers.  We see it in friendships and neighbors.

I have put you over there "in that category" and me over here "in this category".  You are better than me, so therefore you are not like me.  And, hence, I can not trust you or open up to you.  And, I certainly can't show you my weakness.   I feel far from you.  Judged by you.

It doesn't matter if I am winning or losing the game--- either way, pride or self-hatred, we are disconnected from each other.  With our pride or self-hatred we are not seeing ourselves as God sees us.

What freedom would come if we saw ourselves and others rightly--with our strengths and weakness in full view--- and valued God's creativity and His work in each of our lives.  He views us with grace.  Can I trust that He will, in me... and you...  ...make all things beautiful in His time.

Instead sometimes we are walking around like a nose detached from the face, bemoaning the fact that we are not an ear... or proud of the fact that we can smell better than him...  What a mess--- what an ugly game we play!

Wash us in Your Love Father!  Cover us with Your Grace and Mercy, Jesus.  Holy Spirit, bring wisdom and understanding.  Lead me into all Truth.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Open Handed Trust

An open hand communicates and implies trust.  Open hands suggest release, waiting, and anticipating.

It is the opposite of a clinched fist---a "stands with a fist" stance.

And, for me, it seems to often come back to trust.  Trust, again?  Time and time again, this seems to be the theme.  My theme.

Do you trust me now?  God Spirit sweetly whispers into my heart when I find myself in a tight spot.

Do you trust me with this?  or with that?  Do you trust me with him?  or with her?  He invites me to open my hands to Him, His love, His control, His goodness, His work.  He invites me to surrender.

He invites me to release those I love.  He invites me to love-deeply, yes, and to pray fervently, absolutely!  But, He wants me to lay them down and walk away.  He invites me to intercession which asks a Father for help and then ....trusts the fact that He indeed listened to my request.  He heard my heart.  He will do what is best.

To this place of rest, this childlike trust, is where He invites me again today.

My default mode, as I have shared many times, is to control or fix.  I want to make it right and manipulate. I want to be the author and the perfecter.  

There is a fight within me; a deep, seated fight that seems to speak old lies to my mind and heart... saying, 'if I do release or let-go, it won't get done or it will get out-of-control'.  Inside, I fear that if I release things, or situations or people then they will be left "unfixed!" and "imperfect".  As if...  As if!  it is my job to complete the work in them!  ...this "savior mentality" is not only ungodly, but very unhealthy and certainly unhelpful in building trust in my relationships.

Trust me, Stephanie.  Lay it down and trust me.  I am the Beginning and the End.  I own the cattle on one thousand hills.  I hand-placed the foundation of the earth.  I am the Author and the Perfecter of Your faith... of their faith.  Do you trust me now?  

This is the sweet invitation.  So, I release again today.  ...yes, again!

I say and confess, I open my hands, kind Father!  I let go.  I trust You Lord--- Maker of Heaven and Earth.  You own the seas and all that is in them.  You will make all things beautiful in Your time.  


It is amazing what freedom that is found in trust.  It is remarkable the beauty that can be found in simply opening your hand.





Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stands with a Fist

I just know that I am right.  I am right and you are wrong...

Sometimes when my husband and I have an argument, there is a deep feeling that rises within that says "I will not be put down!"

I am right.  You are wrong.  Period.  ...End of discussion.

And, I stand with a fist!

Last night, I felt this rising within.  I felt the tiger-Stephanie raring it's head and I stood in a defensive stance.  You are wrong!  ... Without the actual words, this is the sense... this is the feeling... that rose up in my heart toward my husband.  

In the midst of the argument (which wasn't going very well at all--- I might add), I had to excuse myself for a visit to the bathroom.  What a blessing this "nature's" interruption brought!

Being away from the argument for even a moment, brought an opening.  ...a tender call of the Spirit.

What was He saying? I am not even sure.  I was too angry to hear His voice!  But, He was calling, inviting, reminding...  

And, I bowed my head and answered with a cry for help, "Help us, Lord.  Help me, Lord".  

When I stand with my fist poised in defense or offense, I am never ready to hear.  But, Father God interrupted my stance and whispered His invitation for more---  I offer you peace and love.  I offer you long-suffering and patience.  I offer you mercy.  Grace.  

Ah!  There is the word.  Grace.  

Does Grace ever stand with fist?  

I knew in that moment that I was returning to the discussion with my hand down.  I knew I was ready to admit my hardness, my wrong.  I knew, most importantly, that I needed Jesus desperately in that moment.  I wasn't right!  Only He is good and just and righteous.  

