Do We Clearly See?

Sun sets on the Hawaiian Islands, and the crowds stand along the shoreline with their cameras aimed westward while frothy surf tickles bare feet. Hundreds of eyes—young and old, round and almond-shaped, brown and blue—glued to the grandeur of a huge orb of fire, slipping serenely into an aqua sea. The sky is ablaze in hues of pink, lavender, and orange.

20170926_180914

I want to shout, “To God be the glory!”

But I’m a silent observer. My heart heavy with the weight of a world who pauses to experience a breathtaking sunset while often ignoring, if not denying, the Creator who made this very moment possible.

The people see, but can they hear the heaven’s declaring God’s glory?

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

I’m not passing judgement on a band of international tourists on holiday. Who knows what eternal thoughts (if any) came into their minds as they witnessed the daily miracle unfolding. Most people don’t wear a T-shirt proclaiming their faith. But imagine the eyebrows I might have raised, if I’d kneeled in the cool sand and raised my hands towards the sky, praising God’s name. Would anyone have joined me? Whispered, “Amen!”

20170927_183609

I’m not a bold witness when I’m alone among strangers. And yet, I’m convicted. How can I not proclaim the gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes in Christ Jesus?

A Japanese couple takes a selfie with the sun peeking over their shoulders. When they gaze at the sun, are they privately worshipping Amaterasu—the sun goddess—who is a major deity in the Shinto religion? According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in Japanese mythology, the Emperors of Japan are considered to be direct descendants of Amaterasu.

Curious, I search the internet for “sun gods” and a long list of names from cultures around the world reveals mankind’s desire to define and worship the sun, or link the sun to a god or goddess. When the Apostle Paul wrote the Christians living in Rome, the culture worshipped the sun god, Apollo.

Does it matter what we call the god who created and controls the sun? Does it matter if there’s a god? 

According to Acts 17:23-31 . . . it matters very much.

That’s why Paul talked to the religious people of Athens about their statue to “an unknown god.” Paul stood in a crowd and assured them, they could know “the God who made the world—the Lord of heaven and earth.” He explained….

  • God does not live in temples built by hands.
  • God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything because he gives all men life and breath.
  • God desires that men would seek him and reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

I wonder if Paul and the crowds paused that day to watch the sun set on Athens?

60090_10151081892920913_1047858471_n

What were they thinking when the sun seemed to brush the earth with a goodnight kiss? Did they credit Apollo with another sunset, dismissing Paul’s words as foolishness? Or, were their eyes opened to clearly see their Creator’s invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature so they could believe and worship the One, True God.

Something to consider even in this . . . glorious God-ordained sunset that happens everyday!

 

 

 

 

Are You Working in Vain?

 

JWP_5827-2

“Be still and know that I am God.” I love Psalm 46:10, but being still isn’t in my DNA. I like being productive.

My organized photo albums and the needle point pictures on my wall happened because I couldn’t be still when I watched television.

Yesterday was no exception.

My twenty-year-old son called me from college. I loved hearing his adventures, but my body squirmed after fifteen minutes. With phone in hand, I strolled to the gravel pathway behind our house.

During the winter, weeds had sprouted between the pea-sized pebbles. I held the phone near my left ear and yanked a tall blade of grass with my right hand. I tackled another. Then another.

“Sounds great,” I told my son. Little did he know Mama was working like a field hand while he talked about his summer plans.

I should have taken my Flonase because the pollen made me sneeze. Thankfully, my son couldn’t see me wipe my runny nose on my sleeve. I also should have worn garden gloves. Red dirt caked beneath my chipped fingernails. Bloody scratch marks marred my hand.

Two hours later, we said goodbye. By then, my husband had arrived home and found me weeding the garden. He frowned when he saw me. “Where’s your gloves?”

I shrugged. “Doesn’t the pathway look great?”

“You didn’t need to pull those weeds,” he said. “I sprayed weed killer this morning.”

I wiggled my scarred hand and envisioned the toxic chemicals seeping into the pores of my skin. If I’d been still while my son talked to me, I could have avoided all that unnecessary work.

However, there’s a spiritual lesson even in this.

When I was my son’s age, I was afraid I’d lose my eternal salvation. I worked hard to be the perfect Christian. I didn’t understand Ephesians 2:8. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Jesus died for our sins and He said, “It is finished.”

