Friday, February 19, 2010

Rainbow Bright

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for its dreary weather. As much as we might like to sing,"Rain, rain, go away," it keeps on coming even when we tell it to "come again another day." Living here has been a huge adjustment for my husband and I who are both native southern Californians. I have come across research that has proven that a lack of sunlight can affect you physically and mentally, but I can personally attest that it can affect you spiritually as well. Only since living in the Pacific Northwest have I ever heard of things like SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and Vitamin D deficiency, both of which are silently debilitating the general public. After living here for four years now, I have come to realize just how much I've taken the sun for granted.

Over the past couple of years I've discovered that the sun was not the only thing I took for granted. I took things like having an endless supply of running water, or even an abundance of running hot water for granted. I took for granted the fact that my water pipes never froze, that I had a dishwasher saving me lots of time and energy. I took things like having a spacious house in a relatively close proximity to family and friends for granted... things like having enough money to pay my bills for granted. Being involved in a thriving ministry under anointed leadership which experienced the favor of God... all taken for granted. So many, many things... all taken for granted. It seemed my life was always filled with "sunshine" and I soaked it up without realizing just how fortunate I really was.

What can happen over time, however, when the sun is shining all the time? The sun itself can be a good thing, however, even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Think about it: When the sun is shining all the time, with no rain, it can kill you. Heat-stroke, drought, famine. Yeah, it feels good for a while, but there comes a time when you just plain need some rain. Without rain, nothing can grow, nothing can thrive. Things become desolate, barren, and empty. Before you know it, you've got yourself a desert.

Perhaps I was getting to a point in my life if I kept living life "in the sun," it was going to kill me. Perhaps I was all too close to becoming a desert. Perhaps part of God's purpose in His direction for moving us to a place that experiences an excessive amount of rain wasn't just so that we could experience it in the physical realm but also in the depths of our hearts as well.

Well, let me tell you, we've experienced a lot of rain here in Washington... both in the literal and the figurative sense of the word. More than I would prefer, for sure. The little glimpses of sunshine when they come now mean so much more than they ever did when my life was continuously filled with sunshine. In fact, now that I experience rain more often than not, the scarcity of the sun's light and warmth has made it that much more satisfying. Every time it shows its face, I am more apt to express immediate gratitude instead of my previous unappreciative expectation.

One thing is for sure... I have also seen way more rainbows in the past four years here in Washington than I ever had in my entire life while living in California. I'm talking probably close to twenty in the last four years of my life, compared with maybe 4 in the first twenty-or-so years of my life. As I shared this fact with someone recently, she was very quick to point out, "Well, maybe that's because you never saw as much rain in your life until you moved to Washington!" Boy, isn't that the truth! Point well-taken. You can't have a rainbow without some rain!

Wikipedia's description of rainbows is fascinating...

"The most spectacular rainbow displays happen when half of the sky is still dark with raining clouds and the observer is at a spot with clear sky in the direction of the Sun. The result is a luminous rainbow that contrasts with the darkened background."

Even more fascinating is the science behind why a rainbow occurs...

"The light is first refracted as it enters the surface of the raindrop, reflected off the back of the drop, and again refracted as it leaves the drop. ... A rainbow does not actually exist at a particular location in the sky. Its apparent position depends on the observer's location and the position of the sun. All raindrops refract and reflect the sunlight in the same way, but only the light from some raindrops reaches the observer's eye. This light is what constitutes the rainbow for that observer."

As believers and biblical scholars, we know that there is so much more to rainbows than science. The first rainbow appeared to Noah after the flood in Genesis 9. You see, the rainbow is not just a natural wonder but it is also a supernatural wonder. There was a purpose behind its presence in the natural world. It became a way to connect what is happening in our natural world to what is happening in the supernatural... to understand that whatever is happening in our natural world, God's supernatural plans for us can supersede it... that although the skies may be gray and the rain may be pouring, His light can reflect and refract through it to create something beautiful... that we can have hope for tomorrow because we are blessed with the assurance that God is working all things together for our good, just as He did in the case of Noah and the flood.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. " 
{Romans 8:28 NIV}
God truly made a statement with the rainbow... a statement painted in vivid color with the observer in mind... a stark contrast for the one who had seen so much darkness, so much dreariness, so much hopelessness, that it would appear that no amount of light could ever fill their world with color again.

There may be times when our obedience to God puts in a place where it appears dark and gloomy, perhaps even for a very long time. There may be times when it seems like the rain will never stop falling. There will be times when our his willingness to humbly obey God's directions will put us in an uncomfortable position.

However, because of our willingness to obey... to do the work set before us... waiting in expectation for deliverance... enduring the rain without any assurance of when it will let up...  we will be perfectly positioned in just the right place to see God do something amazing. When we are in just the right place at just the right moment, facing the right direction, we have been perfectly positioned to observe the miraculous... of God shining forth His light through the rain, through the darkness and dreariness of our lives, revealing His glory in vivid color! ...Not only does it position us to personally observe this wonder, but it positions others as well! I've never known of anyone who doesn't stop in their tracks to observe the wonder and majesty of a rainbow.

Not only do we become positioned, we also become postured. We become postured to see His glory... and to receive His blessing! As we observe His glory and receive His blessing, we become postured in humble gratitude. He protects us and provides for us in the times of rain when it seems the whole world is pouring down on us, wanting to drown us and rock our boat... He holds us tenderly in His care, completely at His mercy bearing in mind what we can handle... all of these facts should be enough to draw us completely to our knees in humble appreciation!

God's covenant with us, sealed with a visual reminder of a rainbow, means that we can have hope. We can have hope that although the storms may rage and we cannot see His light, it is there. We can have hope that although the rain falls it will never be the death of us. We can have hope that although the skies may be gray and dreary, He can use them as a canvas to paint a bright and beautiful picture with brilliant colors that displays His glory.

Remember that His love is with you in the rain just as much as it is when the sun is shining. His love is unchanging and can anchor you in a world that can quickly change and rock your boat. His love is constant even through the winds of change. Remember that even though you cannot see Him through the dark clouds, the Son is there, waiting for just the right moment to reveal His glory to you and the world around you that is watching and waiting.

As I write these final words, I am reminded of a song by Mercy Me called, "Bring the Rain." The song was written as the members of the band encountered a season full of storms yet chose to focus on God's glory through it all. I encourage you to follow the link below and allow the words and images to penetrate your heart. May they bring you hope in a season when all you can see is rain.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You're Welcome!

"So... Do you want to come to my.... uh... er... trailer?"

I nervously twiddle my thumbs and bite my lip, awaiting a response. It's usually difficult for me to find the right words to use when extending an invitation to what we call “home." After all, just how do you make a fifth-wheel trailer sound appealing or convince someone that it's a place that will be worth their time to come to? Trying to get others excited about it is a whole other issue when, half the time, it’s not exactly the type of place I look forward to coming home to myself!

Granted, our living conditions are definitely not what I would consider ideal for entertaining. How can you get excited to make a gourmet meal for friends and family on a small three-burner stove and tiny one-rack oven, not even big enough to fit a cookie sheet? Well, that’s just the half of it, really. The truth is, a twenty-nine-foot-long abode doesn’t afford many luxuries for guests to enjoy. Yes, I admit it... there’s not really much here, folks.

Often, I succumb to a fear of an anticipated response after describing my living conditions that I neglect to extend a hospitable invitation altogether. The countless frustrations I’ve incurred both from my attempts, as well as my lack of attempts to entertain in my small space, has often left me feeling guilty, unfulfilled, and lonely. So... just what do you do when your living conditions are not exactly ideal for extending hospitality? These have been my musings over the last three-and-a-half years while trying to make friends in a new community. Here are some revelations that I’ve discovered over the last couple of months.

