Hand in Glove

 

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His old leather gloves are worn and soft, wrinkled across the knuckles, cracked in the palms, permanently formed in the shape of his hands. If they were used for a plaster mold, the result would be an accurate cast of my husband’s hands. Clad in these gloves, his strong hands have dug gardens, shoveled snow, repaired cars, hung Christmas lights, even gently cradled newborn grandbabies in their broad, warm palms. Muscles, bone and sinew working together to perform specific tasks have given these gloves their unique shape. But when they are laid aside on the shelf, no matter how much they resemble my husband’s hands, they are powerless. Only his hands within them bring warmth to cold leather and strength to hollow fingers.

When I feel weak and empty I sometimes see myself as a laid aside glove. My spiritual form is made in the image of God. Like a glove, the shape of my soul is contoured by the life of Christ within it. But when I have in some way blocked His life-giving power from filling out the contours of my soul, then I am weak and ineffectual. Not that I have been discarded. That is not possible, for He promised, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28 NIV)

The truth is, I don’t always allow Christ’s indwelling Spirit liberty to expend the power He desires to work out in my life. Sometimes my passion for Him wanes, my eyes stray from His face, I become distracted by my own desires and self-preoccupation, worried and burdened by the temporal. And my soul begins to slowly deflate like a balloon losing air, or an unworn glove.

When this is happening, it takes me a while to catch on. I begin to notice my spiritual energy leaking away and I am less effectual within my own faith life and in the lives of those around me. So I know I need to draw near again. Set aside the tasks of the day and spend some time nourishing my soul in the Word of God, listening to His heart in prayer and meditating on His love and goodness. Gradually the fingers of my glove tingle with returning strength. Not my own but the strength of God’s power vitalizing my grip, working through me to accomplish those things He desires me to do which I cannot do on my own.

“For it is not your strength, but it is God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work, strengthening, energizing and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13 AMP)

It takes some time for a new pair of gloves to take on the shape of the hands they belong to. Fingers are stiff and tasks done clumsily, yet with use the leather gradually forms to the hand’s unique shape. I want my soul to be well-used, sculpted in the shape of my Saviour whose Spirit fills me from within to work out His purposes. It is a unique, miraculous partnership, hand in glove.

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Soaring into the Light

Canada Geese Flying at Sunrise

After days of glowering clouds and rain, the sun finally breaks through, beaming on the wet upturned face of a grateful world. I drive to work beside the crescent lake where hundreds of Canada geese find sanctuary before their winter journey south. I love this stretch of road with water, trees and sky offering a new vista each time I pass by, especially when the geese are in residence. Night shadows linger over their sleepy forms floating on the lake this almost winter morning. Then with a flurry of wings on water, an arrow of geese arises, angling sharply skyward. Reaching the treetops, they break through gloom, their dusky forms instantly aglow with golden morning sunlight. Gilded wings flashing rhythmically, graceful necks outstretched, they form a phalanx across the blue-washed sky, and I am smitten.

I remember how that felt for me, flying out of the shadows into light. Set free to soar, breaking loose from a mud-mired existence up into the stratosphere of God’s love. I relive that burst into freedom in the moment by the lake and my heart sings with joy all over. It lingers with me as I go about my work tasks, until I take time to read a passage in a translation of the bible which speaks to my heart.

“Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator; His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light — a light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched.”
~ John 1:1-5 The Voice

“His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light.” I read this several times with the fresh image in my mind of birds in flight aflame in morning sunglow. God gives me these epiphanous moments as gifts drawing me back to Him. I have been walking in His love for a long time, so He well knows I need an occasional jolt with a glimpse of His glory. The living, breathing light He has imbued in all He has made speaks to me of His light gifted to me the moment I first knew Him as my savior. Not only a lessening of darkness in my spirit but a lightening of the burden of sin He lifted from me.

Is it any wonder Christ is so often described as light? He has made us to respond to light, to thrive on light, to require light as much as we need air. How much brighter His light shines when compared to the darkness of this sin-soaked world. He Himself said, “I am the light that shines through the cosmos; if you walk with Me, you will thrive in the nourishing light that gives light and will not know darkness.” ~ John 8:12

With His light I can find my way. He reveals all that I need to see to make it in this life. It could be that the geese took flight this morning because they were in search of food, but I like to think they were soaring into the light because it drew them upward. I too want to continually soar aloft where His living, breathing light cannot be quenched, where His love is the self-perpetuating glow warming all the world.

In the Wake of the Storm

img_2323At some point that evening I went from being exhilarated by the fierce summer storm raging outside, to fleeing in fear to the only windowless room in our home. I huddled with my husband in the dark while the wind roared and shook the house as if it were too close to a speeding freight train. Finally sensing a lessening in the storm’s clamor, we cautiously crept out to witness the utter chaos left in the wake of its violent tantrums. Broken tree limbs and debris littered the lawn, but worse was the uprooted cottonwood tree stretched like a slain giant across our crumpled fence into the yard behind, barely missing the neighbor’s house.

In the following days as we cleaned up the wreckage from the storm, I mourned the loss of the cottonwood tree. On hot summer days we used to rest in our lawn chairs under its cool shade, lulled by the lyric rustle of its leaves in the breeze. It had been a green sanctuary to myriads of birds which we enjoyed watching splash in our nearby birdbath. Our grandchildren once climbed the lower branches, safe in its woody embrace. Now an ugly stump was all that remained, and empty space where once a friendly giant stood.

My husband took a more pragmatic view of the loss of the tree. He saw how its absence allowed more sunlight to reach his vegetable garden, especially the rows closest to the fence which always did poorly for lack of light. We observed carrots and parsnips gradually flourish with more sunlight to strengthen them.

In her book, “Roots & Sky”, author Christie Purifoy writes, “God does not erase our losses, those empty places in our lives, but He does something almost more miraculous. He fills the loss with a sign of His presence.” Losing a tree cannot compare to losing a loved one, or a marriage or a part of who you are, but for me it was a picture of how loss opens up room for a new work of God.

There was a time in my life when I lost everything I had ever feared losing; my marriage, financial security, health and family unity. In the midst of these devastating losses, I could not imagine a future when all would be made new, even better than before. But God could. “His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of.” (Eph. 3:20 TLB)

God takes loss and turns it into abundance. In the ashes of my pain, I discovered the abundance of God’s love, His perfect character and His always faithful promises. When life left me hollowed out, He filled the space with His own presence. As I discovered, this is God’s specialty, giving beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:3 NKJV)

In the equation of loss becoming abundance, He uniquely illustrates for each of us His supreme renewal project, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV) He was speaking of Himself as the Seed, abused, crucified, buried in a dark tomb. Then the Seed came bursting forth alive, His resurrection beginning a great harvest of souls for God’s kingdom. Death gave way to life. Decay became deliverance.

A mighty tree once stood in my yard where now there is just a weathered stump. However new light floods a healthy garden where many seeds now flourish in abundance. In our memory’s landscape, the scar of a loss does not need to be a place of pain forever. It may be remembered, even mourned, but more significantly, it is a landmark telling where God met us and how He brought restoration and renewal out of the darkest places of our world.

Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. 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.

Living Loved

IMG_0567In a previous life I lived as a woman unloved. Having given my heart to a man who did not value it, I strove to shape myself into someone he might love. It was an impossible alteration. The more I tried, the more of myself I lost, until I became a shadow of little substance.

Then into that shadowed life stepped the Spirit of God, kindly and with infinite patience, wooing me with His unfailing love.

“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit —a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God. ‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:6-8 NIV)

Scraping my heart from beneath uncaring feet, I offered the pieces to God, doubting He would find anything worth patching. Having lived so long unloved, I believed the lie that I was of little value. But He who created my inmost being, who knit me together in my mother’s womb, loved me and valued me beyond measure. For a time I grieved the dead dream of being a cherished wife, then I gradually gave my heart over to its Maker. He stirred in me a hunger to know Him, to dwell in close communion with Him, to search out His truths for me.

“For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is His name.” (Isaiah 54:5)

Life around me was a maelstrom. Long neglected and abandoned, now I was the focus of a vindictive campaign to leave me broken and destitute. But internally I was living loved. God was my calm center in the eye of the storm. The more the tempest raged, the more I found peace and solace in that calm lap of love. How else could I have survived?

“ ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

Living loved is to touch bottom in the vast, unending pool of God’s care. Swim in it, float in it, be carried along in the current created by the beat of God’s great heart.

Living loved means though all sure things on earth are whipped out from underfoot, yet you stand firm on the only Rock which cannot be shaken, and you find peace.

Living loved gives a glimpse of yourself through God’s eyes, because His love comes without agendas or conditions or variances. It is a love to rest in.

Living loved sets the Cross at my back, the crux of history and of my own life, where Love stretched out His arms to die for me.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
(verse 3 of The Love of God by Fredrick M. Lehman)

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. 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.

A Drop of Love

My most vivid encounter with God lasted only a few moments, yet impacted my life like no other before or after. If I ever doubted God’s singular eye upon me, His omniscient attention to every detail about me, this moment wiped them all away.

Admitted to the hospital for some minor surgery, I remember actually anticipating a few days of escape from my emotionally stressful life. Caught in a roller coaster marriage to a volatile, spiritually abusive man, doing my best  to mother three young children and dealing with fatiguing health issues, I longed for rest. A hospital stay was hardly the ideal vacation, but the prospect of a few days in bed seemed like paradise.

I remember breathing a hasty prayer before succumbing to anaesthetic-induced sleep. Then God woke me up with an awareness of His love for me. That sounds so simple, such a given, but it does not come close to capturing the all-encompassing intensity of how loved by God I knew myself to be. I did not want to return to full consciousness, to leave what I knew even then was a foretaste of heaven.

A nurse shook me and called my name to rouse me, but I fought to stay in that place of complete love deep within where my soul resided with God. Of course, I couldn’t. The real world of bright light, noise and pain could not be avoided. I opened my eyes and responded to the nurse, but my spirit danced on the verge of its natural home, trailing glorious love like streamers floating to the earth.

I am not one to pursue signs, wonders and visions. I see myself as a believer in Jesus Christ, based on the rock-solid truth of His Word. I recognize I am made up of body, soul and spirit and capable of a myriad of emotions, as my Creator has designed me but emotions do not rule my faith. Neither do I seek out artificially induced emotional experiences, as could be credited to the anaesthetic drugs.

But I know what I know, and now I know what God’s love feels like. He gave me these few moments as a glimpse of what is to come, I am sure of it. A crack appeared in the floor of heaven to seep out a miniscule drop of His great love for me. I could not have handled any more than that, but He knew at that particularly difficult time, a drop of His love would go a long ways. In fact, it has lasted throughout my life, impacting my relationships, faith and hope for the future in a deep and lasting way.

When my marriage finally died in a chaos of rejection and betrayal, His love valued me.
When cancer brought me face to face with my own mortality, His love carried me.
When all I knew was pain and loneliness, His love soothed me.

Knowing His love for me is replicated many million times over for all those He has fashioned, stimulates me to be a conduit for this miraculous drop of love. I cannot love well on my own. Only the indwelling Spirit of God, through Christ, can disperse this love like a drop of ink in water, to saturate all who encounter it. In God’s economy, a little goes a long way.

“I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God. But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12-13  The Voice