Light For The Way

“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…” 1 Peter 5:8, 9

Encountering Lions

There are very few sounds as frightening as the scream of horses, and mine were screaming and running for their lives. I could feel the rumble in my body and they thundered across the pasture. Accelerating, they hurled themselves into a thick pole fence. I looked back in the direction they’d just come from and scanned the canyon rim. A tawny blur flashed across the edge of my peripheral vision as fear crawled up the back of my neck. Something was there… hunting, stalking.

Living in wild country has its challenges; encountering predators is one of them. Concerned for unsuspecting rock climbers, I called the sheriff’s office to report a cougar in the vicinity. A few days later, a pamphlet from the Dept. of Fish and Game arrived in the mail—a tutorial explaining the rules of engagement in the event of a mountain lion encounter.

The pamphlet warned that a person must be alert and careful to avoid an encounter with a cougar. However, if someone does find themselves face to face with a lion, there are things they must do and things they must not do…. if they want to survive.

How interesting that the image of an apex predator (a prowling, stalking, lion) is used in the Bible to describe the devil and his intentions toward us. We know evil is out there—we see the destruction, the broken lives, the sorrow… all evidence of the devil’s handiwork but, like the unwary hiker who unexpectedly encounters a lion, we, too can get caught off guard and find ourselves face to face with evil when we least expect it. After all, we live in lion territory…

  • BE ALERT

It’s uncommon for someone to see a cougar in the wild but, make no mistake… if you’re in lion country, a lion’s out there. A master hunter, it knows how to be still, bide its time, and watch.

Like the cougar, the devil lies in wait, too; watching… following. Is he determining who is weakest among us and taking note of who’s been separated from the group, making the easiest prey? Probably. That’s what lions do. They’re opportunists. The devil is no different. He’ll attack if he can get away with it. So,  “Be sober, be watchful.”1 Peter 5:8

  • DO NOT RUN

The pamphlet explains that if you do see a cougar, you must never, ever turn and run. Why? Because running triggers the big cats instinct to chase. When the chase begins, accidental encounter becomes predator hunting prey. Scary as it seems, your chances of survival increase if you face the lion and stand your ground.

When the devil’s doing the stalking, the rules of engagement are exactly the same. The Bible tells us to flee evil but, resist the evil one. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 

  • MAKE EYE CONTACT

A cougar’s preferred method of attack is to ambush from behind. It’s patient and waits until its prey is preoccupied and unaware of its presence. Likewise, the devil is a master ambusher, attacking when our guard is down. According to the pamphlet, making eye contact with a cougar shows the lion that you are fearless. That’s dominance. How do you apply that spiritually? Take a good hard look at what is going on in your life. If all hell is breaking loose, chances are the devil’s involved. Stand firm against him. “…for we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs.”  2 Corinthians 2:11

  •    PICK UP ANY CHILDREN WHO ARE WITH YOU

When you’re out in wild country and you know there are predators around, you don’t let your children run off out of sight. As Christians, you don’t let new believers get too far out by themselves, either. Living in lion country requires that you keep the less experienced close so they don’t become casualties of the hunt. Keep an eye on them because they’re especially vulnerable to attack. And when they do stumble and fall, pick them up and get them out of danger.  “… encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Thessalonians 5:14

  • MAKE YOURSELF APPEAR LARGER THAN YOU ARE

If a lion is sizing you up as potential prey, but discovers that you’re larger than it thought, that you’re aggressive and unafraid, it might not attack. Spiritually speaking, there is just one way to appear larger than you are, and that is to be in Christ Jesus. What does that mean? When the enemy of your soul is stalking, remind yourself (and the devil) who you are… adopted into the family of God, redeemed from sin, transferred from the jurisdiction of the devil to God’s Kingdom, and joint heirs with Christ. You are sons and daughters of The Most High God and the brothers and sisters of The King of Kings. You are so much more than the devil can handle! “…for I will contend with those who contend with you…” Jer. 49-25

  • SHOUT

Loud noise can scare away a wild animal. In cougar country you are advised to speak loudly, sing, and even shout so that the predator will move out of the way when he hears you coming. I wonder if that’s how the devil reacts when the mouths of God’s children are filled with praise. “Shout, and sing for joy…for great in your midst is The Holy One of Israel.” Isa. 12-6

  • RAISE YOUR ARMS ABOVE YOUR HEAD

So you’ve done everything to keep the lions away yet, there you are, face to face with one. Now what? Raise your hands above your head. Really. It might feel like surrender but, to the lion, raising your arms above your head is a threatening gesture… an aggressive stance… a fearless attitude!

Likewise, when the devil crouches to attack, lift your arms. The only One you’re surrendering to is God. Raise your arms in praise to God and declare victory over the enemy! And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. Ex. 17:11

  • PICK UP ANY WEAPON YOU CAN FIND

In spite of what you may have heard on some nature show onTV, predators are not our friends. They are unpredictable and a very real danger. Those who live in wild country know this. Even though you’ve followed all of the pamphlet’s advice, it is possible that you may still find yourself in a do or die situation. If you do, find a weapon. In cougar country, any weapon you can find might be a rock or a stick.

The Bible tells us that when David faced a giant, all he had was a rock. When Moses faced down an evil Pharaoh, he wielded a stick.

We have something far more powerful—a spiritual weapon. What is it? The Word of God. Make sure you’re carrying and are adept at using it. “And take …the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.” Ephesians 6:17

Finally…

  •  REMAIN STANDING… FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE

Fish and Wildlife makes it clear: Never let a lion knock you down. Your chances of survival are slim-to-none if you’re on the ground. Always fight to remain standing and fight for your life, facing the attacker.

It’s no different with the devil. Whether he comes out of nowhere, or you’ve know he’s been stalking, if he knocks you down, it may be just a matter of time before you’re unable to get up again. So, fight for your life. And stand. “… that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

 

The image of a prowling lion to describe the devil in relation to us is a loathsome and fearsome thing… the sobering reality of life on a fallen earth. Until Jesus returns, this remains Lion country. Yet, there’s no need to fear because Jesus defeated the evil one on the cross of Calvary, and then gave us the weapons to defeat the devil. Our safety is always and only in Christ.

Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” 1 Cor. 16:13

 

 

I don’t like heights—especially near the edge. Tingly sensations shoot through my legs, my knees threaten to give out and my stomach lurches, warning me to stay back so I don’t fall. Mostly, I obey. You won’t find me intentionally surveying the world from the dizzying heights a mountain peak, or leaning out over the railing of a skyscraper. Yet, I know what it feels like to fall just the same—like the time my son was sent away to war, the day my husband came home from work early to tell me he had cancer, or the hot, dry summer afternoon my baby grand daughter was laid in the grave.

Sometimes, falling has nothing to do with high places. Suddenly, unexpectedly, life pulls the rug out from under us, and there we are, teetering on the edge of a precipice, desperately trying to keep from plummeting into the unknown. Sometimes, though we desperately try to keep our footing, we fall.

Like the climber who is dependent upon the one above him, we, too are dependent upon the One above.

Isaiah 64: 4 says, “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides Thee, who works for those who wait for Him.”

Did you know that part of the definition of wait is, “to bind or tie a knot to something”? When you call out to God and wait for Him, in a very real sense, you are binding yourself to Him. That’s not all… God waits for and binds Himself to you, too. (Isa 30: 18)

So, trust Him. And remember, if you feel yourself plummeting, you’re not free- falling. God holds the end of the rope. Stop anticipating the impact, and whatever you do, don’t look down.

 

And he moved from there to the mountain …and pitched his tent… There he built an altar to The Lord and called on the name of The Lord. Genesis 12:8

I live in rugged, wild country where the air is so crystal clear that you can see forever. Well, you would be able to see forever if your line of sight wasn’t abruptly interrupted by rocks the size of small mountains that lie scattered here and there, long ago wrenched from the earth when ancient volcanoes spewed their bowels.

It’s beautiful country. God’s Country. And adventure seekers come from all over the world to climb our mountains and craggy red rocks. Harnessed… holding on by their fingers, they slowly make their way up impossible inclines. Sometimes they slip and fall, dangling from the end of their ropes, swinging crazily. I’ve watched as climbers stop to assess the most difficult part of the climb (the crux) before gathering their strength and continuing up the rock at unimaginable angles, high above deadly chasms. And I’ve watched them sling themselves in hammocks precariously hanging halfway up the rock face, bedding down for the night in the midst of a snow storm. If they’re strong enough, if they persevere, some of them make it to the top of the world and stretch their arms to the heavens in victory.

What is it that entices people to risk their lives in an effort to get to the top? What kind of people pit themselves against danger and nature to conquer mountains, stand on the highest points, and survey the world around them?

I wonder.

I read about a man who once climbed, a long time ago. It’s not hard for me to imagine him fighting against howling wind–slowly ascending his wild, imposing mountain.

Feet slipping, he grabs a scraggly bush as gravel and rocks give way– scattering… bouncing… cascading below him. Stopping often, he uses a staff to wedge himself between narrow rocks–pressing his tired old body against the cold stone to catch his breath.

Moses.

He climbed to find God.

Do people still do that? Climb mountains to find God? If I climbed—if you climbed–would He meet us at the top?

If He might, it’d be worth it.

Still, climbing isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s dangerous business. Seemingly secure footholds can suddenly give way. Gnarled brush growing from narrow crevices offers hand-holds until rattle snakes coiled there warn and strike. Raw winds threaten to blow the unwary climber off sheer precipices… and the rain beats down, dumping showers of discouragement and exhaustion.

It seems to me that life is a lot like mountain climbing. It requires grit and courage—sometimes just to face the day. In an instant, we can lose our grip, lose our balance and find ourselves sliding backwards–falling. It’s unpredictable. There are times when no matter what direction we turn, obstacles block our way, forcing us to backtrack and find a new path. And sometimes, when we reach out to steady ourselves, instead of finding help, unexpected danger awaits.

Yes, I think life is a lot like mountain climbing. But if we persevere, pressing forward, seeking God, we’ll discover that in our weakest moment when we face the crux of our climb, the Cross of Calvary lays across the chasm, bridging the impossible divide.

 

One day, we’ll make it to the top and our reward will stretch as farther than the eye can see. We’ll raise our arms to the heavens in ultimate victory as understanding dawns with the brilliance of the day–we didn’t climb to find God after all… He climbed down and found us.

And we stand on top of the world.

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 17:3

 

Years ago, my heart began acting unpredictably. It would race and then slow, flutter and then skip before lurching back into a stumbling, syncopated rhythm. Sometimes, my chest hurt. Afraid to fall asleep in case my heart stopped in the night, I’d lie awake in fear, imagining the worst.

And so, the testing began… EKG’s, ultrasounds, stress-tests, blood-work and a wearable heart-monitor taped to my chest, 24/7.

Incredibly, I felt embarrassed, as if my unruly heart was somehow evidence that I was a weakling who couldn’t quite get it together. So, I kept it to myself.

On day two of wearing the monitor, it wasn’t my heart that flip-flopped as I dressed for the day, but my stomach. Day two was Bible Study day. I wanted to go—needed to go, but I was worried. What if someone smiled at me and meant it? What if they asked how I was and pulled me into a hug? I might dissolve into tears, embarrassing myself. A silent wrestling match ensued over whether I should go or not, but my desperation to hear from God won.

I parked the car in the church parking lot and walked towards the entrance.  Ahead of me women chatted as they hurried along. Suddenly, one of them stopped, turned, and looked right at me. As the others went inside, she walked towards me, smiling. Oh dear….

“Hi,” I said.

She looked at me intently, as if she knew a secret.

“I’ve been watching for you. This morning, in prayer, the LORD mentioned you by name. He told me to tell you something… He told me to tell you that He is monitoring your heart.”

With a smile and a hug, she turned and was gone.  I stood there stunned, succumbing to tears as wonder and awe washed over me—my heart beating fast but strong.

What lengths God will go to, to teach us, speak to us, and demonstrate His unfathomable love towards us!

The Bible says, “…man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Thank you Heavenly Father, for monitoring our hearts. The world sees our outward appearance, our accomplishments, our affluence (or lack there of). You see our innermost being, our true motives, our hopes, our dreams…  We’re never misunderstood by You, never undervalued by You, never misjudged by You! Thank you for knowing what makes us tick and for loving us all the more.

Amen.

 

 

Unclench the fist. You’re not holding anything, anyway.

A few years ago, I found myself in a desperate situation. Taking a step of faith, my family and I packed all our worldly belongings and moved across country. When we arrived, we signed a rental agreement on a condo so we’d have somewhere to live until our home sold, but it didn’t sell. Then the economy crashed and like so many, we got caught in the rubble of the housing-market collapse.

As we approached the end of our lease, I lay awake at night, storming Heaven, begging GOD to answer my prayers… sell our house, find us a new place to live, show us if we’d made a terrible mistake by moving in the first place! Silence was my only answer… silence and the slightest wisp of an impression: “Be still. Wait…”

With less than a month before our lease was up, the land-lord informed us that she’d put the condo into a vacation rental program. We had three weeks to re-locate, but alas, we could find no place to relocate to!

 Lord? We’re in a bind, here. Help, Please?

 “Wait…”

Now, I’m no good at waiting, never have been. So, it took an Herculean effort for me to stop trying to make things happen and to trust God, instead.

Someone on the radio said, “Walk in the light you have for today,” so each day that ticked by, speeding us towards homelessness, I knelt in prayer and sought the light. The Light said, “Trust, wait…”

Some days, I felt impossible peace–like a warm blanket tucking me in, secure and tight. Other days I devolved into full-blown meltdown, panic-mode.

In the morning, I’d hit my knees. Just two weeks left! Where will we go?! What will we do? Comforted, God reminded me that He’s my Maker–The One with Whom I have to do… the light for that day? God can do anything. Wait… trust.

One week before homelessness, my husband was sent overseas on a two week trip. Early the next morning, I awoke with a chorus coursing through my mind and heart: “I will trust in The LORD my GOD, I will trust in The One Who made me.” And I thought, Surely, The One Who made me, can keep me.

Standing at the window, praying, the image of a hand curled into a tight fist (my fist) filled my mind’s eye. Other hands, stronger hands, wounded hands, reached out and took hold. One held my fist while the other, gently but firmly, un-pried each finger, one at a time, until they relaxed and opened. I watched and I understood–I’d been desperately clenching… fearfully white-knuckling… holding onto family, home, life. The thing was, when the fist was pried open? Empty.

He’s got the whole world in His hands. I don’t.

A friend at the Christian book store called and said she had “a word.” She was dusting, she said, and The Lord told her to hurry up and finish, that He had something He wanted her to write down. Then He told her it was for me—told her to call me, to tell me…

 “I want you to know that I have your hand. You are protected and cared for, not by man. My love reaches to you and to your seed, I will complete the work and meet every need. Your cries I have heard in the throne room above, Heaven will descend with mercy and love. Keep My Word in your heart! From your mouth let it depart. Stand and speak, and see My power in this hour!”

“I want you to know that I have your hand…” I’d always imagined God holding my hand, not having it. Maybe it’s impossible to hold a hand, it if it’s clenched into a fist.

On moving day, I sent my son off to school with a kiss and a prayer, then turned my attention to packing–everything in the world, crammed into the car. Mind racing, wondering where we’d go, I felt strangely excited. Fleetingly, I thought I might be losing it, cracking, having a nervous breakdown. I glanced at the microwave clock–one hour until I had to turn in the keys. One hour. I finished cleaning the condo and turned around to do a final inspection before walking out and locking the door behind me. That’s when the phone rang.

