The past few months, I have been walking alongside a local congregation that is in transition. Their choir sets aside the first portion of Wednesday rehearsal for prayer - mostly, needs within the congregation and praise reports related to past prayers. This Wednesday, cancer dominated the requests. My heart was heavy, knowing just a few of the people mentioned...
"Lord, hear our prayer and drive this disease from our midst! Supernaturally galvanize the bodies and spirits of those who are wrestling and grant abundant peace to them and their loved ones."
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalms 16:11 NASB
Our friends receive various treatments for their disease. Among the most common is radiation therapy. These two words have mingled together with Psalm 16 in my heart this week.
Scripture tells us that Christ dwells in brilliantly intense light (radiation). Furthermore, Jesus said of Himself...
I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8:12 NASB
The abundant life Christ has purchased for us is indomitable.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NASB
We all need radiation therapy, and often. When our hearts are overwhelmed, the sheer light of His presence permeates the dark recesses, dispelling every shadow and melting the mountains like wax. It takes but a moment, as we fix our gaze on Him, for us to bask in the warmth of His nearness. Bless the Lord, oh my soul!
Let this familiar song be a constant reminder to us this week.
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim;
In the LIGHT of His glory & grace."
My wife has been house-sitting for a couple of retired doctors this Summer. The well-travelled duo has a keen eye for art and valuable keepsakes. Their shelves are appointed with detailed carvings (of wood, ivory and jade), first-edition books, and rare artifacts; the walls, adorned with exotic rugs and artwork from around the globe.
In most homes, I might walk in and admire a tasteful piece or two; but this living room is a feast for the senses! As Allison completed her chores, I "toured" the mini-Smithsonian. With wide-eyed wonder, I crept at a snail's pace around the perimeter - transported through time on an intercontinental voyage.
On the drive home, we shared a chuckle, comparing the vacation t-shirts we typically bring home to their fascinating collection. Then, sitting at the drive-thru window of Chicken Express, I had an epiphany...
"I am a collector of fine friends, with an embarrassment of riches!"
Wow! Talk about knock-my-socks-off! Regardless of what hangs on my wall or how much (or little) I have on the bank's balance sheet, my greatest "possessions" are the hearts of friends and family that I love. These are the ones enriching every moment of my life!
I hope the gravity of this simple maxim will seep down deep, and refresh your soul today. Take a moment and recount the value of your specific relationships. Then, the next time you see them, let them know, "You are treasure to me!"
This past Sunday, we hosted our 7th annual Easter Sunrise Breakfast. Allison and I used toothpicks to hold our eyelids up, having driven back from a wedding in DFW the wee hours before, but wild horses couldn't keep us from hosting this cherished tradition.
I have many fond memories of my dusty, West Texas hometown. Waking up in the pitch black pre-dawn of Resurrection Sunday, to meet our church at a ranch off the Caprock. We'd gather, bundled up and bleary-eyed (little ones still in PJ's), around a campfire as the men prepared breakfast, chuckwagon-style. Morning chill gave way to deep azure and pink, as Bobwhite quail began to greet the dawn. Meadowlark added their warble to the chorus while the scissor-tail performed high-flying aerobatics... and we few joined with all nature in manifold witness, singing hymns at the top of our lungs - celebrating our reason for living.
Fast-forward 30 years - a new generation carries the torch. Higginbotham Park (behind my house) doesn't quite match the rugged beauty of the Caprock's rosy hues, and there is a burn-ban in affect (so no campfire); but it suffices for a bunch of urbanites. This year, my dad shared a vesper and the fellowship of close friends and family was sweet. Kids always like the ukulele and singing hymns a cappella provides a sense of connection with that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before.
We had a few less people than last year. Seems more folk are "awakening" to this greatest of all Easter traditions and hosting their own. I am glad of it! Modern devices like the Evite make it easy enough for anyone to coordinate (especially if everyone chips in on the food!). Perhaps you'll be inspired to do the same next year?
It surprises folk to learn that I rarely listen to music on the radio. More often than not, I prefer silence. But just because there aren't tunes in the cab, doesn't mean there's not plenty going on in my head. Lately, the old hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" has been on replay in my mental iPod. Specifically, the third verse...
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside...
Hope - noun; confidently optimistic of good to come.
Isn't that what everyone is looking for in these uncertain times? I have come to believe that most anxiety, depression, divorce and suicide are rooted in hopelessness. We can't see how today or tomorrow will be any better than yesterday; so, we give up... hope.
"Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ...
and strangers to the covenants of promise,
having no hope and without God in the world."
Hopelessness is man's natural default, apart from Christ. Lest we believe this outlook is reserved exclusively for "the lost", we need only review the parable of the vine and branches ("...without Me, you can [present tense] do nothing"). It is the worst predicament, "believing" the correct things about God, yet in function, living apart from Him. This has been termed Christian atheism.
So, when we find ourselves floundering in the sea of hopelessness, what is the remedy?
We must recognize that we came to this place because of misplaced reliance. It is the grace of God which causes everything to shake that can be shaken. No earthly situation, investment, vocation, location, or relationship can grant us that bedrock security we so desire. It can be found in One place, alone...
"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
a hope both sure and steadfast and One which enters within the veil"
Now, that reminds me of another great hymn (click to listen)...
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
~ Romans 15:13