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.

Beauty Poured Out

pour outI wish I had an alabaster jar. A precious vessel full of extravagantly expensive perfume to pour upon the head of the One I love and worship. I would gladly sacrifice a year’s wages and much more to hear Him say, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  

When I put myself inside the head of the woman who did this to Jesus in Matthew 26, the stately scripture story takes on an emotional passion. This is a woman who has spent time with Jesus, sitting at His feet, soaking in His words, receiving His loving gaze. Her heart is full of devotion for the One who has opened her eyes to the beauty of the Kingdom. Impetuously throwing off social propriety, she breaks into an all-male dinner party to lavishly anoint the head of Jesus with carefully conserved perfume costing a whole year’s earnings. The shock and indignation of the other guests does not deter her. Their negative reaction will not keep her from expressing her heart to her most treasured friend.

In the midst of the sombre events leading up to the crucifixion, this story brings a shaft of light to looming shadows. It is as if she can not help herself, this woman whose spontaneous act of worship pushes aside all protocol to demonstrate a full measure of love in the only way she knows how.

From out of the shadows she slips up behind Jesus as he reclines at the table, breaks the flask open and pours perfume over his head. Immediately the room is suffused with the sweet, heady fragrance of exotic nard. Then dribbling the remaining drops of scent on his feet, she kneels and wipes them with her unbound hair. (John 12:3)

Conversation comes to an abrupt halt. There is an embarrassed silence in the presence of such unbridled devotion, then the accusations fly. She is called wasteful by the disciples, derided for using something better spent to help the poor. But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  He sees her heart, her intense desire to make a sacrifice for him. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

It is doubtful she knows of Jesus’ approaching death or at least how close it is. But her heart has been moved by God to perform this symbolic act of consecration without knowing its full significance. What she has done to him will be remembered down through history, declares Jesus himself. Just as His coming act of love for her will never loose its power throughout time.

I ask myself, am I as full of passionate devotion towards Jesus as this woman? Are there times when I abandon all social conservatism to pour out the abundance of my love ? What beautiful thing can I do to express what is in my heart for Him?

There is no one objective answer to these personal questions, but they lead my thoughts to times of unrestrained worship; those “shining moments”, as I call them, when my heart overflows with love and gratitude to my Savior and Lord. My soul is an alabaster jar, a precious vessel broken open so all that is fragrant within streams out in worship to the lover of my soul, who says, “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

May my prayer be like special perfume before You. May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening gift given on the altar in worship. – Psalm 141:2  New Life Version

Shadow Lands

snow shadowsBefore I close the curtains at dusk, I pause by the window to gaze at winter snow shadows. Approaching night intensifies the blue of sky to depths of color soaked in by unmarked fields of snow. Words fail to describe the shades of translucent blue, green and violet stained across white. Such beauty in shadow transfixes me, then causes me to praise the One who paints light and dark in a palette beyond scope, even when few see it.

The shadow of God can seem to blot out light sometimes, when I struggle with tragedies, hardships, loss. When I finally quit fighting against circumstances long enough to seek Him, I find the dusk is of His own making and it is beautiful because in it is my refuge.

“He who dwells in the shelter of  the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. He will cover me with His feathers, and under His wings I will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:1, 2 & 4  NIV)

The writer of this psalm lived in an environment where shade was sought as protection from the harshness of the hot desert sun. Shadow is used as a conventional Hebrew metaphor for protection against oppression. The outreach of God’s shielding power is portrayed as shadowing wings providing refuge from damaging sun.

Walking in the shadows can be a frightening journey. It is hard to see where my next step should be or what lies ahead. I have been frozen with dread in the shadows, too afraid to move ahead, not able to turn back. A decade ago the spectre of cancer enveloped my life, darkening my vision and blotting out the future. I had nowhere to turn but to God. He alone heard my deepest groaning, saw my tears, spoke into my pain. I could not understand why the world had suddenly become such a dark place, then I gradually realized the absence of light was not evil but a shadowy refuge where I truly discovered who God is. I could not see God in the darkness of my affliction yet when I reached out in the shadows, there He was. The things I learned about God’s character — His love, His faithfulness, His strength, His provision  — I would not trade for a lifetime of ease.

