Sundown in a Dry and Thirsty Land

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Sunset over Arches National Park.

In the desert of coronavirus:

In the desert,
the heat shrivels up life.

In the desert,
only doubts form in the salty flats.

In the desert,
your trust in God begins to wilt.

In the desert,
love dries up and cracks.

In the desert,
you fight the thoughts of dying.

In this pandemic remember:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs; Psalm 84:5-6

Take heart with God’s help, we can make this calamity place of springs.

Hope Ahead

Spring is just around the bend.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

During the current COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty this verse gives us hope and reassurance. It all turns on love. We can love God because He first loved us. We can trust Him because He is faithful, even when we have been faithless. We can put our hope in Jesus, because His name means God saves (Matt1:21).

I realize that some hurts run very deep (like death in the family), and I don’t expect this verse to miraculously change your tears to joy, but loving God will plant the seeds of hope, and trust… and just knowing there is purpose… helps.

God’s Goodness for Me

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So beautiful and good

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

In Jesus I have good works prepared by God for me to do… how wonderful is that knowledge.

Obviously the good is determined by God not me. Which is reassuring because I have a tendency to choose temporary earthly pleasures over eternal goodness and true joy.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Yes, in Jesus my life will be good, pleasing and perfect, and He will never leave me to do otherwise.

Heaven Comes Down

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Clouds of heaven invading the darkness

Prayer is one of the great undervalued gifts from God. Think about it—in Jesus, I have a clear, secure channel to talk directly with God.

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:34-35

Jesus has made it so easy that often I take it for granted.

So, if the problems of this day have crowded out your praying, stop right now and ask God to restore one of the joys of salvation in Christ—talking with Him, and worshiping up close and personal with the Lord of all.

Oh, one other amazing thing He wants to talk with you right now.

From the Depths

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His Deep calling to my deep

Grief is a deep dark pit, where no sunlight can reach. When you are there no good thing seems possible, and death is all you hear.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me. Psalm 42:5-7

It is in my grief that God’s Deepness calls to my deep pit. God’s waves and breakers crash upon me—letting me know He is with me, His goodness will prevail, and His love will hold onto me through eternity.

When God’s waves break over me I begin to hear His voice over the din of my sorrow.

I will never leave you.
Roars from the crashing water.
My love endures forever.
Smashes upon my darkness
I will carry you and dry your tears.
Splits the rocks that tower over me.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

Be Thou My Vision

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A break in the clouds

“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible”
Jonathan Swift – Thoughts On Various Subjects

I often think the scenes, I try to capture and preserve in photos, are little bits of the great beauty that Jesus pours out upon His creation. Whether anyone notices is not relevant to beauties existence, it is there just because God is good. Scene upon scene in unending splendor speaks of the glory of God. This is also true in my life; I have ongoing grace lavished upon me by God. Sometimes I have the eyes to see it, and thank Him, but often I am too preoccupied and it goes unnoticed. Like the beauty in nature, grace is not given only where it will be appreciated, it is freely poured out in abundance because that is the nature of God.

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23 :5-6)

I continually have to remind myself to pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and wisdom to comprehend all that Jesus is doing. Then with a heart of gratitude I can see, hear and give thanks.

A reminder of the real battle

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The war between light and darkness

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12

Some days I feel beaten down. But then I remember the battle, and who is with me in the fight, for my courage comes not from me.

The Wonder of Grace

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The Grace of Winter White

The Wonderful Grace of Jesus

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

The best and the greatest of this world cannot replace it.
The worst and most painful cannot spoil it.
The wonderful grace of Jesus.

There is no imagined splendor that can outshine it.
There is no ugliness that can diminish it.
The beautiful grace of Jesus.

There is no stronghold it cannot topple.
There is no past it cannot overcome.
The redeeming grace of Jesus.

There is no intelligence that can understand it.
The smallest child can receive it.
The all-encompassing grace of Jesus.

There is no life in living without it.
There is no death in life with it.
The joyous grace of Jesus.

There is no day that can be lived without it.
There is no day that will outlive it.
the enduring grace of Jesus.

A bruised reed he will not break,
And a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:3)
The loving grace of Jesus.

The grace of Jesus gives redemption and purpose for my yesterdays.
The grace of Jesus gives me help and direction for today.
The grace of Jesus gives me hope for tomorrow.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT

Grace takes the all the things we suffer—the self inflicted, as well as what has been inflicted upon us, and redeems it for His glory through His grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

I do not thank God for my past mistakes and failures; I thank Him for His grace that frees me from them, and works to redeem the harm I have caused.

O the wonder of God’s grace.

Praying Through the Pain

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Hope in the dead of Winter

I find it hard to pray without my mind wandering in the best of times. But, when I am hurting and in pain, then I find it difficult to put two words together in prayer. So what are we to do when our prayers are moans and groans… rasping laments beginning and ending with two feeble words—O God!

How does God expect us to pray in pain?

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:23-24

I have attended many deliveries in my career and for most anesthesia was not available. I would often hear screams during labor—“O God help me!” or “Lordy, Lordy!” Were these words of anguish really prayers? The one thing that kept these mothers praying through the pain was the thought of new life coming.

Pain, or grief, or a deep hurt from our point of view seems to interfere with our prayers to God. But like a woman in labor who cries out to God—keep praying for our groans are not lost upon God. There is new life coming.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27

Perseverance

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Icicle Creek persevering to the Pacific Ocean

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.  Luke 8:15 NIV

It takes perseverance to produce a crop. Why doesn’t God just click His fingers?

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus… Romans 15:4-5 NAS

God encourages us to persevere. But how does perseverance produce hope?

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5 NIV

Perseverance is a word I don’t want to hear because it means waiting and bearing up under difficult circumstances. I certainly prefer convenience, not perseverance. But God makes enduring hardship part of a believer’s life. I can either trust that He knows what I need and will help me, or go my own way.

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.  Matthew 7:13-14

On second thought, maybe it is God who perseveres with me.