"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Look of Love

Maybe this has never happened to you.

Then again . . . maybe it has.

You're going about your day fully satisfied with all that God is doing. Everything isn't exactly rosy but there's enough upbeat happening to keep you feeling satisfied. You may even start to whistle or hum with joy.

Then it strikes. 

You see or hear or think of something that you enjoy; ice cream, new clothes, flavored coffee. You recognize the item is simply something you want, definitely not something you need. Yet somehow the passing fancy takes on a mind of its own. You slowly realize you've got your heart set on having it no matter what.

That's what happened to me in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport last week. 

We were making our way from one concourse to another to catch the second of three flights to return home. My eyes caught the headline of a copy of USA Today at a news stand. I was instantly in want.

It's not like I read the news or anything, but they have a great puzzle page that keeps my brain occupied for a while as we're flying. I have all kinds of arguments to keep myself from making spur-of-the-moment purchases and they all came to the forefront. By the time we got to the gate every defense had crumbled. I mentioned my craving to my Honey and he was ready to make the purchase, but it was time to board.

I'm not being dramatic when I tell you that I wanted that puzzle page so bad I could almost taste it. I got on the plane and took my seat with black and white squares sprinkled with word searches and sentence jumbles on my tongue. It was brutal. 

I pulled myself together and thanked the Lord we'd made the connection with such a short layover. I settled in and buckled my seatbelt. 

But Boy-O, it would have been nice to enjoy that USA Today puzzle page, I thought.

I'd already done the crossword puzzle, but I decided to look through the airline magazine. I reached into the seat pocket in front of me and my fingers touched something odd. I pulled out a square of folded paper.

Imagine my shock as I opened it up and realized it was THE puzzle page I'd been picturing in my mind's eye. It was from that day's edition of USA Today AND it was fresh and clean. 


All I could do was sit and stare at the piece of newsprint in my hands. It was as if God had sent an angel to grab that page from somebody's USA Today and tuck it in there for me to find. With all the crazy and demanding things going on in my life, in spite of my major shortcomings and rebellious undercurrents, my Abba Father heard the cry of my heart and intervened to meet my longing.

Just a silly little thing that wouldn't mean much to anybody else.

Right there on an airplane.

With no fanfare.

He met me with the kind of love that binds me to Him over and over and over again.

I'm still overwhelmed as I write about it nearly a week later. 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19

What intimate expression of love has God shown you? Please let me know.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Free Time: a Common Myth

Perhaps you haven’t figured it out yet.

Maybe you still believe that days unfold and Free Time appears out of nowhere.

Not me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that having even a few uncommitted minutes pop up by surprise is a rare occurrence. Actually that’s happened in my life about the same number of times as seeing a double rainbow.

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A number of examples of this rare phenomenon may crowd into your mind. You suddenly have enough time to relax in the middle of the day, to complete that unfinished project, to ponder an important decision uninterrupted, to commit focused time in prayer, …

Can you remember the last occasion any of that kind of opportunity surfaced for you?

I can't.

Right now I’m on a two-week retreat with my Honey. We’re not supposed to be spending too much time on the computer and internet. Well, I open my laptop just to stay in touch and all kinds of visual messages bombard me, screaming for my attention. It’s difficult to get in and out smoothly.

Besides, I’m supposed to be concentrating on drawing closer to the Lord and thereby closer to my Honey. There needs to be time set aside for reading and meditating on God’s Word, sharing together, taking walks and enjoying talks, generally unwinding. The demands of our every day life aren’t here and it may sound like lazy days, but that’s not the case. Every moment is committed.

Today I remembered my new assignment to write a post once a month for the Fellowship of Christian Bloggers. How am I supposed to do that in the midst of this special getaway? And I’m not mentioning the manuscript I was pulled away from a year ago when my Honey headed into major health issues. And forget about the hectic international move that followed six months later. And please don’t ask me if I’m settled into our home yet.

No matter where I am or how hard I try, it seems impossible to develop a firm writing schedule or to have that somehow ridiculously-expected open block of time materialize. It’s a dilemma.

What’s a writer to do?

One answer came to me as I was resting this afternoon.

I was lying there trying to catch up on the huge sleep deficit I'm carrying. Somehow I remembered my commitment. I quickly thought about the calendar and tried to figure out if I could write the post when I got home. I realized that wouldn’t work so I started asking my Abba Father for help; theme, energy, words, Scripture, TIME.

The One who loves me with endless grace and mercy began to grant me each request. I arose by His power and put my fingers on the keyboard. The walk through reality you’re reading is the fruit of His response.

Yes, setting a schedule is important.
Working diligently is crucial.
Cultivating gifts bestowed is essential.

But when all else fails, and actually as a primary step, I need to commit myself to the Creator who made me and set the path I’m to follow. Pursuing Him first and following His lead with a willing spirit is the surest way to get the words in print. Or make progress in any area.

Go now, write it on a tablet for them,
Inscribe it on a scroll
That for the days to come
It may be an everlasting witness.  Isaiah 30:8
NIV1984 (emphasis mine)

What's your experience of Free Time? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Puzzle Me This

I'm on retreat, a special time of withdrawing from the world to focus on my deeper self. 

I'm doing battle with the feelings that cause me to identify with Naomi's words at the end of the first chapter of the book of Ruth. 

Don't call me Sandra (strong, intelligent, compassionate). Call me Beylke (weak, troubled, old), because the Almighty has filled my life with overwhelming trials. I went to Prague excited and energized and the LORD has brought me back weary and worn. Why call me Sandra? The LORD has laid me low; the Almighty has stretched me beyond endurance.

I've been running to the Father, pleading for understanding. I want desperately to make sense of what's happening. And if (read that sinceI can't take in every detail and all the purposes behind each one, I at least want some idea of where I'm going. 

In the midst of a particularly difficult patch of struggle the other day I decided to work on a jigsaw puzzle to distract my thoughts. 

HAH, some of you are saying. "You've got to be kidding. I hate puzzles." 

Please bear with me because God used what you might call an added strain to deliver some heart-level insights.

I dumped the puzzle pieces onto the table top with a sigh. The description on the box told me there were 500 pieces that would fit into a 20"x20" space. I felt pretty sure about getting the job done except for NOTE: Puzzle illustration is different from box cover.

I had no picture to follow so I had no idea what I was building. 

At first that wasn't a problem as I simply separated out the edge pieces. I went to work on the border but with so many pieces of only two basic colors my confidence slipped. I decided to turn all the pieces right side up instead. I began gathering like colors together - the reds, the blues, the yellow, the greens. It wasn't long before I started recognizing the skin of an orange, a pineapple, a pepper. I made a small pile of pieces that looked like leaves from lettuce and carrots. 

Part of my mind concentrated on sorting and making sense of the project. Another part kept trying to push ahead to figure out what the final picture, the illustration I was supposed to match, actually looked like. It would certainly make the job much easier and success more likely. 

Now, stick with me here. If you're facing any of the kinds of life challenges I am, there's more to this puzzle than a picture.

After a while I needed a break. I went for a glass of water. When I returned to the table I was surprised by the progress I saw. 

Portions of the puzzle were materializing out of the helter-skelter. Fruits and vegetables were taking shape. I still had no idea what the final picture would be, but the hope of success encouraged me to continue. 

One part of my brain had been toiling away making sense of the separate piles of pieces. The other part had been concentrating on the search for overall meaning. They were working in tandem with the one not seeming to hinder the other at all. 

Hmmmm . . .

I spent a few minutes trying to complete the border and gave up again. The more interesting challenge was figuring out how to combine the small completed portions into a coherent image. The concentration I applied slowly but surely built into an overall awareness. The oranges connected to the peppers. The pineapple leaves led to the rest of the greenery. 

When a bloody knife appeared next to the plate of cheese cake I knew it was time to orient the picture itself. And so right side up came into being. Then all that was left was the rest of the border, much easier to do at this point, and the single black and white sections of the floor. 


I sat back to enjoy the result of my labors. The Holy Spirit continued to whisper to me.

Maybe there is some cross-over application to be made from this time of relaxation.

