Monday, August 18, 2014

Every Cloud Is A Flag To God's Faithfulness

You've seen it before.

How the night sky is a vast inky darkness, with only a few stars piercing through like pin-heads of light. 

Then, as if on cue, across the contour of the eastern horizon, night evaporates into thin layers of dusky pink, with thresholds of soft light rising.  

The beauty climbs slowly, highlighting clouds with wispy edges, hanging on to light.
And just as if the lights are lifted on a stage, the sky is illuminated with stunning rays of pinks mixed with orange and the center stage is taken by the sun as it begins its march across the sky one more day.

The sun in all its golden streaming light-glory and clouds curling as they wave across the sky. 

On this morning, I grab the camera again, in an attempt to capture the beauty of them. 

I have photo files named, “sunrise obsession,” “cloud obsession,” and sub-files under each of those files to contain all the images I have taken this summer of both.  

As I child I would lay on my back, my brother often by my side, in the deep cool grass and imagine what we saw in the expanse of the sky. It was easy to see sheep and elephants, trucks and bunnies. And we imagined that we would grow up to be brave and good and have happy lives. But real life brought high walls, dragons to slay and flags flying at half-mast.

And today my imagination runs thin as the daily news, blares horror, tragedy and confusion. The internet chimes in with good people pounding their blog fists of messages that divide too, in the name of unity.

So for a few days I've had to walk away from it all. All the noise and the news.

I go back to the basics. 

Sitting in my favorite place, in the first minutes of a fresh day. Reading the Word and what God has to say about all of life. How Jesus came, because there is only One answer to all of this worlds, problems. The epic battle of sin and the war that was won by Love.

And His Love and His Word are pure, clean, filled with hope, love, righteousness and faithfulness. 

In those pages there are no longer lines that divide, but passages that say, "Christ is everything and in everything." (read here?) 

And in Him we are all one.

As I let the sweetness of damp morning air wash over me I come back to the truth of God’s faithfulness no matter what the world spews out.  The red cardinal comes to eat just outside my window, announcing his arrival with sharp snapping sounds, repeated over and over. Somewhere in our subdivision there is a rooster that crows out long and loud. It always makes me smile to hear him the middle of manicured lawns and rows of neatly kept houses. The dove flaps out her mournful sound as she goes to a place of safety and the meadowlark takes his stand on the fence post, belting out his song.

And these pages of the Bible are light, peeling back the dark. 

The spiritual stratosphere of my world is reminded that God is able to be in all places, at the same time, bringing power and healing. And He is faithful.

Most often He uses people to do deliver grace and love.

Without suffering, grace is hard to see or to give away. And the people who give the most grace have probably suffered and received it.

Most mornings lately, I walk in the coolest part of these summer days with neighbors who are now friends. I snap pictures of clouds that draw up thin lines in the sky with cool colors of morning. Some days they rise high, with the promise of rain, or hang low overhead like a thick blanket to shield the light. 

Indeed I've come to love clouds this summer.  

From low hanging wisps to roaring thunderheads they herald a hint of the wind that carries them. 

I heave a sigh of relief that God is in control of the things that seem so out-of-control.

Sometimes I wonder what God was thinking when He left this earth to be run by the likes of people. People like me. People like the ones in the news. All of us capable of doing to other people, what we read and hear about.  

All the killing, the stealing and the destroying. 

I think we all ache to live in a world that is set right and is the way that it was intended to be. I want Jesus to show up every day and fight the bad guys and to rescue the oppressed. I want faith to be easy. I want to sip lemonade under a large umbrella, and watch puffy clouds float by. 

But Jesus sends his followers into the world to heal it. We have the Holy Spirit, working through us, imperfect humans to be His hands and feet to the needs around us. We are to be the voice for those who cannot speak. We are to be the arms that hold those who weep. 

This whole thing about Jesus being on earth and dying and being raised from the dead? It is hard for some people to believe that He did all that to solve the problem of sin in the world. 

But He did. 

And He did one more thing. 

He ascended into heaven. (Read here?) 

And when He ascended, he went into the clouds. 

Well of course He did!

Thank goodness, His status in Heaven is not dependent on whether people believe it or not, but it is our status that changes when we believe.

And in the end the Bible says that Jesus will be coming back and guess what He will be riding? 

He will be riding on the clouds.  

I love that. 

The day is coming when the long night and deep darkness will be destroyed. All light will burst forth. No more childish ways or imaginations. The news everyday will be the Good News. 

So friends let’s keep our eyes lifted up. 

And until that day, we love and serve those in our lives and cling to the faithfulness of God.

Then I saw Heaven open wide - and oh! 
a white horse and its Rider. 
The Rider, named Faithful and True.