This morning, I was listening to a song by Aaron Shust .   "I have learned to live to lose", he sings.    Living to lose.  What a concept!  

We come out of the womb primed and ready to win.  I toddled my way through the world knowing that I was right and that I deserved first dibs on that toy!  And, I am taught and I teach myself to win.  What might it mean to live a life ready to die.  To live every disagreement ready to bow my head and lose.  

To live to lose...  is this real, genuine humility?  It rings bells of "turning the other cheek" and "I count all as rubbish that I might gain Christ and ...be like Him in His death".    

False or feigned humility, false submission, "being a doormat" and victimization are not what Christ is offering here; because, certainly, I can submit on the outside and pridefully, forcefully, deeply, stand-up-on-the-inside at the very same time!  I can stand with a fist and you don't even know it!  

I believe He is offering me a life of grace.  I believe He is offering me a life of love and peace...  He is offering me a trust in Him that allows me to put my fist down.  

I don't know.  But, what I do "get" today... is that I am most definitely not always right!

Shocking, I know. (smile)

Monday, November 21, 2011

She Came Today

She came down this morning...

Oh! the joy it brought my mother's heart!

Each person has unique ways, ...and places, ...and times, in which they meet with God.  For my husband, his best time is in the evenings or on a walk in the fields.  For me it is early in the morning in my quiet spot.  ...

Each morning, I rise early and make my way down to my small, quiet spot... a place where I long to meet with God each day.  I have invited each of my children to come to me when they wake-up for a quick kiss, a tight snuggle and a moment together.  For years and years now, they have both come down to sit on my lap for a minute or two.  This has been a deep joy to me each day!

For months now, my daughter has stopped coming regularly to sit with me.

She is getting older.  ...sleeping later.  And, often, when I have said to her, "Good morning, sweet girl, I didn't see you this morning?"  She has replied to my comment, "Oh yeah!, I  forgot".  She tells me that she woke with other plans...  a shower, a book she wanted to finish reading, email to check...

She knows that this is okay.  It really is.  She isn't reprimanded or punished, of course.  It isn't a command, or a "must" in our home.  It is only an invitation.  I invite her to come.  I will be there each day and she can come and sit with me for a moment.

And, certainly, it doesn't affect my love for her.  It really doesn't.  I do miss her morning messy hair, and my heart still stirs when I hear her getting out of her top bunk.  I long for her to come.  But, my love for her isn't altered in any way if she doesn't come.  Without her coming, though, we miss the snuggle... I miss the snuggle.  

A few months ago, when I  noticed that she wasn't coming down anymore, I began to realize that I needed to go to her.  I needed to go out of my way during the day to get that hug... that physical touch she was missing in the morning.  So, I have made it a goal to purposefully hug her at another time in our day.

But this morning!!  ...

This morning she came!  Hair messed, warmed in her comfy pjs, wearing that 'just-woke-up' look in her eyes... she came.  And she curled up (not easy anymore... she is getting older!) on my lap for just a moment.

Oh! What joy this brought to my mother's heart.

I will wait for her every morning with anticipation!

Is this what my Father might feel when I come down to that quiet spot and sit, hair messed, eyes blurred, coffee in hand...

If I don't come, He still loves me.  His love is never altered by my not coming...  In fact, He still will reach out, run after me and hug me throughout my day!

But, when I do come...  what must He feel?  Does it bring Him joy when I enter into His love and rest?  Does it bring my Father in Heaven deep joy when I accept His invitation to sit for a while and snuggle in?

Do the words "She came today!" well up within Him as they did inside me this morning?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paint Me Pink

Walking out my front door, the dark grey clouds spit small rain drops on my face.
  
Here we go, Lord, my heart prayed... another walk together in the rain!  
  
Briskly crossing muddy fields, the grey clouds shifted and lit up in the morning's dawn.   Still grey... but not so very dark any more!  To my left, the sun rose slowly, deep reds and orange sang out, announcing his waking.  Beauty... just simple colored beauty... opened my heart to the Lord this morning.
  
In an instant the color spread and the grey, spitting clouds were painted a light, bright pink.  Awe filled my mind, as I watched in wonder the beautiful pink that covers the grey.  In my heart swelled the words,
Look at what the sun can do!


   
And a prayer issued forth from my heart, Lord, paint me pink today!
  
Paint me pink!  This grey Stephanie... paint her pink with the splash of Your color, Your Light, Your beauty!  
  
As I prayed, I was reminded of words found in Scripture this morning, tucked away in I Corinthians 15:
  
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect".  His grace has it's grand effect! ...paint me pink, Lord
  
I am what I am by His grace alone!  His grace to me, every day, paints me pink.  His love over me, His light, His righteousness paints me beautiful.  Grey Stephanie, deserving nothing in her own right, was plucked out of the rubbish heap of sin and made beautiful, colored pink with His light and His righteousness.
  
And, as I walked on,  I prayed words we have been working to memorize in home school this last week:  "Father, may I grow in the knowledge of You with all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.  May I live a life worthy of You and please You in every way!"
  
I want to please You in every way!  May I live in the Truth that I am loved, chosen, found, and splattered pink... today!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cold Heart Warmed

I woke up this morning feeling cold.  Not physically cold, but emotionally and spiritually cold.

I put on my slippers and poured my coffee... hoping one of those would warm me.  They didn't.  

I sat in my quiet, small place---my chair--- and covered my lap with the blanket.  Would that warm my heart?  It didn't.  And, I read God's word.  My heart cold.  Blah.  

Lord, where are you today?  Where am I... was probably a better question.  

Cold and dark... like the morning, I woke up and couldn't be stirred to warmth.  

In those moments, I must rely on what I know to be True.  In these cold moments there is very little heart.

I know Father God invites me, commands me, to love Him with all that I am; my mind, my heart and my soul.  But, in the cold moments I must love Him with my head... and wait.  

Believe and wait on the Lord, Stephanie.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  

Rising from my chair, I methodically put on my walking boots, slung on my warm heavy coat, and placed the hat on my head.  Worship music in my right ear and my dog's leash in my left had, I walked into the chill of the morning air.  

Song after worship song spoke truth into my mind... and no heart response.  ...just words in my ear.  

Beauty all around me, sun rising... pink clouds, green trees with beautiful dying orange-leaved friends next door...  and yet, no heart response 

I believe Lord, help me with my unbelief!   Tears now began to well up, to brim, and form in my eyes... frustration with my cold heart.  

Keep walking on, keep looking up.  Keep waiting...  He will draw near.

Finishing my walk, on the homestretch, I heard the words to a familiar song.  Was it song #5 or #6 this morning?... I don't know, the songs had just played into my ear.  Cold words.  But in an instant something changed.  These words spoke near.  Nearness.  He spoke something deep into my heart.    

"Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning..." 

I was watching this sun rise, His sun rise...  and with these words, my heart was stirred.   ...there was movement in my soul.    In that moment, I knew--- more than in my head--- that my Redeemer is Alive!

The Truth I had been trusting with my mind was the same; firm and unchanging... Nothing had changed about Who God was, Where He was, or what is True about Him!!  But, the coldness, in that instant melted with a moment of worship!
In the cold of the morning, I was warmed.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tired Questions

It is hard when I get tired.

When I am tired, I am just not my best.  Who is?  I suppose this is true about anyone..

As tiredness creeps up, it feels like the temptations of old strategies, coping patterns and sin tendencies are crouching at the door of my heart... a tiger ready to pounce.  And, I just want to sleep and let 'em pounce away!

I have written of these tired temptations before...  I feel them again tonight.

All my life I have been learning how to cope with tiredness.  We all have, I guess.  You, too.

For so many years, so many pattern-making years, I have run to a variety of things to find my rest.   Some of these patterns have been nearly harmless. Many of these places and patterns have been destructive.  Or, in the least, these strategies have not been helpful or uplifting.

I have run many places... In recent years I have learned to run to God.  But, for so much time, Father's love has just been one place among the many.  ...and not usually the first-chosen place, to be sure.

I guess the questions I am asking tonight is...  why have I come here again?  What could I have done different to avoid such tiredness?

This tiredness I feel in my body tonight, this physical exhaustion... is this a must?  Did I have to get here?  I know there are choices I have made today.  There are choices I made yesterday, in fact, that have affected today!  There are choices I continue to make that push my body, my emotions and my mind beyond my God-given capacity.

Physical tiredness is an inevitable reality of this tentliving-life we live on earth, I know.  Jesus, my Savior-Brother, fell down tired after a long journey into Samaria (John 4).   He certainly knew exhaustion.  ...and was revived by "food" the disciples knew nothing about.

This is the food I need, Jesus!
   
