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Month: June, 2016

Consider the Serpent

by Mike McKinniss

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:24, ESV).

Consider the serpent.

He has but one instinct: self-preservation. Survive and produce progeny—that is his one and only goal. But mostly, it’s about survival. It’s about himself.

Look at him, flicking his tongue through deviously curled lips. Always in search of his next meal, the snake is never satiated. A gluttonous beast.

The serpent roams the forest floor alone. Ever solitary, he has no companion, desires no companion. But for fleeting utilitarian encounters with the opposite sex—and this only to preserve his line—he would eternally be a low-lying island.

Oh, the serpent is not indifferent to the rest of the world. He is not solipsistic. But to the snake, every other living thing, if it is not food, is an enemy. See how he curls himself up in a tangled thicket—the only embrace he will ever receive. It is protection the serpent seeks.

The serpent is driven by fear, and so must protect his life at all costs. Fear compels him to cast a slitted eye toward every creature. Wary of all, the serpent is intent on grasping tightly to his own life. He has no room in his heart for anything save himself.

Now he slithers in the dust, for his fear has brought him low.

But you are no serpent.

You are not made for fear. You are not made to cling and protect, to scratch and claw for your own existence. You are not designed to use others for your own benefit alone, to regard the world as existing for your sole benefit. The fear and solitude of the serpent’s life is not yours.

A child of God, you are made for love.

A voice you were given. A voice to reveal the innermost parts of yourself and to share your secret thoughts. Likewise, two ears hang on either side of your skull to listen to another’s story and so commune with the world. Moreover, a heart beats within your chest, a heart that longs to swell within the embrace of another.

You are made for love, and a life of love desires to stretch itself, to touch all the world—not to overpower and subsume, but to know and to be known. Love longs to serve the world.

But to live so is to risk, for a serpent lies in wait. Strike he will, often without warning or provocation. And he may, with a flash of fang and a shock of pain, inject poison into your veins. To live from love is to open yourself to death.

Die you may.  Nay, die you will. But when you live from a place of love and seek not to preserve yourself, when you reject fear and its solitude, you live as you are created. Vulnerable you may seem, yet you live and you die in the safest place on earth. For the life of love rests in the arms of the resurrecting God of love.

Love, and you will rise to new life, while the serpent remains on his belly.

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Chipmunks and Angels of Light

by Wendy

Chipmunk by A. Delray --The Forest Vixen - www.forestvixen.com, licensed under CC by 2.0Chipmunk by A. Delray –The Forest Vixen – www.forestvixen.com, licensed under CC by 2.0

“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

I saw him from the corner of my eye—a small something skittering toward the plants on the garage floor. Silly chipmunk. I was just six feet away and he didn’t particularly care. My idiotic arm-flapping “HEY!” as I moved closer didn’t scare him, either.  Silly me.

Too cute for his own good, I yelled louder and lunged toward the small, furry, brown and black invader.  It had been just a year since he dug into the house and invited two mouse-friends.  This was entirely too brazen.

I don’t know if it was my indignant hollering or my rapidly-approaching face that scared off the adorable demonic rodent.  I scurried to move the tender new plants back outside. Never mind late spring cold and rain (almost sleet).  The plants would survive but the garage door was NOT staying open any longer.

How like the Enemy is that little chipmunk?  He waits for the right moment and cutely, bold-facedly, struts into my back door when he thinks I’m not watching.  I virtually have to hop on top of him to make him leave.

Unfortunately, the “angel of light” knows he is enticing (“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Cor 11:14).

The enemy sneaks in softly under cover of beauty and subterfuge.  Our judgments seem wise and sure, but they do not lead to peace, and they are not true.  How quickly our thoughts captivate and control us, backing us into corners from which we can’t escape. Pains become judgments, then isolation.

No, this time the Chippy won’t take up residence.  My “make sense of this” thoughts, too, must be shut out with a thick door, chased back into the outside realms.

