Still learning to trust

The first text came just as I was getting dressed, not quite ready to appear in public:

Put your head out the door and look at the sky.

I peeked out the door, then threw on whatever clothes were within reach and grabbed my camera. Had to get outside.

Just then another text came from someone else: Sunrise alert!

sunrise alert

God was simply putting an exclamation point after what He had been saying to me that morning. He knows me well, and He knows the effect morning light has on me. And this morning light was spectacular.

The conversation with God had actually started the morning before when, in our small Sunday-morning group, one man — who is in a situation most of us can hardly imagine — expressed his deep faith in Jesus’ promise:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus says the highest priority of His disciples is the kingdom of God, seeking to live out His kingdom right where we are in whatever circumstances we are. The kingdom of God is what is to have our prime time, the fullness of our energy, the urgency of our thoughts. The Father knows what we need in this life—not only spiritually, but also physically—and it is “His business” (said this believer on Sunday morning) to provide that for His children. He is the Great Shepherd.

Ah. Our business is the kingdom. God’s business is providing the necessities for the lives of His children.

That started me thinking about how I spend my days. What always gets first place on my to-do list. What gets my morning time (my prime time) and what is saved for oh-whenever-I-have-a-few-minutes. I tried to imagine a bar graph that would show in stark, colored detail the amount of time I spend tending to what I think are “necessary” things in life (or worrying and thinking about such things) compared to the time I’m giving to life in the kingdom.

I confess, I’m almost afraid to look too closely at the detail of that graph.

This man’s testimony was yet one more nudge from the Spirit. I’ve been grappling with one thing in my life, one thing that it seems I cannot let go of. The Spirit says I must let it go and trust Him fully. Prying my fingers loose is so hard. I’ve grown up in a culture that argues against fully trusting God for all things. Our culture says we must be our own providers, our own strength, our own … can I say it? … our own gods.

Then, on the spectacular-sunrise morning, I read this wonderful verse:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The [enemies] you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13).

That’s Moses, telling a frantic, desperate people that God would indeed protect and provide for them. Those people saw absolutely no way out of the predicament they were in. So God turned a sea into a desert road in order to rescue them.

Just after I read that story, along came an email directing me to a blog that ended with the same verses in Matthew 6 that I had been thinking about: “Seek ye first …”

And then came the sunrise. A gift from One who loves me and wants me to trust Him in all things.

So I would like to shout this from the rooftop:

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE STARTING THE DAY WITH A DIRECT PROMISE FROM GOD!
(Source: Elaine, from her rooftop, under sunrise skies)

Nothing, just nothing like it!

I cannot doubt today that God is in this place where I now stand and He intends to keep every promise He’s made to me.

Oh, Father, help my unbelief.

*

Glimpsing the Never-ending Kingdom

I caught a glimpse this past week. The glimpses are what keep me going, keep me believing.

After days of clouds and rain, the sky beamed blue, the sun unleashed brilliance, white puffs drifted. At 4p.m., I was running errands, stop at the bank, library, post office. Hurry toward my next appointment.

And then something brought me to a halt, told me to note how far the shadows stretched, how low the sun hung over the hills to the west, and how the cold had seeped into our town in spite of the sun.

This moment came at the end of a day when:

… I read the obituary of a prominent man from our area whose life-long influence in both church and business helped to shape this community, its culture and its economy. He died last week.

… Littlest Grandson came to my door, carefully holding something and wearing a gleeful grin. “Grandma, I have a present for you.” He presented me with copies of their most recent family portraits. Beautiful, each one of them, all spruced up and smiling. But when did this happen? When did Oldest Grandson grow so tall? When did Granddaughter turn into such a lady?

… Sister called. We’re trying to get something on our family schedule. First available day is December 1. December?! What happened to November? For that matter, I don’t think I was quite finished with October yet.

Then the moment of blue coldness in late afternoon whispered of winter, the year slipping away, and … how do I describe what happened?

I only know these moments as glimpses. That’s what I’ve named them. The Spirit permits me a peek through a window in the universe. Or, maybe, for a few seconds, He puts God-dimension glasses over my eyes.

Whatever it was that happened, it was the glimpse that I had been hoping for, asking God for. I had been praying for better understanding of this —

His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from
        the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the LORD
          
of Heaven’s Armies

    will make this happen!

This is a hard thing to take hold of. How can something never end? Everything of this world begins and ends and is measured by the time between those events. We do not know how to live without that regulation.

