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Jhn 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

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Memories

Memories are something, aren’t they? There are rare times when I reminisce about something from my youth and can recall in detail the words said and the actions taken. However, normally my memory is quite faulty and I can’t piece together the entire event. Or worse, I mingle several events together and end up with a skewed look at things. Now, this is troublesome for me because I like the order of things. From an accountants’ perspective, everything has to balance, has to be in order and has to make sense. Memories are fragile. They only survive in a heart that gives them room, and cares enough to pull them out of storage ever so often for a good dusting. Even then they are subject to death and decay and will eventually pass from this life.  I can remember my great grandmother and even some of the stories that she told me concerning her parents. My whole life I’ve heard about keeping the memories alive, that our loved ones live on in our hearts, and all that. But I’m a fragile human and don’t know how to access the part of the brain that records everything. Many of my memories have already crumbled into dust, taking with them bits and pieces of my loved ones. I suppose that’s why this scripture jumps out at me so brilliantly. Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. Mal. 3:16 God has a book of remembrance. Notice that the scripture says that the ones who feared the Lord spoke often with one another. In other words, they gather together in His name. Those of us who love the Lord – isn’t that what we do? Isn’t that why you’re here now, to read something a brother or sister has written about the Lord? Is it not incredible that the Lord would have it written down, so that you or I will be held in “remembrance” before Him because of our actions? Because we have “thought upon His name”? I find it incredibly humbling, and also beautiful, that the Lord would bring this particular scripture to my attention while I was contemplating the fleeting earthly memories. I know that the Lord doesn’t forget. But to be told that He has a journal, a book of records, an orderly list of remembrances about me, you, us – is both terrifying and comforting. I will be forgotten here, in this place – but in the spiritual I will be eternally listed in a book that will be placed before the Lord. And so will you.

traveller

traveller

 

Things Unseen

When I was about ten years old my parents took my brother and I to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I remember planting my feet on the path that led down to the dark gaping mouth of the cave while my mother pulled on my arm, urging me forward. I was both excited and terrified to descend the trail into the unknown. Once safely inside, my fears ebbed even though the dimly lit trail revealed a sharp descent down into the earth. However, expertly placed lighting soon revealed a natural wonder that only God could design.  Thankfully, the electric age had made it possible for the common man to explore the once hidden depths of the earth. Back then all visitations into the cave were done as a guided tour. The park rangers that led us stopped at intervals to describe the various formations, going into detail about the elements that came into place in creating that wonderful cavern. Of course I didn’t hear any of that. I was too busy letting my imagination run wild as I saw vistas unlike anything I’d seen topside. Ever. After a short lunch break we entered what is known as the Big Room aka Hall of the Giants. After many stops the ranger gathered us all together, sat some of the older ones down on benches that lined a pull-over area, and warned us that the lights were about to go off.  True to his word, total darkness filled the room. Total. Utter. Darkness. Silence came from either fear or respect of the alien environment. Then, from strategically placed speakers, the beloved hymn Rock of Ages filled the chamber. After a few more seconds a spotlight came on that lit up a massive column of limestone that stood just before us. The formation, in all its magnificence, dominated the area.  Gasps were heard throughout the crowd as people, both young and old, appreciated the beauty before them. At the close of the song the trail lights came back on and the Park Ranger told us that the name of that formation was indeed Rock of Ages, but that it was the true Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ, Who created the remarkable cave. He then led us to the elevators where we were shuttled up to the Visitor Center Gift Shop and back into the light of day. Since that adventure so many years ago I’ve often thought of the things unseen. It’s only been with relatively recent technology that we’ve been able to see the extraordinary beauty of the marvels in deep space or the intricate colorful splendor of the creatures and reefs beneath the ocean waves. I recall wondering in amazement why a diver would want to plummet into the black waters at night until I saw pictures of the neon creatures that radiate their glory only during that time. For centuries man never knew about the colorful world that existed at the bottom of the sea. Nor observed the earth from the surface of the moon. Or saw a distant galaxy. The list of things never (or rarely) seen is infinite but still God made them and placed each one with purpose.  Unimaginable beauty and wonder exists where no human eye has seen, even now.  How do I know this? Because God created the whole of the universe, unfathomable in scope, infinite in design, to be explored for all eternity.  His creation, full of variations and complexities, is beautiful and wonderful simply because of Who he is. Even in the absence of man He cares for and tends to all of creation. Even when no one is watching. Job 38:25-27  Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? I wonder if God the Creator smiles when mankind stumbles upon a new find. I find it humbling indeed that He chose me (and you) to be included in this remarkable journey. Psa 8:3-9 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? We all leave behind footprints of our existence whether it’s the things we build or words we speak or friends we make. However, like the hidden treasures buried deep in the darkest caves, so are our hearts’ actions hidden from man. When we do something from the spirit (believe, hope, faith, love) it is only seen by God. Hopefully, as God’s children, we all seek to emulate the Father and with fortitude and purpose labor for beautiful and pleasing works that, like a once undiscovered jewel, will one day be revealed to the glory of God.

