Posted in Christian Living, Faith

He’s Everywhere

20120901-100813.jpg You can learn more about God anywhere you are, even if where you are is a tiny, but fun, zoo in a place like Abilene, TX.

At the Abilene Zoo, you can purchase specially-made crackers that you can feed to some of the animals, including the giraffes. But how do you get access to a giraffe to feed it a cracker? Luckily, the zoo has a wonderful bridge that arches over the giraffe enclosure to allow you easy access to the giraffe at his own level:

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So, how does a chance to feel a giraffe’s tongue on your cracker-filled, outstretched hand teach you something about God? For one, without the bridge that brings you on eye-level with the giraffes, what chance would you really have to pat the silky nose of such a tall, tall animal?

Like the bridge, Christ serves as our source to reach out to the Almighty Creator. As our Intercessor, Christ offers us the bridge to reach out to God. Even though God is so mighty, so beyond our ability to fully understand, because Christ lived as a human, died for our sins, and rose again incarnate, we get to walk with Him beyond the curtain into the innermost sanctum to worship.

Those who, through prayer or through the deep breath of clean air on a perfect day, feel the presence of God, stroke His silky nuzzle (so to speak), know the value of the Bridge that gets us there.

Who knew a trip to the zoo could be so illuminating . . . besides God, that is?

Posted in Christianity, Faith

Illuminations

I was privileged to see some actual illuminated prayer book pages from the 1450s in person recently, the only thing between me and the fragile texts a thin pane of glass. I have seen pictures of these types of things in history books and on television, of course. I’ve read about the meticulous care that went into their production, about the years of toil a scribe put into producing page after painstakingly-created page of the Holy Word, working on fine details only by daylight or dim candlelight.

But nothing prepares you for seeing these pages in person. The details are so fine, the colors so vibrant, even after hundreds of years, that you know you are viewing the work of a true artist. Besides the steady, consistent typeface that some unknown scribe was able to achieve, using a quill trimmed by his own hand and ink produced from fruits and other natural elements, the illuminations were equally beautiful.

Coming from an age of technology where many of us have such atrocious penmanship that we often cannot read notes we have written to ourselves, I was especially struck by the dedication and love that went into producing the pages in front of me. Not only would the words bring me closer to God, I thought, the beauty these pages reflect could not help but do the same.

This experience made me wonder at just how much time I take to really soak in and appreciate the pages of my own, mass-produced Bible pages. Being human, and even a human who loves words in and of themselves, I am still moved even beyond words when multiple senses are involved in any experience. Music can make a moment something more; ask any filmmaker. A page illuminated by a loving hand appeals to the eyes in addition to the words penetrating our brains.

How often do I read a passage in the Word while something else is going on in the back of my brain, like what I need to do that day or whatever the latest thing is that I am worrying about? How is it that I don’t appreciate the tender work that happened for centuries by anonymous believers to ensure that the word of God was not lost or forgotten?

So, I am determined to figure out a way to read God’s word as if it is one of those illuminated pages from centuries past, whether that be creating pictures in my own mind that reflect what the words on the page are saying to me or playing inspirational music as I study. I will seek Him in the quiet places as I have been instructed to do. I will do my best to be still and know that He is God.

I’m sure that this last was the place inside where the anonymous scribe dwelled in order to lovingly create the beauty on the illuminated page that so wonderfully reflects the awesomeness of God.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith, Living

Is Your Truth THE Truth?

   Like a winding set of stairs (especially like the stairs in the “Harry Potter” films that change on a whim), when you define truth according to your own rules, by what you think is right or, even more deadly, what feels right,  you start upon the journey of a very slippery slope that can only land you in the world of self-delusion.

Self-delusion is a favored land for popular culture.  “I’m OK, you’re OK” is the slogan here.  In popular culture, there are segments of society against which nothing bad should be said and other segments against which any barb is OK.  This reality is nothing new.  The Romans did an awesome job of persecuting Christians while allowing a variety of cultures to continue in religions which were in opposition to popular Roman thought.

But reality doesn’t equal truth.  Think about this.  Just because something IS does not make that something TRUE.  When truth is actually TRUTH, it is also RIGHT.  And who claims sovereignty over right?  For us Christians, the answer to that question is easy–God.  And the reference for TRUTH is not what we think or feel, but what is written in the Bible.  But not just the parts of the Bible you’d like to pay attention to.  The TRUTH comes from understanding the Bible in its totality.

