Submerged

 

Beneath the sea there is a rock, created when darkness was over the surface of the deep. Myriads of sea plants and creatures have touched the surface of the rock over the eons but never changed it. Currents have swirled, earthquakes trembled, yet the rock endures, immovable.

When calm weather smooths the sea far above, sometimes shafts of sunlight reach down to illumine its craggy face. Darting fish shadows dance across it, sea grasses stroke green fingers along its stony skin, and it remains constant. Just as it does when storms lash the sea with wild winds and rain. Thunder claps, subdued beneath the surface, are more felt than heard within the chaotic churn of the sea. Surging currents sweep loosened debris and marine life helplessly along, reducing visibility to green murkiness. The rock is a shadowy, immutable presence in the middle of the turmoil.

The love of God is a rock submerged beneath the ever-changing currents of our lives. No matter what may be occurring on the surface, God’s unfailing love remains a steadfast foundation beneath all that tosses us about. Does this bring you deep comfort, as it does me?

Years ago when my life was a storm of hardships, this image of a rock beneath the surface of the sea came to me as a gift, I believe, from God. Knowing my love of the sea, He placed this picture in my mind of His unchanging love for me. I remember as a child ducking under the sparkling waves at the ocean’s edge. It was a different world beneath the surface, where gravity was suspended and sounds muted. Grasping the rocks on the bottom to keep myself from popping to the surface, I opened my eyes in the green, opaque beauty of the undersea world. I couldn’t see the rocks before diving but I knew they were there, just as later I knew without a doubt that God’s absolute love was the rock beneath my unsettled world, even when my troubled spirit could not sense Him.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal.” ( Isaiah 26:4 NIV)

The world tends to portray love as a soft, often fickle emotion, capable of inspiring great passion that can soon fade. It cannot compare to God’s enduring love demonstrated ultimately in the giving of His Son. Jesus Christ willingly took the plunge from His home in heaven, submerging Himself in our sinful world yet never sinning so He could offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for us. He is the bedrock of our living faith and the perfect expression of God’s love.

“As you come to Him, the living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.”
(1 Peter 2:4-5)

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Advent Week 3 ~ V for Vessel

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Entering week 3 using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of devotionals, my prayer for each reader is for God to fashion you as well, into a willing vessel for His glory.

The seaside park blossoms with booths and tents showcasing the richly diverse talents of artisans and craftspeople. My favourites are the potter’s works; earthenware, stoneware, ceramics and porcelain made for beauty as well as functionality. I like to carefully handle the pieces that interest me, feeling where the potter pressed his thumb into the wet clay on a mug handle, or used her hands to narrow the neck of a vase formed on a potter’s wheel. Simply put, they make vessels, hollow containers for holding something but it is obvious that their creations are so much more.

In the nativity story, Mary, the mother of Jesus, became a human vessel to receive the Spirit of God. In His infinite, mysterious wisdom God chose this poor peasant girl to carry His beloved Son in her womb. She asked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 NIV) It is a question pondered by many since. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

What qualities did God look for in a human vessel for His Son? Did He lovingly hold His creation, Mary, in His hands, turning her this way and that, looking into her soul for those certain attributes only He knew would suit His purpose? What set her apart from all other young women of her time who could have borne the Son of God? I cannot fathom the answer to these questions but I can rest in the certainty that He chose the perfect vessel.

God chose a vessel, first of all, who was pure. In order for His Son to be born a sinless man, He could not be conceived in sin, but would be born of a virgin. As Isaiah prophesied centuries before, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, God with us.” (Isa. 7:14b)

Mary was highly favored by God, according to the angel, so the purity He required in the mother of His holy Son was not only physical but spiritual. In her simple faith Mary exhibited qualities which pleased God, such as trust, faithfulness, humility and obedience. All these traits are evident in the telling of Mary’s story in the first chapter of Luke. Most noticeable is her unerring faith and willingness to believe that what the Lord had said to her would be accomplished. “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” (Luke 1:38)

Not only was she a willing vessel to carry the Son of God, she also would have realized that judgement and condemnation would come with her role. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph but they were not yet man and wife, so her pregnancy would bring with it shame and reproach from those who knew her. No one would believe in her purity, except Joseph, who had it revealed to him by an angel of the Lord. She graciously accepted the damage to her reputation for the singular privilege of bearing God’s Son.

A vessel is open at the top to receive the contents intended for it. I picture Mary’s spiritual posture as open, receptive to whatever her Lord would pour into her willing heart. I have much to learn from the mother of my Savior by her servant attitude and humility. The treasure of God’s Spirit is contained in this body of mine, this earthen vessel, so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from me. (2 Cor. 4:7) My supreme privilege is to be poured out for Him.

Advent ~ A is for Anticipation

frost on windowLast Christmas I published a series of devotionals using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for each week celebrated. As the season begins anew, I am sharing these posts with you again, to help prepare your heart and spirit to joyously celebrate the birth of Jesus. May God richly bless you this Christmas, dear readers!

Remember waiting by the window, looking for that special someone to come up the walk? Recall the wide-eyed wonder of a child waiting for daddy to come home? The expectancy of a hope to be fulfilled carries with it a sweet impatience, a tingling of nerves and slowing of time which hold their own pleasure.

There is an expectancy of hope resonating throughout time. Can you hear it? A whisper, a murmur, a hum of anticipation beginning in a garden, rippling in a flood, rustling across a desert, then gaining volume in the voices of prophets.

Someone is coming!

Someone promised by God, a Messiah, anointed for a specific purpose, to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

Waiting for the Messiah was a centuries-long occupation for the Israelites. Their anticipation of who he would be and what he would do for them was grounded in the temporal. The New Testament Israelites particularly looked for his coming with desperate expectation, as they groaned under oppressive Roman rule.

So even with well-known prophecies of a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, God with us, in the nondescript town of Bethlehem, they still looked for a Messiah who would arrive on the scene with great fanfare, ready to throw off the yoke of Roman domination.

If only their horizons could have stretched to what He really came to do — enrich the spiritually bankrupt, free those locked into sin, open the eyes of hearts blinded by lies; and bring liberation to souls tied up in guilty knots. His is a kingdom of the spirit, and in coming to earth for a time as a man, He taught us to anticipate the much vaster reality of eternity in heaven with Him.

Quite often what we anticipate with eagerness ends up disappointing, leaving us with unmet expectations. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah, realization far outdistances expectation. There have been many men who have led oppressed countries to freedom, or brought enlightenment to their people trapped in ignorance, but only One in history who could liberate souls.

Could any finite human mind anticipate God coming to earth? — the great I AM growing inside a virgin‘s womb? — the Creator of the universe wrapped in the flesh of a helpless infant? The concept is beyond our scope to understand, but not beyond God’s ability.

Advent is a season of anticipation, looking forward to celebrating the wonder of God arriving on earth, a gift for all mankind. It is also a time to contemplate what you are anticipating spiritually in your growth towards the Messiah. I encourage you to share some of your contemplations with me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”       – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

 

A Question of Love

IMG_1277“Why do you argue when all I want to do is bless you?”
The question dropped into my mind fully formed, almost audible. After years of struggling against a current of numerous personal crises, the tide had turned, bringing resolution and happier prospects. The let-up of relentless negative pressure felt strange, causing me to doubt the possibility of better days to come. So I argued with God.
Can this truly be your will? Do You actually want me to marry this man and start a whole new life or is it just my own desires taking over? Then He asked me the question which changed everything. I quit arguing and answered yes to His overflowing blessings.

The questions of God have a way of making those He asks look at their situation in a different way. God doesn’t pose questions to find out the answers. He is omniscient, all knowing, the One who looks into the heart and sees the end from the beginning. His questions are always succinct, probing and worded to challenge a present thought process.

The first question asked by God in His Word is still relevant to us now. Our reply to this question determines our present journey and our eventual destiny. Adam, a man previously free and unashamed before God, disobeys His command and goes into hiding. But God does not abandon Adam in his sin. He comes near, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9 NIV) God knows exactly where Adam is, physically and spiritually, but He asks this rhetorical question because Adam needs to see himself where he is. God’s question makes him realize he is hiding in shame … trying to cover up his wrongdoing … avoiding God for fear of punishment … making excuses … passing blame. And man’s first conscious awareness of guilt is exposed in the revealing light of God’s query.

If He asked you the same question, how would you answer God? The answers could be numerous but there are only two that really count. If you answer, “I am far away from You, not even sure You exist,” then remember how God walked in the garden to draw near to a man whose sin distanced him from perfect love, and know He provides a way through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His son, Jesus, to bring you close. If you answer, “I am here, Lord, close to your side as your beloved child, but You know how easily I wander away,” then remember He will never leave you or forsake you. No matter how fickle your heart is or how easily your eyes stray from His face, He never loses sight of one He calls His own.

God asks questions to help us see ourselves in light of where we are in relation to Him. Self-examination can be painful but when done in the presence of God’s redeeming love, it reveals areas of our life needing a touch from Him. We don’t have to find the answers alone, for He walks with us through the process, providing guidance in His Word and by His Spirit. God already has an answer for His own question. He just wants you to search and find it for yourself.
“He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” ~ Mark 8:29

© 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.

Postcards from France …. Paris in a Day

Waterlogue 1.1.4 (1.1.4) Preset Style = Illustration Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = Technical Pen Drawing Weight = Light Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Medium Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance FacesHow is it possible to see Paris in a day? For that is all the time we had during our brief visit to France. I decided rather than trying to squeeze in as many sights as possible, I would be open to absorb all I could of this famous city’s atmosphere.