traveller

traveller

 

Joy - A Dog's Perspective

“For now we see through a glass, darkly…” It is my belief that we gain insights not only from a structured classroom but also from the vast wonderful creation that the Lord places before us. We simply have to ask, “Father, open my eyes that I might see.” A few years back I happened to look out my kitchen window and there sat a small, scraggly puppy. He was a cute little thing, but, could we take on another dog? We already had two large Rhodesian Ridgebacks. This little guy looked like a small border collie. It’s not all that uncommon for a stray to show up out here in the country, but seldom do we see young puppies. Normally it’s the older guys that have started to chew on furniture or dig holes in the yard. People just don’t consider all the factors involved when becoming dog owners. Cute little puppies grow up to be dogs. Like children, without the correct training and discipline, they can grow up to have serious problems. Pr 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Anyway – here was this pup and I had to check him out. Before I even got close to him I could tell that he was in trouble. He was too weak to run from me. I knelt down and slowly reached for him, thinking he would sniff my hand. He didn’t. Instead he laid his head in my hand and closed his eyes. I caressed him for a short while and then fetched him food and water. I doubted that he had the strength to eat. I went back into the house to give him privacy, and when I went outside a short while later, he had disappeared. I searched but couldn’t find him anywhere. I thought he went off somewhere to die.  The next morning he was back by the front porch. I got more food and water and again went back into the house. Again, he disappeared. This pattern continued for a few days until I discovered that he was hiding underneath the bushes that lined the house. The next time I fed him I sat on the porch steps, but didn’t reach out to him when he came out to eat. The days passed and with patience and kindness I slowly gained his trust, me sitting on my porch steps and he watching me with one eye while he ate.  He didn’t allow me to handle him until the trust was firmly established. Once he submitted to me, I discovered that he had been severely mistreated.  I later thought of how I was before finding my Savior. The world is a hard place in which to live, especially for a non-believer. It can beat us down, strip us of a desire to live –leave us in a condition just like this little broken pup.   1Pe 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.   I named him Cabo and he lived in the front yard for a few weeks while gaining in strength and health. The two big dogs lived in the backyard, separated from the world by an electric fence that was never “hot.” Eventually, Cabo became healthy and self assured and one day boldly ducked under the wire and braved the back yard. The female Ridgeback immediately claimed the pup as her own. One day, after being a part of the family for a couple of months, hubby and I took some treats out to the dogs. Pigs ears, I think they’re called, and our dogs loved them. The two big brown dogs would gobble them up in minutes. This particular day we handed them out, first to the Ridgebacks, who were aggressive to have them, and then to the little guy. He smelled it, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. He was more interested in getting a pet than he was a treat. I kept holding it out for him and he finally took it, realizing that it was all for him. What happened next was a sheer pleasure for me to watch. Cabo wasn’t sure what to do with the treat, so he played with it. And, as he did, his whole demeanor turned to joy. He would toss the treat and then fetch it. He rolled, ran, jumped.  He enjoyed this treat to the fullest. It was the funniest thing to watch. I believe, if given the vocal ability, he would have declared this “the best day ever.”   Ne 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.   Eventually, the big dogs noticed that the pup still hadn’t eaten his treat. I watched them approach Cabo, slowly and deliberately. Their purpose was clear. The little guy, however, didn’t’ even notice them. He was too busy embracing this newfound joy. The big dogs found a spot to lie down, never taking their eyes off the pig ear. After stern words to the Ridgebacks, I went back inside the house but continued to watch from the windows. For the better part of the day Cabo played with his treat. The big dogs stalked him, drooling as they lusted after the pig ear. Of course, they had their own earlier but consumed it so fast they didn’t even enjoy it. Now they wanted his. As Christians, do we ever do this? Do we carelessly consume the blessings the Lord gives to each of us, only to envy those of another? How many times do we desire what our brother has, thinking it’s a better treat? Unfortunately all puppies grow out of that cute, playful stage. Cabo did as well. His back right leg never fully recovered from the injuries he received before finding his way to our house, but that didn’t slow him down any. Utilizing three legs he could still outrun the other dogs. Had he been placed in a pound I doubt he would have been adopted. The world had left its scars on him and would have rejected him because of it. I found great value, however, in this little dog, simply because he loved me. He never went to his food dish before first coming to me for affection.  When I went into the back yard he was always the first to greet me and stayed the longest. If I stayed outside all day, he would have been by my side the entire time. He lived to please me. Ps 40:7-8 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me.  I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. Cabo learned discipline well and loved the words of approval afterwards.  As he aged he matured into a calmer dog and one that still looked to his master for attention. The more diligently I worked with him, the deeper the understanding became between us and the stronger the bond. He left behind the playful antics of a pup, but if anything, the joy that he had as a puppy only deepened as he learned that to obey meant more time spent with me. Joh 15:10-11 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. Cabo became a seasoned backyard warrior. He patrolled the perimeters of his half acre yard, knowing that it was but a small portion of a much larger kingdom. He valiantly ran off the evil truck that regularly attempted to steal his masters’ trash. Every week he fiercely fought to make the steel demon set the dumpster back down, and leave in defeat. There was an alfalfa farm north of a tree line through which he could not see, but he was aware that his master worked there often and that made it important. He didn’t understand about the house either, but he knew it was the dwelling place of the master. Even though he couldn’t see it all, or understand most of it, he knew that he belonged there and that he had ownership. My broken puppy lived a good long life. He crawled up to my porch, looking for a place to die, and ended up inheriting a place to live. Certainly the teaching process didn’t always come easy for either of us, but the sacrifice given from both sides enabled a relationship that was enriched far beyond simply “owning a dog.” There were times when I felt like Cabo. Broken, lost, nowhere to really belong and call home. But Just like Cabo I found a wealth of joy when I realized that I too was found by my Master. I clearly recall the joy that flooded my heart in my early days with the gifts of mercy and grace that He freely gave. Now, after many years of knowing the greatest gift is Himself, I’ve learned to listen for His voice so I too can walk with Him and have a fullness of joy that is only found in Him and not merely His gifts. Now, like Cabo looking towards the alfalfa field, I too look for the return of my Master, when I will finally see Him face to face. 1Cr 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

traveller

traveller

 

Lights and Shadows (complete)

I am re-posting this one because the original posting got truncated during one of the site updates.   Many years ago my good friend and fellow artist asked me to join her weekly art class. Since she was teaching fairly basic classes I had no interest in doing so. She was insistent, however, from her desire to get me out of the house and socializing with those in her circle. I finally agreed and showed up with my sketch pad and boredom all in tow. She had assembled the expected bowl of fruit, with apples, oranges, bananas and cascading bunches of grapes. Not really your standardized collection since she included the leaves on the grape clusters and even inserted a couple of wild flowers here and there. Nice, but it still didn’t grab my interest. She set up a single light source and then told the class to sketch the assortment by using a single color. “All but you, Rhonda,” she said. “You are to sketch only the shadows.” Pro 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Now she had my attention.  Imagine the dimpled effect of the orange, the smooth textures of the bananas and the swirling effects of the apples. This is not to mention the multiple displays of light exchanges on the grapes and leaves. Not only was this an advanced assignment, but as it turned out, this was one of the more fruitful (excuse the pun) lessons in my art career.  My boredom turned to amazed interest, and continued throughout my life, to seek the light source and its profound or subtle affects.  The light can drastically change the object. Jhn 1:9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. The shading on a grapefruit differentiates that fruit from an orange, and makes it 3 dimensional.  We are the same. Our past experiences apply layers of shading to us, to make us who we are. Our Father, our Light Source, reveals the beings that are shaped by His Hand and reveals that we are not flat people walking around with no purpose, but are instead highly intricate, detailed beings with depth and substance. Rom 5:3-5 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Imagine a painting with a man walking down a road under a bright afternoon sun. With no shadow the man would not be grounded. He would not appear to belong in the painting. He would seem to be a blemish instead of part of his surroundings. With the shadow, meaning the hardships, the trials, the ups and downs of life, he wouldn’t have substance.  Perhaps our trials help to anchor us, to keep us connected. Psa 23:4   Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. I know many who seem to have longer shadows than others. They have endured much, and still are buffeted by some tough times. Yet they also seem to grow in beauty, and in stature. Like a highly detailed painting, they seem to stand out from the rest. It is those that carry the extra strokes of the charcoal, the added dabs of paint that we have come to know as the beauty and timelessness of the Masters. 2Cr 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

traveller

traveller

 

