Category Archives: Meditations and reflections

Beginning Your Days in the Dark

This devotional was written by a longtime friend who’s also in my writers’ group.  On Valentine’s Day (when our Blue Water Writers’ Group last met), some of us were also able to share lunch together! If you enjoy writing, I hope you get together with other writers for encouragement. I also hope you enjoy this little meditation as much as I did! Yes, it’s still below freezing here in Michigan!

The tricky part about waking early in the morning in the winter is that it’s so dark outside!  I’m struck by how differently things look: the streetlights highlight the trees in unfamiliar ways, making lacy patterns against the inky darkness.                   There’s a mysterious beauty to only seeing what’s illuminated      as I wait for light of dawn, when trees look dark against the light of the sky.  The same is true where I work out; I start in the dark, even though I flip on a light switch. There is a sensor a few feet into the room that activates the lights, so after I flip the switch, I must walk forward in the dark trusting the lights will turn fully on.  This simply act of walking forward in the dark and trusting there will be light reminds me of my faith in God, who illumines our darkness.  Though I may feel I’m walking in darkness of circumstances, understanding or emotion, I pray to walk faithfully, trusting that He will give the light of His love and truth.  His word says that darkness is not dark to Him; He makes darkness flee. I trust He will illumine each step of the way as I continue walking by faith.  This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). For You are my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29, NASB).  Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:12, NASB). The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, NIV).  Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2, NIV).  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His Servant? Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).

(Written by Lisa Walkendorf; we shared the joy of working on illustrations. Thank you, Lisa!)

Creating Beauty from Broken Glass

This is the kind of story where the title gives it all away, but I hope you’ll still be  interested in hearing about The Glass Factory in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where they make everything out of recycled glass.  The outside of the building is totally unimpressive… the sort of place you’d pass by without a second thought  (unless you wanted to recycle some old glass bottles),  but inside, it’s like a little glass paradise!  The walls and ceilings are aswirl with glass,  and even the floor is studded with mosaics of vibrant inlaid glass. How do they do it? A well trained master craftsman starts with an old bottle
that’s been melted down into a red hot blob. Then the artist adds minerals to give his masterpiece glorious colors. (Notice the spot of red on his glasses? His eye is focused on his work!)
Their heart cried unto the Lord…let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease” (Lamentations 2:18).With the help of an assistant, more melted, recycled glass is added. Next, the master shapes the glass with a huge pair of sharp scissors. He slowly twirls the fiery ball in a heated container
while blowing through the pipe.He shakes and swings the heated glass until it’s stretched to just the right length.He blows very hard until the glass looks like an elongated balloon.  He blows until it’s the size he wants, then he squeezes it with long metal tongs to perfect its shape, shakes it more, then shapes it more. He repeats this process until he’s satisfied that the bottle is just the right size and beautifully balanced.With surgical skill, he flattens the bottom and makes an indention
so it’s stable and will sit flat without tipping over. With his assistant’s aid,
he detaches the rod from the top and holds the bottle from the bottom. So many steps! The glass has to be reheated again in the oven!

One of the most touching things to me was to watch the master wrap his arm with gauze to protect himself from the heat while working on the vase. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).While continuously turning the metal rod to which the glass is attached, he carefully widens the mouth until it’s perfectly round and wide enough to be easily filled. “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10)He performs yet another operation to make the lip of the pitcher for pouring out.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
(Psalm 51:15)                Finally, a graceful handle is attached to make it easier to use.I think everybody who watched the demonstration would love to have been able to buy that exquisite pitcher and take it home with them, but it was still too hot to handle. It literally has to sit for 24-hours cooling down before it can be used. So, of course (as you can probably tell) my mind went wild thinking about all the ways in which The Glass Factory reminds me of the way God works in our lives. Here are a few, but I’ll bet you can think of even more:

