No Other

Dana Point, CA 2019

Thinking back over my fifty-six years of the most precious gift called life, I am not able to recall a time when I did not believe that God is God and there is no other. Though I had never read the Bible, I simply accepted in child-like faith that all of creation was ruled by God.

Clearly, according to the Gospel, this was not a faith unto salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ; however, it is true that I simply believed… (1)

God is God and there is no other.

As a child who had not read the Bible and had rarely attended church, how is it that I could have such a simple faith in God and His Sovereignty?

What a great question! And it is one that I have been pondering for longer than anyone cares to know. As I have been asking the Lord to reveal to me what He wants me to know, below are just a few of the highlights.

I pray these concepts of relationship are an encouragement to you as you live among people of all ages and backgrounds who may have never read the Bible and have rarely if ever attended a Christian church. I hope we all get to be one or more of these in someone’s life.

  • My parents believed in God, and they told me from my earliest memory that “we, as a family” believe in God.
  • All of my grandparents shared with me their belief in God in their own unique ways of simply living.
  • Grandfathers whistled, hummed and sang hymns as they took me along to the garden, to fish and fry the catch later on. They taught practical lessons of accountability and responsibility.
  • Grandmothers prayed with me. They sang children’s songs containing the message that Jesus loves me and all the little children of the world. Bible stories were read, while rocking on grandma’s lap.
  • Through each of their voices, I heard their belief and reverence toward The one true and great God.
  • A family friend asked if she could take me to Vacation Bible School when I was nine years old.
  • My Dad set an example of authority and discipline in our family, and my Mom backed him up. My parents taught the golden rule of treating others the way I wanted to be treated, and they exemplified loving their neighbor.

Beyond these real life examples of Jesus with skin on, God met me regularly as a child in places and ways I could understand. He met me in my dreams at night and revealed His greatness and presence as Ruler over all. I just knew, as a child simply believes, that God was speaking to me in dreams and in places which could only have been created by a Sovereign Hand.

Later, as an adult I was overwhelmed with gratitude to find those words, which the Lord had tenderly, but firmly spoken into my dreams and thoughts, written in black and white for me to read in the Bible.

God is God, and there is no other.

(1) John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Problem? No Problem!

Ah, the exhilaration of taking a problem to someone only to hear them say, “No problem. I can take care of that for you.”

Maybe your issue was an immediate situation or perhaps you had something lingering. Possibly you have a problem right now and you just can’t see the solution. What would it do to your entire being – inside and out – to hear these two words?

No Problem!

As I type, I’m pondering not just one problem. A whole basket full of problems for my family and many friends play through my mind. We’ve got problems. There’s no doubt about it.

Before I loose you to resignation or hopelessness. Let’s ponder on the good news. Please. Stop. Sit back down. Relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Your problem isn’t going anywhere while we take a look at the really good news.

In fact, let’s stop now and turn our eyes away from the problem to gaze into the eyes of the ONE who says…

NOTHING is too hard for Me!

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33 AMP

More than thirty years ago when I was young, blinded by love for my man and naively oblivious to the types of problems we would encounter in marriage, I chose Ephesians 4:2 as the foundation for our relationship.

I’m still young in my heart and still blindly in love with my man; however, I am now fully aware of the depth of the problems we’ve faced thus far. Quite honestly I had no idea how much I would grit my teeth and cling to this scripture when I claimed it. Yet, God knew and He revealed it to me then. In fact, I believe Ephesians 4:2 (and 3 for good measure) was not only engraved on his wedding band, but upon my heart!

The picture above was taken for my parents. As they dropped us off at the Atlanta Hartsfield airport we teased with them that we would be sure to stay together on the same side of the San Andreas fault line in case we should experience an earthquake while out in California. So, when we found this huge crack in the desert on a morning walk, we just had to take a picture of our feet on the same side.

Knowing what we’ve faced, my dear man and I, and not knowing the full extent of what is yet ahead; this picture has come to mean more to us than just a silly jest. It’s a declaration of what we’ve chosen for our relationship. It’s a proclamation of our agreement with Jesus.

