Friday, October 20, 2017

A Halloween Haunting



The latest in my small town moving adventures has me in a suburb of Pittsburgh rich with village charm and grand estates. Early 1900's Victorians and 1890's Colonials abound on shaded streets lined with lush landscapes. Every neighborhood block in this little town is a feast for the eyes. At every turn there is a new reason to "ohh" and "awe." From impressive hand-laid stone walls to the unique woodworking framing stately front doors, each home displays the skills of a fine craftsman and decades of a homeowner's tender love and care.
With autumn's arrival I anticipated the beauty of the landscape transformed by the changing colors. I imagined the homes draped in gorgeous shades of orange, yellow and red. But when October came a very different kind of gore transformed this quaint village town: Halloween gore.
As it turns out, this town just so happens to love all things that scream All Hallows Eve, especially scary, gory scenes replete with open graves, fake blood, flying witches and vampires. Nearly every street has a few gigantic spiders hanging from homeowner's trees and windows are decked out with orange and black lights illuminating spooky scenes.There are so many tomb stones in garden beds it's a wonder there are any living residents left. In preparation for Halloween night the homes and landscapes I've admired have been transformed into frightful sites designed to scare and terrify.
The displays of death and darkness have draped an eerie pall over my daily neighborhood walks. Even though I know that the blood is just paint on a bed sheet, the gory scenes still disquiet my soul. The plastic tombs and empty graves taunt me and haunt me with the one death that still causes me to fear: the death of my own will.
The death of my will petrifies me. I am haunted by the very site of the tomb stone inscribed with my dreams and desires. With white knuckles, I've been holding on for dear life to my will that yearns to be made well and whole. Even while my body has been wasting away, my spirit has been afraid to surrender its own self-imposed will, lay down and die.
But this will of mine to be made physically healthy and well is failing fast. My way to be healed has been gasping for its last breath and not even life support can save it now. My spiritual lungs are giving out. I simply cannot run in fear any longer.
In the cemetery that is my will's final resting place there is a grave marked out bearing my name and Christ bids me to come lay down in it and die. In a place called Golgotha, Jesus invites me to surrender to the tomb of my will and ways.
Laid to rest in Christ's lush bed of redemption and grace I am covered with the peace of God's eternal providence. Hidden with Christ, I am freed from the haunting of the grave. By uniting with my Savior in His death I am risen again to eternal life in the center of God's everlasting will.
Death where is your victory?
Death where is your sting? 
Because Jesus is alive death has been made powerless. The empty tomb of the risen Lord has defeated death once and for all in order that I may live eternally unafraid in the peaceful presence of the everlasting King.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wolly Worm




Every autumn, like clockwork, a furry creature returns to the earth. His name is the wolly worm.
While cold weather warriors prepare their wardrobes with sweaters and their feet with warm socks, earth’s crawling caterpillar puts on his own fuzzy coat of own. While the fur covered caterpillar prepares for the brutality of winter he enjoys all kinds of attention. Children make a game of catching him and farmers inspect his stripes for winter weather forecasts.
Then the seasons change and fall is replaced by a winter's frost and freezing temperatures. And, as suddenly as he arrived, the wolly caterpillar disappears from sight. He is no where to be found in the snow and ice. To survive the winter weather in his furry coat the wolly caterpillar goes into hiding. He escapes from the face of the earth to seek protection in the sanctuary of a log or a rock. He may even find refuge in a hollowed out tree stump. For many months and through many storms, the wolly worm hunkers down in his fuzzy cocoon and hangs on for dear life.
And then spring returns. The freeze breaks and so does the cocoon of the wolly caterpillar. As the season changes once again the caterpillar is released from the burden of his heavy winter coat, free to explore the earth. During the winter his furry stripes and fuzzy design has been transformed, exchanged for delicate wings that open wide in dazzling color. 
From nature’s bunker the lowly wolly worm emerges a beauty to behold. In winged exaltation he takes to the earth to announce the glorious arrival of spring. 

And so it shall be with me.

I am fragile, weak and small. I am no match for life's bleak winters. But I have an enduring, eternal hope for my survival when I cling to the rock of my salvation. 