*He takes broken lives and turns them into something lovely and useful
*But, not without a lot of work!
*Our hearts have to be melted down first!
*Our Master craftsman keeps us as “the apple” of his eye!
*The process requires assistance from trainees (the body of Christ?).
*We’re not all that glorious in ourselves but need additives to make our lives colorful. (The fruits and unique gifts of the Holy Spirit come to mind.)
* We’d never be anything more than a blob without the Holy Spirit filling us.
*It takes a lot of shaking up, spiritual surgery, filling, shaping, and heat to make us into something useful.
*Because God is compassionate, I believe he must feel the heat when he works!
*When finished, the mature Christian (who’s really never finished in this life!) is a joy to everyone who comes in contact with him.
* After fiery trials, it takes some time before the “vessels” are really serviceable.Are you ready to be made into something even more beautiful than you are to bring blessing to those around you, or would you rather just live for yourself?Or, maybe you’re struggling with the glass ceiling and can’t seem to get where you feel like you need to be getting. God is in the business of taking us to the next level no matter where we’re at…of making us into something more wonderful that we are at present. But, first we have to be humble enough to climb into his recycling bin and let him take charge. Have you done that? If not, would you like to do that?

Has this been true of you? “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deuteronomy 32:18).

If so, this is God’s offer, not only to you, but to all of us: “Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

 

Never Smile at a Crocodile…Even If You’re in a Big Boat

Have you ever wondered why they say, “Never smile at a crocodile!”? Crocodiles can measure more than 20 feet long and weigh up to 4,400 pounds. Australian crocodiles have the world’s strongest bite, up to 8,000 psi (pounds of pressure per square inch). In the water, it’s alleged they can swim as fast as dolphins, and on land they’ve been known to take down animals as large as cape buffaloes. Crocodiles are extremely aggressive, and humans are on the menu. So…that’s why you should never smile at a crocodile! They’re deadly.                Although I have no penchant for befriending crocodiles,  peering down at them (from the safety of a big bridge) while  they bask in the sun along the Tarcoles River is  a popular tourist attraction in Costa Rica.  Because of the abundant wildlife, if you can put aside your fear  of crocodiles, a cruise down the Tarcoles River is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Alan and I weren’t the first to board, but I noticed that the front seats were still available. Perhaps it was in hopes that if a crocodile attacked our craft, he would be too full after eating those of us in the front seats to want dessert. Whatever the reasons, Alan and I were happy to enjoy front row seating on our adventure! There’d been a torrential downpour that drenched everybody earlier, but late afternoon was beautiful, and the ride was soothing…magnificent even!    We caught sight of a ring-tailed lemur sitting in a tree with his back to us,        and there were herds of Brahman cattle with their faces to us,                                         watching us curiously as we drifted by.     The steep banks of the river were pitted with holes where swallows nested…       as well as all sorts of colorful birds, like this stout little green heron.    In fact, there was a veritable river bank run going on with creatures galore! I’m not sure if it was the highlight or lowlight, but we did see lots of crocodiles.   Although most stayed at a respectable distance, one came over to check us out.         In fact, he came right over to check me out, but I didn’t smile. 😦 Thankfully, he took the hint and left. Really, though, I think he would gladly have eaten me for lunch except the boat was a lot bigger than he was. The afternoon passed all too quickly, and soon it was time to return to the ship. I am thankful that I don’t have to swim in the river of this life without protection!     Anyone who asks can be sheltered by the protective care of God our Father. It really isn’t any safer to swim down the stream of life alone than it would be to swim down the Tarcoles River. (See the crocodile hiding behind that snag?) (This is a close up from the last photo.) In the Bible, we learn that someday “the great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” will be cast out (Revelation 12:9), but until that day, we are in need of a refuge, because Satan is even stronger and more deadly than a crocodile.    Thankfully, our day ended with a gorgeous sunset and no further excitement.     Although we were very late, our ship didn’t sail away without us. Praise God!                          Back on the ship, we were able to get clean, dry, warm, and fed!

Want a refuge from the storms and dangers of life? God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46:1-3).

