Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Sweet Remember Bitter

The beach was abuzz with bronzed boys kicking soccer balls, elderly couples tooling along on their bicycles, and kite-flyers hanging on with gusto. As we, ahem, middle-aged vacationers “buzzed” along on our bicycles enjoying the slow, but powerful sound of crashing waves, the deep blue hue of the ocean matching the glorious expanse overhead, and the seashells crunching under our tires, I began praising God for our breath-taking experience and simultaneously I thought of those who are trapped in slavery; those who are in an entirely different setting enduring darkness and confinement.

I found inside my heart even deeper gratitude for my freedom to enjoy such magnificent beauty, and at the very same time a burden so heavy, I was near tears.

How can I give thanks without spending some part of me to help rescue those who cannot enjoy this liberty?

                                        Isaiah 61:1-4
                                The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
                                because God anointed me.
                                He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
                                heal the heartbroken,
                                Announce freedom to all captives,
                                pardon all prisoners.
                                God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
                                a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
                                and to comfort all who mourn,
                                To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
                                give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
                                Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
                                a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
                                Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
                                planted by God to display his glory.
                                They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
                                raise a new city out of the wreckage.
                                They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
                                take the rubble left behind and make it new.

Interestingly when we returned home, we put in a movie we knew nothing about called “I am David” which was about a little boy in a concentration camp who had been separated from his family and endured the pains of evil men oppressing men. Someone helped David escape. The movie walks with him through his journey into freedom, and the same contrast I experienced on the beach a few days ago was on the screen before my eyes. I won’t give away any more of the movie. I highly recommend seeing it, but I will tell you it brought me to tears because of experiencing the emotions of the character.

I am glad that there are many things we can do to rescue those trapped in bondage. We can pray that the Lord will continue to anoint us to preach the good news of liberty for the captives and that He will empower and equip those who He has called to the mission field and rescue missions such as IJM and World Vision. We can also go where He tells us, and give what He asks us to give of our time, money and energy.

What is your part? Have you asked Him?

Father in Heaven, THANK YOU for liberty in Jesus from bondage to darkness in our souls, and thank you for liberty in our country to enjoy such delights as a ride on an ocean beach. May we not take it for granted and please enable us to spend what we have to help others be free in Jesus’ Name!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

God Kisses Us With Grace

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
In planning for my rare ten-day getaway, as is typical when planning a vacation, “visions of sugarplums” danced freely in my head. However, upon arrival there were the usual bitter fruits that make their way into the sugarplum bowl. I should know by now that “sugarplum” images rarely come to fruition from failure to factor in the “unknowns” and the differing personalities and interests of mixed vacationers-even if only TWO...

I have ALWAYS wanted to escape to a warmer climate in January from the below zero temps we typically get, however I had very small hopes of doing so due to the fact that my idea of vacation in Florida is quietly reading on a beach, while my husband’s is tearing up the beach in a four-wheeler and taking in most everything.

Due to the slow-down of the economy, as a Commercial Construction Supervisor, has been working away from home for the past two years in various locations. He is currently in Florida and while I am at home in Wisconsin. He receives travel compensation for “going home” during his time away. Since he is in a warmer climate, we decided I would go to him and we would have the weekend for our “vacation”.

Though I do like a little four wheeling on the beach, I cherish time alone with my thoughts or a good book. He loves to bless me, and is willing to give me the decisive vote, but I know from experience that if I was sitting on the beach next to him, he would not last more than 20 minutes before getting agitated and wanting to go, which would then make me feel agitated and defeat the whole purpose of pursuing my desire.

When we made our way into the historic city of St. Augustine, FL on Saturday, we found ourselves immersed in State Fair-like chaos. There were people everywhere buzzing in and out of little shops. We saw scooters for rent, horse-drawn carriages amidst heavy traffic, and signs beckoning us to visit major attractions such as “The Fountain of Youth” or “The Old Jail”. 

God kissed us with grace when we found a free parking space at the site of the post office. The entire day of walking around the city, we saw no other free parking places. We wandered the city taking in the sights, the history and snapping several photos of old buildings and the historic fort where cannons with “blanks” were shot out over the water. It was enjoyable, but I was weary by mid-afternoon.

There are three bridges that exit the city toward the ocean. It is much quieter when you cross them, and we had booked a cheap room in an Oceanside hotel. We checked into our room late in the afternoon, and had a distant, but beautiful view of the ocean. I breathed in a sigh, and longed to sit on the balcony for awhile. True to his nature though, Dale was anxious to go onto the beach. Adding to his fervor, was him seeing vehicles driving out there. I was looking forward to getting out to the ocean too, so we drove out there and parked. He wanted to survey the terrain on foot. I wanted to take pictures and just sit and gaze. Together we walked the length of the beach area with me stopping several times. We returned to the truck, and he was a joyful boy as his longing to drive on the beach was fulfilled. God kissed us with grace by our choosing to stay near the only location that allowed trucks on the beach.

Sunday morning we went over a different bridge to discover more ocean shore. We parked at the site of a pier, and walked out to see people fishing off of the pier, and to look down the length of the shore to see people sunning themselves, surfing, biking and a variety of other fun things. It was breath-taking, majestic beauty! And I was longing to absorb it all in a quiet time on the beach. I didn’t say anything, but just resigned myself to doing the next thing. We had our bikes in the back of the truck, and I suggested a bike ride. He seemed resistant due to the fact that he had been unsuccessful in airing his bike tire with his little hand pump. I didn’t want to push, but asked if we might find a gas station. After deliberation, it was decided we would go!

God kissed us with grace once again. I was especially thankful since I hadn’t even asked Him... While biking along the beach, I was granted the thing I so desperately needed, time alone with my thoughts, while Dale was busy discovering new territory and the thrill of moving fast...

My joy in God overwhelmed me as I rode along. The beauty of the ocean, the colors of the water and sky, the sound, and the feel of the air ignited my heart with wonder at His creation. The gift of both of us having our longings satisfied simultaneously, when we never even asked, caused my heart to adore Him more.

As I consider the joy of seeing God throughout my vacation, it dulls in comparison to any sugarplum visions I had. The fact that two such opposite personalities could enjoy the same vacation is nothing short of a miracle.  J

Friday, January 20, 2012

Moments That Take Your Breath Away

 The SKY and the OCEAN. 
God's Majesty revealed. 
My lens is quite inferior to reality
...but delightful nonetheless...