To linger outside the protective will and providence of God I perish. Apart from the sanctuary of His presence I am crushed by hopelessness and despair. It is only by seeking the shelter of God's mighty hand that I am sustained and preserved till spring. 
When I rest in Christ and cling to the promise of His eternal life, I can survive the harshest seasons and the most brutal of storms. Even when the winds rage and beat against my bunker; even when the land is desolate and cold, I will endure by the blood of the Lamb. 
Then one day the deep freeze will break and the earth will thaw. The storms will cease and spring will come. Then, just like the wolly caterpillar, I will be set free. From my hiding place, my sanctuary, I will soar on the wings of new life. Transformed and renewed I will be set free to exalt and praise the glory of my God and my salvation, now and forevermore. 

As God's precious child, treasured and dearly loved, I have the promise and assurance that in every season and storm my Lord will cover me in the warmth of His mercy and grace to one day live in the glory of His eternal spring.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Small Town Living

I'm on the move (again) and this time I've landed in a small borough outside of Pittsburgh with village charm straight out of a Gilmore Girls episode. Welcome to the real Stars Hollow.
This adorable small town has a vibrant and active community with a lively events calendar. There is an annual dog parade and light up night festivities at Christmas time. In the town's center square the gazebo is decorated at every season with flags at the fourth and foliage in the fall. Pumpkins began filling the park in October and I'm told the horse drawn carriage will arrive in December. Every day, at the top of every hour, the bells of the local church ring like clock work and for every fire emergency, the fire department's siren roars, alerting the local volunteers.
And my new place is right in the heart of this made for TV village in an1890's barn turned apartments features historic charm and unbeatable convenience. I exit my front door and immediately I am greeted by the the hustle and bustle of small town life. My new home sweet home is a staggering seventeen steps from the grocery store (the local Doose's for you GG fans) and a twenty second walk from the best cup of coffee in town. This new housing arrangement comes with caffeinated perks.
But small town village living also comes with its share of quirks. Namely, its noisy quirks. Before the crack of dawn I hear the market workers arrive to ready the grocery store shelves for an eight o'clock open. All day long customers stream in and out of the parking lot pushing squeaky wheeled shopping carts across the cracked concrete. In the evenings my lively neighbors take to their porches and engage in spirited conversation. During the day light hours I can hear them above me walking on creaky wooden floor boards.

The first few days and nights of this non-stop activity and noise sent my nerves into a tizzy. The disruption to my quiet life was downright disquieting. I couldn't find my rest in the constant commotion. I could slip into stillness or sleep.
As I lay in bed one night, stirred by a sudden sound outside my window, God, my faithful Comforter, swept into my room to still my anxious heart. In the dark of night the very Spirit of God descended like a dove, wrapping me in His arms of peace and tranquility. With a work of holy transformation, He rearranged the sounds of chaos outside my window and rewrote them into calm serenades to comfort my soul. 

When I rose from my bed the following morning the busy village scene was unchanged but to my ear every noise was transformed.
Now, in the chattering voices, rumbling cars and squeaky carts I hear the activity God. At the sound of pitter-patter upstairs I hear God at work high and above my life orchestrating every detail in accordance with His flawless design. At the sound of the garbage man I am reminded that Jesus is constantly cleansing and purifying me with the sweetness of His new life.
In my new home, surrounded by the lively hustle and bustle of small town life, God is using the noise to make sure I never forget that He is always faithfully going about His Holy activity to bring about His good, glorious and eternal will for my life.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

(AB)NORMAL


What is normal?
I used to think I knew but then my normal got turned upside down. So, for the past seven years, I've been adjusting and adapting to an "abnormal" life but, once again, my "normal" is shifting. As of late, a new normal has taken over my daily routine and, I'll admit, it's taken some getting used to.

For seven long years I have been wrapped up in the abnormal world of a health saga. With the exception of a few months of relief along the way, most of my twenties have been spent under a cloud of mysterious illness. Even when the symptoms have waned, the inexplicable nature of their comings and goings has haunted me.
As "abnormal" as this life has been, my strange existence has actually become quite "normal" to me. Over time I've come to raise fewer questions and doubts about my limitations. I've even learned to be comfortable in the quiet life.
From my "abnormal" life I've fantasized from afar about what a life returned to full health would look like in reality. In my imagination I had visions and they were always glorious. In my mind's eye I would see myself running full of strength and vigor. I imagined community and friendships. I created a "normal" of physical restoration where my body would be whole and healthy with a full life to match.
But my vision of normal never included the trials and tribulations of making such a dramatic change from the "abnormal." I pictured a flawless and smooth transition from a life of sickness to one of health. Just call me Pollyanna, because I never foresaw a single bump in the road nor challenge along the shifting sands of normalcy. I simply assumed it would be a journey of pure bliss and, dare I say, ease.
But we all know what happens when we assume...we end up looking very foolish and, in my case, very wrong.

