The Blaze of Old Age

For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.” “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green.” Job 14:7-9; Psalm 92:14

There is something captivating about the blazing sky at sunset, the contrast between what I feel, winding down as productive hours have passed, and the magnificent fiery display of the sun’s last breath of day. Although it will soon dip to disappear from my view, it burns on, swathing the west with breath-taking red glory, illuminating our senses to delight. My energy may wane, but the sun burns vivid, colorful.

Yesterday I read a beautiful obituary of a 94-year-old man of God, husband for 73 years, pioneer missionary to several countries in Africa for over 50. He blazed fully and long into his sunset, and innumerable lives were touched and transformed by the light he spread. Isn’t this God’s intent for His own? As age marches on, we can ‘come inside’ and choose to give in to lesser pursuits, to smaller worlds, to limited mobility, to confined activity, to selfish comforts, to sighing; or we can redeem the time we have and choose to keep blazing, spreading abroad the honors of Jesus’ name and love, investing in relationships, serving others, giving with abandon, pressing on. “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (Isaiah 46:4)

Our lives are fleeting; only God knows the number of our years, our days, and all He has appointed for us in that time. But He gives wisdom and grace to understand the times and for every hour, and has plans to accomplish in and through us as long as we are here. For every moment we have breath, we have purpose, and must do what we can to maintain our vigor and keep burning bright. Though flesh and heart may fail, God is our strength, our zeal, and our joy that cannot be contained. (Job 23:14; 27:3-6; Psalm 39:4; 73:26; Isaiah 33:6)

Father, as the day of life wears on and the sun descends, keep coloring my world with Your light, and blazing in holy beauty for others to see. May the divine glory of Your vast love, Your saving mercy and truth emanate from me all my days, all my hours, that my life proclaim Your might and salvation to the next generation, Your power to all those to come. When my strength is spent, power on in and through me. Please crown my years with Your bounty, to the praise of Your glorious name forever. (Psalm 71:9,18; 65:11)

As much As We Can Eat

When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: “Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.”‘ And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” Exodus 16:15-21

As much as they wanted and needed, perfectly measured and adequate. That is how God feeds. For forty years this would be how He supplied nourishment for His people as they wandered in the wilderness, morning by morning raining enough manna for them to eat for their strength that day, double on the day prior to their Sabbath rest.

Istanbul, sunrise above Bosphorus, looking to European side

This supernatural food is God’s reminder of what He offers us each new day– never too much, always sufficient. His food sustains, comes fresh every morning for the taking, as much as we can eat. I find that when the sun gets hot, my draw from Him melts, too, as I get distracted by the press of the day, scheduled activities and demands. The rising sun with its unveiling of the world lures my vision away from His glorious face. When I ‘go out,’ set aside time and attention to gather early what He gives, it is always tasty, satisfying, the needful sustenance for what only He knows my day will hold. I can savor His wisdom, an extra measure of grace or gratitude or love, the check of the Holy Spirit, a warning and impulse to fit my spiritual armor extra-tight, the prompting to pray for a specific person or matter. Why would I ever choose to avoid or neglect breakfast with my LORD and His word, my Bread of Life? (John 6:35; Philippians 4:19)

“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.”  ~William Williams (1745)

Jehovah Jireh, thank You for providing all I need. Keep me coming, choosing morning by morning to take and eat, never to head into the world starved of You. Fill me that I might be spent for You; may Your feeding be for Your glory. (2 Corinthians 12:15)

Thought of

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.” “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” Psalm 8:4; 139:17-18; 144:3

When the psalmist considers God’s greatness, His sustaining power and order over all things, he is humbled by His thoughtful care of him, His constant vigil over his life, His knowledge of all that concerns him, His abiding presence. Are we not also overwhelmed at His thought for us? That the God of the universe would care about and set His attention and affection on us? “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. I formed you; you are my servant; you will not be forgotten by me.” Thinking thus of God brings deep worship and thankfulness, humble abandon, rest and peace. (Isaiah 43:4; 44:21)

I awakened today, thinking of the woman with whom I would walk in a few hours. She was born and raised in another country, left her family to move here in love and marriage, and has lived in several cities as jobs changed. I thought of her adjusting to a foreign land, and to new homes and communities again and again. I prayed for her, holding her before God’s throne in care, compassion, the love of our friendship. Yesterday, a friend left me a message that she was thinking about me and a situation we had discussed; she was praying for me. What a blessing– to have a heart for others, and to be thought of! 