Once we’ve call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, NOTHING can snatch us from His loving, nail-scarred hands.

Just think of the effort I could have been spared if I’d been still and known God, instead of striving to earn what I already possessed.

Are you working in vain?

Photo: JennyWredePhotography

Are you Spiritually Thirsty?

While I was visiting my folks in Texas, my grown daughter Jenny took this photograph of my mom’s kitten. He had a crippled leg and dragged himself up to the edge of the water bucket so he could drink.

The photo made me think of John 7:37,38 when Jesus stood and cried out saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”

Are you spiritually thirsty? There’s only One way to quench your thirst. So take the time this week to drink.

 

JWP_6779 copy

 

Photography: JennyWredePhotography

Do You Touch and Go?

I hadn’t seen the woman’s blog post in months. I clicked on her gravatar. Searched for her website. And discovered it had been deactivated. Did she get tired of blogging or did something happen?

Weeks later, she liked a post. I searched again and found her email address. “Miss your blogs,” I wrote. “Hope you’re well.”

The woman immediately responded, and we had a heart-to-heart talk via email. There was no need to break the ice. We’d been reading each other’s blogs…which had become windows into our lives and souls…for several years.

Social media doesn’t have to be a one-way street—people stalking one another.  Hitting like…or not.

It can be the means to celebrate people’s victories. Mourn their losses with them. Pray for them.

Not everyone is convinced. I have a friend who chooses one-on-one quality time rather than “touch and go relationships.” I understand. I love looking in someone’s eyes rather than a computer screen. Holding hands to pray.

IMG_4286

However, despite the cons, social media has enlarged my heart to an ever-growing circle of friends. I’ve …

Found long lost friends.
Corresponded more often than an annual Christmas card.
Developed new friendships online that I’ve met through mutual friends.
Kept in touch with students’ lives.
Seen the world through the eyes of people from other countries.
Been inspired by folks across the globe who also love Jesus.

Regardless of age, gender, or culture, they’re just like me. Learning how to navigate this maze called life.

Some days, their posts provide the only good news that I hear.

For we’re inundated with round the clock news which points out everything wrong with this world. Highlights evil. Warns us of disease and terror.

news-logo-277x300

What if we used social media to encourage one another instead of tongue lashing the world?

What if we used it as a means to understand one another and reach out instead of circling our wagons to protect our own interests?

I’m not suggesting rose-colored posts that pretend life is perfect. We need to be real. We want to know we’re not alone in the things we suffer or strive towards.

But thank God for the multitude of individual lights flickering in the digital world who write about….

Acts of kindness from strangers.
Folks making a positive difference.
Personal stories of redemption, healing, and grace.

The woman, who took a hiatus from blogging, used her words to encourage others and sing God’s praises. When her online presence was gone…I noticed.

Because even in the cyber world, people make a difference.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24).

Photograph: jennywredephotography.com

Why Pray if I Can’t Have My Way?

When I was raising my three children, I’d ask them what they wanted for Christmas. If it was within my power…and budget…their heart’s desire would show up beneath the Christmas tree.

Birthdays were no exception. Ask and it shall be given to you.

“Make a Wish” became the norm in our household even though giving/receiving gifts isn’t my love language. I prefer acts of service. However, what parent doesn’t enjoy playing fairy godmother where their children are concerned?

My grown children plead the fifth. They’ve often said, “Just because I say I like something, DOESN’T mean I want it.” Then again, they didn’t have to ask for anything because I was the one askingWhat do you want?

It was no different when I was a child. Our family didn’t have excess income, but I was pretty much guaranteed (within reason) to get what I wanted twice a year. Christmas and my birthday.

My parents delighted in giving gifts. My dad loved photography, but he gave me the 35 millimeter camera. However, this display of sacrificial love and giving was passed onto my children and probably explains why….

I’m surprised or upset when I pray and ask God for something and He doesn’t give me what I want.

I justify being disgruntled and blaming God when he says, “NO or NOT NOW!”

“The purpose of prayer is to get ahold of God, not of the answer.” (Oswald Chambers)

My Christian mentor, Loretta C. told me. “Prayer prepares our hearts so we can meet with God and receive His Word.”