Another questions I feel welling up is... and now what?  Where do I go from here?  When I am tired, where will I run?  That tiger that sits in the dark corner, those temptations, will I turn to them and invite them to pounce?  Or will I claim the freedom I have in Christ to say "no!" to them.

I can tell that crouching tiger--- my sin, my coping strategies--- to "sit" and "stay" in Jesus name, just like I can tell my dog to sit and stay.  (A big difference being that the sin-beast must submit to the Name of Jesus... and my dog doesn't always obey! smile).

Why am I here again?  What can I do next time to avoid this exhaustion?

What will I do now?  Where will I go to get the deep, soul-quenching, body renewing rest that I actually need?

...just lay down, Stephanie, and trust ---and rest in Him.  
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone!  (Psalm 62:5)

But, indeed, it is hard when I get tired.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God's Big Work

My Big God works in small, unseen places.  Quiet corners, dusty rooms, and dark valleys... He shows up.

We often attribute, expect, or imagine, God to show up in "big" ways.  But, instead, He whispers and He nudges.  He prods and He caresses with the tenderness of a mother.  This big God shows up in small ways...

What is the real definition of "big" anyway?

When people who love God tell me they don't hear the Spirit's voice regularly, I just assume... I am quite certain, actually... that they simply need to change their definition of His voice.  Often, we think it should look this way...  the thunder, the lightening, the earthquake and the wind; but, instead, He whispers.  Or, when we do "hear" Him, we call it something else, or don't understand what we are hearing (Act 22:9).  We call His whispers, His nudges something else ... "the sermon", the friend's "words", or the "worship song", or the book I am reading, or my child's probing questions.  Could these, too, be Him nudging, His voice?  Could this be His tender voice hidden in small places, those quiet corners?

My life is small.  ...very small, actually.  I am an ordinary person, with every-day struggles.   But, He shows up every day in small places-- my small places.

He whispers His love into dark, dusty corners.  He did this in me.  He keeps doing this in me.  He entered in and now He keeps expanding me.  He is making me big.  He enlarges my soul and my mind.  He equips me to be something way-beyond, exceedingly beyond, ordinary!  He makes me His girl, His daughter!  In Him, I have become a daughter of the King of Heaven.

Every day He sees me and adores me and speaks to me in this quiet little town, while I sit in my small armchair, thinking my random, tiny thoughts...

...one of my small places...
He sees you, too.  In your small place...

When I intercede for big places, ...Afghanistan, India, China, or America...  I like to imagine my Father at work in those small places.  ...I like to imagine His Spirit whispering kindly into those tiny, ordinary, unseen people.  I like to ask Him to show up in that widow's dirty, cluttered living room.  Or, that tavern.  Or, that sweat shop--- in that hard working man, or ill-treated child.  Or, that dusty, small corner apartment bedroom, work cubical or classroom.  I believe He is whispering under that black veil, into the heart of that small woman drinking tea.

I believe He sees.  He is the God who sees these people. (Genesis 16:13) And, this is where my God does His biggest work...

...unseen places.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Order My Day

Lord, please order my day. 

This prayer I have been praying on and off for many years.  I am not sure where I first read it, or heard it... but it has become a regular, genuine prayer many a days.

There are days when the task list seems overwhelming.  The needs are great.  And, a tornado has obviously descended on my house...  laundry piles, dirty dishes stacked high, schooling to correct or to plan, phone calls to make, emails to write, ...the list is endless.  Where do I even start?

Lord, please order my day.  


This is where I started.  I decided to start by asking for His heart for my day.

Let me be clear, this doesn't come naturally to me.  It really doesn't.  Prayer is not my default; nor, is it where I go simply because I am a Christian.  No, actually, more naturally I worry.  Or, I make a list.  Or, I plan and work hard.  I work...  And worry and get frustrated.  And, maybe even a bit angry, annoyed that I had to do all this!  That is more "Stephanie" in-the-raw.

But, He is gentle and continues to teach.  To teach and to invite...  He invites me to so much more.

A friend of mine told me of a concept she learned in counseling once.  She said that patterns in life are learned over time.  We go to them in a familiar fashion.  Like reaching to the top drawer to find that every-day pair of socks, we reach for these patterns--- these reactions.  She was taught that in order to re-learn a new pattern (or unlearn an old, not-wanted pattern), you have to choose not to go to the top drawer.  But, to find "another" drawer (in your mind, your heart, your soul).  ...we have some choices in which "drawer" we will reach for...

