Monthly Archives: March 2015

Whatever is Lovely

tetonsdawnBy Judy Villanueva

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

It was completely silent, except for the sound of lake water sloshing against the sides of the metal fishing boat that held us.  I was stretched out reading while my husband sat patiently, rotating the reel, waiting for the tug that would mean we were having fish for dinner!  It was one of those extraordinary moments when one feels held within the beauty of God and, ushered into a great shalom!  Between the blue skies that watched over us and the hundreds of pines that surrounded us, it would have been difficult to imagine that we would ever be unsettled by anything ever again!  I remember stepping into that little boat with an anxious heart and returning to shore, at peace.  What is it about gazing at beauty that quiets the soul and bears witness to the reality of God—on the throne, in charge, alert, in love, and magnificently reigning over heaven and earth?

God is beautiful!  Massively, spectacularly, incomprehensibly beautiful!  It would be impossible to tell the story of His infinite beauty and yet, He has graced us with foretastes scattered throughout the earth!  We see hints on purple mountain peaks laced in snow, and in the array of colors splashed across the landscape on a spring morning.  We marvel under the magic of a night sky and catch our breath in the presence of the sun rising in firey splendor.  Beauty blesses our soul and speaks to us of God in ways that words cannot.

When all seems lost and despair has declared a victory, beauty always has the final word — and that word is hope!

Reflecting on the attributes of God is a worthwhile and faith-building practice.  Awakening to His beauty in this world anchors us to the reality of God…a good and beautiful God.

There is something in the human spirit that intuitively understands that beauty doesn’t just happen.  It reflects and points to its Maker!

To behold His beauty is to discover His heart, peek at His face, and hear His loving whispers.  There is revelation of God on flower petals, ocean waves, and glaciers — ladybugs, redwoods, and the Milky Way!  At the heart of beauty is a happy God and our soul is calmed in its presence.  It bears witness that He is real, on the throne, in charge, alert, in love, and magnificently reigning over heaven and earth!

“Thank You, Father, for this world and every inch of beauty within it!  Help me to notice and hear your voice through all of it.  I am so grateful for starlit skies and glassy lakes, for delicately colored flowers, rainbow trout and moose!  I praise you, most beautiful God!  Amen.” 

What about you? 

How does beauty impact you?  Does it?

When was the last time you were astounded by God’s beauty in creation?  How did it make you feel?

Is beholding beauty a familiar practice?

Do you know God as beautiful?

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Friend of God

papiEliBy Judy Villanueva

Mark 14:32-34

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Straining to see through the crowd, I searched for the beloved face of my friend.  Throngs of people poured out of the area where passengers are deposited after their flights and then, like ants, are scattered in every direction.  I waited eagerly, not wanting her to slip past me until at last I recognized her gait and smile maneuvering toward me!  The look in our eyes said it all, “Welcome!  So good to see you!  Hooray, you are here!”  What a precious gift God gives us when He gives us a friend, someone whose heart we trust and who will be there for us in good times and bad.

I rarely think of Jesus as a man in need of a friend.  Most gospel stories depict Him as a man on a mission, living life secured in the company of His heavenly Father.  Storms didn’t disturb Him nor  did the threats of those who sought to destroy Him.  But here, in the garden, we see our Lord struggling and asking his closest friends to stay and keep watch with him. The idea that Jesus, dare I say it, needed a friend is one that confronts me.

Have you ever considered that Jesus doesn’t only offer you His friendship, but also desires yours?

It is a wild notion!  On any given day we can seek His company and respond to His gentle invitations to sit with Him and pray.  Just like the friends who kept watch with Him in Gethsemane, we too have daily opportunities to bless Jesus with our presence and love Him with our lives!  How marvelous a speculation that our prayers, attitudes, and acts of grace can actually bless the heart of God!  It isn’t a one-way friendship where we simply receive His kindness and consolations, but rather, a reciprocal one where, as friends … we love God back!

“Lord Jesus, thank You for being a good friend to me!  That you desire my friendship is indeed a precious gift.  Help me to live in the days aware and awakened to how I might bless Your heart through my prayers, thoughts and acts of love.  Amen.”

How about you?

Do you know Jesus as your savior and most faithful friend?

Is your relationship with God one-way?

Have you ever considered that you can bless God with your acts of love?

Do you know that God desires friendship with you?

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Father, Forgive Them

duncan houseBy Judy Villanueva

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

There He is hanging on the cross…nails in His hands and feet, blood oozing from his side, a crown of thorns pressed into His brow… beaten, bruised, torn open, and naked.  To make matters worse, from the cross he looks down on the people he is dying for only to hear their mocking words. They don’t get it!  How can they not see and embrace the gift that Jesus is giving as He gasps for air?  More to the point, how does Jesus not cry out, “You ungrateful people!  Don’t you see what is going on here?  Just forget it!  Go to your graves hanging onto your sin!  I’m outta here!”

Nope.  Never entered His mind.  Instead He calls out to His Father with whom He has shared intimate friendship for all eternity, and asks for a pardon for those who are killing Him.  How on earth?  How in heaven?  The love that fills Jesus’ heart for mankind is beyond imagination.  It is immense and unstoppable!  The fact that they were undeserving, self-willed, head-strong, mean-spirited and blind didn’t count against them.  It didn’t matter!  Nothing mattered except that Jesus loved them.   He never flinched.  It was never a question.  He is love and loved us unto death.

How do I respond to this kind of Love?  How do you?  If I stand beneath the cross and look up at my Savior, I feel pierced with sorrow at His suffering.  If I then take in the reality that He hangs there for me…I fall to my knees!  I wake up most days with this story in the background of my awareness and can live separate from it, but I don’t want to!

I want this act of Love to sit in the foreground of my life so that whenever I open my eyes, I see it!

To see Jesus loving me and going the distance on my behalf pushes me out of complacency and fills my heart with overwhelming gratitude.  It pulls out of me the deepest desire to live loved and to love well.   It makes me want to love Him back every moment and with all of me!

“Jesus, how can I thank You for dying for me?   Help me to remember… to call to the foreground this most precious gift each day and fill me so that I might love you with my life.  Amen.”

How about you?

What do you feel when you stand at the foot of the cross and look up?

How do you respond to this kind of love?

Is the reality of the cross in the background of your life or the foreground?

Take time to remember the cross, to bring it’s reality into your heart each day.  You are loved with a mighty love.

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