Monday, October 29, 2012

Was Solomon right?... Is life meaningless?

This morning was a "come to Jesus" sunrise for this cracked clay vessel.
After 3 weeks of intensive Missions training and a week of mountain top moments ---- the valley was inevitable. Can't have mountains without valleys surrounding them...
In a world gone mad --- some people can't get out of the valleys, that's called "depression". Then there are those who try to stay on the mountain tops, that's sometimes called "drug addicts". Yes, sadly, we can even be addicts of the mountain top, which leads us to refuse the valley, learning, growing times. It's a mixed up painful world ---- we are NOT HOME YET!

But for me --- it was neither depression or drug remedied.
It was just a shadowy valley that missed the mountain top breezes.

Some would say i'm a bit nutty for admitting that -- saying it right out loud -- and sharing it with the many who bless me by reading my ramblings.
But i don't think so at all. Why? Well --- God urges me to be truthful on all accounts. Truthful on the mountain tops and truthful in the valley. His Word has much to say about the truth ---
"The truth shall set you free..." John 8:32
"Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment." Proverbs 12:9
"A truthful witness saves lives..." Proverbs 14:25

I remember when i was a little girl, sadly, truth was far from my lips most of the time. God bless my parents and siblings, they know this to be true. But then God... He changed me so completely, that now truth is a holy passion.
Truth is not the same as exposing.
Truth should not be used to hurt others or bring too much attention to self.
Truth, in God's hands, and spoken with Godly purposes will expose lies. But, much more importantly, it will bring attention to what is right and good and faithful and upright.
Truth will draw our hearts to the One who lives in the Light.
It will expose the one who lives in the dark, the deceiver, the one who wants all the shadows to hold us in a bondage of shame or fear or pretense or striving.

So, i'm passionate about truth. God is seen brilliantly in Truth. And of all the things we can see on this old earth --- the only things worth looking for are the things that reflect the Good One.
If you've seen the darkness closely enough ---- you know the sweetness of when the Light shines.

In my quest to read the Bible through again --- this time reading in the Message translation --- my assignment this morning was Ecclesiastes. I had been dreading it -- sad, but true. Already feeling on the glum side, how could i possibly look forward to reading Solomon's rantings on "life is meaningless". I've read it before, several times, in several translations --- it's never been "pleasant" or easy for me. So this morning, i made my coffee stronger than normal, pulled out my favorite quilt, and before the sun rose, i dug into Solomon view's on life.
With highlighter in hand, i was quite certain it would remain capped.
i rolled through chapter after chapter --- and the sun began to rise outside my windows.
It was an obedience to read ---- met by the sun's obedience to rise.
And my highlighter's cap came off ---- as i read:

"Crying is better than laughing. It blotches the face but it scours the heart." 7:3
"A good reputation is better than a fat bank account..." 7:1
"Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out." 7:8
"...Make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift!" 5:20
"On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won't take anything for granted." 7:14
"I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we're the ones who've made a mess of things." 7:29
And that was just the beginning...

By the time i'd covered (and highlighted) through Chapter 12 verse 14 --- the sun had illuminated all that had been dark outside my window.  Likewise, the Son had brightened the shadowy areas inside my cracked, clay, life-filled vessel.  Here's the sweetness of how it left me this morning: Chapter 12 verses 10 - 14

 " Besides being wise himself, the Quester (teacher, preacher, Solomon) also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.
 The words of the wise prod us to live well.
They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.
They are given by God, the one Shepherd.
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.
And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil."
The final word ----- 
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.

On days when all feels right and light in my world --- 
when the mountain top is breezy and warm...
On days when all feels wrong and dark ---
when the valley is murky and lonely...
The final word remains the same; the step by step instructions are unaltered.

Fear God ----- Do what HE tells you.

It's a matter of will and obedience ---- not preference or desire.

