MASTER WEAVERS

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:28 (NLT)]

spider websIt rained last night. During our early morning walk, we looked out over the prairie and saw hundreds of sparkling spider webs. As the morning sun caught the water droplets on the silk, the master weavers’ work glistened in the mist. Although we take that trail several times a week, it was the first time this season we saw those arachnidan works of art. The spiders didn’t start spinning just the previous night; their webs have been there all summer but weather and light conditions kept us from seeing them. In fact, had we chosen to walk the loop in the other direction, we never would have seen them at all!

God, like his eight legged creations, is always busy weaving the strands of our lives. Much of the time, however, as with the spider webs, we don’t see or understand what He’s doing. “Where is God in all of this?” we ask. It is usually in hindsight that we recognize His presence—the way He moved, guided, protected, instructed, disciplined or provided for us. Nevertheless, whether or not we see His hand in our circumstances, we know that He, like the spiders, is ever-present and busy weaving.

I find those beautiful webs reassuring. They show me that God will give us beautiful gifts when we least expect them but that we must be willing to look for them in the most unlikely places. The webs remind me that we don’t need to see God to know that He is always there and always working. Moreover, God reveals himself in a variety of ways. While an angel or burning bush is dramatic and impressive, let’s remember that Elijah did not find God in the mighty wind, earthquake or fire. He found God in a gentle whisper. As for me, spiders’ webs on a misty morning are one of the ways God reassures me of His presence and His amazing plan; they are God’s gentle whisper of reassurance from the Master Weaver!

Our lives are but fine weavings
That God and we prepare
Each life becomes a fabric planned
And fashioned in His care.
We may not always see just how
The weavings intertwine,
But we must trust the Master’s hand
And follow His design,
For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side,
While we must look from underneath
And trust in Him to guide.
Sometimes a strand of sorrow
Is added to His plan,
And though it is difficult for us,
We still must understand
That it is He who fills the shuttle,
It is He who knows what is best,
So we must weave in patience
And leave to Him the rest.
Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned. [Author unknown]

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. [Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NLT)]

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ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. [Deuteronomy 32:11 (NLT)]

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! [Psalm 103:5 (NLT)]

bald eagleThe eagle is mentioned more than any other bird of prey in the Bible. References are made to its swiftness of flight, ability to soar high in the air, excellent vision, the way it sets its nest in high places, and the strength of its wings. The above two verses about eagles, however, are more figurative than literal and have no scientific basis. Although mother eagles do hover over their young, they cannot carry them. A bald eagle’s lifting power is only about a third of its weight. An eaglet ready to fly is as heavy as its parents. If Mrs. Eagle tried to carry junior, they’d both fall! The second verse about being renewed like an eagle is probably connected to an ancient belief that every ten years the eagle disappeared into the sun, dove down into the sea with the setting sun, and emerged young again. There’s a similar urban myth that at 30 years of age, the eagle flies to a high mountain top and makes the difficult decision between death or the painful plucking out of all of its feathers and the destruction of its beak and talons. After waiting several months for everything to grow back again, it will be transformed and the refreshed bird will be able to live another 30 years. Not so; like the rest of us, when it’s time to grow old and die, the eagle has no choice. Like other birds, however, when the eagle molts, old worn feathers will drop and new ones will replace them.

The Bible’s figures of speech have more scientific basis when they refer to the eagle’s wings and ability to fly. