He Knit Me Together

I LOVE this! Before I was even a thought in my mother’s mind, GOD was with me.

“YOU {GOD} made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” – – Psalms 139:13-14 NLT

Imagine! Marvel at His creation! He takes 2 cells, which alone are nothing, and He joins them together to create the complex and incredible thing we call life! Man can join the cells, and man can manipulate the cells, but only GOD can create the life within; what a MARVEL, what IMAGINATION, what CREATIVITY!

My puny little mind has trouble grasping the sheer magnitude of it all. Every single day in this country, thousands of babies die through abortion. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the AGI (Guttmacher Institute), in 2015 there were over 900,000 babies aborted. Killed. Of those, less than 2% – 2% – were from rape, incest, or the mother’s life was in danger! That’s insane. Basically, that means that 98% of babies who are murdered each year is because the mother doesn’t want to deal with it, for whatever reason. According to the CDC, in 2013, black women were 3.75% more likely to have an abortion than white women. Where are the pro athletes standing – or kneeling – on this issue?

Even if this were not a moral issue, it should be a financial issues. 17 states use public funds to pay for abortion, and about 14% of all abortions in the U.S. are paid for with public funds. That’s our tax dollars at work, people. Putting aside both of those objections, think on this for a moment. There is a tremendous outcry for more gun control because there were 59 people killed and over 500 injured this past week in Las Vegas. The hurricanes this year have taken 34 lives (so far) in Puerto Rico, and over 1oo in the Florida and Texas hurricanes. There has been a vigorous response to all of these tragedies, as there should be. I am by no means making light of these because they are devastating. I’m pointing out that lives lost due to overt violence or through natural disasters are next to nothing when compared to the over 2,400 lives lost every day through abortion. Where is the outrage; the outcry? I don’t hear it.

Did you know that at 45 days after conception, the heart is formed and beating? At 9 weeks, well within the first trimester, there is a recognizable baby, and at 52 weeks, babies have retinas, feet and hands? Check out this fascinating, eye-opening video – https://www.ted.com/talks/alexander_tsiaras_conception_to_birth_visualized .

Not just fascinating, but fantastic, awe-inspiring, breathtakingly beautiful, or to quote Alexander Tsiaras, “The magic, the mystery, the divine that is us.”

Thought provoking? I pray so.

The Most High

Be honest. Do you believe in a being who could create everything out of nothing, or do you believe in the Big Bang? There’s a joke I recently heard about God and some evolutionary scientists. As they were discussing which was correct, evolution or creation, they decided to have a contest to see who could create a man. The scientists took a handful of mud in order to begin, and God said “Hold on. Use your own mud!” I love this, because it showcases the difference between creation and evolution.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1 (http://bible.com/116/gen.1.1.NLT)

Simply, eloquently, stated.

“But why is there such destruction and pain and suffering on the earth? How could God allow children to be abused and neglected?” When God created man, He gave them free will. He didn’t want puppets or ‘yes men,’ He wanted us to choose to love Him and to have fellowship with Him. Just look around you. If you are hosting a party or other gathering, and there is a person who is clearly unhappy about being there, how does that make you feel? Our goal as host is to ensure that everyone is enjoying the fellowship and interaction with us. That’s why God gave us free will. He doesn’t force anyone to interact with him. Adam and Eve decided they were better suited to determining what was best for themselves; much more than God, and so they chose to be disobedient and eat the one forbidden fruit… thanks, guys! They had an entire garden (we’re talking acres and acres here!) of the most incredible, delicious fruits to eat, and they decide they just have to have the one, single fruit God said to leave alone. That says a lot about our human ability to make good choices!!

Thankfully, the Lord Creator God gave us a means of rescue from our ancestors poor choice.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my Refuge, my Place of Safety; He is my God, and I trust Him.” – Psalms 91:1‭-‬2 (http://bible.com/116/psa.91.1-2.NLT)

The MOST High; Creator, Savior, Almighty God; LORD of All…

Irony

I am enjoying what may be the most pleasant morning we’ve seen in central Oklahoma for this entire summer…. while the state to our south is enduring the remainder of the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. in at least 12 years. In fact, I don’t remember an August quite like this one for its weather. So far, it’s the 3rd wettest August on record – and we have a chance for more rain before it is over. It has been the coolest in 20 years, and last year, 2016, was the hottest August on record, EVER, for the entire earth. Climate change! Oh no! Call Al Gore and the climate police! Call PETA and the ACLU and all the “Save the world” campaigns. (Sorry, couldn’t resist a little poke.)