Know, Enemy, that even if you do find an entry hole, the way will be blocked and the door will not be re-opened.  Your creatures may be cute, but they are no longer welcome.

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A Life Well Lived

by mymorethanme

Seven years ago my husband and I gave away most of our belongings, packed our Ford F-150 pickup with necessities and said goodbye to friends and family. We drove to Nashville with our two young boys, following God on a grand adventure. Overflowing with faith and hope we joyfully followed God’s leading, tearfully longing for home, yet excitedly expectant for what lay ahead.

Our Nashville years were nothing like what we had anticipated. We knew John was being called to attend a ministry school, but we learned quickly and acutely we were going to have to let go of all our preconceived expectations. God is an unconventional teacher who does not merely nudge us to think outside the box; He will, if allowed, obliterate the box.

“Wisdom that emanates from God is found only in dying to all things…” Jean Guyon

Sadly, in just seven years, forgetfulness, like a fog, has settled in. (How many times did God admonish the Israelites to remember?) Looking back I now recall how God sustained us in our wilderness. How he met our every need as we lived on faith following only Him. We had no steady or secure source of income, no health insurance, and no home to which to return. We had God and He was more than enough. He met our every need in countless, astounding, miraculous ways. We were blessed to be able to report multiple accounts of His goodness, grace, mercy, provision, and love.

Lately I have (again) been tussling with expectations. I know God is beckoning me into a time of stirring growth and destiny, and while this is exhilarating, it also leaves me feeling apprehensive. I battle what-ifs in regard to an ongoing health issue. I question my worth in receiving the funds necessary for this venture.  I wonder if I’ve really got what it takes to be who God made me to be. To top it off, I find myself overly concerned with others’ opinions (or my own opinion of myself).  

You see, at thirty-seven, I only have twelve credits left to complete my bachelor’s degree. Shouldn’t I resume this long standing, oft-interrupted pursuit? Shouldn’t I, “the student”, the one who in high school was accepted to Syracuse University early decision and with endless, lofty career goals, finally finish this remaining semester and get my stinkin’ degree already? Yes, I believe I should; and I believe one day I will. However, God’s timing and ways are not mine, and neither is His logic.

Moving our young family to Nashville, letting go of our apartment and business, and our plans and dreams for our future to follow God to who knows where for who knows how long seemed ridiculously irresponsible. Yet, while it was the most difficult move we ever made, it was also, by far, the most wise and fruitful.

We all spend our lives on something. Time, like money, is invested. What drives our passions, plans and pursuits? Is it pleasure? Comfort? Security? Recognition? Acceptance? Avoidance of pain or rejection? When all’s said and done, what will we have lived for? What will we have lived from?

I used to live for and from myself. Years ago God saved me from drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviors. I no longer live with debilitating depression or anxiety, and when I am at peace in God’s presence I no longer fear rejection or strive to please man. I have found true pleasure, comfort, security, and acceptance in knowing and being known by God. Today I choose to live for and from Him, for and from Love. I don’t do it perfectly, but this is my lofty goal now–the only goal in which I have found myself truly filled, satisfied and alive.

So once again I am letting go. I will remember to remember. I am not living for me or for man, I am living for Love. The return is eternal and impactful beyond measure. More of Him and less of me means more in me to give to you and Him. My life is not my own, it’s His; and His is mine. This is the life I choose. This is my life well lived.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

edited caleb walking 2

Spring Cleaning…Surrendering to the Light

by Dawn Aldrich

 

Pittock Mansion by Brittany Flickr.com8707522400_31cfb20015_z.jpg_CC BY-ND 2.0

Pittock Mansion by Brittany
Flickr.com8707522400_31cfb20015_z.jpg_CC BY-ND 2.0

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

The days are longer now. Morning creeps in under the shades of my bedroom window at 5 a.m. like a slinking cat reaching its front paws towards me for a morning stretch. My almost-half-century body rises less reluctantly, (yet with a few more kinks than the year before), now that light guides me safely from my slumber.

