Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Lone Guitar

Photo by Jason Jenkins 2013

After I sang at an open mic downtown, we were returning home when on the spur of the moment we decided to stop at a café near us where we had heard they were also having an open mic night. As we approached the building, a woman seemed to read our minds and invited us to the courtyard where a very talented musician was singing.

Later that evening I had the opportunity to sing my Christian lyrics to secular songs and to sing patriotic songs appropriate for Independence Day. I was thrilled that many stood, hand over heart, for the Star-Spangled Banner, and were attentive to and appreciative of my songs with a Gospel message. Singing about God and country energized me, especially in the open air on a warm summer night, with majestic oak trees in the distance.

Before I sang, a young guitarist got up and almost apologetically explained that he was part of a duet and that the pianist hadn’t been able to join him. Despite the absence of a clear melody and harmonies, his playing was beautiful and soulful, touching chords within my own heart. I wondered what it would have sounded like had his partner been with him, and then I realized that God knew exactly how it sounded.

If we take the time and open our hearts to notice, so often there is something beautiful to appreciate that God has placed there just for us – a flower peeking through a crack in the pavement, a butterfly floating across our path, a fleeting cloud resembling Jesus Himself. And yet moments like these are happening simultaneously for born-again believers (John 3:3-8) across the globe, for those who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

Each of us does not experience what the others do, yet God knows, sees and orchestrates it all. He knows not only what the absent piano sounds like with the lone guitar, but what all the hymns of praise (Psalm 28:7; 40:3) and instrumental music (Psalm 150) and bird songs and thundering waterfalls sound like around the world. Even the rocks cannot keep silent from praising Him! (Luke 19:37-40).

Just as He knows all things past, present and future, and can be everywhere (Psalm 139), He can hear and appreciate all these jubilant sounds at once. We hear just an isolated strain, but He hears the majestic harmonies of the whole symphony He has written.

I believe that we should in general be discerning when hearing reports of near-death experiences, as many of these do not align with Scripture or later are discovered to be a hoax. Yet there was one that I read a few years ago that resonated with me, experienced by a born-again evangelist during cardiac arrest from which he was resuscitated. He described approaching Heaven and being amazed by all the wonderful praise songs he heard, different melodies and rhythms each sung by a different voice or choir, in various keys and languages (Isaiah 42:10; Psalm 150:6; Revelation 21:24), yet miraculously blending together harmoniously in a magnificent orchestral arrangement.

After I sang, a guitar virtuoso played a classical arrangement of "Starry, Starry Night" on an electric guitar, which was an amazing blessing and inspired me to write Christian lyrics to this tune. Twilight set in, and the tables and umbrellas became illuminated in twinkling colored lights, adding to the ambience of the music and gentle summer breeze. It was a magical effect, yet it reminded me that above us, stars and moon were becoming visible to others, but hidden from our sight. And even that view would pale next to the spectacle enjoyed by God Himself, Who alone can perceive all the glory of the universe He has created (Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:1-18).

As the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, wrote:

“Look up at the stars, see how the Lord flung them about by handfuls, and remember that all the stars that are visible to you are only sweepings of stardust by the door of God’s great house. There are an infinite number of bright worlds which our telescopes have never seen. He Who made all these things is great in power; therefore ask something great of Him when you come before Him in prayer.”

Praise the Lord for the glimpses of His beauty, creativity and power He affords to us each day as a foreshadowing of the unimaginable delights (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9) that await us in His Heaven! May we always be attuned to these and thankful that He has opened our eyes and ears (Matthew 13:16) to His glory and to the truth of His Word (John 17:17). May each of us sing or play our part with passion, devotion and dedication, knowing that the Lord will transform our joyful noise (Psalm 95:2; 100:1) into the music of Heaven!

© 2018 Laurie Collett

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Rocks in My Path

Photo by Saqqibali 2017

In this dream I am living in a one-room cabin in a farming community. The leader of the encampment announces to all the settlers that we must each clear the path to our cabin of all stones and dirt, collect them in a container, and turn them in to him to be weighed. The total weight of stones and dirt on each cabin’s path would be announced the next day.