My dear Mama Glover us to say ---- "don't worry about the small things donna ann, just say to yourself and always remember --- this too shall pass..."
I'm thinking she knew something the Quester knew...
Fear God ---- and do what He tells you.
It's a mighty secret to knowing success this side of Heaven.

(Photos taken by Maggie in St. Mary's, GA.)

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

With all Creation i sing -- Praise to the King of Kings

Driving on a grey, yellow lined, asphalt ribbon guarded by walls of massive, silent trees it all began to feel overwhelmingly Holy.

Sometimes we look for those moments, right? We are almost expectant of them during those quiet times with Bibles in our laps or prayers on our lips --- looking for that holy wind, fire etched, that will make "normal" matter or painful bearable.

Then there are those surprising times when... it arrives completely unexpectedly...

Steve and i were driving from Mammoth Springs to Old Faithful Geyser park in Yellowstone. For two days we had taken in God's showcases in northwestern Wyoming. We were spoiled rotten over it all.
With the cool wind blowing around us under the deep-sea-blue sky, surrounded by tall green-limbed red-trunked Ponderosa Pines ---- we were like children in church, certain we were in a place that deserved our respect and reverence; in a place that silently spoke of power and majesty and ----- grace.
Why would i say grace? Because, we were being given something much greater than what we knew ourselves to be deserving of.

And two thoughts struck me:
Everything around me had been made by the Creator (excluding the road under us and the car carrying us)
All this great creation was visibly worshipping the One who had created it.
The handiwork of God and the worshipping of God was boldly displayed all around me --- and my soul was resonating with it all
"High heavens, sing! God has done it.
Deep earth, shout! And you mountains sing!
A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars!
God has redeemed. God's glory is on display..." Isaiah 44:23 (the Message)

God made the trees ---
they stood tall and unashamed as they held their many arms up, reaching towards the One who created them, and pouring all their attention in His direction. They worship well --- silently --- unwaveringly even as they bend with the wind.
They are models of worship ---- we people could learn much from them.
No comments from the many who observe them can alter the focus of their adoration. None of their limbs turn inward or downward --- no matter the angle a witness  takes view of them will their armlike limbs be found doing anything other than lifting upwards and reaching for the Heavens.
As the clarity of their worship registered in my distracted human mind ---- i realized --- i was surrounded by soul-less beings that do a much better job of worshiping than the soul-filled daughter observing them. My shame was touched by grace and i felt completely loved in the midst of the great host of worshiping woods.
God made the mountains ---
those mighty warrior like, immovable monuments, each one sloping upwards to a peak that pointed Heavenward. They had been placed by God and designed by Him to majestically lean upward. If we want to see the mountains peak, we simply MUST raise our eyes towards Heaven. Those mountains spoke of elite power and unalterable devotion. They worshipped in silent authority, just as they have for millions of years. They will remain diligently pointing Heavenward in their silent worship until their maker chooses otherwise.

I remained silent -- sharing none of this with my Steve --- we rode on to the land of geysers. Walking for hours among the water spouts ---- we sat and watched Old Faithful diligently do his best to reach the blue of the sky with the waters he had gathered deep below him. We walked on to Grand Geyser and sat waiting for the show of spewing water and steamy release. It came at the predicted time, shooting water so high into the sky it looked like diamonds falling back to the ground in the light of the evening sun. We were awed, silent --- like those little children again --- knowing we were in the presence of Greatness. Scientific minds around us spoke of the geological details, our hearts knew the truth of the matter. God and only God controlled the heated cracks below us that held back molten magma and sent showers of water and steam instead.

Later that evening as we drove back through the winding roads leading us out of the park i thanked God for the great teachers of worship i had witnessed that day. The geysers did not care if we were there or not ---- they did one thing and they did it with purpose. They reached as high as they could and pointed everyone's eyes UP. They worshipped with all their strength and would not be hindered or distracted by anything or anyone.
They were beautiful and spectacular ---- even those who do not know the Father, were still moved to look Heavenward when the geysers reached for Him.

