Monthly Archives: October 2014

Held

DSC_1223By Judy Villanueva

Psalm 139:1-5

 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;   You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down,  and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue,  behold, O Lord, You know it all.  You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.

One of my earliest memories is of being rocked in my father’s arms and soothed by the rhythm of a tune that he used to hum.  Dad’s deep voice made it a rumbly lullaby that I could both feel as well as hear, and before long  humming gave way to sweet dreams.  I remember the feeling of being held and calmed by his voice and, to this day, this little tune quiets me.  It is a melody that I’ve since heard myself hum to calm my children, grandchildren, and my own heart when it is frightened.  Being held and “hummed to” created safety all around and inside of me.  “Dad is here.  It’s all going to be ok.  I can rest.”

Is there a more beautiful reality than that our lives are held by God…always?

Our sitting down and rising up, our every thought and word, coming and going, working or lying down, He knows!  He is intimately acquainted with everything about us.  We are seen, known and loved by the God who made us…at all times, in all places, no matter how we feel about it.  How do you feel about it?  It is an easy idea to cuddle up with when we feel “warm and cozy” but it can be a most prickly truth to believe in the dark of night.  How, when we are frightened by the night, can we rest in His arms and let the sound of His voice bring us peace?

When a mother consoles her crying baby, she holds it despite the wailing and flailing of little arms and legs.  The child has no idea how it will ever be content again and is simply as unhappy as it needs to be!   Mom, on the other hand, watches over the upset babe, all the while working to provide for its needs.  Sound familiar?  We are finite creatures and, while we have certain capacity to make sense of our lives, we are unable to grasp the entirety of why things happen as they do.

Sometimes, we must simply wail and be as unhappy as we need to be, but eventually…and often after we’ve exhausted ourselves, we must rest in the infinite arms that hold us.

We must come to our senses and look for God’s face.  We must listen for His voice that sings over our troubled hearts and let His firm grasp of our lives bring us the peace we crave.  His arms are mighty, His heart is good, and the sound of His humming, however it comes to us, gives way to rest.

“Thank you, Father, for holding my life…always.  To know that You do, consoles me.  To consider that You know me through and through helps me to exhale.  You are here.  It’s all going be ok.  I can rest.  Amen.”

What about you?

Is your heart troubled?  What brings you comfort?

Where/with whom do you experience being known?

Do you need to know today that you are seen, known and loved by the God who made you?

He loves you and is intimately acquainted with all your ways.

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Slowing

DSC_0264By Judy Villanueva

1 Kings 19:9-13
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

My grandmother was one of my best friends. Before she died at age 98, she and I use to spend one day a week together. We would run errands to the egg store, the nursery, and often, to find a good banana split! Nana loved watching soap operas and it always made me smile that she would talk through practically her entire show, sneak in a snooze, and then talk a little more! I loved the sound of her voice, the sparkle in her dark, brown eyes, and learning about joy from being with her. I miss the experience of being drawn into a place of slowing just by being in her company.

How do we honor a pattern of slowing in our days so that we are ready when God passes by? Can it be done “on the way” to this and that with our hands full of life?

Take a deep breath—exhale. Do it again…slowly. It’s an easy way to pause and take in the peace of a moment slowed. It feels good! It poises us to find our souls, if we care to. The challenge of slowing down is that the things we try to stay ahead of…like, guilt, worry, pain, loneliness, boredom, fear…catch up with us!  Conversely, the blessedness of slowing is that we come into fuller contact with all of the joys set before us, like the sparkle in a loved ones eyes, lessons hidden in simple presence…and, the voice of God in a whisper.

God delights with us in our doing but, without the habit of slowing, we risk becoming overly tired, overwhelmed, and unfocused. Worse, we may miss God as He passes by in our day. He does, you know, pass by every day!

Elijah had been through a battle! He had just taken a stand against the false prophets of Baal and witnessed the fire of God bring a supreme defeat upon their heads!  When he  finally arrived on Mount Horeb he was utterly depleted and had completely lost perspective.  God listened. He knew what Elijah needed and invited him to come, stand in His presence.  He invites us as well, to step out from our doing  each day and fully experience moments of His passing by.  Deep breath.  After the wind, fire, and earthquake, Elijah finally heard God’s gentle whisper, covered his face and began to recover.

That’s what slowing does! It helps us hear God’s voice apart from the distractions and noise of life!  It awakens us to One Who is with us…

To the  One who passes by with light for our paths, healing for our souls, strength for our callings, and love to remind us that we are not alone.

“Father, I thank You that You know your children well and that You keep track of us in the battles, in the deserts, and on the mountain tops. Help me to hear Your gentle whispers that call me to attention. Lead me into slowing places where I can let go of my hurry and not miss when You pass by!  Amen.”

What About You?

How often do you slow down?

Are you comfortable with quiet and stillness?

What helps you slow down?

Take time to slow and listen for God’s gentle whisper.