My "I am overwhelmed" drawer is the top drawer for me.  In this top drawer are all sorts of "socks" like list-making and planning, worrying and frustration.  But, I have a choice, I can open another drawer first.  I can go to the "trust God and rest in Him" drawer.   Socks are necessary, yes.  Planning is certainly not a sin!  But, where do I reach first... that is the question.

Every day I can choose.  I have another option.  ...another drawer.

Lord, please, You order my day.  What first?  You and Me... Your strength, Your plan, not mine.  


This is the drawer I chose to open.  The "I can trust my loving Father" drawer is an option!  In this drawer I find strength, peace and a firm foundation.  I also find surprises!  Things I didn't schedule or plan, or ask for... they show up in my day.  Gifts from Him come flowing into my life.  Gifts that might have the "look" of distraction or sabotage when I haven't asked; when I haven't turned my heart toward Him.  He brings these things to me when I ask Him to order my day.

What if I choose to pray all day, every day!  What if praying and abiding in Christ was my full-time job, my "task"... my primary work.  And, I did dishes while praying.  Not the other way around.  I didn't pray while I did dishes.  I did the dishes while I prayed.  And, I did laundry while I prayed.  And, I answered the phone while I prayed.  Prayer and abiding....  first.

Tornado house, laundry piles, school work to correct, emails to write---  I got a ton done!  I really did.  Can I write that and not sound self-promoting or "health-wealth" gospel-ish, or exaggeratory??  I got a ton done!!  ...I actually had time left over and very little stress today.  Time for a stop by friend who needed an hour of prayer together.  I had space for even this!  It was miraculous.  It was Him---from beginning to end.

I have so much to learn about abiding.  Teach me, Jesus!  And, please order my day.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hard Topics

photo source
Life's hard questions...

Over their morning's cup of cold milk and my hot coffee, we have had some hard conversations lately.

Difficult topics and tender subjects: ...fornication, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and human trafficking.  My children are growing up and ready to talk.  They are hearing things... new things, hard things... and they desperately want to understand.   

How does a parent tackle these topics with a 9 year old and a 12 year old?  Both curious.  Both asking.  ...not an easy answer.

Over our oatmeal, or taco soup, or lunch sandwich, my kids have asked some difficult questions.  With mouths full of food and lively debate and discussion, we have talked.  Though I would tend toward careful words, and even avoidance tactics, my husband believes whole-heartily in straight forward, honest, open communication.  We have always told our children "how it really is".  And, so far, this path hasn't led us astray.  It works for us.

So we talk.  We let them ask and we explain, the best we can.  Uncomfortable and squirming on the inside, I listen as my husband talks about prostitution, fornication, and explains STDs and the reality of AIDS this morning.

Today, in the car, the questions still come.  Why?  Mom, why?  Why would someone, knowing full well that smoking kills (it is written in bold black letters on the boxes here), why would they still smoke?  Why would they drink, get sick, have a hang-over, and then go out the next night to drink again?  Why, mom?  It makes no sense!!  

Animated and lively, passion in her eyes, my sweet daughter is almost yelling these words, "It makes no logical sense?!"  

I have to agree... almost with a chuckle...  "Yes", I say, "if I knew that the kebab shop on the corner made me puke every time (or just ONE time) I ate there, I would avoid it like the plague!"  The half-humor helps bring a bit of a calming to the confusion, the frustration, and the passion of her question.

Why.  Why do they do it?  my sweet girl...

I don't know.  I really don't know.  ...each person is so unique.  The answers are complex, aren't they?  Why do I do the things I don't want to do?  (Romans 7)

We talk about cisterns and broken pumps and pipes.  We talk about the longings in our hearts for Father God.  And, we talk about all that Jesus offers us:  peace that surpasses understanding.  We talk about the always-available gifts of God's Spirit: joy, love, self control...

And, I try to explain.  I try to help them see that those that drink, party, and sleep around are looking for God!  They are looking to fill that empty place.  They are desperate to have some peace.  And, this cigarette and that drink... they bring some relief.  These "tools" do bring some modicum of peace and rest; a small taste of relief.

I remind my boy of his question yesterday, "Mom, do you ever just feel sad... for no reason?"  Yes, my boy sweet boy, I do.  
   
"Do you?" I had asked him.  "Yes, sometimes."  "What do you do when you feel sad?" 
I remind him of this conversation.

Why?  Why do they do these things, my son?  I don't know.  This is what they do when they feel sad, I guess.

What do I do when I feel sad?  You?