As my "normal" has been changing so has my fairy tale vision. My every miraculous healing assumption has been shattered on the long road to physical restoration. Instead of a smooth and steady uphill climb I predicted, healing has been a rocky ascent. Every time I think I am about to reach a peak, or at least tread on friendly terrain, a mountain ridge comes into view and I am reminded that my journey is far from over.
Even the transition into the new normal of friendships and community has proven to be far more treacherous a mountain to scale than I ever anticipated.

As it turns out, my highly-anticipated "normal," and the journey to get there, looks much different in reality than it did in my creative, and flawed, imagination.

While I've been busy envisioning the dream of what a new normal might be I missed the beauty of the "abnormal" life God's given to me. This life that I so long fought against has not been a curse. The quiet life has not been some form of brutal silent torture. Frailty has not been a weakness. Stillness has not been a death sentence.
"Abnormal" has been God's blessed gift wrapped up especially for me.

Now, as my body changes and my health grows stronger the "normal" of my daily routine will most likely change too. But it won't change according to my vision. It will change according to God's will and in His perfect time.
With the author of my life rewriting my "normal" I am free from the need to imagine what a different reality will look like because even in my wildest dreams I could never imagine the amazing future God has planned. I need not know or even see a glimpse of my body's physical restoration or the relationships He has awaiting me because I can rest in faith that it is all safe and secure in His hands.
Because God is faithful to His promises and true to His Word, I am assured that no matter what new "normal" He brings it will be gloriously, eternally good.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A prayer to His Beloved Son

There once were three men - Peter, James and John - who followed Jesus up a mountain called Transfiguration. At the top of that high hill the three ordinary men were made witness to a most magnificent, Heavenly sight of God's infinite and eternal glory.
Before their very eyes, the world was transformed by the everlasting Son of God. Radiant light enthroned Him and garments of majesty and honor enrobed Him. Then, with heavenly guests in attendance, God made His eternal proclamation:  
This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.
And just as suddenly as the vision appeared, it disappeared into the clouds. The men opened their eyes and saw their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, standing before them;  
the very object of the voice's vision. 
Coming back down the mountain, the men continued following Jesus. It was on the way down the mountain that He instructed Peter, James and John not to tell a single soul of the remarkable vision they had witnessed. They were told to keep it to themselves...
until the object of the vision be lifted up.
Once off of the mountain, back down on level ground, the three men heeded the instruction of their Lord. Although they could not yet comprehend the meaning of His timing or understand the reason for His command, they trusted and obeyed so that not one word of the vision was spoken. Peter, James and John put their faith in what they could not see.
They waited for God and His perfect timing.

Oh, Lord, may that obedient faith be true of me, also. When instructed to keep quiet I pray I do not question your ways. When you whisper, "stay silent," may my lips stay securely fastened. May I trust your voice when you say, "shh!" and have faith when you command me, "do not speak just yet." 
My Lord and God, I pray that I stay surrendered in humbled obedience to your every instruction. May I rest assured that your timing is always perfect and and your ways are always best. 
And may I have faith that when the moment is just right You, the Almighty God, will reveal Your holy visions bringing eternal glory and everlasting honor to your Beloved Son.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Overdraft Protection

 