I face the day with great expectancy with a spring of hope in every step and a few more hours of sun light to accomplish great things. But as I walk from room to room throughout the day, things gone unnoticed in the darkness of winter now distract me in the light of spring. I catch a glimpse of dusty cobwebs hanging from every corner of my ceilings; once-white curtains are now a dingy gray; scrapes and scratches appear from nowhere all over my tired, painted walls. Finger prints mar every mirrored surface and I think something is growing underneath my bed. Surrendering to the light, unable to hide what it reveals, I put aside the great things and focus on spring cleaning.

Saturday, words from a former self spilled over my lips like an overflowing bucket of dirty water. Ooooops! That monster named Unforgiveness had snuck back in under the cover of darkness and drowned me with my own words. How appropriate. Words…my passion and my weakness. There they were. My dirty words spilled out for all to hear revealing my heart. I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t take them back or mop them up. I just ignored the puddle hoping it would silence them.

It’s been a few days. Sleep has been restless like trying to ignore the glow of the night light from across the room. Finally, I surrendered to the Light. God’s light. The light revealed by His glory. It’s just there because He is. It’s not a condemning light. He’s not shaking his finger at me saying, “Naughty girl.” He’s just being…in my heart…revealing what was hiding in the darkness…showing me what’s in need of spring cleaning. I can’t always get those “hard to reach” places where monsters like Unforgiveness live, but God can. I’m letting Him do some spring cleaning because I’d like to get on with the great things He has in store.

What about your spring cleaning? Do you need a little more light?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through (Him) the Spirit who gives you life has set you free…” Romans 8: 1-2a

“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:6-7

Jumping into greatness

by kerriebutterfield

Jumping for joy by Alice flickr.com_2614335692_0ab3d7948b_z.jpg CC BY- ND 4.0

Jumping for joy by Alice
flickr.com_2614335692_0ab3d7948b_z.jpg CC BY- ND 4.0

Then he said, “I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven. Matthew 18:3 

When my son , Noah was a toddler, he loved to jump off furniture into our arms (vulnerable parent moment here, because yes, this happened…a lot). He’d start by jumping off the low couch, and then off the tall bed in our bedroom, until he worked his way up to his top bunk bed to jump into his dad’s arms. He would laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Climb up, and do it again.

I cringed a little as I watched, but the laughter and joy of these moments captivated me. He would throw his little arms out and fly. Eventually Noah became so confident in his dad’s ability to catch him, that the minute his dad walked into his bedroom, ready or not, he would jump from his bunk. Needless to say, we invented a counting system and a “go” word that let Noah know it was safe to jump. And so the jumping fun continued.

In my journey with Papa, He has been changing my mindset, and heart, so like Noah, I’m convinced of His nature and ability to catch whenever I leap into His arms. Most of our lives we are learning to grow up to make good decisions, and if we were to be honest, minimize risk. As followers of Jesus, we must make sure we are making God decisions, not just good decisions. I’m all for making good decisions, but what if the best God has for you required you to take a great big flying jump?

Another thing He has taught me is to wait until He is ready. It’s His way of keeping me safe. It’s His good nature we are jumping into if He has asks us to jump or If He asks us to wait. It’s His perfect sense of timing I trust in. It’s His good nature I’m trusting in as I wait for Him to perfectly position me to make the jump and land safely. It’s all about the relationship, His love and care for me, and my absolute faith and trust in Papa’s heart to love me, and keep me safe.

We were created to fly into Him! Sometimes to grow and mature in the things of the Kingdom, we must surrender and become like little ones jumping into their papa’s arms. It was never about Noah’s ability to jump, but His absolute confidence in his very good dad that gave him the confidence to jump and fly.

N.T. Wright says, “It’s not great faith you need, it’s faith in a great God.”

There is only one strong, safe, and secure place for me, It’s in God alone; and I love Him! Psalm 144:1

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