As I start raking my path, I am humiliated to realize how many stones have accumulated on the once level brick path, and how much dirt has crept into the mortar cementing the bricks together. I had prided myself on keeping a clean house, but now the poor upkeep of my path would be known to all, even to my next door neighbor who always put on airs as if she were superior to me. 

Naturally, the handful of debris that she was gathering from her path looked miniscule next to the huge heap now blocking the entrance to my home. Still, I comforted myself in realizing that the man who lived across the way was even more slovenly than I, with massive boulders on his path, covered in soot and grime.

Finally it was time to turn in our piles of rocks and dirt and to have the weight tallied and announced. To add to my embarrassment, the only container I could find was a flimsy paper tray, resembling what fries might be served in at a fast food restaurant. Even that evidence of my contamination by the world would add to my guilt and shame.

As I started scooping handfuls of dirt and pebbles into the paper tray, a faint drizzle of rain moistened the dirt and the paper started to dissolve. Then the skies opened with drenching rain, washing away all traces of the dirt and pebbles. No need to gather the rest, for the flood had cleared away the whole mound of rocks not only from my path, but from all the others in the settlement.

The storm stopped as abruptly as it started, leaving only the refreshing scent of ozone and a dazzling rainbow in the clouds. As I awoke, I thought of how easy it is for worldly clutter, sin and weights (John 15:19; Hebrews 12:1) to creep into our life even when we think we are guarding our heart, mind and body (Psalm 51:10; 119:11; Romans 12:1-2) to keep us separated and set apart for His service (Leviticus 11:44-45; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16)..

While we cling to the illusion that we are holy and pure (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19), it is all too easy to judge others for obvious faults in their lives, without recognizing our own (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42). Or we go to the opposite extreme, getting discouraged when we think we don’t measure up to the example of others (John 21:21-22; 1 John 3:20). But it is not for us to judge, for only God knows the hearts (Psalm 44:21;139:23; Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8;), and only He has that right (Romans 12:19; James 5:9).

The truth is, we have all been weighed in the balances and found wanting (Daniel 5:27). None of us on our own merits can meet the standards or keep the law set forth by Holy God. But thankfully, we don’t have to (Romans 8:1-4), for He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16) to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for all our sins (Romans 3:25;.1 John 2:2; 4:10.  

Now all those who are born again (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:23) by placing their faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) are justified in His sight (Romans 3:20-30; 4:5-25; 5).. Now it is “just as if” we had never sinned, for His perfect righteousness is credited to our account. Now if we confess our sins, He is faithful and merciful to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

All our sins are washed away in His shed blood (Revelation 1:5), and Jesus, the Living Water (John 4:10; 7:38; Song of Solomon 4:15), washes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). He formerly cleansed the earth from all the wickedness of man by sending the great flood, and even now He allows storms into our lives for His purposes. Sometimes the storms show us where we have allowed the filth of sin to contaminate our lives; sometimes they demonstrate His awesome power to destroy and yet to restore; and always they strengthen our faith in and dependence on Him.

Just as He sent the first rainbow after the great flood to remind us of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood (Genesis 9:13-16), we can be reassured by every rainbow of His power, mercy, grace, and infinite love (Ezekiel 1:28). Praise God that we have no need to judge one another, for He is the only One to Whom every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord! (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10) Praise God that we can leave our burdens at the foot of His cross and be showered in blessings from His precious Fount! 

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives 
Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Healing in His Wings

Photo by Arturo Mann 2005

Almost as an afterthought, my husband and I decided to walk the beach again after our cleaning chores were done, shortly before sunset. I must admit I had come to the beach with a bad attitude, feeling discouraged about the slow progress in restoring my shoulder range of motion after a chronic injury, the pain involved in the mobilization process, and various other obstacles my husband and I were facing.

Our first beach walk that day, in the midafternoon, yielded uncharacteristically barren stretches of sand, devoid of the many shells, shark’s teeth, and even fossils we enjoy finding there. The sea was a murky brownish green and purple, rough and churning, and dark squalls loomed at the horizon.