Spiritually Foggy

I was having a cup of coffee on our balcony during one of our recent cruises. It was early morning, warm and humid. A dense fog completely engulfed us, reducing visibility to just a few feet. Though our cabin was on the 9th floor I was unable to see the water below. The morning was deathly silent as well, almost as if even the usual sounds were cloaked. We weren’t docked, but tendered off shore a little ways. Somewhere in the wee hours we had dropped anchor and waited for the first rays of light before lowering the small boats that would carry us to shore.  The land itself was hidden behind the misty shroud. Not being able to see through the fog created an eerie, isolated feeling.  I went back inside the cabin to shower and get ready for the day of sightseeing in this yet unseen land. Thirty minutes later I stepped back out onto our balcony to take one last look, just in case the fog had lifted. Well, it was still there but not quite as solid as before. I could almost make out a shape not far from us. There was now a slight breeze, and I waited a few minutes in order to see what it was that we were parked next to. Imagine my surprise when the waning fog finally revealed another cruise ship anchored right next to us! A full sized ocean liner set within shouting distance and, until just now, was entirely hidden by nothing more than droplets of water vapor.  I’m sure some of you have read the following in various articles around the ‘net. “According to our nation’s Bureau of Standards, a dense fog covering seven city blocks, to a depth of a hundred feet, contains less than one glass of water."  Now, I tried to run that down to the source but so far have been unable to do so. I’m not sure I believe that. Still – if one takes into account that you can fill your 20’ x 40’ x 5’ swimming pool with 30,000 gallons of water and that you can stand on the side and still read the letters on the bottom of the pool, then it’s rather amazing to me that a slightly different composition of that same water can render visibility to zero. That same water can become as opaque as a layer of concrete.!  Just because I could not see that cruise ship did not make it any less real. Of a certainty it was over 900 feet long, gross tonnage over 137,000, and capable of carrying over 3800 passengers and crew. Yet there she sat, unseen, as people milled about their morning, getting breakfast, jogging on the upper deck, hurrying to their designated area where they would be escorted to the small boats that would carry them to shore. A small community existed parallel to me that went completely undetected.                 2Ki 6:17  And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. Likewise, we are not alone in our earthly ship. The spiritual realm is all around us, full of wonders and mysteries. Sometimes I wish that I could see into that world; peek through the keyhole to get a glimpse of what the Lord has prepared. Normally when I pray “open my eyes, Lord, that I might see,” what I am really asking for is to be able to discern a situation, to see a particular thing from a spiritual point of view and to be able to apply it to my circumstance. But, when Elisha asked of the Lord for his servant, he wanted him to be able to truly see.   And see he did. The Lord opened the young man’s’ eyes - lifted the fog, parted the veil - and allowed him to see the host of warriors that surrounded them, ready to do as the Lord commanded. From what battle would we run if we could physically see the heavenly host around us, swords drawn, ready for war? Since that early morning of nearly missing the surprise before me, I have often contemplated the larger, more important microcosm that exists all around us, hidden by the elements that the Lord put in place eons ago.  Benjamin Franklin once said, “Like a man travelling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, though in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them.” How true this is for many things. However, for believers the Holy Spirit within can illuminate the densest fog, and shed deeper understanding into the things unseen. Throughout the ages there have been those who have been given the privilege of a divine moment – a block of time and space held within the palms of God’s hands – where they were allowed to see the invisible and experience the wonder and glory of the kingdom.  Why? Was it to build faith and stir the heart, as in Elisha’s servant? Was it to empower the faithful, as in Stephen?  Was it to walk with and guide a dear friend, like Moses? Or to restore to physical health one who was tested, like Jesus?                 2 Cor 4:18 We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. While in this flesh, we each seem to be trapped inside our own sphere of fog, seeing and understanding only to the degree we have allowed the Lord to open our understanding. Therefore we should earnestly pray that God will allow us to see His mysteries much clearer, but doubtless, one day, when we leave this body of flesh, the Light will burn away this fog and we’ll clearly see the kingdom that awaits the family of God. The important thing for now, though, is to know, truly know, that it’s there, for it is written.  “For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

traveller

traveller

 

I Work With Wood

I grew up around a lumber yard/ hardware store that my father managed. As a kid I played in the lumber bins and mostly just got in everyone’s way. Later, as an employee, I worked with contractors and plumbers, amateur fixer-uppers and professional painters. The ones that amazed me, though, were the carpenters.  They could fix anything, create something beautiful from pieces of wood, and solve great problems; the kinds that make the homeowners lose sleep. On top of all that, they have magic pencils. See, one thing I figured out a long time ago is that one needs a magic pencil in order to mark the spot to make a proper cut, insert a cabinet into a tight fit, or even to make pictures hang level. I know this because without that magic pencil, all the marking lines drawn on the boards move as soon as one picks up the saw, the cabinets no longer fit into that space and the pictures sag on one end. But, as I later figured out, there are different kinds of pencils. The end of my pencil has an eraser, theirs do not. I find that a bit of magic all by itself. Of course not all carpenters utilize the same level of professionalism. Some are just interested in making things work. The high caliber carpenter makes it work, but in a more excellent way. He uses proper tools to work with the various surfaces. He understands the material and knows that using the wrong tool can damage the job. This is similar to what the Lord does with each of us. He knows what tests are needed to bring our strengths and talents to the surface. He knows what tools to use to refine us into an athlete, physically able to finish the race. A close friend of mine is a carpenter. Ask him what he does and he’ll tell you “I work with wood.” He’s told me of times when the day in the shop didn’t go so well. Or the customer made last minute changes that seemed right to them, but not to my friend who has the experience to know better. I’ve seen the drawings, the measurements, and photos of the finished product that just leave me in reverent respect for his skill. I also know that my friend, who faces minute by minute attention to detail, listens to either an audio bible or has on some meaningful music to help him maintain his zone of focus. He works in his shop and contemplates the things of God.  I know this because I know that he abides by “seek ye first the kingdom of God…” All that he does revolves around his Creator. While I know that being in the shop is hard work, and can be very stressful, I would imagine that it could also be a time of drawing close to the Lord. We all know that Jesus was raised by his earthly father who was a carpenter. In my mind I can see Jesus as a small boy watching Joseph work, learning from an early age that skill and patience produces things of great worth. I also imagine that in His later years, as He worked in the shop, that He too contemplated the things of God. Did He pray aloud while He worked? I wonder, did He sing songs of worship as He applied himself to the tedious task of filing and sanding?   There was a time when I couldn’t reconcile the God of the Old Testament with Jesus. I wondered why I felt different as I read the scriptures about God descending onto Mt Sinai to speak with the people, who were so struck with fear that they asked Moses to mediate between them, and then read about Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” On one hand was Almighty God, untouchable, unreachable, unapproachable. Very God seemed far away.  And then there was Jesus. Jesus who healed, Jesus who taught, Jesus who sat with the people while they talked and who cooked fish for His disciples. Jesus who forgave.  Jesus was touchable, reachable, and approachable. Jesus was knowable. Jesus worked with wood. Of course, now I see the same passion, and compassion, in Almighty God that I see in Christ. I see the same caring when I compare Jesus feeding the multitude on a hillside near Bethsaida and Almighty God when daily He sent manna to the wandering Israelites.  And now I see the same love as God breathed into Adam to give him life, and as Jesus who willingly and with purpose exhaled his last breath to give man eternal life.  As Almighty God he parted the water to show the people that He is worthy of their faith and devotion As Jesus, He did the same thing by walking on the water. As God, He created the stars that shine in the heavens above the earth. As man He sat on the earth, beneath the stars, as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. With his hands God created iron ore that runs throughout the earth. As man He felt that same iron as it was hammered though his hands to nail him to the cross. A cross that was possibly built by a carpenter. Carpentry is serious business. It takes eyes that can look at raw material and see a finished product. A carpenter can access the situation and invent or modify the inefficient and make it better. A carpenter has to understand measurements and the use of space.  Every carpenter that I have ever known speaks encouragement to the situation and hope for what seems lost. They reassure the homeowner that it’s fixable. A Carpenter set in motion the whole of the universe, carefully placing each and every star. He set the moon to make the tides to create the weather to water the earth. He created plants and animals, man and lilies. Yes, lilies. A Carpenter created a lily to attract a bee that would make some honey that would feed a man who was clothed in camel’s hair and would announce the coming Messiah –Who would work with wood. Isa 40:12  Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? A Carpenter.

