Saturday, July 21, 2018

Planet Hugs

Photo by Edwin Soo 2012
A dream I had recently whisked me away to the fantasy destination of Planet Hugs. In this dream, I was on a sightseeing trip, walking through a large city, when off in the distance a large, globe-shaped structure seemed to be beckoning to me. It looked like an interesting place to visit, and what would be the harm in wandering in?

But once I was in the lobby, the imposing steel gates locked behind me. A polite but stern guard informed me that I should have read the sign posted on the door. The building was not open for tours, but only for filming of a reality TV show, and by entering I had in effect agreed to a contract to participate. Funny that I hadn’t seen any such sign, but being in the show sounded intriguing and might even make me rich and famous, I convinced myself.

“Planet Hugs,” hosted by Tim Gunn, appeared to be a cross between Project Runway and the Apprentice. We were assigned to teams, each with the mission to design, complete, and market a creative project. A woman on my team suggested a project of questionable taste that was not at all appealing to me, but Tim liked it, and he asked me to write up the proposal. I hesitantly agreed, wanting to be a team player and not wanting to be the first one fired, but disliking the project and not wanting to be associated with the woman’s ideas.

The woman immediately responded by ranting and raving, accusing me of stealing her plan and screaming nasty names at me, with others soon joining in the tirade. Tim suggested that the team cool down by taking off the rest of the evening and exploring Planet Hugs.

Although disturbed by the unsavory project and wounded by my team’s rejection of me, I was quickly distracted by all that Planet Hugs had to offer. The panoramic view of the surrounding city was breathtaking, as the entire top half of the globe was glass, supported only by thin ribs of steel. Brilliantly lit skyscrapers flashed like light sabers, and streets and rivers crisscrossed below in an electrifying array.

But the truly unique feature of Planet Hugs was the “floor.”  One could hardly call it that, as underfoot was a shifting sea of what felt like massage heads suspended in memory foam! After all the walking and emotional turmoil of this unusual adventure, it felt wonderful to lie down, to let my knotted muscles relax into that foam and feel the tension drift away.

At least initially. To my dismay, the gentle motion of the memory foam beneath me swelled in intensity until I was completely enveloped in smothering waves that covered even my head, suffocating me in what felt like a giant vat of dough being mechanically kneaded.

I awoke and sat up in a panic, but the sensations of air freely filling my lungs and the floor beside my bed firmly supporting my feet were a great relief. As I thought about the dream, I realized how easy and dangerous it is to be enticed by what the world seems to offer.

Seldom are there signs warning us to keep out, and if we get enticed by what lies within, the signs may be easy to ignore (Proverbs 1:10-19). The very name of Planet Hugs was a lie from Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), as the pretense of kindly affection and bodily comfort was merely a disguise for verbal and physical attack.

Since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6), Satan has used three lures to draw us into sin and away from God’s plan: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Planet Hugs seemed to offer a view out of this world, the constant availability of soothing massage, and the opportunity for fame and fortune, but all it delivered was strife, fear, and ultimately death (Romans 6:23).

We must therefore guard our feet against taking us into wicked places (Psalm 1:1), our minds against conforming to the world (Romans 12:2), and our hearts against any idol that would keep us from Him (Psalm 119:11; 141:4). We must be vigilant to avoid the devil’s attacks (1 Peter 5:8) by putting on the whole armor of God and recognizing that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:11-18).

If we are double-minded, trying to please and follow the world and God at the same time, we will be unstable in all our ways, tossed about in the churning waves of doubt and unbelief (James 1:6-8; Genesis 49:4). There is no stability in building our lives on the world’s promises, which are sinking sand leading only to destruction (Luke 6:48-49). Instead we must build our lives on the only sure foundation (Psalm 87:1), Jesus Christ Who is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4) and the precious Corner Stone (Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7).

Believers stand firmly on His promise of Heaven through faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), but even we must be careful to build wisely, and not foolishly, on that foundation. What we do to increase our standing in or acceptance by the world will burn up at His judgment like hay, wood, and stubble, but whatever we do to His glory with the desire to please Him and serve others will remain, like gold, silver and precious jewels withstanding the refiner’s fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

We don’t need hugs from the world if we are firmly held in the loving, secure, double grip of Jesus Christ and God the Father! (John 10:28-29) May we keep on the right path (Psalm 119:105) leading to His perfect will for our lives!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop

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