Could the part of me that needs to respond to the every day challenges of living in a fallen world be compared to the skill of putting together the colorful portions? Might the other part of me that needs to find clarity and meaning in all of life be similar to the desire to have an image of the puzzle to complete?

Is it possible for me to be able to function amidst the daily collection of ups and downs as I wrestle in earnest with being able to understand the larger issues of life? Can I continue to move forward when I have no idea what the future looks like?

If my jigsaw puzzle experience holds true, and I believe it does, the answer is a resounding YES.

I'm learning.

"In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me."  Jonah 2:2

How I praise and thank my Abba Father for His loving plans for me.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  James 1:2-4

Wednesday, September 3, 2014



HOME is such a simple word; only four letters, one syllable.

As a concept though, I find it a bit more complex.

Is HOME the place where we live; a structure, a space?
Do we define a HOME by a location or address; Czech Republic, 258 East Shore Drive?
Does the setting tell us more about HOME; co-inhabitants, neighborhood, ambience?

I was born and raised in Connecticut, steeped in centuries of local heritage, surrounded by generations of relatives.
For my early life, Stony Creek was clearly HOME.

In my high school years my family moved to a town 45 minutes away. 
It took a while, but my parents and brothers, my school and friends were there so Milford became HOME. 

Since I've been married I've lived in West Haven, New Milford, Huémoz, Chesterfield, West Bay, VW van, Weymouth, Bolton, Groton, Shirley, Acton, Prague, New Boston, and Acton.
Except for New Boston which was clearly a transitional place I called each place HOME.

Now I've returned to Acton and it's the very first time I remember sensing this internal separation.

Back in the 1st century a Roman philosopher named Pliny the Elder said, "Home is where the heart is"

The house on Loon Pond is where I breathe and eat, rise and sleep, walk and talk, listen and learn ... go about my daily life. 
Yet it's clear to me that though my body resides here, my soul does not feel at HOME.

I was pondering this odd sense of personal division the other day. How can a person possibly live with their body and soul disconnected in such a painful and seemingly unnatural way?

I took my dilemma to my Abba Father as the psalmists did so long ago.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.  Psalm 4:1

Be merciful to me, O LORD; for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.  Psalm 31:9-10

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress,
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.  Psalm 102:1-2

Slowly my anguish lessened. My thoughts began to run in a straight line. I reviewed the basic biblical truths the Holy Spirit has caused me to understand over the years. God is sovereign, loving, omniscient, omnipotent, active, faithful, kind, compassionate, merciful, . . . 

The Father made me. The Son rescued me. The Spirit indwells me. One of my favorite Scriptures came to mind. 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:11-13

The peace of the Almighty began to settle over me. My brooding gave way to contemplation . . .

Hmmm, maybe, just maybe . . . God has orchestrated all the details of my life to show me this very contrast. Perhaps living in one location with my heart yearning for a another is a skill I need to develop. Could it be that all of God's chosen ones are to breathe and eat, rise and sleep, walk and talk, listen and learn, ... go about our daily lives in this world while our souls are set elsewhere, heaven? 

. . . and meditation.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.  Acts 17:24-28a

Their [enemies of the cross of Christ] destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.  Philippians 3:19-20a

But in keeping with his [God's] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  2 Peter 3:13

The Word seems to be telling me we are supposed to live with this distinction. It certainly would be helpful to master this mindset and heart conviction. Even as I write this post I realize the great I AM is calling me unto Himself all over again. It's a new opportunity to put down the things of this life and rest my soul in His presence. Relief arrives.

Whenever I turn to God through His Word, He hears and grants me exactly what I need. I am refreshed by this glimpse into His work in the world and specifically in me. I see a lot of hard work ahead, but I'm reminded again that God's got it all laid out and under control. Hallelujah

In my distress I called to the LORD;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.  Psalm 18:6

But I call to God, and he saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.  Psalm 55:17

How about you? Do you struggle with feelings of HOME? 

Or perhaps your trials are in a different area. 

I can assure you that God is still God. His love for you is wide and deep and high and warm. No matter what you're facing, His mercy is everlasting and available. I can confirm it.

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.
In the day of my trouble I will call to you
for you will answer me.  Psalm 86:7

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