I know from experience her words are true. Prayer effects my attitude. Softens my heart. God’s Word becomes more clear, more applicable to my current circumstances. There are hallowed moments when the Lord speaks directly to my heart.

Prayer

Yes, prayer prepares our hearts, but can we be honest?

I’m still tempted to skip prayer (or rush through it) when I’m staring at a busy day. Besides, reading the Bible seems more tangible to me than praying.

For instance, I can tell you what I’ve learned after I’ve read John 17. Whereas prayer can feel like a one-way conversation where I’m either whining about life or dictating a laundry list that God “needs to do” to meet my needs.

When in fact, the only thing we really need has already been given. Have you received it?

images-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”

John 3:16 shows up on football players’ foreheads and the bottom of fast food cups. When I worked with the homeless, they recited that verse because they felt it was the prerequisite to a hot meal.

Only to say, God knows our needs. He’s already given us the greatest Gift…His Son, Jesus…who offers us abundant life.

“Wait a second!” Some folks might say. “I received the gift of Jesus and I still have needs.

I need that job. I want a spouse. I need a baby. I want a bigger house. I need my adult child to be rid of depression.

I need…I want…

Isn’t that how we tend to pray? Like beggars desperate for crumbs.

And then wonder why we come away from prayer as though we’ve drank a flat soda. No fizzle, no joy, no aha moments.

That’s why, it’s imperative to get ahold of God in our prayers, and not the answers. To prepare our hearts. Get our focus off ourselves. And that begins with worship.

Sing. Praise God for Who He is. Thank Him. Meditate on His wonders.

When our prayer life is wanting more of God…instead of the means to get what we want…we will see a difference in ourselves and our day.

Because then, we’ll have what we truly need. The abiding presence of the Triune God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

20141213_200458

No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

When Do We Give In?

Lord, can you hear me? How much longer till you send help?

My previous blog described how I’ve been praying for—victory, direction, wisdom—anything to know God’s listening and will rescue the hurting people in my life.

I KNOW I’m powerless to fix people or remove their problems. However,  prayer can feel like a losing battle; a waste of breath.

How long should I pray before I raise the white flag?

whitteflag

Or do I heed Sir Winston Churchill’s challenge, “Never give in. Never, never, never!”

The Bible says, “Don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night. Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7)

After I prayed on Saturday morning, it felt like God kept “putting them off.” I remembered someone telling me “Perhaps God doesn’t answer our prayers because He’s busy with more important matters.”

That’s not Biblically correct, but a busy signal (beep, beep, beep) seemed more acceptable to my friend than silence on the other end.

Likewise, I felt exasperated with the lack of answered prayer which really means I didn’t see tangible progress or what I thought people needed. So I decided to have fun.

After all, their problems aren’t my problem, right? 

Only, how could I have fun knowing the enemy (Satan) wanted me to give up intercessory prayer?

Instead of attending a Mandarin Festival, I drove to a retreat center where I could stroll and pray beneath an outdoor cathedral of autumn leaves.

 

12271422_10153185825145913_76546265_o

Although I’m not Catholic, I appreciated the Stations of the Cross along the ivy-lined gravel path.

One statue in particular made me sigh.

12287364_10153185823845913_611246374_o

As Jesus stands there, shouldering a heavy cross, Mary looks up at her son with imploring eyes and clasped hands. I imagine Mary begging Jesus to save Himself. But his response is an outstretched hand (like a sweet benediction) to calm his grieving mother.

Why do I ever assume God is deaf to our pleas or immune to our pain? 

God became flesh and lived among us. He learned firsthand about human pain and anguish. Not only for himself, but the people He loved.

Jesus could have said, “Enough! This isn’t my problem.” 

But on that dark, smothering night when…

  • Jesus knew He’d be crucified.
  • He was in “such a great agony of spirit”
  • Everything in Him pleaded, “Father, Remove this Cup!” 

Even when it appeared to others like a losing battle, Jesus didn’t give in.

“He prayed more fervently.” (Luke 22:44)

More fervent prayer empowered Jesus to overcome temptation and carry out His Heavenly Father’s will rather than surrender to the prince of this world.

Even now, Christ Jesus doesn’t give in or give up on His people. “He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf. ” (Hebrews 7:25)

If Christ is our example, when do we give in and stop praying for others?

Never, never, never.