 ...maybe they feel sad, angry, disappointed, confused, worried, lost, frustrated and in pain.  And, they need it to stop!  They are desperate to have some relief.  When they were little, their mom's gave them a cookie when they fell down and scraped their knee; now they need to go to food, to drink, to a cigarette, or a lover... to make it feel better.  ...at least for a moment.  I don't know.

What they really need is a hug.  ...a strong, long, lingering, tender love-hug from Father God.
What they really need is peace... guarding, surrounding, overwhelming and sweet peace from Jesus.
What they really need is joy...  deep, lasting, filling, unshakable joy from the Spirit.

Hard, hard topics to talk about.  ...hard life lessons to discuss over a bowel of cereal, don't you think?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Born Thirsty

  
I was born thirsty.

Hungry and thirsty, I came out of my mother's womb. Needy, I was born into this world.

My need for physical food was only the beginning; just a picture of my real heart need. I needed a place to lay my head. I needed rest. I needed love.

I need love. I need belonging and connection. I need a solid place to stand and a firm foundation under my feet. I need to know the truth about my world, about myself, and about God. I need.

I was born thirsty. And, I still thirst. Every day, I thirst and I get hungry.

In Jeremiah, God explains to His people exactly where they have gone wrong... Where, in all their bad choices and lack of trust, did they make the first wrong turn. He tells them that at the core, the root of all their sins is twofold:
"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13)

Two root sins I can commit when I feel thirst. ...to forsake my God, the source of Life-giving, fresh water.

...and I build my own pump, my own pipes, my own barrel for holding dirty, stagnant water. And, I build them badly, at that! They are broken and leaky ...mold, dirt and worms get in this water I hold.

I have shared numerous times here what my broken cisterns are: food, entertainment, control, vain thoughts, organizing and planning... to name just a few..
      
What do your barrels and old, rusty pipes look like?

When I am thirsty... and I will always be thirsty here on this dry earth! ...So, when I am thirsty, I have a choice. I must drink. I need to drink. The questions is from where will I drink? I can run to the fresh water from God! I can eat and drink of Him (John 4).

Or, I can run to my broken pipes and barrels... and drink.

I drank from my rusty pipes yesterday. I took a long, deep drink. In the moment, it almost felt like I had to, like I didn't have a choice... instinct, really, drove me to those pipes. But this is a lie... not the Truth. I always have a choice. He offers me living water--always fresh, always satisfying, always available.

Like a poison, it turned my stomach almost instantly. And, it certainly did not quench my thirst. I tasted the mold and the dirt. It left me hungry and thirsty again.

For, I was born thirsty. Thirsty for God, alone.

"No man can quench his thirst with sand, or with water from the Dead Sea..." ~Horatius Bonar

Friday, November 4, 2011

Trials Become a Rainbow

  © Bob Jenkins and licensed for reuse: Creative Commons Licence

You must have rain and sunshine to have a rainbow.  

I don't think it will ever get old... the rainbow sightings in this beautiful land where I live.  

...The blessings of having both rain and sunshine.  This is the beauty of rain and the Sun living side-by-side.  

As a former California girl, I do like the sunshine, I must say...  But, in all my years of living in California, I don't think I ever saw even one rainbow.  

I have seen multiple rainbows here.   Often, really.  Today, again, sitting in the slicing cold wind and being pelted by the rough rain... there it was!  Where did it begin, where did it end?  Just brilliant and beautiful!  A rainbow.  

Each time, remarkable!  Magnificent.  Surprising and exciting.  

But, I endured the rain today in order to enjoy the rainbow.  

Life is like that, isn't it?  He promises to make all things beautiful, doesn't He?  In His time, He says all things will work together for the good of those who love Him!   

In order for His beauty to shine through me, I need a little "rain" in my life.   He reflects His light off my rain!  He uses it.  He uses the rain:  that suffering, this trial and that pain.  He uses the rain to reflect His glory.  He shines forth His colors.  The rain is like a mirror, reflecting and showing forth the Light.  And then,living in Him, I am beautiful.  

...like a rainbow.  

You have to have gray clouds as well as blue skies.  Without the sun, you have no rainbow---this is true!  But, with the sun... and the rain... you have brilliance.  With His glory, You have beauty.  "to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7)  

"Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death" ...a rainstorm.  "But, this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God" ... the sun.  "God, who raises the dead!" ...the rainbow! (2 Corinthians 1:9)    

Indeed, you must have rain and sunshine to have a rainbow!  
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