In John 6, the disciples were in a boat but frightened during a storm at sea and asked Jesus for help. He rescued them, and in that chapter we learn this lesson: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
(Acts 16:31)

The Art of Life

How is your January coming? Have you noticed that it takes a certain amount of leisure to be meditative and creative? I have to confess that between all the marvelous company (beginning November 21 and lasting into January, which made me extremely happy but exhausted) and a strangling cold that wouldn’t relinquish its grip until Alan and I went on a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal (where we rested in healing, sunny, 82° sea breezes)…until these past two months came and went, I’ve been so focused on living that there’s been precious little time for meditative reflection or writing. Have you also noticed how valuable it is to take a step back from your daily routines every once in a while to gain perspective and recalibrate your spirit?  During our break, I was encouraged by these words from Leonardo da Vinci: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”*  Isn’t that the truth…not only for the creative genius of a Renaissance man, but for the creative art of making our lives a work of beauty and goodness?   I’m well, refreshed and ready to begin anew. Here is my first offering…a little poem that came to me while enjoying this peaceful Pacific sunrise last week:

Light

I long to write a poem:
Simple.
Elegant.
Filled with God.

Even more, I long to be a poem:
So filled with light that all are drawn to the Light.
So beautiful that those who draw near are also warmed and filled.
So deep that even eternity will not end our unity.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

 Jesus prayed, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23).

(*The three middle photos weren’t taken in Central America but from a different vacation, with our two youngest sons, while visiting da Vinci’s residence in Amboise, France known as Clos Lucé.)

Where Are You?

(The following devotional was written by my friend, Lisa Walkendorf, and I think it’s a great reflection to begin our journey into the new year. As Pastor Rick taught me, “Wherever you are, be all there!”)

We spent a day touring Athens, Greece before flying home from a mission trip recently. We saw amazing sights and marveled at history mixed within current culture… current sites built along historic ones.   Ruins were visible in the midst of town.   We (like many others) came as tourists to study and reflect on the past.  It is incredible that items from the 5th century BC have survived  and are still preserved for us today! We marveled as we toured the archeological museum.   When we reflected on the day, our group shared what most impressed us,
and there were certainly many options to choose from:  *The Acropolis   *Mars Hill where Paul preached his sermon to the Athenians, noting their worship to “the unknown God” and introducing them
to the known God, who created everything (read more in Acts 17:16-33).  *The delicious, cultural food *The archeological museum  and ancient artifacts.   * All the sites in town.   *And, fellowship with our team members!

One friend shared that she took a picture that impressed her most, but it was not a pretty picture!   It was simply a sign giving directions that stated: You are here. She reflected on the literal reminder “You are here.”  This is where we are.  This is the only life we get to live.  There’s not some other life to live than the one we have.  Some day people may be looking back to this time frame, perhaps viewing it through a museum lens of what was important to us culturally, relationally, and spiritually.

We are here now.  We have this time to love family and friends, to reach out to others and share the good news about Jesus.  It can be helpful to reflect on the question, “Where are you?”  and to be reminded, “You are here!”

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV) – “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Psalm 90:12 (NIV) – “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Where are you today?

You Must Strengthen Your Core!

Here is a meditation and some beautiful photos that my friend Charylene Powers shared with me, with a spiritual analogy that the Lord gave her during her morning prayer time recently. As the end of 2017 approaches and we consider where we’ve been and where we’d like to go next year, perhaps this will encourage us.

