Monday, April 19, 2010

LIfe's Little Instructions

Two amazing things happened today. Perhaps the more incredible of the two ... I kept a doctor's appointment. Having lived a life of never-ending doctor's appointments for the better part of year during my walk with cancer, I just can't stand to go. Not to the doctor, not to the dentist ... I am not prejudiced in my dislike .. I dislike going to them all. This dislike often results in me ending up canceling appointments ... to be rescheduled sometimes, while others not. Well, not today. Today I went to the dentist ... exactly six months after my last visit. (Not that I did not want to cancel, but they were closed on Friday and I could not get anyone on the phone to cancel it. I tried, but having failed ... I went.) The second amazing thing happened while I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth. Yes, I brush my teeth before I get them cleaned. There is no way that I am about to subject the hygienist to food particles that are left over from lunch. I would be mortified. In fact, I brushed for 4 minutes ... with my Sonic Care, which I packed in my purse this morning! Anyway, I was brushing my teeth and reading this poster that I always tend to read when I am getting ready to have my teeth cleaned, when I read a line that stuck out to me:

Live live as an exclamation, not an explanation.

It was a moment that was just short of an epiphany. Live life as an exclamation. What came to mind was an exclamation mark. It started me wondering where the little mark that says so much and changes the meaning of sentences with just its mere presence can from. A quick search helped to glean the following. "The mark comes from the Latin word io, meaning "exclamation of joy." A mark of joy. A quick substitution and we have the following:

Live life as an exclamation of joy, not an explanation.

An explanation on the other hand is defined as a "set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, content, and consequences of those facts." A quick substitution and we have the following:

Live life as an exclamation of joy, not a set of statements.

You see it is easy to state the facts of our faith. I would venture to say that all of us are fairly equipped to do that, but I would challenge you with the idea that those facts mean nothing if that is all we are ... a "set of statements." You see, it is the joy that we have in Christ that sets us apart. If we choose to abide in God's love and keep His commandments then His joy will remain in us, and our joy will be full. (Paraphrase of John 15:11) That joy is the exclamation that we are to live. It is what happens when our faith sits within the emotion seat of our hearts ... instead of in the knowledge of our heads.

Times are difficult right now, but if the joy is missing ... then we need to stop and ask God to show us why. His desire for us is not despair, worry, and fear. 1Peter 1:6-9 says:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls." This was one of my life verses during cancer, a time when I experienced joy that was contagious and unmistakable. It spoke volumes over the words that I tried to use to explain it ... it was the exclamation of a God that could make even cancer a time of joy.

Lord, help me to live each and every moment an exclamation, not an explanation. Amen.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Trappings of a Bird

I would like to introduce you to one of the most amazing little birds that I have ever been close enough to photograph: The Killdeer.

If you live in the Southwest may have seen them around, as they have a wide range and are fairly common. What makes them far from common is the amazing deception they pull off if they feel their eggs are in danger. At the first sign of danger, the Killdeer walks away from its nest while holding its wing in a way that simulates injury. Once she has the invader's attention, she then begins to flop around on the ground to mimic easy prey. With one eye on the offending creature, she leads it away from her nest ... keeping just feet out of reach. When she has the prey far enough away, the Killdeer will simply fly away.

The dedication of this little bird to its babies amazed me. Here she was taking on a human ... over a hundred times her size. She bravely tried to convince us to chase her and spare her babies. I could not help but wonder how often this deception ends in her demise, as it was clear that she was more than willing to lay down her life for her children.

Through His Word, God teaches of a love so great that His Son, Jesus Christ, willingly went to the cross to die in our place. As mothers, we often say that we love our children so much that we would be willing to do the same .. willing to die for them. BUT ... would we willingly die for one that to us is all but unworthy? Romans 5:7-8 says, "7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Even though we were unworthy.

Moses paints a beautiful picture of God's love, protection, and direction for us in Deuteronomy 32:11-12 which reads:

10"He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions

Let's take a closer look at the amazing picture that these verses paint, for there is some amazing truth in it that one might miss if they do not know about the parenting styles of eagles.

Let's start with verse 10 which explains that God found his people in the wilderness. He found them ... did you catch that ... He found them. The very words paint a picture of a God that loves His children enough to seek them out ... to find them ... even in the wilderness that they are in. Not only that, He encircled them, cared for them, and kept them the apple of His eye. How many times have we heard that expression? I did a little googling about it and discovered that the apple of an eye is literally the cornea of an eye. The apple of your eye is so well protected that it is almost impossible to touch it. Your eyelid automatically shuts if you try. So are we protected by Him no matter what kind of wilderness we are in.

Verse 11 says, "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions..." At first glance this seems like a beautiful picture of God's protection, but it is far more than that. To understand why, one has to learn a little bit about eagles and the unique way they parent.

Eagles build huge nests. They can be over 5 feet wide and can weigh over 2,000 pounds. Eagles line their nests with moss, greenery, and feathers to make it a safe comfortable place for their young. When they eaglets hatch, they are well protected in these massive nests. They are fiercely protective and will go to great lengths to provide for their young. They can fly as many as 180 miles a day while hunting for enough food to support the ravenous appetites of the growing eaglets. At 12 weeks of age the mother eagle hovers over the nest and flaps her wings which accomplishes two things. It"stirs us the nest" and dislodges all of the grass, moss, and feathers making the nest a far more uncomfortable place to be - and it encourages the young eaglets to fly. If, however, the eaglets refuse to try it, the mother eagle will actually push the eaglets out of the nest. In this moment of truth, the eaglet either flies and finds its way to safety or it plummets towards the ground. If the eaglet fails to fly, the mother saves them by "spreading out its wings, catching them, and bearing them on its pinions." Simply put, she swoops down and catches them on her wings and flies them back to the safety of the nest.

There is more than a lesson of God's protection in these verses. There is also a lesson on God's direction. You see when we first become Christians we spend some time in the safety of the nest, bit that is not where God would have us stay. We are not meant to stay in the comfort of safety. We, like the eaglets, were saved to fly ... to soar under the protection of His wings. God often purposely stirs the nests of His children to push them out of their comfort zones, to encourage them to soar under His protective eye.

We were created to me so much more than we sometimes aspire to be my friends. Let's not be content to stay in the safety of the nest. Like the eaglet, let us move to the nest's edge and take the plunge towards the journey that the Lord has for each of us ... knowing that He is there to catch us and hold us on His mights wings should we need it.

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

~William Cushing

May you soar ...