We absolutely agree, as we turn our eyes from our problems to gaze at His face. In this world we have had problems, and we will continue to have problems. Yet, we know experientially that His word is true.

Lord, we have problems that we can’t fix. Our family has problems we can’t fix. Our friends have problems we can’t fix. Our church has problems we can’t fix. Our city has problems we can’t fix. Our state and our nation and our world has problems we can’t fix.

Lord, we have problems.

Thank you for responding to us with the best news. I believe as a good Father, perfect in all your ways, you are saying to us,

“No problem. I can help you with that.”

Thank you for being delighted to help us. Thank you for having all the answers and solutions. Thank you, God, that this is true of you…

Nothing is too hard for you. Nothing!

That’s the way I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

Lisa

Community is a Gift

Recently, my dear man and I spent three days enjoying the fabulous Pacific Ocean via Dana Point, CA. Our Eastern time zone body clocks caused us to be awake at 4 AM initially, and so we waited with a cup of coffee watching for evidence of sunrise. We were startled the first morning at the number of surfers already congregated IN the surf as the sun slowly rose in the east.

Each day, moving toward Friday, it seemed the number of surfers increased in the light of dawn. We found them fascinating, and so we walked with bare feet in the sand observing behaviors. We wanted to see real Californians catch the waves.

Occasionally, a surfer paddled into the wave, moved to their feet and smoothly balanced atop. Some crashed. And others seemed most content to sit on their board.

By the third day, our beach observations had joined at an amusing connection. We looked out onto the water at the mass of surfers divided into several “small groups” with an occasional loner off to one side or the other. My man and I laughed as we identified ourselves according to social surfers and loners.

I’m not telling who is who…

Yet as our eyes moved away from the surfers and up along the retaining pond between our hotel and the beach, we saw a very similar portrait of congregated community. The only difference was in the species. These were birds.

We got the biggest kick out of observing the birds in similar formation. Some gathered in groupings. Some sat off to one side or another, preferring the quiet of solitude. And from time to time, one particularly energetic fellow would land right in the middle of a group. You could just tell that he expected everyone to scoot over and make room for him.

Our eyes scanned from surfers gathered on the ocean to birds gathered on the sand. Suddenly, together, we caught the message.

All of creation is meant for community!

Even those who chose to be a little more sequestered to the side of the groups, sought community. It was so obvious that we could not deny the lesson. Those who were in the group sometimes separated to go it alone for awhile. Interchangeably, the ones which seemed to prefer solitude intermittently joined a group.

All of these observations and pondering thoughts led me back to God. He is triune in nature, which means that He is community within Himself. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, existing three in one from eternity past to eternity future. Since God is the very definition and existence of community I have to conclude that He has placed His stamp of approval on the idea of living in community.

Additionally, God’s teaching places the greatest emphasis on relationship, love, encouraging one another, giving generously and taking care of others. A number of men asked Jesus to tell them the greatest commandment. Consistent was Jesus’ answer, and always inclusive of community. Jesus taught: first love God; then second, love your neighbor. Community!

One additional observation in our study of the bird congregation. In the center of the bird gathering was a dead bird. We watched the scenario play out as if we were peering through the ceiling of a funeral home during the visitation of a precious loved one.

A bird or two would walk over to the dead bird, look at it and walk back to the group gathered off to the side. Meanwhile, birds congregated squawking and cleaning feathers off to each side. Some ate tidbits from the sand.

They appeared to be supporting one another. Dare I venture to think? They were encouraging one another as much as birds comprehend death, community, encouragement and grief. We need one another.

On the best surfing days, we need each other. On the darkest days of suffering, we need each other.

Whether we see examples in nature or in various congregations of people in everyday life, it’s true that people seek relationship. Perhaps we simply choose to believe God as our greatest example of living in community. Anyway, that’s the way I see it.

We’re meant to live in community. And Community is a Gift.

What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

Lisa

Why Doesn’t He?

While feeling particularly lugubrious on occasion, do you ever wonder why God doesn’t just crumple up His creation and start over?

I admit it. I do wonder. I wonder when I begin reading in Genesis 1 of the goodness of God’s creation and then everything’s gone seriously wrong by the time I read two chapters into the book.

Why didn’t God junk project Earth?

God is God. Creating is what He does. He speaks and His breath becomes matter of all shapes and sizes and distinctions. Nothing is too hard for Him. So, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable that He might just scrap the first attempt and start over ~ does it?

Well, actually the longer I work creatively with my hands, the more I realize it’s not so easy to give up on my creation. This new chapter in my life has opened my mind, heart and hands to the possibilities of turning a chunk of wood into art. My eyes and hands have been learning the beauty of removing old worn out fabric from beautiful strong pieces of furniture only to freshly clothe them for the future.

I’m simply amazed at the delight that fills me up as I step into the creative process of restoring something old. The stories behind the projects are just as important as the mechanics of upholstery, weaving or woodworking. Memories come from people in relationship. Homes and childhoods are represented. Love. Hard times. Joyous gatherings. Commitments made. Promises broken.

And somehow getting to participate in the repair and restoration of memory pieces – no matter the level of angst in the middle of the project – fills me with delight.

Please be comforted that I am not comparing my intellect with God’s immeasurable wisdom and unsearchable majesty.

However, in my tiny and finite experience with creating from the work of my hands, I have caught a glimpse of how difficult it would be to completely obliterate something into which I’ve poured my blood, sweat and tears.

In every project, for all the bountiful planning, a surprise situation is bound to rear its ugly head. Certainly, I get frustrated. I scratch my head. I walk outside to breathe some fresh air. I clench my fists. In fact, I’ve even cried while sewing the inside of that one arm for the third time! Yet, I have found (so far) that I just can’t ditch my work.

The desire to persevere to the re-created end and the joyful reward that awaits compels me to continue the work. In the process of upholstery and weaving, there is so much doing, undoing and re-doing, of which no one would ever be aware. With woodworking, there’s always a sharp corner that needs more sanding or an additional coat of stain to add. It’s the process, which for me, becomes the fullness of experience.

And maybe from my small perspective that’s exactly the point and the answer to the why…

NOTHING is too hard for God.

He does as He pleases. Perhaps its just that simple. God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves His creation, and enjoys the process. Our Creator, God, delights in creating and repairing, smoothing our rough edges, teaching and restoring all along the journey.

Grateful am I that He sees perfectly the image of me He’s always intended from before time began. And, the good news, as I surrender under His hands, He will complete His grand design in me and deliver me safely into eternity with Him.

I have this confidence that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

(paraphrase of Philippians 1:6 NIV)

In a recent study of Noah and God in Genesis 6-8, just a few short chapters after perfect creation became terribly corrupt, I learned that God was sorrowful over all of His creation. Wickedness abounded in all the earth and God felt regret.

God wasn’t sorrowful because He made a mistake. There was nothing faulty in His planning process. Nor was there a glitch in the operation of creating. He’s not like me – at all. For it is I who was created in His image rather than the other way around.

He created perfectly. Yet what He witnessed was ugly. The spotless bride of His imagination was tainted and marred. The collective loss of His creative work broke His heart.

And so what did He do?

He began to scan the whole earth looking for something – someone – He could salvage. The Creator of all perfection and glory was determined to find a remnant from which He would begin again. He would not utterly destroy if at all possible. He would find someone faithful and devoted to Himself and then continue His restoration plan from there.

The love of His creation, especially us, who He made in His own image is so great that He will give everything – even sacrifice Himself – to save.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding why God has not given up on His creation. I sincerely doubt that I will ever fully understand the why behind His love, commitment and devotion toward us.

And yet, I believe on faith and by experience that Creator God is long suffering, merciful and determined to finish the good work He once began.

Once upon a time, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, said that creation was all good and very good. One day, yet to be revealed, He will once again declare that all corruption is finished. He will beam with satisfaction as He beholds His perfected spotless Bride – good and very good.

And it’s my personal opinion that God’s heart will be glad that He persevered in the repair and restoraton of His creation, and that He never once intended to give up on us.

What do you think?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Revelation 21:2-5 ESV

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE ~

Lisa