Seriously. Look at the history of the earth. It began from a formless void, and was fashioned by the Creator into a living entity (NOT sentient; LIVING) to support life as He created it. Over the millenia, the earth has changed in a myriad of ways. First, God created the creatures of the sea, then the land, and finally man to watch over and protect it all. From the tiniest organism and the most minute cell structure, to the largest creatures, He created it all, and called it good. Read Genesis 1-2 for a full account. It’s quite beautiful. God created the creatures we call dinosaurs, and He created dragons. You have to realize that all myths are based on fact.

The problem with the earth, and all of the climate changes across the eons, are ultimately our responsibility. Starting with being thrown out of the Garden, we have been on a destructive bent ever since. Because of bad choices made by humans, the enemy of everything good, Satan, has been released to create havoc on and in the earth. Through his fury and desire to take everything good and turn it into evil, not only have humans suffered, but all of the plants and all the creatures suffered; even the earth itself is being brutalized by the enemy. Is it our fault the earth has gone through ice ages and worldwide drought? Is it our fault that the entire earth was covered in water, drowning anyone and anything that was not on Noah’s ark? Are hurricanes and tornados and floods and drought our fault?

Ultimately, yes. It does all rest on our shoulders, and the world is a heavy burden to carry. (Theme song of “The Twilight Zone” plays….)

“And to the man [Adam] He said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” ” Genesis 3:17‭-‬19 (http://bible.com/116/gen.3.17-19.NLT)

Sounds all gloom and doom, doesn’t it? Fortunately for us, and for ALL of creation, this is all temporary. The phrophet Isaiah foretold it: “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” Isaiah 65:17 (http://bible.com/116/isa.65.17.NLT)

John, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, also foretells us: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.” Revelation 21:1 (http://bible.com/116/rev.21.1.NLT)

We have a responsibility to take care of, and manage well, this pile of dirt and rock and water that we live on. We carry that responsibility for every part of this world, plant, animal, and human. I’m not an advocate for the extremists who scream that we shouldn’t eat animals or use ridiculous schemes to prevent us from using the earth’s resources. We are here to manage and maintain. As any true conservationist will tell you, animal flocks and herds have to be managed, and that entails culling to maintain and do balance. God gave us the earth and did and drill that is within it to oversee. Since we gave the job of overseer to the enemy, we, and all of creation, are suffering. That’s irony. We gave the job that God gave us to the worst thing possible, the one being whose existence is the opposite of God.

The first step to save the world is to submit ourselves to our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then can we began to see how to truly care for the beautiful people and creatures, and the earth itself. Ready for real climate change? Look to the Savior. Start with prayer and thankfulness for the incredibly diverse world He has given us. Love God, love His creation.

Neutral Ground 

  “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” C.S. Lewis, @CSLewisDaily 

Wow. Just contemplate this statement for a minute. In case you don’t know C.S. Lewis, he was a committed atheist for years before he surrendered to God:

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen  [College, Oxford], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” (Source: Wikipedia.org)

Lewis was a scholar and a prolific writer, who took his Christianity seriously and wrote in such a way as to introduce a Living God to unbelievers and believers alike. I think most everyone is familiar with his Narnia series, and it is a wonderful, imaginative and fanciful way to show the principles of Christianity to those who wouldn’t see them, otherwise.  J.R.R. Tolkien did the same thing with his Lord of the Rings books. If you are unfamiliar with the writings of either of these men, I would highly recommend them! This scripture from the Psalms seems to reflect on them: 

  “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing Your instructions. Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me Life through Your Word.” – Psalms 119:29‭, ‬37 NLT

I realize that fantasy doesn’t appeal to everyone, so rest assured that both authors wrote many other books on Christianity and our relationship with Christ. 

Looking at the term “neutral ground,” I consider the route I traveled the past couple of days, driving from Tucson AZ, back to the Oklahoma City area. Coming up out of Tucson, we (me and the pups) took the scenic route through the Santa Catalina mountains, then on through the Salt River Canyon. One word describes it for me: Breathtaking! Our Creator God took the desert and decorated it with dozens (hundreds?) of species of cacti and grasses and trees in fantastic shapes and colors you won’t see anywhere else in the world. The monsoons began while I was in Tucson, so everything was brilliant shades of green. The trip through the canyon is awesome. Yes, it is a steep grade (mostly 8%) and switchbacks, and if you have never experienced anything like it, well, you should! At the rest stop at the bottom of the canyon, you can walk across the old bridge and watch as the river roars through, and literally crane your neck backward in order to see the top of the canyon on either side. How can anyone stand there and NOT see the Hand of God? At the same time as I am worshipping my God,  I have to stop and think about the statement by Lewis. “…. Every square inch is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” God created an incredible, breathtakingly beautiful earth, and Satan turns it around and tries to corrupt it. The canyon is gorgeous  – and treacherous. The desert is the same, full of fantastic plants and animals – which the enemy has crammed with dangerous reptiles and plants which can cause serious damage. It’s like a glimpse of heaven and hell smashed together. 

Coming out of the canyon, you’ll see a completely different kind of desert, then through pines and firs as the road continues into the White Mountains. I love this route in large part because of its contrasts. When you leave the White Mountains and come out into red rock Painted Desert country, there is a whole new world of contrasts. Towering bluffs and mesa after mesa … red rocks and colors stacked on top of each other.  It’s Tony Hillerman and Louie L’Amour country, and it is all beautiful. Anyone who thinks anything called “desert” is drab and colorless hasn’t really looked! Driving east on the interstate goes through so many types of country it would take volumes to describe it all. None of it is neutral ground. Throughput my entire trip, the struggle of the enemy against the Creator is so obvious. I see the beauty God and poured out for us, and I see how hard Satan is striving to make it ugly. For myself, I refuse to let the enemy ruin any of it for me. 

It all comes down to choice. Do we allow the enemy to come into our lives and spoil them, or do we choose God? It will NEVER be easy when you choose God, because the enemy will just concentrate harder on making life miserable. Finding JOY in the pain and the ugly is only possible through God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I choose the ground, every square inch, and every split second, claimed by God!

(All scriptures quoted are from http://bible.com/116/NLT)

GOD Created…

Have you ever made something to make a child smile? It could be a sibling or a friend, students or babysitting charges, family members, or your own child. There’s something about children and babies that makes us want to make them smile. Especially with Littles ones, we tend to do all sorts of silly things just to see that grin… I love to make things for others that I hope will make them smile. A special cake – a John Degree tractor in all of it’s green glory, once! – or a pie or a special meal, a doll or other plaything. It is inate within us to seek to make our children happy. I’ve seen parents go to extraordinary efforts to make their children smile. Do you imagine God could do anything less?

This feeling, this desire, this inborn behavior. Where do you imagine it came from? God, when creating man, made us know like Him. His desire is for us to be happy. He wants us to make good choices in our lives and make the kinds of decisions that are healthy and good for us. I believe that the angels rejoice with us when we are genuinely smiling and happy. Sound familiar? Almost anyone with a child in any capacity can understand this. So imagine this: God is a father. He is the ULTIMATE Father, both to us and especially to His Firstborn Son, Jesus Christ.

“Christ is the VISIBLE image of the INVISIBLE GOD. He existed before anything was created and is Supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created THROUGH Him and FOR Him.” – Colossians 1:15‭-‬16

Focus on that last sentence, verse 16b. “EVERYTHING was created …. for HIM,” Him being Jesus Christ. God doesn’t just leave it at that. Knowing full well that we humans would persist in making bad choices, He allowed His Son – His SON, His Beloved Child – to sacrifice Himself in order that we may be redeemed from the harsh sentence we will receive for our sins. I certainly wouldn’t sacrifice ANY child for someone else. I might, maybe, offer myself, but not a child. They are the innocent, and they don’t deserve the harshness of this world. Jesus is the epitome of innocence.

For GOD in all His Fullness was pleased to Live in Christ, and through Him GOD reconciled EVERYTHING to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of CHRIST’S BLOOD on the cross.” – Colossians 1:19‭-‬20

For this is how GOD LOVED loved the world: He gave His ONE and ONLY Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. GOD sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in GOD’S One and Only Son.” – John 3:16‭-‬18 (All scriptures quoted from http://bible.com/NLT)

WOW. Can’t top that.

SHOUT!

 “A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our GOD stands forever.”   ….But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:6‭-‬8‭, ‬31 NLT

Have you looked outside lately? I know that in different areas of the country and the world experience spring in very distinctive ways. Even here, in central Oklahoma, we have vastly unique days for the seasons. One day during the spring months can be sweltering with the heat and humidity, while the next will be cool and breezy. We can have snow, rain, hail, earthquakes, and tornados on the same day – in the same area! (I call it “snowquakenado” season 😉 ) The earth in the north and western hemispheres is experiencing spring now. It is a time of regrowth and renewal in both plants and animals. Being able to go outside and feel the breeze, and to smell the sweet smells of blooming flowers and cut grass, is a privilege I don’t take lightly. I am both blessed and cursed to have a huge quarter acre lot within a housing development. Blessed because of the trees and bushes I’ve planted, with plenty of space for flowers and relaxing without having the next door houses right on top of me; cursed (but in a good way!!) because it’s a lot of work to keep up! Sometimes in the heat of summer or the frozen winter months, I wish for less, but spring reminds me of the blessings. I mean, how many people in suburbia have room for a small orchard and garden and berry bushes out their back door, and still have plenty of room for a large patio and yard? Who gets to enjoy God’s beautiful creatures – Bluebirds and Cardinals and countless other songbirds, along with hawks and geese and rabbits, all in their backyard?  I am reminded daily of my blessings. Do you count your blessings each day? Sometimes I forget to, or maybe I choose to deny just how blessed I am. 

Every day, I should shout praises to the LORD for the blessings He has given me. Can I get an Amen on that?



Just Not Feelin’ It….

​  “For the LORD is good. His Unfailing Love continues forever, and His Faithfulness continues to each generation…. Praise the LORD; praise GOD our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms.” – Psalms 100:5; Psalm 68:19 NLT 

This is true. The psalmist says it all: God IS Good. God IS Faithful. His Mercy extends to anyone who wants it. His LOVE never fails; it goes from parent to child, and so on through generations, from the first man and woman to the child being born at this very moment. He carries us when we are so tired we can’t walk or think or function. 

Does that mean that I am always grateful for Him, or that I always acknowledge Him? I’m sorry to say, no. Not only do I not praise Him and thank Him, I am ungrateful and spiteful and let anger rule my thoughts. I know – KNOW – that I am not alone in this. Sometimes I just don’t feel it. Maybe because I figured out a way to numb feelings through an addiction, or maybe because I am just tired. Scared. Scarred. Just not feelin’ it…. 

God knows we get this way. Sometimes there is something physiologically exacerbating the issues, and sometimes it is outside forces and influence that are creating the environment of despair. Sometimes, only God knows; other times, well, that’s why He has equipped doctors and counselors and psychologists and psychiatrists with the knowledge to help us. There is NO shame in seeking help!!! I know so many people who hold to their belief that they can do it on their own, and I know from personal experience that it is not possible… ON OUR OWN. We need each other, and more importantly, we NEED God. It’s that simple. 

Just because I may go through a period of not feeling His Presence doesn’t mean He isn’t with me. In Psalm 16:8-11, “King David said this about Him: ‘I see that the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts His praises! My body rests in Hope. For You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow Your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of Life, and You will fill me with the Joy of Your Presence.’ ” – Acts of the Apostles 2:25‭-‬28 NLT

God never intended for us to walk alone. He created us to be companions and friends.

  “In His Kindness GOD called you to share in His Eternal Glory by means of CHRIST JESUS Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will Restore, Support, and Strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. All Power to Him FOREVER! Amen.” – 1 Peter 5:10‭-‬11 NLT

Even when we aren’t feeln’ it, God is with us. Amen.