May Christ through your faith (actually) dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love. Ephesians 3:17, Amplified
My roots reach deep
Into the One who IS
First of firsts
Within me the rich soil of life
Though the tempest roars
And the locusts swarm
The Harvest comes
I am Faith Unstoppable.
I stand planted
In the One who WAS
Inhabiter of time
The rock of my salvation
Though the mountains crumble
And are swallowed by the waves
I do not falter
I am Faith Unshaken.
I have my shelter
In the One who IS TO COME
Making all things new
My fortress, my tower, my strength
Though I'm bombarded
By flaming arrows
I stand strong in the gap
I am Faith Immovable.
This coffee mug was a Christmas gift from my Mother. The phrase on it spoke to me but I was not purchasing things for myself so put it back on the shelf. My mother had seen and surprised me with it. In case you can’t read it (I’ve had the mug for some years and it’s been through many washings), the phrase is “Each new wave rearranges the patterns in the sand so we can pretend our footsteps are the first”. I can’t tell you why this phrase spoke to me the way it did but, as the Holy Spirit has worked in me, opening the eyes of my heart to the truth of who Jesus is in me; I have garnered a deeper understanding of this phrase. Even though the Holy Spirit has been at work in God’s people for over 2,000 years, each revelation is new to me. When my eyes are opened to see, it’s a brand new discovery.
There was a time I used to read Matthew 27:46 where Jesus cries out “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” and thought I understood how He felt. There have been so many times when I’ve walked through such darkness I was certain God had forsaken me. I couldn’t hold that against Him though because He’d forsaken Jesus too so at least Jesus understood how I felt. This is a terrible belief to hold and I thank God He didn’t let me keep it for long. The Holy Spirit led me to Hebrews 13:5 where I read, and the Amplified translation says it best: “Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” While this passage is more about financial worries, this promise of God appeared to hold true for every aspect of my life especially when the verse 16 says “So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
Here was a thought: If God promised to never leave nor forsake me, was my belief that He had forsaken Jesus mistaken?
I began to read the bible with this question in mind and saw Isaiah 53:4 which states, “surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by Him and afflicted.” This struck me. “Punished by God” is how I saw Jesus’ sufferings and death but this scripture appeared to tell me that wasn’t true. Then the Holy Spirit drew my eyes to 2 Corinthians 5:19 where Paul writes “…God was reconciling the word to Himself in Christ” and Colossians 2:9 which states “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” With these two passages ringing in my mind, I began to question my interpretation of Matthew 27:46. If I were incorrect and The Father had not forsaken His son, what did Jesus’ words mean?
Then came the day when the Holy Spirit answered that question. I was reading Psalm 22. I cannot count how many times I’d read it before and felt David’s pain but had NEVER realized what was going on. The opening lines of this Psalm are exactly Jesus’ words on the cross. I have read the writings of bible teachers who have said that every Jew within earshot would not have needed Jesus to say anything more. They would have known the Psalm in its entirety just hearing the first lines and would know exactly what He was saying. What was He saying?
Even though David wrote this Psalm hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, this entire Psalm is about Him. As the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to that truth, I read through the Psalm in dawning wonder. Passages leapt out at me. “He trusts in the Lord, they say, let the Lord rescue him” (verse 8) I found paralleled in Matthew 27:43. I discovered the horror and shame of crucifixion in verses 16-18 of the Psalm: “they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display, people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
I read David’s words and saw that they mirrored Jesus’ agony. I continued reading and knew for certain God had not forsaken Jesus on the cross for the Psalm itself declares Jesus was not forsaken in verse 24: “He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
The Psalm ends on a note of exultation. Verse 31 says, “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” The last words of the Psalm, “He has done it”, are exactly Jesus’ words when He cries “It is finished!”
I couldn’t believe it. It was like I’d never read the Psalm before. My entire mind was flooded with revelation and I had an entirely new bible. I also had an entirely new understanding of Jesus’ cry on the cross. I read the Psalm again and then went back to Matthew 27 to read the entire passage. And then I read it again because I finally saw what Matthew’s gospel was saying. Jesus’ cry on the cross was not a cry of agony at being abandoned by God. Rather, it was a shout of triumph. Even when the situation looks as bad as it possibly can, my God shouts His triumph.