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Through the years, and in difficult times, I have been humbled, and palpably, inexplicably helped by the supernatural sense that I am being ‘carried’ not only by God but by others; there is real comfort and strength that comes from being held in the prayers of the saints, from knowing others have me on their hearts in loving concern and before God’s throne.

In my scurry of activity, planning, doing, of what and whom do I think? When I first awaken or arise, am I front and center– what I plan to accomplish, what I need or want, how I can fulfill my desires and expectations? Or do I train my mind to think first on my Savior, beholding Him in His glory and worth, and ask Him to place in my thoughts and heart those He would have me minister to, pray for, visit, encourage? Am I self-centered, or God- and others-centered? What motivations drive my choices, decisions, words and tone of voice, expenditures of time and money?

When Jesus died on the cross, it was with me in mind. God carved me in the palms of His hands; when I consider those pierced hands, I remember His thoughts and sacrifice for me. Will I, in gratitude, think on Him, and for His sake, others? (Isaiah 49:16)

Loving God, may I ever hold You, and others, in my heart. May I decrease, and You increase, in my thoughts and in my living. (Philippians 1:7; John 3:30)

 

Night of Watching

The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.” Exodus 12:40-42

There is something especially beautiful about this concept– a night of watching by the Lord. For Israel, after centuries of slavery, it was to be a night of escaping to freedom, something long-hoped for but still unimaginable. Their bonds were released, their blood-covered doors opened, they fled in droves with great spoil, driven out by a powerful but defeated Pharaoh who found himself helpless against the supernatural plagues from a God he refused to know. Israel’s God, Who in constant vigil was both their Captain and Read Guard, fixed His watchful eye on them for good and for His glory. (Isaiah 52:12; 58:8)

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This Lord of watching is present in our darkness, He does not sleep or slumber, but actively watches over His own. His all-knowing eye is on all that occurs, all that squirms and stirs within, all that lies ahead; and He is never flustered. He is Lord over the night, over the recesses of our souls where we hide pain and fear and sometimes sin. He rules the night, the times of waiting, longing, sleeplessness, physical pain, anxious dark hours. He Who knows the beginning and the end tends to those He loves and what concerns us. He is a care-giver watching His children, a Sentinel watching for the approaching but invisible-to-us enemy.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121

What fears, what sloth, what depression, are shrouding our vision, blurring our hope? Where are we languishing in effort, motivation, love, inspiration, compassion, energy? Our mighty God is here, in tune, alert, watching, and He will not leave, or cease. He knows our night and is our pillar of fire there. Look for Him! Rest in Him! Rejoice in the trustworthy One! (Exodus 13:21)

Lord, You Who watch over Your word to perform it, do so in me. Fill my mouth with songs in the night, where You watch, and reside. (Job 35:10; Psalm 77:6; Isaiah 30:29; Jeremiah 1:12)

Marking the Calendar

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you… Every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it… The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever…’ [Moses said], ‘And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the LORD‘s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” Exodus 12:1-3,7,13-14,25-27

The Lord’s instituting the Passover was His initiating of a new life for His people– after 430 years of slavery He would rescue them from Egyptian bondage forever. This great deliverance would not only mark their memories and be celebrated in the years to come, but be the very foundation on which their counting of time would be established. They could never forget what He had done.

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With what do I mark my days, my sense of time? In this life, it is easy to recall and commemorate small milestones– a move, a graduation, a new job. We make a big deal of birthdays, celebrating another year of life, growth, even God’s faithfulness. But how well do we memorialize and implement what He has done for us, what difference is it making on how we live forward? The blood of the sacrificed unblemished lamb was the Hebrews’ protection from certain death and their ticket to freedom, pointing to the deliverance from our deserved penalty for sin Jesus would win at Calvary, and this was to be “the beginning of months.” Am I fully living, since the beginning of my new life in Christ, all He has for me? Are my choices and days, expenditures and activities, indelibly impressed by the salvation He has granted, the purposes He intends? How carefully do I think through how He would have me plan and proceed? Can others identify my life as counted in and for Him? (Psalm 90:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Father, in remembrance of Your great love and mercy, cause me daily to hold fast to Your steps, keep Your way, treasure Your words, and complete all You appoint. May my calendar and years be measured by honor to, and praise of, Your holy name. (Job 23:11-14)

 

 

Wonder of Wonders

“You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” “You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.” “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” “You, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord!” “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” Psalm 40:5; 77:14; 78:4; 92:4-5; 104:23-24

As the dark sky faded to periwinkle, then paled to lavender-white, I marveled at the graceful silhouettes of a happy pair of birds, flitting through the air, delighting in the morning. Our Maker imagined and created these winged beauties to delight our imaginations, spark our dreams, and lift our souls and eyes to wonder at suspension in space, flight across the eternal backdrop of sky.

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And blue bottle jellyfish! As we climbed craggy rocks down to the coarse beach I marveled at the vibrant swath of purple-blue where the waves had been, enthralled to discover tiny detailed architecturally-magnificent creatures littering the shore. Each was a masterpiece, intricately striped with perfect helix-shaped translucent blue body, topped with a sail to keep them afloat in the ocean, the line of them a breath-taking beauty on a coastline that already thrilled the heart. O what wonder, how amazing, this Creator!

The wonder of His wonders is that He would choose to provide such delight for us, to manifest His measureless love in so rich a setting for our lives, to shout His glory in all He has made so that we might partake. His signature of love, of personal interest and care, of abounding grace, favor, protection, order, is written all over the world He has made.

He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.
He covers the face of the full moon and spreads over it his cloud.
He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness…
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!” Job 26:7-10,14

When we open our eyes and ears and schedules to take in His wonders, when we contemplate the “all” He has done that we can see and understand, we are dwarfed by His greatness, and lost in wonder, love, and praise. We behold Him, we are transfixed; His place in our lives increases, we become less; His beauty is magnified, He is exalted.

Lord on High, keep me in the place of wonder at Your works, and at the wonder of You.

Darkness: Overwhelmed, Overcome

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Exodus 10:21-23; John 1:4-5,14

Palpable darkness. After eight plagues of pests, sores, and destruction, this final one before death touched, paralyzed the whole person. Darkness does that– it creeps into our souls, depressing, deceiving, blinding, taking over so that we stumble to where we cannot move, resist, crawl out. We cannot even make sense of or understand our situation or surroundings. Only light sets free.

The plague of darkness in Egypt is a picture of how darkness overtakes our world, creeps into our impulses and thinking and conversations and habits until we do not even recognize it is there. It is all-encompassing, overwhelming. We wear masks, we say ‘fine thank you,’ we justify horrid sin because it is ‘harmless,’ virtual not ‘real.’ We placate ourselves by comparison with worse, we let down our guard by thinking ourselves strong, we allow the slow steady drip of darkness to course through our veins by hooking up naively with the culture. We deny the ugly and destructive tentacles of self-medication and self-deception that are choking us and our relationships, our perspective and health and ability to reason and cope.

Light in strom clouds, February

When Truth breaks in, when the living word, Jesus, enters and takes up residence in our lives, He supernaturally pierces and overcomes the darkness. He exposes truth, He lays bare all that we hoped to deny and keep hidden. He discloses every secret and purpose of our hearts to untangle and make right our impossible messes, to bring conviction and cleansing, to heal brokenness into wholeness. He floods us with hope and sets us free. Why would we not come to Him, the great Searchlight, this Lover of our souls Who is full of grace and truth? (Mark 4:22; John 1:17; 8:12,31-32; 14:6; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 14:24-25)

“O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee.” ~12th Latin hymn, translated by John Neale (1851)

LORD, thank You that in the land, and heart, of deep darkness, Your light has shined. May I daily walk in it. Expose all that is dark in me for what it is, overcome it with Your grace, bring beauty for ashes. So shine Your light through me that all will fall facedown, know You are present, and worship You as King. (Isaiah 2:5; 9:2; 61:3; 1 Corinthians 14:25; Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:7)