Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thankful for sleep

 . . . for God gives rest to His loved ones.
~from Psalm 127:2

Do you ever wonder about what sleep is?

We all know what it is, sort of.  We all sleep: some more, and some less.  When we were little, our parents were always trying to get us to go to sleep.  Then we grew up, had babies of our own and learned, first hand, the unutterable beauty of a sleeping child.

It can feel tremendously good to sleep, to fall into bed when you are tired, and drift away to an unconscious state.

If we weren't so used to it, it would be creepy, though, the loss of consciousness, the way daytime memories and experiences morph into dreams, the way we don't perceive what is going on around us, outside of us, while we are asleep.

Studies show that most growth and healing occur while people are asleep.

We just take it for granted, for the most part.  At least, we take it for granted until we are unable to sleep.

Different things keep us awake.  Pain.  Worry.  Distress.  Sorrow.  Even excitement.

I wonder what actually happens to our bodies and our minds while we are sleeping.  I wonder what happens to our spirits.  I wonder if God speaks through dreams.  I suppose He must, sometimes, although I doubt if He does routinely.

I've been through some traumatic events, and by the grace of God, He's virtually always enabled me to get at least a few hours of sleep even when despair and fear have run deep.

On the other hand, I have often had incredible trouble falling asleep in a strange bed, despite how comfortable I may have been or how happy I was to be there.

Nevertheless, I am thankful for sleep, for the rest and refreshment that come from a good, solid eight hours under the covers.  I am thankful for night, and the opportunity to snuggle down into feather pillows and warm blankets, to close my eyes and rest my head.  I am thankful for quietness and darkness.

I am thankful for sleep.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
~Psalm 4:8

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thankful for a message about waiting

Advent is about waiting.

The pastor said that bound up in the meaning of advent are both the "already" and the "not yet."

Faith is being convinced about the "already," so we can hope securely for the "not yet."

I have a big "not yet" in my life.  Some days it seems almost as though it's going to kill me, bearing down in darkness and despair.

But God.

Those are some of my favorite words:  But God.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . 
But God, being rich in mercy, 
because of His great love with which He loved us, 
even when we were dead in our transgressions, 
made us alive together with Christ
(by grace you have been saved).
Ephesians 2:1, 4-5

God became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could behold the glory of the Father, and especially so He could fulfill the Law of Righteousness and then die in our place, the sinless one in the place of sinners, the Redeemer.

He spilled His perfect, priceless blood to pay our sin debt, to purchase men for God.  The payment has already been made.  Whoever will come is eagerly invited to come, to be forgiven, cleansed, healed and delivered from darkness.

Sometimes you may have thought that someone was already covered under the blood, redeemed and counted as one of God's children.  And then that person falls away both in lifestyle and in the declaration, "There is no God who cares anything about me."

You remember a different time, a different reality, a different declaration.  That is the "already."  In the midst of billowing blindness and rebellion, you claw away at the clouds that only Jesus Himself can break through, because you know His mark must be there, and His truth.  He was the Creator in the very beginning, and He will be the Judge at the bridge to the next life.  Despite all other confusion, these two facts seem to remain in the consciousness of the rebel.


But God.

And so you wait, and pray.  Advent.  Waiting for the light of hope to dawn in a sick and stricken heart.  Waiting for the living waters of the Spirit to begin to flow again, and bring flourishing life to a barren environment.  Waiting.  Hoping.  Expecting.

Waiting is hard.  Waiting requires patience, and patience requires trust.

With God, all things are possible.

Often, nothing seems to be happening, not in your limited, human perspective.  When nothing seems to be happening, when a treasured soul is on a trajectory towards destruction, fear can well up like a plague in the belly.

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.
Psalm 56:3

I never used to understand that verse, but now I think I do.

Patiently waiting.

Trusting that because God is God, everything will be all right as His perfect will comes to pass.

Thy will be done.

I never noticed before that the passage in Isaiah 40 is about those who wait for the Lord.  It's a promise to the hopeful waiting ones, the trusting ones.

Yet those who wait for the Lord
will gain new strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles,
they will run and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31

Waiting and hoping, these are good disciplines, and they strengthen us.

I am thankful for this source of strength, thankful to be reminded that I have this hope, thankful that my God is always faithful to His promises.

Thankful for a message about waiting.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankful for my family, and a glorious family Thanksgiving

We got them all together.  It was beyond wonderful.

I had worked and worked to make sure we had adequate sleeping arrangements for everyone.  When everyone was here, all together, under one roof, bedtime was deliriously satisfying as I climbed into my bed knowing they were all here, snug in their own beds.  I do not know why this phenomenon is such a big deal to me; I suppose it is a throwback to the days when it felt so good to get lots of little people settled down and put to bed.

I am thankful for my family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful for fingernails

At this time of frantic food preparation, I am thankful for my fingernails.

Although I hate it when I slice into one of my fingernails with a knife on the chopping board, I am undeniably grateful that they have saved my fingertips over and over.