Thinking it was the landlord, I answered. It wasn’t the landlord. The conversation went something like this:

“Hello?”

“Hey, This is your neighbor with the condo next door. You haven’t seen us much cause that’s our vacation home. We won’t be coming up to the mountains until next year. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but y’all aren’t looking for a place to stay, are ya? We had the feeling that we should ask, and we’d like to offer our place. No, we won’t accept rent! Y’all being there to keep things up will be a blessing! Fine, that’s settled. Keys are under the mat.”

I glanced at the clock. Fifteen minutes. Fifteen. The exact amount of time it took to lock the door, walk to the office, and turn in the keys.

“I want you to know that I have your hand…”

 Profound gratitude welled up from my soul and in dumbstruck disbelief, I believed.

~

Are you desperately trying to hold on to something, to someone? Are your fists clenched in white-knuckle grip because you’re terrified of what will happen if you let go? I had no idea that my attempts to hold on were evidence of distrust. God exposed my unbelief by prying open my hands and showing me that I didn’t hold anything, anyway. None of us do. Unclench your fist and let go. God’s got it.

 

 

Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No. 

 ~Pablo Picasso

She came on a gray winter day–rushing into my living room in a kaleidoscope of color cacophony. Surveying the room, she pushed me into a chair then began pulling heaps of fabric swatches out of a large bag, dumping them on the floor.

“This is how I do it.” She drawled. Draping a swatch over my shoulder, she stepped back and examined me.

It was a bit unnerving, really. Especially with that hairdo. How on earth does she do that? I wondered. Coiffed eight inches high, her brassy, tangerine beehive perfectly matched the shade of her lipstick. Yet… she looked, I don’t know… a bit off. Maybe tangerine’s not her color, I mused.

Noticing me notice, she popped her gum, straightened her, “Color me Cute” badge and winked, as if to say, “I’ll have you looking just as adorable as me in no time!” But the twinkle in her eye faded as the minutes ticked by, and then left altogether as she cocked her jaw, arched an eyebrow, and slapped the last swatch on my shoulder. Narrowing her eyes, she examined my face, her fabric, and then my face again–a pink bubble emerged from her tangerine lips, ballooned to the size of a plum, then burst. “You’re a bad case.” She hissed while pulling the gum off of her chin. “You don’t have a color.”

“Oh.” I whispered, feeling pale.

The verdict was in and it wasn’t looking good–apparently, neither was I. I wasn’t being transformed at all, but she was beginning to look remarkably like my Jr. High PE teacher who knew how to stare a girl down with an, “I know what you’re up to, and you’re in for it!” stare. Wheeling, she snatched her swatches from the floor where she’d tossed them—hot-pink nails snagging on vermillion polyester–and bustled out the door.  As fast as she blew into my life, she was gone–a color tornado spun out of control. I looked around my living room and caught my reflection in a mirror. So much for being “colored cute” I sighed. 

~

Color is a powerful and funny thing—a subliminal force, really.  It can affect your mood, your sleep patterns and even your appetite. Soft watery blues and washed-out greens are soothing to the weary, that’s why you’ll often find them in spas and hospitals. On a subliminal level, cool whispers, “Take a deep breath. Relax.” Fiery reds and oranges, on the other hand, are stimulating. They fairly crackle with excitement and are good choices for the dining room, where they’ll stir up your appetite, but poor choices for the bedroom, where eventually, you’ll need to sleep.

Color subtly and powerfully influences the human psyche. A strong shade or intensity used in the wrong room can be uncomfortable and agitating, resulting in a vague sense of unease and the inability to relax.