Savings overdraft protection is a wonderful thing. It is essentially a banking "Get Out of Jail Free" card for checkbook accounting errors. The savings overdraft protection feature pairs a savings account a with a checking accounts so, in the event that the checking account should be overdrawn, it can get its money from the savings account without paying a penalty. Genius! 
I love this idea and have enjoyed its benefits on more than one overdraft occasion. Plus, overdraft protection provides me with peace of mind. I need not fear a of a hefty overdraft fee should I calculate my checkbook in error. Thanks to the concept of overdraft protection I've even been encouraged to save more and spend less.
There is, however, one critical catch with savings account overdraft protection. The checking account in distress must be paired to the right savings account, one that is active and has sufficient funds. Overdraft protection is only as useful as the account it's attached to.
In my case, on this particular overdraft occasion, my overdraft protection didn't do me much good as it turns out it wasn't paired to an active and filled savings account. When I over-drafted, a plea for help was sent out to my retired (and drained) savings account. My active (and well stocked) savings account never received the SOS for financial help and therefore it didn't provide me a cent's worth of protection.
After being assessed a hefty fee I made a trip to the bank where a kind teller set my account right. She graciously removed the overdraft charge and credited my account. Then she re-paired my active accounts to ensure my future protection.

You see, what that teller did for me was just a sliver of a glimmer of the grace of Jesus Christ who offers my soul eternal protection and salvation by uniting with His perfect account. It is by the blood of the Lamb that I am freed from every fee and charge. I am free from the condemnation of sin. I am free from the worry of overdrafting into eternal doom. Because Jesus has paired His perfect account to my sin, I am forgiven and free.
I wonder, dear Friends, have you paired your sin to Christ's perfect account? Have you made Him your soul's protection and signed up to enjoy His saving grace? Have you put your trust and belief in His all-sufficient funds? With Jesus Christ as your soul's eternal protection you will never need to fear the penalty of sin. United with Him in His death and raised with Him to new life, a new account with eternal security will provide you peace and security.

In His death and resurrection Jesus made His life the propitiation for our sins and the protection for our souls. He cleansed us of every fee and debt we could never pay and He continues to provide us with the all-sufficient funds of His grace that save us for now and eternity. 
So what are you waiting for? Bring your account to the foot His cross and take refuge in the eternal protection of God's saving grace.


Friday, September 22, 2017

OVERSIZE LOAD

The morning commute up the steep hill in the Pittsburgh hills was slow and tedious. It was well past rush hour so, being impatient, I wondered why the hold up? Around the next curvy bend in the road my question was answered in the bright yellow OVERSIZE LOAD sign flapping in the wind.
As I approached the back of a massive semi I understood why the truck was moving so slowly. It was carrying a gigantic load of precious cargo: a ranch style home with blue shutters and a white front porch. All that the house was missing were rocking chairs and the smiling home owners. The convoy of pilot vehicles all bearing orange flags and flashing blinkers were a sure give away that a major delivery production was underway.
On the steep and winding highway fellow drivers hesitantly passed the slow-going oversize parade. Each car hugged the inside line as best they could in an attempt to avoid a collision with the home's front porch. When it was my turn to pass I did the same, holding my breath as I whizzed past the precarious load. 
As I made my way past the semi's cabin I looked up to see a man seated behind the big-rig's steering wheel with eyes faithfully fixated on the road ahead. On his face he wore a look of determination and dedication to safely deliver his precious oversize load no matter how long and tedious the journey.
A moment later the semi driver and his load were in my rear view mirror. The caravan faded out of sight but Jesus kept it in my mind..."Do you trust that I can deliver your OVERSIZE load?"  In the oversize load Jesus lovingly reminded me that He has all the power and will to deliver me and my life's oversize loads.
With His spotless driving record and flawless steering, Christ is the only one capable of safely delivering my heavy burdens and carrying my most cumbersome loads. There is no OVERSIZE LOAD on earth too great for the Lord. He willingly and graciously climbs into the cabin of my life and ensures a safe arrival for all of my burdens, sorrows and pains. He treats each one as His most precious cargo.
As God takes my burdens along the journey of life's highway He employs all the forces of His will to guarantee a safe arrival. He will orchestrate a caravan of pilot cars, flashing lights and waving flags to secure His cargo and protect the fulfillment of His plans. Over hills and mountains, along windy ways and low valleys, God remains faithful and true to the  His word to take up my burdens and bring them to their destination.
When the mountains ahead look too steep and the road too twisted for me to maneuver I need not fret because God is the one behind the wheel. In His overcoming life that carried the heaviest load of the cross, my burden is lifted. In His victory that defeated death and rose in eternal life I am assured of its final, restful destination.
With Jesus Christ as my guarantee, I can boldly, confidently and peacefully proclaim, "Yes, Lord Jesus, I trust you to deliver my OVERSIZE load!"