As I draw the curtains across the window my eyes rest on shadows lengthening across the snow, softening angular lines of buildings and fences, covering winter-bare bushes in swaths of deep blue. There is refuge in the night, a time of shadow and rest.

“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:7 – 8 NKJV)

When shadows fall I have no choice but to rest. In my humanity I first strive to do and to fix but soon come to realize I can not affect circumstances. God wants me to rest under His wings; I do not need to see what is going on beyond them as He undertakes for me as my protector. In the night seasons my heart instructs me to set the Lord always before me. I have come to realize it is against the shadows He has allowed where His holiness shines most beautifully. And I find refuge there.

Blessed in the Shadows

Blessings do not always come in good packages. When thinking of blessings in my life, the ones which stand out are not those inspiring gratitude but those which put me in the shadows. These life-shattering events could not be described as blessings at the time, yet without their occurrence I would not know God as I do today.

Some years ago God allowed my life to be covered by the shadow of a painful divorce and a life-threatening illness. Thoughts came that I would be consumed by the darkness. I cried out for relief, begged God to fix the problems, to send a little light my way, but shadows continued to loom, building upon each other until it seemed I faced a black wall.

I collapsed into the arms of God, someone who had always been in my life but up to this point, never had to BE my life. Now He was all I had; all else had been stripped away. The spiritual principle of the all-sufficiency of God was now being put to the test.  After each day of facing what seemed to be insurmountable challenges, I would cast myself on God again, thankful that he had preserved me through another day. More than preserving, He had walked with me each moment, revealing Himself to me in a new way.

When I abandoned myself to God in my brokenness, experiencing all the pain all the way to the bottom, there my feet touched ground and my desire for God was discovered, where all else had been removed, giving Him room to respond with His desire for me. This meant giving Him all my dreams for this world; not that they were bad dreams or that some may be realized or not, but their allure was lessened by the larger dream of my desire for God and His for me.
There came a time when I could say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15) Therein lies the most precious blessing. I would rather truly know God in the shadows of adversity than be cold in the light of day without Him. Against the black backdrop of my trials God spread the jeweled facets of His character before me. The contrast of light on darkness made them sparkle all the more and I was drawn irresistibly into His love.

God said that He may give us bread of adversity and water of affliction, but He who teaches us will no longer keep Himself out of sight, but with our own eyes we will see Him. (Is.30:20) He reveals Himself in the shadows; a mysterious paradox which can be likened to how a blind person knows someone by feeling the shape of their face. We cannot see God, especially in the shadows of adversity, yet if we reach out in the dark His dear face is there for us to touch, and we will know Him. I could not see God in the shadows of my affliction, yet when I reached out in the dark, there He was. The things learned in the shadows about God and His character…His love, His faithfulness, His strength, His provision…I would not trade for a lifetime of ease.

There came an epiphany when I learned what it meant “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.” (Phil.3:10) After a nurse in the hospital chemotherapy unit had painfully pierced the back of my already bruised hand, I lay back, exhausted and sick, while the toxic chemicals dripped into my veins. At a low point in this cancer journey, I silently prayed for strength to go on. The sun beamed through the window behind me, casting a shadow of the I.V. pole across my blanketed knees. It formed a slender cross, reminding me of Christ’s pain as He hung there, His hands pierced much more brutally than mine. I was brought to peace by identifying in this small way with my Savior. His sufferings were much greater, “but for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” (Heb.12:2) Could I not carry my small cross, even consider it joy to face such a trial because my Lord Jesus had gone before me? I was blessed by the warmth of the sun illuminating a spiritual truth I needed to learn on a heart level.

We who are blessed by the Father need to look for His blessings not only in the light He shines on us, but also in the shadows of trials and tragedies. Romans 5 tells why. “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us.”

I look forward with hope to the day when all shadows will flee and I will stand in the full light of my Lord’s eternal blessings.