Paint companies well understand the powerful influence appetite has on the consumer—subtle though it is. Just look at these paint names: Hazelnut Latte, Toasty Marshmallow, Burnt Sugar Frosting, Maple Syrup… Mmm. Yummy, right? Then again, not necessarily. When you’re talking about the color palette in your home, deliciously-named paint colors may entice but they don’t always deliver. Canvased across your walls, carpets, and nubby tweed couch, Toasty Marshmallow might turn out to be boring old beige.

If you crave color like me, that’s a problem. Toasty Marshmallow leaves me empty, pale. And the inexplicable urge to pop open a tub of ready-made frosting hits every time I’m in a beige living room. Sigh.

What am I trying to say? Well, we’ve been taught that neutral color equals beige and beige equals classy decorating, speedy home sales, happy marriage, well-behaved children.

Not necessarily.

According to the Encarta Dictionary of North America, neutral with regard to color is defined as, “not strongly or strikingly colored and thus relatively inconspicuous and able to blend easily with other colors.”

Personally, I like the non-color definition of neutral: “taking no sides, belonging to, favoring, or assisting no side in a war, dispute, contest or controversy.”

Fantastic, right? Many colors can be considered neutral and provide a lovely backdrop for your home furnishings without going to war with the rest of the colors in your room! What? You say you don’t have any other colors in your room? Put the frosting away. We need to talk…

Color is vital to your well-being.  Just think of how you feel when the sun doesn’t shine for days on end. Without light, there is an absence of color. Gray, gloomy days are just that—gray and gloomy. When the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, presto! Light arcs through prisms, and vibrant color is splashed everywhere. Suddenly, you feel like a million bucks.

There’s something in all of us that needs color. We can feel it. The problem is, we’re scared that vibrant color will look clownish in our living rooms–and who wants to live in a three ring circus, after all?

Defeated, we toddle into the kitchen and scrounge for a snack. Munching away, we glance down and notice that even the crackers are beige and that’s when it hits us: We’ve got a serious case of pale.

~

Oh, by the way… trying to drop a few pounds this year? Ditch the beige. It might help.

Truth Or Dare

You have the opportunity
to bend the truth, to lie…

Or, if that’s inconvenient,
something daring you can try…

Is Jesus your messiah?
Is He Master? Is He King?

Have you courage to confess Him?
Truth can be the daring thing!

It’ll cost you if you know Him…
Into trouble, you can get.

You can turn and walk away now.
You can lie, deny, and yet…

If courage you are lacking,
And a lie seems safe and sure,

You are treading deadly waters;
You dare grace, and evil lure.

There’s a story of a man that
you’d do well to take to heart.

If you want to be courageous,
daring evil to depart…

“…Truth or dare!” A woman hollers,
to a man beside a fire.

“Do you dare to tell the truth?
Or are you just another liar?”

“I don’t know him!” He exclaims,
full of dread, and shame, and doubt,

but the challenge comes again,
“Truth or dare! I call you out!”

“Like I told you, I don’t know him!”
He cries out and runs away.

In the dark, a cock is crowing,
just before the break of day.

All alone before his captors,
the man’s friend is tied, and tried.

Cruelly beaten, mocked and tortured,
cursed, and scourged, then crucified.

All alone, in death he carries
all the burden of all sin.

All alone, his body broken
as salvation he does win.

“Truth or dare…” A gentle whisper
softly echoes on the breeze,

while a man in ash and mourning,
sobs ashamed on bended knees.

“Do you love me?” Comes the query,
with forgiveness, love and grace.

Overwhelmed by Heavens mercy,
fears betrayal, sins disgrace…

“Do I love you?” He replies.
“Lord, you know it if I do.”

“Now, at last you answer wisely,
fearing not, and speaking true.”

“I AM Truth and I AM Daring!
I have wagered death and sin!

I have won the great redemption!
Life eternal ushered in.”

“I Am God, I Am Messiah,
I Am Master, I Am King!

Have you courage to confess Me?
Truth must be the daring thing!”

“Do not fear the ones with power
to destroy; instead with prayer,

cast your burdens upon Me!
I gave you all in truth and dare!”

© Copyright 2006 CRL

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