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Month: October, 2014

Staring Down A Scary Path

by Dawn Aldrich

Highgate_Cemetery_East

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 8:11

 The graveyard path stared me down. It was the safest route to school, she said. Yet, my first grade feet stood motionless–planted in fear at the opposite corner. I cowered my head into my mother’s side. No words of comfort, no logical argument could persuad me to cross that street and enter the gates of death.

Then, the friendly crossing guard lady approached, holding open a small, black, silk change purse filled with rainbow sweetness. Nursing a pink jelly bean, I listened to her calming voice. “Don’t be frightened,” she said. “I’ll watch you walk that path and I’ll be right here when you come home. Now take this little purse and suck on a jelly bean when you feel scared. You can do this. I’ll see you soon and Mommy will be here waiting for you, too.”

Isn’t it like that sometimes when we’re faced with God’s chosen path in our lives? We stand–firmly planted in the familiar, the safe–in a stare-down with God’s chosen path. The leaving looks like death–scary and unfamiliar territory. We want to turn around, run back home or take another path.

God meets us and leads the way–feeding us sweet nuggets of encouragement through his Word with each frightening step until we are fully immersed in His joy. What’s better, unlike the crossing guard, he never leaves our side, but walks with us–even through the shadow of the valley of death–until the very end.

Are you faced with a scary, unfamiliar God-path today? Is your heart gripped with fear at the overwhelming road ahead? Grab onto God’s hand in faith and let Him lead you. Lean into His side and find reassurance and joy in His presence and through His word.

“I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

Prayer:

Oh Lord, sometimes your paths frighten us. Your ways are unfamiliar and at times beg us to leave the comforts of home. Yet, Lord, may we find comfort in your promise that you “will never leave us nor forsake us.” Speak your words into our hearts. Whisper your sweet comfort and lead us down your path that always leads to life.

A Different Color Holy

by Wendy

Shelly Ribeiro sunset sky rhode island

Shelly Ribeiro sunset sky rhode island

by Wendy Coy

The house held order and expectations, looming obsessive elders ensuring perfect behavior. Did all old people turn dour and strict?    She sat in the kitchen watching Mother finish the school assignment – her school assignment. Always the good girl, she figured out the rules and did what Mother expected, but it was rarely enough.

Mother’s way was hard, boring, painful, and always right, but never right for her. That was her picture of Jesus, too. No wonder she couldn’t trust Him. Why would His way be any different than Mother’s?

Tracing the memory in her imagination, she braced herself for the dreaded conversation with Jesus. Sighing, she’d screwed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth, bravely forcing her will to do whatever “The Master” wanted. Jesus would be “The Master,” just like Mother, wouldn’t He?

Holding her breath, she peeked, expecting to see Jesus, arms crossed, giving the next instruction. Strangely, His eyes twinkled as He pulled her outside, away from the kitchen, into sunlight and frolic.

Rose- and salmon-hued streaks coursed across the sky, sunset colors exploding in a world-sized palette. She looked up, imagination alive and pulsating, and saw Jesus flinging more pigments across the firmament. Yellow and gold mixed with apricot and peach and coral, radiant colors glowing from the afternoon sun. She threw her own arm skyward and watched as the colors responded, blurring, blending, swirling with every motion.

No critique? No “wait, it’s not the right color?” or “Dear, do it this way?” She couldn’t remember unjudged creativity in her little-girl life. Finger paints and messes? Strictly forbidden. Now Jesus offered her freedom? Her fertile imagination saw the colors dance. She erupted with giggles and laughter, and ran around the acre tossing clouds and painting grass.

Her eyes roamed from her drab, gray-shingled home to the verdant lawn, where Jesus formed huge, neon-bright fruit for glowing green trees and brilliant clouds for the perfect sunset picture. Funny, HE didn’t seem so concerned with immaculate order. She thought holy meant sacred, spiritual, somber, purposeful, and… intense. This new image of Jesus didn’t fit any model she’d ever imagined.

Jesus infused this healing time with life, and the pictures in her mind whirled with His presence. He seemed intent on providing what she didn’t know she lacked – play; Jesus created a new space entirely. A fun holy-place, a free and life-giving world of creativity.