This was a brand new discovery for me and the Holy Spirit and I delighted in it together. I felt like I’d been the only one ever to have seen this to be true even though, at the same time, I knew I could not be. Indeed, I am not the first nor will I be the last but it doesn’t matter. I delight in my seeing. Those who have already seen share my delight and I have an equal share in the delight of their having seen. Even though many have walked the shoreline of this particular revelation, the Holy Spirit made the sand smooth so that I felt my footsteps were the first. He makes it smooth again once I’ve passed so that another can discover Him for the first time.
*All scriptures are quoted from the Amplified and NIV translations.
Some of the best poetry ever written appears in the Bible in the Song of Songs: the Song of Solomon. One of my favorite lines is SOS 6:4; Thou art beautiful, My Love, as Tirzah. There’s something musical about it and, while musing on it, I wrote this poem.
I like symbols. I enjoy how symbols can open my eyes to truth I had not yet perceived. I do try not to get carried away looking everywhere for symbols and hidden meanings and I especially am careful about looking for signs from God. 1 Corinthians 1:22 has always felt like a warning about looking for signs so I have sought to know God’s voice for myself, therefore rendering null and void any need for a sign. And yet, what about those times when God is there-I know it because His presence is always with me-and yet He is remaining silent? There are few things more frustrating in my spiritual journey than when God is remaining silent as it usually happens during a time when I need to hear from Him the most.
I mentioned before how a crisis some seventeen years was merely a catalyst for Jesus to reveal Himself to me in a different way and set my feet on a new path. Coming to know Him in greater intimacy has not happened all at once. It has been an awful painful wonderful glorious journey: one I’ve survived by relying on Him day by day. I recently realized I have seen aspects of His character He has been bringing me to see over the course of the last three years. I can look back now and see how it all worked together for me to KNOW what I know today but, at the time, the butterfly was just a butterfly.
It all started three years ago when my doctor found a lump in my breast. I hadn’t noticed it. It truly felt like it had appeared overnight. My doctor was concerned but not overly so. She thought it could be a result of an ongoing hormonal imbalance and I was to come back in a month and she’d see if it had changed size or gone away. I prayed every day of that month, asking He who is my Healer to take it away. I went back for my follow up visit knowing it hadn’t gone away and having no idea what was going to happen next. Painful and invasive exams were what happened next, culminating in a biopsy. I had to wait a few days for the results of my biopsy and, while there was an enormous chance my lump was benign, there was a chance it wasn’t. I couldn’t think, felt numb, and sought the peace I normally find in nature by taking a walk at the reservoir.
It was a beautiful, warm day but I felt I was carrying ice around in my very marrow. The what if was a whirl-a-gig inside my mind and, although I knew He was with me, He wasn’t making me any specific promises. I didn’t know what to pray for. He is my Healer-I believe that with everything I am-but I couldn’t deny He hadn’t healed me-the lump was proof of that- and I felt my foundation of faith was rather shaky beneath my feet.
I managed to make it to my favorite bench placed right by the water before I felt I couldn’t go any further. I sat there in the warm sunshine, listened to the insects in the long grass, the birds on the water, and just waited in His presence. Surely, alone in this place, He would speak comfort to me.
As I sat, a small yellow butterfly appeared, flitting from flowers to blades of grass. I have always thought butterflies symbols of spiritual truths: their beauty, the way the gland at the base of their skull consumes their caterpillar life and the butterfly emerges from that death (our death swallowed in His life!); they have so much to teach me about walking with God. Thus, I always enjoy seeing butterflies and have never had a moment where I did not feel closer to God when I saw one. I watched that tiny creature, so yellow it looked like sunshine come to life, and waited for a message from God. There was nothing.
I couldn’t help laughing at myself. Perhaps I was looking for too much. Were it a story I was writing, the butterfly would have been the harbinger of great peace and spiritual growth. Instead, it was nothing more than a creature doing what it was created to do. A pretty creature, certainly, but nothing more. The butterfly was just a butterfly. I was not living inside a book. I had no promise from God that I did not have cancer. I had no idea what I might be facing in the coming days. I still had to go home and wait for my test results. I rose from the bench and made my way home.
My results arrived and I did not have cancer. My relief was beyond my ability to describe. Still, the presence of the lump meant my hormone imbalance was more serious than I thought and I could potentially develop severe problems. I turned out I already had and I ended up having a major surgery only a year later. I had not developed cancer but though again I prayed, it was a surgery I was not spared.
And yet, there was never a moment when He was not with me. It wasn’t that I was not afraid nor in pain. It wasn’t that I lied to myself and assured myself there was no reason to be afraid. There was every reason and there were some I hadn’t even considered until I read through and signed my pre-surgery paperwork. Rather, there wasn’t a step I took He didn’t take with me. That fact was something I only truly realize now as I am having some painful complications from that surgery, am having difficulties getting treatment for those complications, and have no fear at all. Irritation at the roadblocks-Jesus does not make me superhuman-but He infuses me with His strength to look into the unknown without fear. How is such a thing possible? I don’t think it would be if I hadn’t had it cemented in me through experience that He keeps his promises and does not ever leave me nor forsake me. Whatever my next moments, days, and years hold, I know that I don’t face anything alone.
Oddly, that little yellow butterfly has never been far from my mind. I was so sure then it meant nothing and yet it has come to be important to me. Perhaps I don’t have to look for signs or symbols. Perhaps He gives them to me and then gives me recognition and understanding when the time is right. I do know I will never again see a butterfly as just a butterfly.
Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite authors. I was 9 or 10 when I first read “A Wrinkle in Time” and was thus and forevermore hooked on her writing. Through the years, I’ve moved from her-would they be considered Young Adult books?-to her adult fiction, to her journals, to her essays. A short time ago, I found “Penguins & Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places” and, I must admit, had a knee-jerk reaction to the words “Icons and Idols”. I believe I’ve mentioned before I don’t have an extensive religious background but that doesn’t mean those beliefs haven’t made their way into my mental processes. Aren’t icons wrong? Aren’t icons and idols synonymous? Do I have to stop reading one of my favorite authors?
I had already read the The Genesis Trilogy by Ms. L’Engle and had found them beautiful. My faith had grown reading these books and so, trusting Ms. L’Engle wasn’t about to let me down now, bought this book. I have never been sorry that I did so and, like every other book written by Madeleine L’Engle I have read, this one made me sit down and peruse my own life. Did I have icons in my life? If I did, was that wrong? Did I (gasp) have idols? How could I know? What was the difference?
In my attempts to answer these questions, I first, I looked to the dictionary definitions of icon. My Second College Edition New World Dictionary of the American Language give me: “an image, figure, representation.” The Webster’s New Reference Library: An Encyclopedia of Dictionaries stated “a religious image painted on a panel.” I have seen icons fitting these definitions and appreciated them as art but they’ve never inspired me to pray or worship. There is nothing in those painted images that remind me of the vibrant apostles who were flogged, jailed, stoned, driven from cities and towns, and, in some cases; killed. Neither have I been transfixed by any image of Jesus. How could I possibly be so? What image could ever compare with He who is utter livingness as revealed in Revelation 1: 10-18? The answer then is no: by these definitions, I have no icons.
Madeleine L’Engle has a personal, more extensive definition of Icon. She writes; “What do I mean by icon?…I am not thinking of the classic definition of icons so familiar in the orthodox church, icons of Christ, the Theotokos, saints, painted on wood and often partially covered with silver. My personal definition is much wider, and the simplest way I can put it into words is to affirm that an icon, for me is an open window to God. An icon is something I can look through and get a wider glimpse of God and God’s demands on us, el’s mortal children, than I would otherwise.” (Page 8) And then: “If something does not lead us to God it is not and cannot be an icon.” (Page 10)
By this definition, there are many things I would consider icons. Waterfalls, rivers, oceans, mountains, ravines, the sky overhead…all at one time have revealed some aspect of God to me that sent my heart soaring in worship and praise at the greatness of His love. On a smaller scale, I suppose I would say turtles are an icon. From their shells to their slowness to their determination, I see in turtles something that reveals who God is to me on this spiritual journey. So then yes: considering an icon as an open window to God, I have many such icons in my life.
If I say I have icons, do I then have idols? Just what is an idol? Can an icon become an idol? It seems that yes they can because Madeleine L’Engle also writes, “You may not turn an image into God, because that is to turn an icon into an idol.” (Page 14). Before I can worry about whether or not I’ve been turning my icons into idols, I must understand what an idol is.
