Monday, March 23, 2015

See to It!

The scene opens on an upstairs room in the early morning light. A woman is bent over her Bible reading intently. Even though a fire burns across the way, it is dark; the weather outside reflects her mood. Ominous clouds hover over the mountains beyond, with fog fingering down through trees and crevices. The background music is pensive and uneasy. The woman is tired, even though it is still morning. She looks in the pages of her Bible for hope, to lift her above the worries and concerns weighing her down.

Suddenly, in a familiar passage, she discovers something new, and lifts her head to laugh. Tears trickle down her face. At that moment, the sun breaks through the clouds, bursting through the window with bright hope and love from her Father. She turns to feel its warmth, laughing at His display of gentle humor. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.” 
The music swells in glorious triumph; she can almost hear the angels singing back-up. She turns to look at the dark corners in the far reaches of the room and His message is clear. “See to it, dearest child.”

She nods. “Yes, Lord. I will. Thank you.”

This is what I imagine it would have looked like if this scene from my life were made into a movie. In a time of deep need, God used a phrase from His Word to speak to me in such a powerful way that it continues to resound. A verse, which I have read countless times, suddenly, forcefully, told me to “See to it.” And I am trying to do just that.

What do you picture when you hear that command – a pointing finger, a stern reprimand, a warning? I see that and more, yet spoken by my loving Savior, I know His instruction is for my own good.
Jesus’ familiar teaching from Luke eleven about letting our light shine to the world, is followed by a lesser known illustration. What we take in through our eyes is what makes our whole body either darkness or light. Then the zinger that took my breath away, See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35, author’s emphasis). Jesus wrapped up this example with verse 36: “Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

The point that went straight to my heart is that God’s light is always shining. Each of us chooses, however, how much or little of that light we’re willing to take in. We can look full-faced at His glorious radiance and trust Him to make all things right in His time. Or we can huddle in the darkness. Despite the light shining on us, we can choose to gaze dejectedly at the dark corners of uncertainty, pain, and despair of this world.

This is a message I needed to hear in full color. And our gracious God met me there. I haven’t forgotten the message, and whenever I begin to go down that path, I hear His voice inside me saying, “See to it, child. See to it.” That’s my cue to turn the eyes of my heart to the light only Christ brings, and share that light with others.

#hopefordepression #lifeisworthliving #suicideprevension #lightoverdarkness #Luke11:35 #youareloved

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cruising the Mexican Caribbean: Want to Live On a Cruise Ship?

reconnecting with a granddaughter
How would you like to live full time on a cruise ship? Your room would be cleaned every day, your covers turned down before bedtime, chocolates on the pillow, all your meals fixed for you, and entertainment galore. All you would have to do is eat and sleep. Apparently there was a woman on our ship who does just that. She has a permanent room and a table of her own in the dining room, with royal treatment from the staff as their only perpetual guest. 
and a grandson
She was the topic of discussion one night at dinner as we began our journey home. Some envied her carefree lifestyle, but to me, it sounds like one of those romance comedies. You know, the ones where the hero or heroine has to relive a day of their life over and over until they get it right. They wear the same clothes, do the same things, and have the same conversations over and over. 

As much fun as it is to travel to new places, eat delicious food any time of day or night, and let someone else do all the cleaning - it gets old after a while. The mealtime conversations follow the same script: What do you do? Where are you from? How many cruises have you been on? Where have you cruised? What cruise lines have you been on? How many kids and/or grandkids? When you’re always meeting new people, it’s hard to get past surface conversations. Except for when we went to Bible study.

The morning we attended the no-host Bible study, I truly felt at home. We didn’t talk about cruises or jobs or children. We read the Bible, shared stories of hardship and blessings, and reveled in wonder at our Savior. God had brought the eight of us in that room through death, divorce, financial ruin, cancer, loneliness, doubt, fear, and provided words to open a safe passage through a riot scene. After Bible study, we visited and played ping pong with several of our new friends. Our time together was real, and meaningful.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love cruising. My husband and I will continue to go on them as long as we are able. We had fun and came home refreshed. But a life that consists of endless pleasure and surface conversation is meaningless. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, explored this concept in the book of Ecclesiastes. He declared that pleasure and wealth, even work, creative projects, and intellectual pursuits are meaningless, unless we live our lives in relationship with God.

I found this out at the tender age of thirteen. There was restlessness and despair in my soul that nothing could satisfy. But when I gave my heart to Jesus and asked Him to guide my life, suddenly every day had purpose. Jesus said He came to give us a full, or abundant, life (John 10:10). That’s why being a Christian so worthwhile. We work, laugh, grieve, make friends, go to shows, struggle, enjoy good food, learn, fail, dance, teach, create, and love – it all has meaning as we live for Christ. 
One man we had met at Bible study was in front of me as we de-boarded. I overheard his conversation with a staff member as we walked off the boat:

“Thank you for cruising with us,” she said. “We hope you enjoyed your stay.”

“I did. But I’m glad to be home,” he said.

She seemed surprised. “You don’t wish you could stay on longer?”

“No,” he smiled. “As much fun as it was, I have a life.”

beach walk with Dad and daughter
hiking with daughter
Well said, I thought. Our lives are not meant to be spent in pursuit of endless pleasure, but in relationships, in serving, and delighting in the One who made us. If you have not yet made the choice to follow Jesus Christ, I hope you will soon. He is the One who will give your life meaning.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cruising the Mexican Caribbean: Cozumel – Stunning Beauty

Have you ever been somewhere so beautiful you hated to look away, even for a minute? I feel that way every time we hike the woodsy trails of Oregon - populated by trees, ferns, wildflowers, waterfalls, and streams. Or whenever we go to the nearby beach and stroll beside the ocean. In order to keep my footing, I have to look down occasionally, but for the most part, I just want to take it all in. That’s how I felt in Cozumel.

The lure of the blue water and rocky beach kept me spellbound the whole time we were there. The day was blissfully uneventful. We wore ourselves out shopping and found an amazing Mexican restaurant back in the catacomb of shops. Kelly and I enjoyed each other’s company while hunting for souvenirs, but the best part of the day was the breathtaking ocean view.  

I was dazzled by the splendor of the sea, dotted with boats; the warmth of the sun; and time to walk with my beloved. Yet how can that compare to the unsurpassed beauty of our God? The best nature has to offer pales in comparison to His radiance. The following verses remind us we don’t have to travel anywhere to gaze on Him. It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like. We can enter His presence anytime, anywhere, and stand in awe of our magnificent Lord.

Psalm 27:4 - One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him.

Psalm 29:2 - Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 50:2 - From Zion,* perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
*symbolic of the place where God lives

Psalm 71:8 - My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.

Psalm 96:6 - Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Where do you see His beauty and majesty reflected today?