This was the foundation for a creative identity she’d never owned for herself. The imagination play-yard sent her artistic spirit soaring. The yard became a holy place where she and Jesus could talk, play, walk, hide, laugh and romp, and it pulsed with delight and color.

Is your “holy” hard and drab and lifeless? If you could choose a color, what color would your “holy” be?

The Shoe Rule

by Dawn Aldrich

shoes

“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

We never made taking our shoes off before we entered our house a hardened rule. Maybe because my parents never enforced a shoe rule on me when I was growing up. But I do remember the households that did have a shoe rule.

Grammy had a shoe rule even though Grampy overlooked it all the time. She had rules for just about everything and it showed. Her furniture was covered in plastic, her rugs had plastic runners, her lampshades were even covered in plastic. With all that plastic, I’m not sure she really needed the shoe rule. A good broom or vacuum should have been sufficient. Maybe Grampy thought so, too.

My aunt’s house had a shoe rule. We were greeted with “Hi there. Take your shoes off and c’mon in.” Her house was more inviting since I could actually feel the carpet underneath my feet and the fabric of her couches on my legs.

Most Eastern countries hold fast to a shoe rule, like Japan, Korea, Turkey. Even Sweden adopted the shoe rule. In these countries, besides the practical mean of keeping the house clean of dirt, bacteria, and toxins, it has become a gesture of respect and politeness to discard your shoes before entering the home.

I guess I understand the need for a shoe rule. It does keep the floors and furniture cleaner and even softens your steps inside the house. Myself, I prefer to go barefoot inside, especially in the warmer months, or to wear slippers in the colder months. But, I don’t enforce a shoe rule on anyone who enters my home if it makes them feel uncomfortable (unless they’re tracking in heavy dirt or snow). I mean, what if they have holey socks or smelly feet? What if they don’t want to bare their tootsies? I let them be.

God had a shoe rule. When Moses walked up to the burning bush in Exodus 3, God ordered him to take off his sandals for the ground where he was standing was holy ground. It held the presence of Almighty God, the great I Am. By taking off his shoes, Moses signified his reverence, respect, and submission to God. It was a solemn pause and preparation before coming into God’s presence. It wasn’t man’s law. It wasn’t a matter of keeping God’s house clean. Rather, he recognized who God was and acknowledged Him as the Almighty.

Today, shoes are an expression of who we are. The can be sensual, exotic, practical, or comfortable. In short, they reflect our mood, our wealth, and our place in society. To God, none of that matters. He doesn’t care if our shoes are of the finest, imported leather or the crudest, man-made plastic. He just wants us…plain…simple…bare. He wants us to come into his presence unencumbered, unadorned, without distinction.

I Am is calling your name. Go to Him. Kick off your shoes. You’re standing on holy ground.

Sacred Awakening

by Rob Dunne

The No. 13 Breakfast Room by candlelight. Photograph: Lewis Bush "Courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum"

The No. 13 Breakfast Room by candlelight. Photograph: Lewis Bush
“Courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum”

But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance. Hebrews 9:7

Months of preparation led up to this moment. At various times throughout the night whistles, clanging pots or plain old yelling interrupted sleep. As dawn broke, the brothers placed bananas over our eyes and shoved us in to vehicles. Multiple turns and high speeds confused our whereabouts. Upon reaching our destination, they led us to an upper room. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, questions peppered us.

They saved me for last. They took off my blindfold and my eyes strained adjusting to the candlelit room. Neatly line book shelves surrounded me in what I surmised was a law library. The black judicial robes worn by the brothers made the occasion solemn. I was about to learn secrets established by the founding fathers one hundred years prior. Acceptance into this brotherhood was contingent upon recognizing that its secrets were solemn.

Very little in life remains solemn or sacred. All over the world, people burn our flag. Divorce is rampant. Graffiti mars the sides of otherwise beautiful buildings. Reality television entices us with intimate details about other people’s lives. As a result, we have become numb to the sacred.

God is sacred. Holy. Set apart. He is righteous, morally perfect, pure and without blemish. This definition fails to describe the magnitude of its meaning. It is difficult to understand that a perfect, pure and holy God cannot be in the presence of sin. Holiness and sinfulness are in-apposite.

In the Old Testament, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement for the people’s sin. The Holy of Holies was where the Spirit of God sat above the Ark of the Covenant. It was so scared that the priest would die instantly if he deviated from any of God’s ordinances.