Returning to my dictionary, I find the following definitions for Idol: “an image of a god, used as an object or instrument of worship.” It seems to me that, to turn an icon into an idol, the heart of the matter (literally and figuratively) is worship. The Second Commandment says “You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall now bow down to them or serve them.” (Exodus 20: 4-5a)
I suppose the fact that I have a turtle pendant would mean I possess a graven image but it was not given to me as such nor do I worship it. I see aspects of God revealed in nature but that doesn’t mean I become an Animist. Do I then believe that, as long as they do not become idols, icons are acceptable? I live in a world I perceive with my senses. How else is an invisible God going to reveal Himself to me except through the works of His hands? Romans 1:20 says “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world.” It is not idolatry to find God in His Creation as long as, I think, I do not stop with the creation but continue to look through that window to Him.
Madeleine L’Engle writes “Jesus should be for us the icon of icons. God sending heaven to earth, ‘Lord of lords in human vesture.’”(Page 93).
Jesus as The Icon. I admit to a bit of knee jerk reaction at that thought as well. And yet, Colossions 1:15 does state, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” so perhaps the thought isn’t sacrilegious after all. While it doesn’t hurt to give my life a thorough examining, perhaps I will merely thank Him for revealing Himself to me no matter how He chooses to do so. And, I can thank Him that I don’t have to stop reading one of my favorite authors.
The quotes were taken from “Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places” by Madeleine L’Engle published by Shaw Books in 2003.
It’s another poem today. I do have other types of blog posts planned but I’m still in the researching/planning phase and, now that I’m back at work, that’s slow going.
I’ve mentioned my car accident in an earlier post and spoken a little of my traumatic brain injury. I’ll spare you a litany of my ills but will say life with a TBI is difficult. These difficulties combined with the chronic pain from my other injuries makes it easy for me to get overwhelmed. I was feeling overwhelmed this weekend because of a task I had to complete and wasn’t sure what to do, how I’d find the information I needed, if I’d even be able to complete it, and a poem began to form.
I’m calling this one Idiom and wish to note this poem is in no way intended to condone the eating of elephants 😉 Rather, I hope it encourages anyone going through a difficult time.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” ~ Anne Frank
I found this quote online and wanted to share it because how true it is! There is not, in my opinion, any substitute to being alone with God. This alone time has been important to me my entire life. Both my parents worked through my childhood so, of necessity, I spent a great deal of time on my own and could sneak off into a field or tree and have time alone with Jesus once my chores were done. Now that I am older and know Him in a deeper way, that time alone with Him with the sky overhead our cathedral is of utmost importance.
So important, that years ago I wrote a poem about it.
Someone asked where I found You
So I sat right down and thought
Did I find You in my prayers?
Yes, but I know I don’t pray as I ought.
And did I find you in the written Word?
Yes and no, I said
For I don’t read it as I should
There’s so much to do instead.
I’m a miserable Christian! I exclaimed
And guilt was a heavy stone on my back.
But wait, where was I?
Oh, now I remember-
How did I get so far off track?
I banished the guilt, shrugged it off
Cleared it all from my mind.
I focused completely on thoughts of You
And left all others behind.
Where did I find You? I asked myself
I turned my eyes to the heavens above
I smiled with Joy as I realized I knew
All Creation testifies of your love.
Especially for me, it’s the skies themselves
That bring my heart closer to Yours-
When the sun rises and when the sun sets
I feel that my spirit soars.
The skies are alive with colors like flame
That swirl and bend in a dance.
Look up! You say, See what I’ve made
This will be your only chance-
For each one is different-not one is the same
What has been before won’t come again.
And each new sunrise and sunset that I’ve seen
Are more beautiful than the last ones have been.
I feel so privileged, so singled out
As I wonder how it could possibly be-
That You’ve been there waiting every day
To paint the sky new just for me.
So that’s where I find You-the works of Your hands
As all Creation attests to Your fame
For through You, by You, and for You all things are made
I submitted this poem to a magazine at the beginning of this year but, as they’ve shown no interest, I’m posting it here! This is also my first attempt at using the “Verse” option in the block editor…
Your love is like water-
Peace to my parched heart.
Your love is not hindered-
Joy to my mourning spirit.
Your love cannot be held-
It slides through my tight-fisted grip.
Your Love must be known-
Live giving water to my soul.