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Worship

The Fear of the Lord by Tommy Walker

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Rocks and Trees

DSC_0271By Judy Villanueva

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
  From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  (Psalm 121)

“…with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

I have a hundred pictures of trees growing out of rocks!  It catches my attention like a burning bush and shouts “Hope” to my soul!  My husband and I have literally planted over a hundred trees in the last ten years.  We’ve watered them, fed them, and have spent hours weeding, pruning, and protecting them.  To my dismay, maybe a third have survived!  The large pine under the eaves, on the other hand,  has been pushed completely over by ice sliding off the roof more than once and now stands taller than the roof.  One of our healthiest aspens was severed in half by another ice slide and grew back with such vigor that it now also rises above the roof offering abundant shade each morning.  I’m no arborist, but the common denominators seem to involve hardship and lots of water!

As for trees that grow out of rocks, I can only surmise that God loves life and can call it to rise up…even from the hardest places!

I stand before trees with rocky birthplaces in silence, awe and incredulity!  I take pictures of them to remind myself that God can do anything!  I come from a family that tends to be rather practical, which is a tremendous asset when it comes to making decisions, processing conflict or buying a car.  But, as it relates to matters of faith, being practical seems to tether me to the possible when what I really want to reach for is the “tree out of the rock” impossible!  I want to hope beyond reason, pray for miracles, and watch breathlessly for God to interrupt my practical expectations with a divine thunder that initiates an impractical faith!

It helps me to remember, that once upon a time, a Father called forth life from behind a stone that covered a tomb…that held a beloved Son.  Was it a whisper or did He shout, “Arise!”?  The stone was rolled away and beneath the burial cloth, a heart began to beat and the sound of God breathing filled the air!  Listen!

Can you hear the sound of God breathing over your life today?

Rest.  He is.  Truth is that sometimes all we can do is lean back into the hard places, drink in God’s presence, and wait for Him to help life break through.   In the meantime, we can lift our eyes to the mountains, marvel at trees that grow out of rocks, and let them shout “Hope!” to our souls.  We can trust that God loves us.   He can do what we cannot and with Him, all things are possible.

“Lord God, breathe into our weary hopes and help us through our trials.  Grow trees out of rocks and do the impossible according to Your good will!  Help us to trust that You love life…our lives, each one!  Strengthen us and sustain us as we wait for life to break through.  Amen.”

What about you?

 Can you hear the sound of God breathing over your life today?

Do you need God to do something that seems impossible? 

What catches your attention and reminds you that you can trust God?

Do you have a practical faith or one that breathlessly waits for God to do the impossible?

Rest. Drink, and trust in His love.

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Worship

(Dedicated to Steven, Trina Beaumont and my little brother)

 

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Just Believe!

DSC_1209By Judy Villanueva

“Don’t be afraid, just believe!”  (Luke 8:50)

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood.  Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  (CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters)

Pain, loss, and disappointment have loud voices and, over time,  it can become near impossible to hear Hope over their cries.  They seem to shout, “Don’t you dare hope because stuff happens…even when you pray.”  It is an annihilating lie that likes to take up residence in crushed and weary souls.   It starts by taking an inch but invades with the full intention of shrouding the truth about God and ruling with its message of despair.  Before we know it, this trio is dictating the final word about God…a word that declares Him unfaithful, unable, and unavailable.  But, don’t believe it…not for one minute!

God is good always and no matter what!

He is incapable of being unfaithful.  Despite trials and tribulations, God remains God, and that means He remains perfectly good and perfectly in charge of our lives, our world and this very moment in history.  I do not understand it and wrestle with issues of belief regularly because of the suffering around me.  I admit that atrocities and sorrows devastate my heart and tempt me to doubt God.  I wish I was stronger…but I am just me.   God is helping me to accept that peace will not come from my ability to make sense of pain because I do not have that capacity!  Rather, He woos me to keep looking at His face.

When I read the gospels and watch Jesus healing, washing feet, and dining with sinners, I get a glimpse.  When I watch Him hurt with hurting people and feel compassion for widows, lepers and weary travelers, I get a glimpse.

When I stand at the cross and look up into eyes that look down upon me with a love that wraps all the way around me, I can see… and feel His face!

My soul receives healing and correction…and, somewhere deep within me, I feel a peace wash over the panic of worry and fear.  At the cross, in His face, the dictations of disappointment are silenced, all matter of matters are brought to peace and I am able to “just believe!”

“Lord, I hear you exhorting me to trust You above any other voice that tempts me to doubt your faithful heart!  Quiet the noise of dissonant voices and help me not to lean on my own understanding.  Woo me to Your face and help me to rest in the beauty of Your good heart.  Amen.”

 

What about you?

Have pain, loss and disappointment shrouded your view of God?

Are you weary and afraid?

Do you know how to look at God?  If not, start by reading the Gospels and watch Jesus.

Have you seen the love of God looking down upon you from the cross?  Stand there and let it wrap all the way around you!

 

Worship

“We Will Remember” by Tommy Walker

“Sovereign”  by Chris Tomlin

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