Revelations 19:11

Monday, August 11, 2014

Redeeming The Broken Hallelujahs

I remember her, skipping along the row of lilac bushes, her skin naturally bronze as if she had been kissed by summer sun year round and her tousled hair, curled natural with perfect ringlets framing her darling face.  She was a beautiful child who ran as if she didn't have a single care, but I knew her life wasn't easy.

And as she grew up sometimes our paths just seemed to cross.

Not that she knew who I was, but I noticed her. I can tell you that she grew up into a stunning woman and gifted artist. One who tried to hide her pain behind a beautiful smile.

And too soon, long before you would think it could be time, another cherished soul slipped beyond the thin veil of this earth, into eternity.

It has left me wondering if she always felt hopeless. 

I get that she just longed to numb all the pain and sweeping emptiness inside of her as she slipped her hands around another drink.  And was there really anything at all to ease the throbbing pain that pulsed deep in her heart? But the hardest question that presses into my earth bound skin is this: Did I speak love and life enough to her, when I had the opportunity?

Smack in the middle of one of the hardest, seasons of my life is when I first saw her scampering across that yard with her little cherub face.

I was walking in darkness that can be felt. Agony that burned deep, which no drink, no drug, no human could alleviate. In that season I learned that time does not heal, even though so many people said that it would. Maybe they were just hoping that it was true, because they had no real answers to help someone feel whole, who had their life shredded. 

I see it all the time. Women like her, women like me, acting and reacting to the deepest places of their brokenness. All of us with these unique blends of  history, circumstances, desires and dreams. 

Behind the lifestyle I could hear the heart crying out. I could see my old self, my young self, in them. I know that there is a longing to be something else besides the choices.

Often we see the rubble of someone’s poor decisions and think they should just stop it. Just shape up and live a better life or admit you have a problem and pull yourself up by the bootstrap and do better.

But trust me, I know, it doesn't work like that.

And another funeral and another beautiful life lost, reminds me that, well, it could have been me.

Don't be fooled that time marched on and I am just so amazing that I stopped traveling the road of self-destruction and trying to kill myself, one poor decision at a time and now everything looks all glossy and lovely.

If you knew me three decades ago, you know that it's hard to recognize the person I am now. 

Not just because of  age, though there certainly is that, but I would hope you hardly know the woman who's words you read, because, that younger woman was lost, careening down a path, heading for a fiery crash.

But God.

My deeply damaged heart, all wounded from life and loss, could not be healed with another self-help book or pep talk. It is only what Jesus has done in and through me, that I am profoundly changed and not reduced to the sum of a single dash, between two dates, all set in stone.

I could have been any one of the women I've met, who can not seem to stop wallowing in the aftermath of the life handed them. It was me who was angry, bitter, abandoned, the one people walked away from because it was just too messy to stay.

But then, I believed.

With faith like a child I believed in this wild, beautiful hope that scripture lays out for us.

Once I believed in what Jesus did on the cross for me, you know, that He left His throne in Heaven, was born a baby on earth, lived a sinless life, died a horrible death on the cross and was raised from the dead -yes even after I believed in that hope alone, it has been a journey to release the deep places to the light of His Word and let Him heal me, redeem the years stolen, and to fight for me. 

A journey for me to give my deepest, darkest most painful places to the Lord. To allow Him to fill, heal, satisfy those place. In fact, He alone has stitched together all the tattered pieces.

Someone else said it, "we have to be broken to be healed and empty to be filled." And the empty places were designed to be filled by God alone friends.

If you knew me before Jesus, then you knew me when it was just ugly.  

Some people can't even get past who I was then. Bless them, I understand.

If you know me now, you are looking at what Grace has done. 

And in response to being rescued from the very deepest pit of hell, I will speak of where my freedom comes from, until I have no breath left in my lungs. And I will write about it, I will sing it out loud and I will have it etched on the stone they lay over my body when I am gone. 

I believe in Jesus.

He is the Healer. 

If you come here, that is what you will hear about.  

What He is doing, teaching, moving, speaking into my life. 

Because there are still hurting people everywhere, and Jesus is the answer that they long for. 

This life is short. Pain runs deep and it lies to us and tries to boss our hearts around.

So that beautiful, messy woman whose life is gone, she reminds me not to waste time just talking about my favorite brownie recipe. Though there is certainly a little time for that, but I want to spend my life loving people even though they hurt me, even though they make the worse choices ever. I want to tell their stories. I want to hug them and have the most important conversation that any of us can have.

Do you know Jesus?

Is today the day that you could just trust Him with all your broken hallelujahs?

What is holding you back? I'd love to talk to you about those things. 

© Rhonda Quaney