From the side of the therapy pool my Back Splash instructor looks down at me with compassion and understanding in her eyes and says, “You MUST strengthen your core.”  It is a bone chilling January morning. As I back out of my driveway, the snow crunches under the weight of my car tires. I’m leaving for the MVP therapy pool in the darkness of early morning. My back pain has pretty much put a halt to life as I have known it. Immersing myself in the warmth of the therapy pool every morning is about all I can do.  One morning a week, I am attending a Back Splash class offered at MVP. There are usually ten ladies in attendance; all of us with muscle and joint problems. Our instructor directs us to the deep end of the pool, which prevents us from touching the bottom of the pool.  She continues to instruct us saying, “place the swim noodle under your arms and hang straight down, straight as a pencil, back straight, legs together. Look straight ahead; your head is the eraser.” These instructions sound easy enough. However, as I try to follow her directions, my legs float off to the right. I struggle in the water trying to control my body, and I attempt the pencil formation once again. This time my legs float off to the left….and this is when I hear, “You MUST strengthen your core!”   After weeks of daily trips to MVP and attending my Back Splash class, faithfully practicing all the exercises that I am being taught, I am finally able to hold a perfect pencil formation as my instructor counts off the seconds.  Spring is approaching, I am back on my bike….riding down the bike path, enjoying a strengthened core and the freedom that brings.   I have another core: My spiritual core. How do I strengthen my spiritual core? The same way that I strengthen my physical core. Daily, I must practice the spiritual disciplines that keep me on the path that God has asked me to walk. “Not turning aside to the right or to the left.”  In Celebration of Discipline, R.J. Foster tells us “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”  ……hence as I practice spiritual disciplines, it is God who strengthens my spiritual core.   As I read and mediate on God’s Word, the Psalmist tells me, “His Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” The path God has chosen for me. “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This is my powerful promise from God.  Prayer is how I communicate with God. I hear His “gentle whisper” and feel His “Divine nudging.” In Luke one of the disciples asks, “Lord teach us to pray.” The Lord will teach me to pray as He taught His disciples. When I do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts. The more I pray the more, I long to pray and “praying without ceasing” becomes a reality in my life not just a desire.   Fasting has been a part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It is a discipline that Christ talks about in Matthew… “when you fast.” Why am I not pursuing this discipline like I do the other disciplines? Probably because I think it sounds like too much work and sacrifice. Maybe this is the discipline that would bring me closer to God ….. The key to my success in strengthening my physical core has been my daily trips to our health club and practicing all the exercises my caring instructor has given me….hence leading to the healing of my body and the freedom that brings.

The key to my success in strengthening my spiritual core is the same: Daily coming to my heavenly instructor and embracing the spiritual disciplines that He is teaching me….hence leading to the healing of my soul and the freedom that brings.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice
behind you saying ‘this is the way; walk in it’.”
(Isaiah 30:21).

 

A Humble Servant

Have you ever thought about how Mary would have felt as a young woman, hearing for the first time from an angel that she was going to become the mother of the Messiah? My friend, Cynthia Wedge, reflected on this:

Read: Luke 1:26-38
“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

Humming as she worked, Mary smiled, dreaming of her future wedding; a day filled with great anticipation and excitement. She had already celebrated with some of her friends on their special day; soon it would be her turn. Even her daily, mundane duties seemed almost pleasant as she worked.

Mary started with surprise at the sound of a voice. She had thought she was alone. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” In awe and yet fearful, “Could this really be an angel?” she wondered.

“Don’t be afraid for you have found favor with God.” The angel went on to tell her that she would give birth to a son whom would be named Jesus, that He would be great and “would rule over the house of Jacob forever.”

Hardly able to believe her ears, Mary asked, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” “It will be by the Holy Spirit. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.” Was her humble reply.

As silently as he had come, the angel left.

Alone, her mind swirling, Mary hardly dared to move. Had she imagined this? Had she really been visited by an angel? Was she really the one chosen to bear the long-awaited Messiah, the King of the world?

Little did Mary know how this brief encounter with an angel would change her life for the rest of her life. First there was the shame of being pregnant before marriage, then the hardships of traveling to Egypt, a new, unfamiliar country, leaving family and friends she loved, later the pain she would suffer as she watched her son, the man Jesus, being ridiculed, mocked, beaten and finally crucified.

Mary called herself a “servant.” A servant in this sense is one who voluntarily serves another. We are not forced to be a servant of God, but choose, out of love, to be available for His service. To do whatever it may be that He calls us to do or be for His glory.

While it was an honor for Mary to be chosen as the mother of the Messiah, it was not without its heartaches and hardships. There is no record that she ever complained; rather she submitted to each new turn in her life as a servant of the Lord God, choosing to serve God in whatever way He asked of her. Being a servant is not always easy, but when we have the assurance that God loves us and is always with us, we can learn to choose to respond as His humble servant.

Have you ever found your world turned upside down in just a brief, unexpected moment? When this happens, is your response like Mary’s, “I am your servant, Not my will, but yours be done”?

Do you sense God asking you to do something, even a little thing that you are resisting? Will you right now tell God you are His servant, willing to do whatever He asks of you?

Copyright© 2017, by Cynthia Wedge