Woodpecker: Knock, knock… I Dream of Grace

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Woodpecker
“Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”
(Matt 7:7)

I have this dream: I stand outside… knocking on Heaven’s gate. Today is the day that I’ll learn my fate.
Knock, knock, knock… “May I come in?” I ask as an angel of the Lord meets me at the gate. Beyond the angel dressed in white, I catch a glimpse of “eternal more.” I can see two ways to enter: one is very narrow and the other very wide. As I consider the significance of the two paths, the angel asks me to please wait outside while the Lamb judges things that I cannot hide. The course of my life flashes right before my eyes. The Lamb stands at the entrance as a witness, I can tell no lies. I feel naked and exposed. This is the way God created us I suppose.

In my life, I’ve known disgrace and shame. But that was before I invited God into my heart in Jesus’ name. As I seek my Savior’s face, I am left feeling awed and humbled by his overwhelming grace. It is beyond my comprehension how God could love me so much that he would send this Lamb-so innocent and pure- to earth as man, while I was yet a sinner, to save me so I could live with him in eternal harmony. God knew I could never do it on my own. From beginning to end, I was never alone. God revealed all I needed to know in Jesus Christ, the savior he promised to send. With all of life’s choices, I had only to pause long enough to recognize his voice. God was always with me. When I was too blind to see, the Holy Spirit helped me along the way adding his divine testimony. In union with Christ, I am in him, he is in me. This amazing grace overwhelms me as I stand waiting. I’m keenly aware that this is something I could never work for nor earn. God’s grace is a gift, far beyond my reach, given freely in Christ to save me from the eternal burn. Through the mysterious work of love divine, I stand here with a new heart and mind. I praise Jesus Christ as Lord… my truth, my life, and my way. And now I stand here humbled. It is judgment day.

I am knocking again… knock, knock, knock. I’m seeking and hope to find that heaven’s gate will be opened to humble me. In union with Christ, I come anchored in hope about my eternity. Here in this dazzling light, everything I ever tried to hide is examined and revealed in perfect clarity. I’m keenly aware of the sins stacked against me. I come to you flawed. As I stand reflecting upon my life, the gate swings open and I hear the final judgement: Forgiven! Forgiven for all!

Free at last, I step into living worship where I hear the trumpets blast. There upon the throne, I see you in all your majesty and glory. At the sight of your dazzling presence and light, I fall to my face joining the angels gathered before you in a song of praise. I’m overwhelmed by your love, saved by your grace. I’m humbled and awed. If not for Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t be here at all.

“He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift so that no one can boast about it.”
(Eph 2:7-9)

In Loving Memory of Mom:The Good Shepherd And The Cardinal Escort

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“What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete, as complete as God’s knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Cor 13:12-13)

In memory of my mom and because October is National Breast Cancer Awarenss, please allow me to encourage you to get your annual mammogram or to remind the women in your life to do so… you are loved!

As my best friend, I’d typically talk to my mom several times a day. No matter what kind of day I was having, I could always count on her positive outlook. “Over here, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I just planted 25 new flowers in my garden” was her daily declaration. At the time, I didn’t have much appreciation for the dawning of a new day nor the interest in listening to the sweet melody of the birds singing. I suppose it takes a realization of how very short our lives are to make us appreciate the simple gifts God gives us on a daily basis

The first time my mom, not a Christ follower, asked me to pray for her it was because she had found a lump in her breast. (After 3 years of skipped mammograms) She had retired one month earlier in perfect health and was looking forward to spending more time with her kids and grandchildren. With visions of new adventures on her mind, she purchased a small camper. We made lots of plans together, but God had other plans. I’ve lost count of the many surgeries and treatments she endured in less than 2 years from the time of her diagnosis before God called her home. But, I can never forget the faithfulness of our Good Shepherd in drawing near to her, comforting her, and delivering her from her fears as she walked in the “shadow of the valley of death.” In the midst of a most difficult season, she cried out to God and He answered-with the assurance of life eternal in Jesus Christ. (Leaving me to wonder… which is of greater concern to God- the temporal or the eternal?…)