Though I’ve known the Lord for more than thirteen years, I still grapple with His holiness. The issue for me is sin. You cannot see sin. While I have suffered consequences for some of my actions, the impact on my life has been minimal. It is difficult to comprehend that sin separates me from God.

That’s what is so amazing about grace. God’s grace covers my sin. I don’t have sin consciousness. This does not give me carte blanche to commit sin. Rather, God’s grace motivates me to reflect His glory and holiness. The desire to sin no longer exists. Do I walk this out perfectly? Not at all. Through a daily dying to self, I strive to become perfect as He is perfect.

To my relief, I passed the final test for entrance into the brotherhood. Or so I thought. In my delirium, I deviated from something that I was instructed not to do. Suddenly, the pin I so proudly wore for mere moments was ripped from my shirt. Months of hard work went up in flames. It was quite devastating. Fortunately, this was an object lesson in the solemnity of the fraternity’s secrets. What happened next will die with me along with the rest of the secrets I learned that day as I was eventually welcomed in to the brotherhood.

Faith in Jesus gives us something that surpasses anything a fraternal order or social organization can offer. He is the veil through which we enter the very presence of Almighty God. Confessing Jesus and believing that God raised Him from the dead gives us right standing before God. His righteousness clothes us like that fraternal pin. It is what identifies us as children of God. It is sacred.

Thin Places

by Mike McKinniss

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Gen. 22:2).

Most cultures throughout history, unlike our own dull secular modernism, have held a keen awareness that there is a supernatural world beyond the scope of our natural senses. There is something (if thing is the right word) out there.

Moreover, many cultures have also believed that the natural and supernatural realms interact. Peoples the world over have known, intuitively, that there is an unseen realm that has some effect on the world we touch and see, and vice-versa. The questions of how and why, then, are the great pursuit.

The Celts (my people!), for example, held an ancient belief in “thin places.” These were locations on the earth in which the barrier between the spiritual and the natural worlds seemed to be particularly thin and therefore highly permeable. That is to say, that in most places the spiritual world could be accessed, but perhaps only with great difficulty. In a thin place, however, one could interact with the supernatural with much greater ease.

I suspect I’ve encountered such places myself on occasion. In the meanest terms, these are the kinds of places in which you simply feel you must be inexplicably quiet. Certain churches or cathedrals have had this effect on me, like St. Paul’s in London, but also some rather unexpected spots.

One spring I took a job painting the exterior of a friend’s beach home. As I explored the home little by little throughout the week, I found that I was continually attracted to this one particular part of the house. Just what attracted me to it, I could not say. Though it was somewhat set off from the rest of the house, as a home office might be, there was no aesthetic distinguishing it from the rest of the house. Still, there was a tremendous feeling of peace and warmth in that one particular space, which was unlike the rest of the house.

Later, I spoke to the friend who owned the house, and I mentioned to him the unusual but positive sense I had about that one particular room. “That’s interesting,” he replied. “That’s the room where my wife and I stay when we’re down there.”

Now, I knew this couple to be people of prayer, very serious prayer. And I knew that the rest of the extended family, with whom they shared ownership of the house, were not.

I wondered whether they had carved out a thin place in their own vacation home. Was it possible to establish a physical location where God could be more easily reached simply because of the hours, years or centuries that people had gathered to seek him on that spot?

Among the most fascinating accounts in the Old Testament comes in Genesis 22, in which Abraham is challenged by the Lord to sacrifice his one promised son Isaac. Abraham is led to a particular hill where he intends to slaughter his own beloved son in worship to the God who had given Isaac in the first place. Of course, Isaac is not sacrificed. The Lord provides a ram for that purpose, but the intent of Abraham to give all he had to the Lord on that hilltop somehow marks the place. The name of that spot was Mount Moriah.

Several generations later, King Solomon begins construction on a house for the Lord; the Temple where God’s people could commune with the living God, where they could offer their worship and the Lord was sure to listen for generations upon generations. This building site was Mount Moriah (2 Chr. 3:1).

What an encouragement! The places where we pray and worship the Lord–in our homes, our churches, our cars, our offices–inherit the deposits of our praise. These deposits are not lost or stolen, but gain interest. And others we do not know will be greatly blessed by the thin places we helped establish in our own time.

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