Be willing.
    It doesn’t matter what you think you have to offer.... what matters is that you are willing to offer what you have. Jesus was able to feed 5,000 men, not counting multitudes of women and children as well, just by one little boy being willing to share what he had: five loaves of bread and two small fish. Not only that, but they had leftovers to spare! (See John 6:1-13)

Make yourself available.
    Make yourself available to meet others’ needs as they arise. Don’t put it off, because you may not have another opportunity. Yes, it is possible it may inconvenience you. However, if you are flexible, you won't get bent out of shape. Don’t ever be too busy, too broke, or too tired for others, or you may find that others will become too busy, too broke, or too tired for you. (See Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 5:15-17, Colossians 4:5, Luke 6:38)

Do what you can do... out of the power of Him Who is in You.
    See a need and fill it... feed the hungry, encourage the faint, comfort the sick, inspire the timid, house the homeless, mother the motherless, father the fatherless, befriend the friendless, show kindness to the widow, include the outsider. Find the hurt and heal it. You can offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, heartfelt compassion and prayers, words of wisdom, a hearty meal, or even a healing dose of laughter. As Jesus gave to you, you also can give to others because He is in you. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 1 John 4:4, Isaiah 61:1-6, James 1:27, Proverbs 17:22)

Remember... you are doing it for Jesus!
    What we choose to do, or even don’t do makes a difference in your life and in the lives of others. Do things out of a desire to please God and be careful not to become a people-pleaser. Don’t be driven by perfection or think you have to have it all together to be used; it's really quite the opposite. The more cracked your vessel is, the more He can come through... That should be our ultimate goal anyway! Love extravagantly because you can never love too much. How we choose to invest our time, energy, and resources will prove where our treasure is... what Jesus treasures is completely counter cultural! (See Matthew 25:31-46, James 4:17, Hebrews 13:2, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23-24)

Here at my home, however imperfect or messy it may be, whether ready or not, here you can come. We have an open-door, open-heart policy. What you see is what you get. We are real people just like everyone else, with real joys, real hurts, and real passions, who serve a real, good God.

Don't this little twenty-nine-foot fifth-wheel trailer fool you... our treasure is in heaven! What we are building there will be far greater than what we have here on this earth. While we don't have a cute little doormat saying "Welcome" and while our home doesn't always appear the most welcoming, our door is open and you are welcome. Come on in and find Jesus... He lives here too!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Word of Prayer

As I set forth on this journey as both a speaker and a writer, professions entirely dependent on the use of words, I am reminded of the impact words can have... more importantly, the power of Your Word...

You formed the entire universe as Your thoughts and plans came to be formed on Your lips...

Your Word came to this earth in a living body, with flesh and bone... alive and active...

Your Word came to penetrate our thoughts and attitudes... to divide soul from spirit...

Your Word came as flesh to be a lamp for our feet, a light for our path, revealing to us the way to live life, and life more abundantly...

Your Word came to move mountains and speak things into existence which were not yet in existence...

Your Word came to prove its power to heal the sick, bind up the brokenhearted, give sight to the blind, and open the ears of the deaf...

Your Word came to proclaim good news, to announce freedom to all captives, and to pardon all prisoners...

Your Word came to turn the tables of the self-righteous, wreak havoc on hypocrisy, and paint the ultimate picture of love...

Your Word came out of love for all of humanity... it was put to death by all of humanity, who did not understand it... yet, it conquered sin, death, and hell so that all of humanity might have the opportunity to abide in You on this earth and for all eternity!

Your Word came... a fulfillment of a promise... exhibiting the fullness of grace and truth... to write itself on human hearts... to change the world forever.

Your words are everything, Jesus.
My words are nothing, if they are not filled with Your Spirit.

Let this be a place where You speak, where Your words are heard...
loud and clear...  

words that will change hearts and lives...  
words that will change families and communities...
words that will rock this world and forever change the generations to come...

For NOTHING is impossible with Your Word... and "blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"