For just a breath, a blink, I glimpsed my life outside of time. My real life, your real life, child of God, is in a realm outside of the time by which we arrange our lives now. In that realm, Christ rules forever. “My kingdom,” said Christ, “is not of this world.” (see John 18:36)

Our life in that kingdom is not a separate thing from our life on earth. We do not live earthly lives and then move into Christ’s kingdom. Our life in the kingdom is right now and is not of this world.

The end of our earthly life is, as the obituary put it, going to see our Lord and moving into a new dimension of being with the living God.

Reading Isaiah can be a roller-coaster of emotions. The harsh words of judgment for those who do not listen to the Lord and descriptions of the wasteland and destruction that await people who forget God, all shake me. I see so much of our society today in these passages, and we are so prone to get entangled with the world around us.

Yet in almost every chapter, there is a message of hope. Hope for rescue and healing. Hope for life in a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. A kingdom that will go on without end.

Why? Why would the God of the Universe bother with all of us who have caused Him so much anger and grief?

He tells us why. He is the Eternal Father, He has claimed us as His children, and his passionate commitment will make this happen. The NIV says the Lord’s zeal will make it happen. He is determined, intensely devoted to healing His creation and His people.

Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has claimed us as His own, and we live not only today but without end in His kingdom. 

Spirit, give us a glimpse of that realm, the without-end kingdom of the Prince of Peace.

* 

Scripture: Isaiah 9:7; Lamentations 3:21-23 (all NLT)

Living in an unseen Kingdom

We began driving on Sunday morning, just hours after Daylight Savings Time ended in Ohio. Our route took us southwest, into the Central time zone, then we turned east again. By the time I fell into bed at the motel, I didn’t care what time it was. My body just knew it was time for bed.

But in the early morning darkness, the red numbers on the clock felt false. Was that clock right? Had we changed time zones again the night before?

I flipped open my cell phone. No, we were still in Central time. The Cell Phone Knows. The town in which we spent the night was very close to the Eastern time zone, and perhaps someone with an appointment the next day had set the phone to Eastern time instead of Central. Or maybe the adjustment had never been made from Daylight Savings Time. Confusing. But I trusted my cell phone. It Knows.

That morning, less than an hour’s drive away, my cell phone flipped ahead one hour to Eastern time. That little thing receives its signals from the tower, and It Knows.

Have you ever seen a time zone? Yet our lives are regulated by those invisible borders.

“We live in a kingdom that I’ve never seen…” That’s a line from a song by Miriam Therese Winter, recorded on an LP* we had at home when we were kids. Recently, my sister found the songs available on a CD, so I’m listening to them again. And this phrase jumped out at me, because it’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

Actually, thinking is what I’ve been thinking about.

The prophet Isaiah said, 

The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,
“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,
     
And don’t live in dread of what frightens them.
Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.
       
He is the one you should fear.
He is the one who should make you tremble.
      
He will keep you safe.

War is imminent; Judah is about to be invaded and the prophet has warned that they will be crushed. The picture is grim: their society is filled with evil, injustice, and corruption; the future holds only darkness, distress, and captivity.

The LORD tells Isaiah that he must not think like those around him, fearful of what they might suffer at the hands of the enemy, dreading the future. Instead, look higher than man. God is the one who holds your future. He is the one who should command fear and trembling. He alone is the one who keeps you safe. Man is nothing compared to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

When we think about our lives, is our thinking caught, limited, circumscribed only by what’s going on in this worldly kingdom? Today in my hometown voters are looking at a ballot with some very hot issues. How will the outcome of those votes determine how you see your life? Do these things define your life? How important to your future is the next presidential election?

Do we think like the world — believing that everything depends on this human race and what it can or cannot accomplish? Do our sights ever go higher than human actions and efforts? Do we believe that our future depends solely on what happens here at earth level?

I ask the Spirit to take us beyond that. Your life, child of God, is part of something much more than the country, state, community and culture in which you live your earthly life.

Jesus said His kingdom is now here. It is not something we wait for, something we hope will arrive someday. We are a part of that kingdom now. Can we see beyond what’s going on in our society and our government to glimpse the kingdom in which we live as people chosen and adopted by the Lord of the universe?

Just as surely as King David and Jesus’ mother, Mary, and the apostle Paul are part of God’s story, so are we. We are living out the history of the kingdom of God right now. Can we catch that perspective?

Can we stop thinking like the world around us and ask God to give us a glimpse of His thoughts? Do we think about living out our lives in this unseen kingdom? After all, that is where your true life lies.   

I want to be like my cell phone, so tuned in to my tower that my thinking is aligned with His kingdom, no matter what the rest of the world is saying or thinking.

Scripture: Isaiah 8:11-14 (NLT)

* Joy is like the Rain, by the Medical Mission Sisters, www.medicalmissionsisters.org