Coming up into the heart of the city from the underground metro station, my feet stopped and my mouth dropped open. The sheer energy of Paris hit me in a wave of wonder. My attention was immediately drawn across the street to the opulent façade of the Palais Garnier, made famous as the novel and theatrical production setting for Phantom of the Opera. Gilded and bedecked like a wealthy French heiress, it set the precedent for the many architectural marvels I would see that day.

My senses could hardly soak up all they were experiencing. Ornate architecture, both ancient and modern, verged the streams of traffic flowing down broad avenues. The distinctive honk of Parisian taxi horns punctuated lyrical French conversations swirling by me on the sidewalk. Passing by shops and restaurants, my nose caught whiffs of rich chocolate, fresh baguettes and other culinary delights I longed to sample.

From the vantage of a double-decker bus, I viewed the major sights for which Paris is so well known. Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, and the Eiffel Tower, to name a few. Admittedly I know little of Paris’ past other than snippets about the French Revolution and some of its famous citizens. But I sensed the sheer weight of history it contained pressing down into the soil beneath. The permanency of Paris makes an impact.

However, I think I have been ruined for feeling a long-term connection to any city in this world, no matter how impressive. The feats of man may inspire awe, but because of Jesus I have become a citizen of another city, a city not of this world.

“For as long as we are here, we do not live in any permanent city, but are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14 The Voice)

Because the spirit of Jesus, the risen Lord, dwells in me I am a new creation, temporarily residing on earth wherever I want , but designed to live permanently in the city God has built in heaven. That city is described in the book of Revelation as having gates made of pearls and streets of gold. It does not need sun or moon, for the glory of God gives it light and Jesus is its lamp. A river flows through it, flanked by life-giving trees with healing for the nations in their leaves. (Revelation 21 & 22)

Paris is reportedly the most visited city in the world and I can understand why. I am glad I had the opportunity to go there and see its amazing sights, even for just a day. But someday I will go to the City of God, not just for a visit but to live there eternally in the presence of Jesus. Then I will be truly home.

 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.

Postcards from France —- Chateau de la Trousse

our humble acommodations, a suite in a French chateau, la Trousse

I knew we were staying in the countryside but that was all. This trip to France came as a gift from my family, with a few surprises included. Driving north from Paris through gently rounded green hills and red-roofed villages, we finally turned onto a narrow road paralleling a weathered stone wall. I caught a glimpse of a stately manor house set on a hill, the sun glinting off its numerous arched windows. I wondered aloud what it would be like to stay in such a grand place. “We are,” replied my daughter.

Chateau de la Trousse, 17th century home of Count de Mony, put bricks and plaster to my life long dreams of fairytale castles and long ago lifestyles. Flanked by rows of soldierly trees, the long drive led us to an ornate wrought iron gate framing the picturesque façade of the chateau. Beautiful in its proportions from a distance, it was even more elegant up close. And it would be our home for the next several days. I didn’t know it was possible to feel such excitement at my stage of life.

My daughters, son-in-law and I, all hopeless romantics, explored room after room, exclaiming over the lofty ceilings wreathed in cornices of cherubs and floral garlands, the ancient tapestries, sparkling chandeliers and marble fireplaces. Occupying only a wing of the extensive chateau still gave plenty to charm us. We climbed a winding staircase to our bedrooms, flinging open curtains on tall windows framing an idyllic view. Over 40 acres of well-kept estate grounds beckoned my city-raised granddaughter to run free on the lawns, throw pebbles in the pond and pet the stone lions at the gate. Bird song and the sough of the breeze in the treetops were the only accompaniment to the peacefulness of la Trousse.

Rarely in this life does the reality of a thing exceed our dream of it. My imagination had long wandered down corridors of castles, through gardens of days gone by, but a sojourn at la Trousse surpassed even my vivid fantasies.

A promise is given by God about a future reality which will far outshine anything our imagination can produce. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV)

Countless words have been spoken and written in an effort to describe what awaits us in our future with God but they are weak predictions of a reality beyond what we can ask or imagine. Even the apostle John struggled to describe the visions of the future given him in the book of Revelation because he was limited to mere human senses and comprehension. But by the Spirit of God we have been given a glimpse, a foretaste, a flesh and bone manifestation of what He has destined for our glory before time began. It is in the God-man, Jesus Christ. God has chosen to make known to us “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)

I experienced the magic of la Trousse with my senses, a gift I will always treasure. God’s gift prepared for me in eternity will be experienced with my spirit, when all earthly limitations to my relationship with Him will be removed and I will see Him face to face.
That will surely be heaven to me.


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.

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.