I had a Sunday school teacher when I was young who explained that the Bible is so wonderful in part because it is at the same time simple enough for the most challenged of minds to understand and yet so complex that even a genius has difficulty deciphering all of it.  Without a strong knowledge of the Bible, think how easy it would be for someone to pick and choose the parts they needed to convince you of something that is actually the opposite of what God really says.  That is exactly how we have wound up in a world where more than half of marriages end in divorce and a shocking percentage of teenagers have already lost their virginity outside of wedlock.

Francine Rivers wrote a wonderful novel on just this premise: The Last Sin Eater.  In this novel, a prominent individual convinces an entire community that a sacrifice for the dead other than the sacrifice Christ made for us all is needed for each departed soul.  In the novel, the people have lost connection to the Bible and its TRUTH.  It takes hearing the Word and the bravery of just a few characters to believe that Word to begin to heal that community and teach them who the last sin eater truly is.

Is your truth the TRUTH?  Can you hold it up to the guidelines of unconditional love of God and your fellow humans that is laid out in the Holy Word?  And how many things do you hold as true that aren’t actually in line with what the Bible says?  Do you think you are too far gone to be redeemed, for example?  God never says that in the Bible.  In fact, Christ even accepted the confession of the robber who died on the cross with Him!  Talk about getting in by the skin of one’s teeth.

Because TRUTH is more often than not more ugly than truth, it becomes so easy to fall into the popular culture sense of what is right.  I’m ashamed to admit that, despite the time I spend studying the Bible and theology books and Christian fiction, I still spend more time watching television.  How many lies have I let slip into my definition of truth from this bad habit?  How many more so for those who only interact with popular culture without understanding the TRUTH that is God?

I’ve constructed a visual STOP sign in my mind for this week, and I plan to use it whenever I think, feel, or say anything that is truth as opposed to TRUTH.  I challenge you to do the same.

God bless.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith, Self-Help

To Know What He Knows

Annie Dilliard writes about the experience of going to church and being caught up in the wonder of God’s sense of humor, for what else would account for His tolerance of the off-key voices and humanly-limited actions that we call a worship service? Doesn’t He deserve so much more than we could ever offer, and yet He puts up with our best attempts, and we deign to think these attempts at worship might be called good.
It is a fundamental flaw, really, to think that a human mind could ever really know God, and yet our perception of Him is constrained by just that, our very limited minds. The simple reality of our situation leaves us in a bit of a pickle. We can try to understand God through His word, but even that is limited to our own ability to understand and interpret.
Some of the biggest mistakes we ever make are done in full knowledge about what God has to say about our actions, wrapped inside a bubble of what we have convinced ourselves He really meant. How many times have you heard a cheating spouse OK her actions by claiming that God wants her to be happy? How many people explain their religion to you according to what “feels right?”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord,” in Isaiah 55:8. God does not think like us nor act like us. So, why are we always trying to reason out what God is up to as if He was the keeps-to-himself neighbor in the creepy house at the corner of the street? Why do we think He would ever want us to do something that goes against what He has said, like loving Him above all else rather than putting fancy jewelry or cars before the work of feeding widows and orphaned children just because we are trying to “feel good,” and wouldn’t God want that?
The Spirit of truth can only speak to us if we are constantly in preparation for hearing what that Spirit has to say, even the words we least want to hear. God does things in His own time and in His own way, and we will not understand it, no matter how many words we write, or inspired movies we create, or lies we tell ourselves are real.
The Greeks envisioned the gods as superheroes who shared the same emotions as us humans, but amped to the ninth power. These gods were jealous, wrathful, petty, capricious. Only when the Jews claimed one, true and only God, did mankind begin to conceive of a God above the emotions of man, a God who was constant, consistent, and true.
We have used our understanding of God to validate wars, affairs of the heart, and our own plain meanness of spirit. Yet, His ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts. Ultimately, we understand what He wants us to understand, know what He wants us to know. If we do not test our knowledge of God through extensive Bible study, sincere prayers, and the validation of our thought processes through sharing with fellow Christians, then what we know is not only not what God knows, it is less than nothing.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Keeping Your Eye On The Prize

We know God in the quiet places, on sunny, Spring afternoons near creeks that bubble with birds singing and a gentle breeze gliding over us.
We know Him in the dark of our closets, on bended knees, our needs expressed without words, our oneness with the Spirit wrapped in our breath.
We know God in the morning, when we wake to yet another day and thank Him for the grace of that present, the only gift, besides our salvation, for which we can be truly thankful.
We know Him when the world that changes rocks us to our very core, and we are floundered but for the safety of His wings.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).