But God had completely transformed the beach for our second stroll, and with it, my outlook! Each step we took seemed to unveil a new scene in His creation (Genesis 1,2), a magical wonderland delighting the senses. I have never seen the Aurora Borealis, and that is on my bucket list, but I shared with my husband that the light show God now provided must be even better than that!

At first I berated myself for not bringing the camera, then I realized that God’s perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 128:8) was for me to simply soak in His beauty (Psalm 27:4), to experience the moment without fussing with camera settings or lighting, to just be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

A foggy haze along the horizon seemed to encompass the waters as if in a vast lagoon, now calm, tranquil and a misty shade of aqua. An incredible diorama stretched out in the sky, lit dramatically by the setting sun that highlighted each cloud formation with different hues of gold, russet, mauve, and rose. These colors reflected into the ocean, which now shimmered with soft light.

Initially I felt like I was looking up at the ceiling of a Renaissance cathedral, then I remembered that art mirrors nature, and not vice versa! The beauty surrounding me was as I imagine Heaven is like, and yet Scripture tells us that the eye cannot begin to imagine the incomparable beauty God is preparing for us in our eternal home (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9).
In the sky, the central scene at first included a figure like a menacing, dark gorilla on one side, shaking its fist at a brilliantly illuminated, silvery white cloud that looked like Jesus with arms stretched wide, draped in robes that took on the form of wings. Between these two central characters were many smaller figures resembling people of various shapes, sizes and ages, some turned toward the Christ figure and others toward the demonic presence.

As the sun set through the clouds, triangular beams of colored light shone through the sky as if refracted through prisms. Above the horizon, a massive circular cloud formation blazed in tones of gold and fiery orange, reminding me of the Shekinah Glory, the presence of God filling the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) as the Israelites wandered through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. Over it all, high in the sky, was a single silver cloud in the shape of outstretched angel’s wings.

Awestruck, I asked God to forgive my previous attitude of discouragement and ingratitude, and I thanked Him for revealing His peace, joy and beauty to us in such a unique and remarkable way. His handiwork in nature (Psalm 19:1) assured us that He is in control despite demonic struggles that would continue (Ephesians 6:12) because of the curse of sin (Romans 5:12) until He returns for His children (1 Thessalonians 4:17). If we yield to His Spirit, His glory will continue to illuminate the temple of our body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) just as it filled the tabernacle and temple in Old Testament times.

Later that night I was reading from a book that I had downloaded on my Kindle, which just happened to be the next book on my list and not one I had selected for any particular reason. With God there are no coincidences (Psalm 139; Romans 8:28), so I was excited but not surprised that the reading dealt with the connection between spiritual and physical healing, and that the author used metaphors of wings and of beams of light, just as God had shown us!

The author referenced Malachi 4:2: But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

What a perfect passage to encapsulate our experience on the beach and the imagery God, Who is light (1 John 1:5), unveiled to us! All who reverence the Name of Jesus, the Source of all light and perfect holiness, can experience the healing He shines forth like rays of the sun. Then we can be healthy, vital, and powerful, for He cares for us, heals and protects us.

I had often wondered why Jesus, in His earthly ministry, never experienced sickness of any kind, even though He felt pain, fatigue, betrayal, and thirst (Mark 4:38; Matthew 25:35; John 19:28; Hebrews 4:15). I now understand that His body could not be subject to sickness because His Spirit is free from sin. Illness is part of the curse of sin, even though our specific infirmities may not be the direct result of our own sin or even of the sin of another.

When the disciples asked Jesus whether a man was blind because of his own sin or because of the sin of his parents, He replied that it was neither, but rather for the glory of God, as He would heal him (John 9). When we experience physical limitations or illness, it is an opportunity for us to yield to the healing power of Jesus in our spirit, which may in turn allow healing in our body.

In some cases, however, He may allow the thorn in our flesh to persist, for His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. The apostle Paul was therefore able to glory in his infirmities, knowing that God would get the glory from Paul’s completed mission despite earthly obstacles that are no match for God’s infinite power (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

God promises spiritual healing (Mark 2:17), forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9), and eternal life (John 3:16) to all who place their trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Praise God for that promise, and for physical healing or for His grace to carry on despite our human frailty, until He brings us home in our glorified bodies! 

© 2018 Laurie Collett