traveller

traveller

 

Malachi

I've been looking at the book of Malachi because of the similarities of that time period and today. For a bit of background, the Israelites had returned to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity. They had completed the rebuilding of the temple and the walls around the city. Times were hard. They were struggling to build up a city of independant people. And to make matters worse, since they were under Persian rule they had to pay taxes. Time went on and the people murmured. The priests, who were suposed to be the voice of God, who were supposed to warn the people when they disobeyed God, were themselves being disobediant. Worse, they were teaching falsehoods to the people. Sorta like some do now. They were in the business for themselves, to pad their own pockets. The people turned from God's ways, and questioned Him. God, why do you allow this to happen? Why do you not hear our prayers? Why have you abandoned us? A lot like today, I think. Well, in Malachi He answers the people, loud and clear, and that answer holds true for today. Malachi is actually a love letter from God to an unrepentant nation. It begins with with the Lord answering the unrecorded question of "Why don't you love us?" He begins with "I have loved you." Apparently they balked at that because God went on to explain how it was that He did, in fact, love them. This is the famous "I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated." The way I interpret this, is that Esau thought little of what God gave him, which was his birthright. He casually threw it away as if it meant nothing and was of less value than a bowl of soup. What exactly is a birthright? Back then it was everything. It meant authority and leadership. It meant your future. For lack of a better word, it meant your destiny. Spiritually speaking, it is all that the Lord Jesus offers us, when we are born again, and this, I think, is why God said that he hated Esau. He was tossing out the spiritual offering for one of flesh. He goes on to address the priests who apparently have questioned God's treatment of them. God answers with, "A son honors his father and a servant his master. If I am a father where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? It is you, priests, who show contempt for Me." wow - powerful words. He goes on to uncover the mess they have made of worship. They offered blemished sacrifices to God and kept the best for themselves, then wondered why God ignored their prayers. But you know, the thing is, God wanted their love. Their sacrifices showed what was in their hearts. They were performing their functions out of duty, not love. He wanted them to want to be with Him. It's what He wants today. How can man turn cold toward the Creator of the universe? How can we let our fires grow dim? We do - and always have. Even 400 years before Christ came men were shaking their fists at God, asking why He was so unfair to them. And all that time, and this, God is waiting, waiting for us to return to Him. In chapter 2, verse 17 He says, "You have wearied the Lord with your words, by saying all who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord and He is pleased with them." or, "Where is the justice?" Sounds like today with all those that claim that God is to blame for everything. What a decadent time we live in. All the atrocities that happen on a daily basis, the immorality, the accpetance of filth and smut in our homes via televion and magazines and books and entertainment venues. We sit back and say that it must be ok because Joe down the street does the same thing and he goes to the same church I do, so if it's ok for him, then it's ok for me. We rationalize our sins and lifestyle. All the while, God is wanting us to return to Him. You know, in this book God says to return to the wife of your youth. Ever wonder what that means? Remember how it was when you first fell in love and that person was the whole world to you? How she/he stared intently into your eyes when you spoke and laughed at all your jokes and held your hand at all the right moments. Remember how they were the center of your universe and all decisions were made with that one person in mind because you didn't want them left out of anything? Of course He is talking here about hating divorce but it is becasue of what divorce means. It is the breaking of a covenant, which is abhorrent to God. But God's word has layered meanings as well. He does not want us to break from Him. He wants us to return to Him, as to the love of our youth, full of passion and fire and loyalty. The book of Malachi is a prophetic book, announcing the coming Savior, and the second coming. It is a warning of judgement. It is a book of love, proclaiming God's love for us, and His desire for his people.

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Lights and Shadows

Many years ago my good friend and fellow artist asked me to join her weekly art class. Since she was teaching fairly basic classes I had no interest in doing so. She was insistent, however, from her desire to get me out of the house and socializing with those in her circle. I finally agreed and showed up with my sketch pad and boredom all in tow. She had assembled the expected bowl of fruit, with apples, oranges, bananas and cascading bunches of grapes. Not really your standardized collection since she included the leaves on the grape clusters and even inserted a couple of wild flowers here and there. Nice, but it still didn

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