The trees, the mountains, the geysers, the birds, even the elk and buffalo ---- everything made by God seemed oblivious to the men who gawked at them. They each had a visible reminder pointing towards the One who made them.  The trees reached upwards, the mountains pointed Heavenward, the geysers raised their waters to Him, the birds sang for Him, and the elk and buffalo even sported antlers and horns that pointed upwards. They all seemed to do it much better than we soul-bearers do. With our arms hanging down and our eyes gazing at each other or the ground --- nothing about us points or reaches upward in a moment by moment sort of way visible way.
Soul-less --- they praise.
Soul-filled --- we have much to learn.

The rocks around us were silent. Nothing about the rocks reached Heavenward. But i remembered full well the scriptures ---

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40

"If they keep quiet..."... we are the "they" ----

may we learn from the soul-less ones around us as our Lord teaches us to worship Him.

I'm learning Lord --- I'm listening ---- may i not be concerned with what those passing nearby might think, but may i hold my hands high to you just as surely as the great ponderosa pines and may i reach to you fully with all that is within me just as surely as the powerful geysers. May my soul reach upwards just as surely as the elks antlers and may my songs be for you alone just as sweetly as the bird's.
Thank you for teaching us, even with the soul-less reminders.

For as long as i'm breathing --- may the stones remain silent...

"Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You."
(Revelation Song)

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Thursday, October 4, 2012

When Scariness is Laced with SACRED

Perched on a bar no more the 3 feet off the ground, little Eden shouts to here mom in a voice nearing panic, "You've got me, right momma? You won't let me fall, will you?"
Her loving mom, Sarah, is right beside her, with hands less than an inch away. But Eden, she's afraid. She's unsure. She knows she could fall from this height, she feels out of control.

Mom gives Eden the chance to go beyond what she is comfortable with and experience what she hopes she can do. But mom is never far away, she won't let her daughter fall. Eden isn't quite sure, but momma knows --- she is in the space between her precious daughter and the hard ground.
Sarah is trying to help Eden get her balance on the thin, blue bar. So she grabs her only when she must. Eden sits on the thin playground railing --- her tiny 5 year old self, testing her ability to find balance on this unnatural bar beneath her. Straining to steady herself, she stiffens in fear, and screams for help, desperate to avoid a fall. But Sarah's voice remains calm and her hand remains present, she won't let her little one fall.

Perched 30 feet from the playground is another daughter, sitting beside a fire-ring, Bible in hand and laptop in her lap --- squealing just a loudly as little Eden, but in silent sort of grown up ways. Her eyes are closed, her cries are unheard by anyone other than her Father. But just as surely as Eden shouts loudly of her fear of falling, this grown up daughter squirms at her lack of ability to maintain balance on this seemingly thin rail called faith. So she cries out to her Father in almost identical ways.
"You've got me, right Daddy? You won't let me fall... will you?" It's an intense moment when the grown up daughter "hears" the parallel pleas  ---- Eden's on the playground and her own sitting silently in her grownup chair. She wonders if anyone realizes her own cries are much louder than little Eden's --- we grownups have learned how to mask our cries for help --- not a good thing to have achieved.
And in the vibrating madness of that silence, comes the soul deep  whispers from her very present Father God, "I'm as close to you as Sarah is to her precious Eden. I'm closer even still. I'm just letting you feel the stretch of this new balance, but my hands are under you. My presence is nearer than you can imagine."

"It's a scariness that has a sacredness laced with it."

"It will help you balance well at even higher heights if I allow you to grow in your confidence at this level.
Not confidence in yourself,
but confidence that I am with you,
you are mine, 
and I will see you through."

"So take a deep breath daughter. Try and relax, remembering you and I are together.
It's easier to balance when you relax."

"No matter how high you climb or how low you choose to stay, I will be with you. Just as surely as Sarah stays near to her dear Eden, so it is with Me and you daughter. If need be, Sarah would give her life to protect her little one.
I know this well...
I already have...
so come on, let's climb.

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe