Bethel

“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.'” (Genesis 35:1) What an invitation! God beckons me personally. God bids me up from everything else. God points me to the place “where he revealed himself” and God blesses there, “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai] , be fruitful and multiply.”

Jacob's Ladder- Delft

The earlier Bethel was where, 20 years earlier, the LORD appeared on the ladder, the mediator between heaven and earth, where Jacob committed to follow, to trust. Since then, Jacob now describes, “God answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Bethel. House of God. God bids me come. I hear. I ‘put away foreign gods, purify myself, change my garments, arise, and go up’ to meet Him there.

Thank You, LORD, for making the way. Thank you for your voice and our meeting place. Thank You for daily pillars of remembrance and recommitment and the sweetness of knowing we have communed. Thank You for the call to go from Bethel and be fruitful, in the strength of my God Almighty.

Irrepressible Light

A thick grey flannel cloud hangs heavily where a fat moon rose last night, as though trying to suppress the red sun from rising. But as swarms of small black birds swoosh in ringlets and swirls, I see pink powder blushing that army blanket. You can’t hold back the light. It is strong, irrepressible, and changes everything.

Naples sunrise red, pink

Even fish are jumping in praise to their Creator, leaving circle songs reverberating in the wiggly water. Birds make a symphony, singing their various melodies, tweets, and chirps, and the now-broken clouds amble like sheep across the brightening east.

Dawn w clouds and light

“All creatures of our God and King,                                                                                                 Lift up your voice and with us sing,                                                                                        Allelujah! Allelujah!                                                                                                                        Thou burning sun with golden gleam,                                                                                         Thou silver moon with softer gleam,                                                                                                 O praise Him, O praise Him!                                                                                                  Allelujah, Allelujah! Allelujah!”                                                                 

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

O God, Light of light, rise in my heart, color my countenance, make my life distinctly different because of You.

 

Storms

After a day of teaching at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 4, “Let us go across to the other side.”They took Him in the boat, and He promptly fell asleep at the stern, though a great windstorm whipped waves that began to fill the boat. The panicked men awoke Him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” and Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea,“Peace, be still.” All was calm. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

 Turbulent Gulf

Jesus can lead us into storms, and even orchestrate them to develop our faith (Ps 107:25-32). Jesus knows the destination, and He uses the journey that we might arrive richer than when we depart (Hebrews 12:1-2). We will arrive safely; He is in control. When we fixate on the crash of circumstances and seeping flood of fear and ‘what ifs,’ we panic—but we can choose to gaze instead at Jesus, the One the winds and sea obey, asleep on the cushion, and have peace in the midst.

Cloud arms encircling, God holds the world 2

Where in my boat am I allowing the rising water of difficulty or concern over the unknown to distract my eyes from the One Who is near, and assures me of a safe arrival and good end? O Lord, may I rest with You, choosing Your peace in my turbulent heart.

My Crossroads, God’s Camp

“Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw him, he said, ‘This is God’s camp!’  Genesis 32

After 20 years near his Uncle Laban in Haran, Jacob followed God’s call to “return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” He was at a crossroads–on his way, but “greatly afraid and distressed”at the dread of meeting his estranged brother Esau. What did he do? He prayed, he practically planned and moved forward, and he wrestled with God at Peniel. He acknowledged God’s high place and authority, and claimed His promises.

Capetown world cities sign with miles

We claim His promises by trusting His character to fulfill His true word. We exercise faith when we proceed in obedience. And when we get alone and wrestle with God, seek His face, and tenaciously press on to know Him, we are changed, and blessed.

Do I acknowledge my crossroads, my places of transition and fear and obedience, as God’s camp?

O God, may Your character and Your promises compel me to pray with faith, obey with courage, and cling to You in humility and gratitude.

Extravagance and Remembrance

Matthew 26 paints two pictures of extravagant love. The first is by an unnamed woman at a gathering in Bethany who “came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at the table.” When the disciples complain about the waste, Jesus commends her: “She has done a beautiful thing to me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare for my burial. Truly, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” She had eyes only for Jesus, poured out for Him her treasure, and has been remembered ever since, not for her name, but for her extravagant love. Isn’t this the extravagance of the gospel itself?

The Last Supper, Delft 1760

Then Jesus, knowing His death is near, anticipating Judas’s betrayal, serves the Passover meal to his disciples. “‘Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (with Luke 22:19) Is there any more extravagant love that giving one’s life?

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Crucifixion, 18th century Delft

“See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;                         Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?                           Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;                         Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.”                                                       –Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

What treasure am I lavishing on Jesus, Who gave His all for me? O Lord, help me love others deeply, selflessly, and well, as You have loved me; and if I am remembered for anything, may it be for my extravagant love for Thee.

Faith’s Impetus

“For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

In Genesis 22:2-3, [God] said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’ So Abraham arose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God told him.”

Abraham had learned what it was to walk by faith. A ‘literal’ walk was a sojourn over road and rock, a long meandering journey by foot from one known place to the next unknown place, step by step listening, watching for God’s direction. In Genesis 12:1, God had called Abraham to “go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” He went.

Cornwall coast 2013

God knows the end, God knows the way; we must know God, that is enough. Hebrews 11:8 tells us “Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going, for he was looking forward to a city whose designer and builder is God, and considered…that God was able.”

Do I question the call? The task? The possible discomfort, unease, challenge, or even suffering? Or do I listen to the Caller, and embark, knowing He Who called is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and that is enough?

Lord on high, engage my mind and will to trust, and propel my feet to walk at Your bidding, fully believing that You are able. And that is sufficient.

God’s Right

The sky is clotted with grey this morning, with slits of white light showing through, evidence of a risen sun. It is true, even in cloudy times, the Light is there, evidence of God’s presence, although we cannot see Him or His ways clearly. It may be His measured grace that keeps us from seeing too much. His unseen hand is always at work to perform His bidding with care and perfection and lovingkindness.

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Matthew 20:15

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“I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working on his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good for the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me, ‘Can I not do with you as the potter has done? Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.'” Jeremiah 18:3-5

Pots at Austin succulents, Austin, TX

Help me trust Your guiding, shaping, orchestrating hand, O LORD. When I cannot see what You are doing or making, I believe You are good, and do good. (Psalm 119:68)