I remember when the doctors told my mom she didn’t have much longer to live and there was nothing else they could do, she responded with one request: “O.K., but can you get me ready to go camping with my grandchildren one last time?” While my dad and I sat in stunned silence, the doctor couldn’t hide the look on his face. The poor dear didn’t quite know how to respond. She didn’t make it. I consider myself blessed to have spent a most memorable last day with her. When later that same day I got the call from my dad with the news of her passing, I returned to my parent’s home where, alone, I went to my mom’s room to say my final farewell. Humbly, I knelt down to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for being her “Good Shepherd” and keeping every promise in accordance to Psalms 23-her favorite scripture. My dad was waiting in the hallway with a question when I came out of her room. “You know she’s not in there right? Who were you talking to?” When I told him I wasn’t talking to her but to Jesus, he asked “you don’t really believe in that “Jesus crap,” do you?” Of course I do. 

Thanks in large part to my beloved church family; the celebration of  life service we had for my mom couldn’t have been more divinely perfect. When one of our friends approached me to express her sympathy, she added how beautiful and thoughtful of me it was to add Psalms 23 to my mom’s obituary. I was stunned. I had written the obituary myself and had NOT added Psalms 23 to it. Though I called the newspaper so we could properly thank our benefactor, to this day no one knows how that Psalms came to be there.

I inherited the camper… and the adventure. If you’ve ever been camping with your family (and a 100 lb. dog who thinks he’s a baby), you know there is not much quiet time alone in which to seek God in prayer.  Because prayer is exactly what prepares me for loving the very people I’m crammed into a tiny camper with, I asked God to help me find a new pathway to worship and experience him. God answered that prayer by opening my eyes to his beauty and glory as proclaimed by creation.

Not long ago, we planned a special family camping trip in which to honor my mom’s memory and final request. As if a wink from heaven, this Northern Cardinal stayed by our side the entire time. It was the strangest, most wonderful thing. As if noticing for the first time, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the Bluebonnets were in full bloom. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird: “Be still My Soul… God is in Control”

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird
“Be still and know that I am God.”
(Psalms 46:10)

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “A Ruby-throated hummingbird beats its wings about 53 times per second.” Considering it has one of the highest metabolism rates of all the warm-blooded vertebrates in the world, one can only assume that it must require some amount of effort to simply “be still.” Yet, this state of stillness is exactly what I observe in this Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on a branch in my backyard. Even without the metabolism rate of a hummingbird, we all experience seasons in life where it can be challenging to simply “be still”…both physically and spiritually. I experienced such a time of spiritual “restlessness” when I lost all the women in my immediate family- mom, sister, and grandmother- far too close together. Even with or without the hope of Christ, there remains the business of adjusting to life without one’s loved one. My own season of loss only pales in comparison to that of so many others in the world. As I struggle to make sense of the hardships we face in this life, God’s direction comes in the stillness of a hummingbird: “Be still and know that I am God.”(Psalms 46:10)

In light of God’s glory in creation comes illumination of the creator: God doesn’t call us to understand times of trial and suffering, but to trust that he is control in the midst of them. Consider the book of Job where we hear of a man who has experienced immeasurable loss and suffering. After losing his children, home, livestock, servants, and health, Job finds himself in desperate need to understand his predicament. His wife suggests that he curses God for his troubles while his friends offer to help uncover the possible sin that could be causing his suffering. When at last God, seemingly displeased with the feeble attempt of others, speaks into the midst of Job’s suffering, he has a few questions of his own… all pertaining to the divine nature and eternal power of God as revealed by creation. As Job recognizes God’s glory in creation, he finds a place of stillness for his soul in the sovereignty, power, and providential care of his creator. (Job 38-42) Likewise, as we relinquish our desire to understand things too complicated for us to know and instead trust ourselves to the sovereign and providential care of our creator, we can find a place of stillness for our souls not dependent on circumstance.

Before winter, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird will cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight destined for Central America. I can only wonder how it instinctively knows that there is anything better to make such an arduous journey worthwhile. We can’t fully understand hummingbirds anymore than we can understand human trials and suffering this side of heaven. But like the hummingbird that instinctively knows there’s something better on the other side of the ocean; God calls us, mortal though we are, to trust that he is control. In union with Jesus Christ, we can rest assured that the best is yet to come.

Inspired by the Nature of God
(Seeds of Devotion: Psalms 46:10; Job 1:13-2:10;Job 38-42;Psalms 131;1Peter 4:19;Acts 2:26;Rom 1:20)