Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Vigil

    The burning sun beat mercilessly down on Rizpah’s bowed head. She pulled a corner of  rough gray sackcloth over her head and continued to fan a palm branch over the bodies of her two sons and the five sons of Merab.  Well past the beginning of harvest, the heat of the sun and drought-dry air had reduced their strong young bodies to shriveled shells within their shrouds; still she would not let any bird or animal desecrate their remains. She moaned and rocked as she fanned away the flies, mourning her children, pouring out her heart to the Lord God who had brought her to this barren rock.
The sun was not allowed to beat down on her milky skin when she was King Saul’s favored concubine. She lived a life of privilege in the palace, bearing the king two fine sons, Armoni and Mephibosheth. They were the light of her life and the reason she made daily thank offerings in the temple to the Lord God. Then King Saul died in battle and Rizpah’s secure world became uncertain. Abner, the commander of Saul’s army desired the throne and would go to any lengths to achieve his goal, even taking Rizpah against her will in a conspiracy to seize the kingship of Israel. She hated the man,not only for using her but for his treachery toward the house of Saul in his quest for power. When she learned of Abner’s death and King David’s anointing as ruler over Israel, she knew it was the Lord God’s doing, praising Him for peace returning to Jerusalem.
As the mother of a former king’s sons, she was given a small house and modest allowance to raise them. Wars, defections, and betrayals raged in the palace on the hilltop of Jerusalem, but Rizpah maintained a peaceful household where her faith in the Lord God grew deeper, until the day her sons were brutally sacrificed, along with their five cousins, on this desolate rock. When King David sought the Lord for a solution to his nation’s three long years of famine, the Lord told him it was on account of Saul’s wrongful slaughter of the Gibeonites, who could only be appeased by the death of Saul’s male descendants. But they were her sons too…her very life! How could their deaths be part of God’s plan? Rizpah cried before God,  prostrating herself beside the bodies of her children. At first the heavens were as brass, her prayers seemed in vain, then gradually in the stillness of many long nights, she felt His peace come upon her. She continued to mourn, but she did not question. With acceptance came resolve that her son’s bodies would not suffer desecration by bird or animal.
The day came when rain mingled with the tears on Rizpah’s face and she rose from her bed of sackcloth. She watched King David’s men gently gather her son’s remains then walked behind them to the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, where they were laid to rest along with their father. With the rain the land became green again. Even the rock of Rizpah’s vigil softened with new growth, as did her heart, held in the palm of the Lord her God.

“Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night.”  (2 Sam.21:10)

Each Shining Moment

I often wish I could capture a moment of time in my hand and spend as long as I want soaking it in. The symmetry of geese marking a graceful V in the evening sky, joyous laughter with a friend, a baby’s soft cheek cupped in my palm. I could fill many pages with all the memorable moments God has given me. Each one squeezes my heart with its poignancy even while I am revelling in its gift because I know how fleeting it is.
A camera captures an instant in a two-dimensional image, words on a page attempt to express a heart; artists, musicians, orators — all want to encapsulate a human experience accurately, for that one brief shining moment. Many come close, only to present a mere reflection of the real.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism poses the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” When I experience each shining moment as a gift from God, I am glorifying Him, enjoying Him, thanking Him, even if on a subconscious level. He receives my enjoyment as a thank offering, desiring no monuments made by my hand, only an attitude of praise.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth,” sings David in Psalm 34. He wrote these words after God rescued him from probable death at the hands of a Philistine king. Even when faced with life-threatening danger, David’s desire is to live a life of total thanksgiving to God, with every breath, every word, every prayer. He recognizes, in this psalm and many others, that God is the source of all good things, making it his life’s aim to live in a perpetual state of gratitude.
 “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces never covered with shame,” David continues. Being thankful in the inner being cannot help but radiate from the outer countenance. We are made for this; it is how we are wired. Have you noticed how certain people have a glow about them, a radiance, not from surface beauty but from some inner joy? They are not ashamed to show uncovered faces shining with thanksgiving for all God has made and done and is.
 “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Think of biting into a ripe, sun-warm peach; the juice running down your chin as your taste buds pop with its intense, delicious flavor. In eight brief words David captures the essence of thanksgiving. It is experiencing God with all our senses, our soul, our spirit; swallowing down the richness offered to us every day. By living in an attitude of thanksgiving we are nourished by His goodness so we can give back to God what He alone deserves … praise and honor and glory and blessing.
Trouble will rob a heart of its gratitude for a while. Questions come — doubt, fear, despair — what was once so easy to give thanks for is shadowed in the presence of pain. In that place there is something to remember. God IS — “for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When I’ve been in the dark, remembering that God is with me in my pain gave rise to thanksgiving, however feeble.
In every day there are a myriad of shining moments to be savored and responded to with joy. The heart that beats within me beats a rhythm of thanksgiving to my God. Come —
“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.”

One Thing

There is something indomitable about “one thing” people. They are so focused on their purpose, little can distract them. Christian music artist Rich Mullins declared his own purpose in a song called “My One Thing”.

“Who have I in heaven but You, Jesus, and what better could I hope to find down here on earth?
I could  cross the most distant reaches of this world, but I’d just be wasting my time ‘cause I’m certain already,I’m sure I’d find ….You’re my one thing, You’re my one thing.”

Rich Mullins only lived 42 years, yet he impacted millions through his Christ-centered music and a lifestyle patterned after his Savior. He lived simply on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, where he taught music to children. The profits from his highly successful music career provided him a modest salary, with the rest going to charity. His faith can be understood by a quote he gave at a concert shortly before his death. “Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved. Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”
In Psalm 27:4, King David declared himself a “one thing” person.
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”
David’s “one thing” in life was to live in God’s presence and by His purpose. God called him “a man after My own heart.” In spite of sins and failures, David lived his life in pursuit of intimacy with God, whom he had loved and worshiped since boyhood. Giving into sin pulled him off course for a time, yet repentance before God brought forgiveness and a renewed zeal to seek after Him.
The apostle Paul’s pursuit of  Christlikeness was his singular goal; one he did not expect to attain in his earthly life, but one which he pressed on to realize in heaven.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)
Like David, Paul recognized the need to leave behind mistakes of the past in order to stay focused on his “one thing”; knowing Christ. The passion and energy needed to pursue a life goal can quickly be weakened by encumbrances of past sins or reliance on previous achievements.
There are many “one thing” people focused on pursuing their dream; some with admirable goals and some absorbed only in self fulfillment. Ultimately, there is only one thing worth pursuing in this life, resulting in a glorious culmination in heaven, far beyond any earthly attainments; the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.