Incidentally, I think this is an argument for creation by God.  He knew our fingertips would need protection from knives, long before knives were ever invented.  If we'd been depending on evolution, the fingernail might not have had a purpose until it was too late for it to develop.

I am thankful for fingernails!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankful for soap

I love my showers, the hotter the better.

I love to soak in a long, warm bath.

I even love to wash my hands, especially when I arrive home after a tiring shopping trip.

Soap makes washing a sensory experience, with smooth, slippery soapsuds and usually a delightful scent.

I am thankful for soap that loosens grime, dissolves greasiness, and flushes away germs and unpleasant odors.  Soap cleanses, freshens, purifies.

I am thankful for soap.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thankful for water

I am thankful for water.

It's a source of life, for one thing.  Amazing.  Where there is water, things grow, and where there is no water, things shrivel up and die.

On a simple plane, water is a good beverage, the healthiest one.  Who would have thought that the healthiest beverage would also be the least expensive one, often available for free?  You'd think it must be too good to be true.

I am thankful for water.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankful for the Bible

I'm thankful for the Bible.

There are two ways that God has made Himself accessible to humanity.

One is through the person of Jesus Christ, who in an unfathomable miracle joined the divine essence of God into a flesh and blood human body.  The Almighty Creator and Sovereign Lord of the Universe somehow inexplicably made Himself human.  He came to experience life on a fallen, broken, sinful world, to know what it is to be mortal and to suffer the effects of sin.  He came to bring hope.  He healed, comforted and taught people about the Kingdom of God, even though hardly anyone could understand what He was saying.  Ultimately, He died for our sins, paying the devil's price, in blood, the ransom for our redemption.

The other way God makes Himself accessible is through the Bible, where the story of His plan for all of history is recorded in amazing synchronization, through the collected writings of 40 or more different writers over a span of 1500-2000 years. There is no other world religion that has a resource anything like this.

Amazingly, both Jesus and the Bible are known as "The Word of God" (see John 1).  Jesus is the center of everything, so if the Bible is named after Him, it is very significant indeed.

Back to the Bible:  whenever I am tempted to doubt any of the truth about Jesus Christ, I can ponder on the origin of  the Bible.

Except for the miraculous provision of God, there is simply no way that a collection of discrete writings compiled over such a span of time could fit together to explain our origin and our problem, and then point in astonishing harmony to God's solution: Messiah, Jesus Christ.

I believe that even the "mistakes" in the Bible attest to its truth.  Yes, the writer of 1 and 2 Chronicles puffs battle numbers compared to the writer of 1 and 2 Kings.  Yes, the four writers of the gospels each have slightly different versions of what the sign over Jesus' head on the cross said.  These details must not be particularly important to God as details.  The point is that the Israelites were able to defeat their enemies against great odds when God was fighting for them.  The point is that Jesus was crucified as King of the Jews.  The differences show that real, fallible men were keeping these records.  More than that, the fact that the differences remain after centuries during which the manuscripts were being copied and recopied by scribes, long before photography or computers were a part of the publishing world, attests to the validity of the documents.  If this were a construct, humanly crafted, somebody would have fixed the inconsistencies long ago.  However, those who worked on these pages understood them to be the Holy Word of God, so that even when an inconsistency would crop up, they had too much respect for the identity of the Bible to change it in any way.  The Bible is not like dentures, pure white plastic formed into rows of perfectly shaped, perfectly straight teeth.  The Bible is real teeth.  Real pearl.  Real diamond.  Everyone knows that real things are essentially different from their "perfect" imitations.

I love the way the Bible tells the story of a merciful God who created a beautiful world, and then set out to save it when it turned against Him.  I love how the Bible shows God calling a special people, the nation of Israel, to be the ancestors of His only begotten Son, Messiah, who would come to pay the price to redeem the world.  I love the way the Bible admits the shortcomings of Jesus' ancestors over and over, even the people who were most pleasing to God, such as King David, the "man after God's own heart," who committed adultery and murder.  This is not to excuse or condone sin, but to demonstrate that the very best among us are still in desperate need of a Savior.  I love how forshadowings of Christ exist in every book of the Bible, regardless of when it was written or who wrote it.

I love the way God gave us not one, but four stories of the life of Jesus, to round out our view and open our eyes to multifaceted perspectives on one single truth: Christ fulfilled all the prophesies and brought the hope of redemption to this miserable sin-stained world.  I love the promises in Revelation (and a number of the epistles), that at the fullness of time Jesus will return to deliver us into a perfect new heaven and earth, unbroken, unmarred.  Until then, we soldier on, those of us who believe, shouldering our responsiblity to help in the task of bringing God's children into right relationship with Him while there is still time for them to hear and respond.

I am amazed by the Bible, its beautiful, intricate treatment of God's plan for us, revealed for our salvation.  There is no other book like it.

I am thankful for the Bible.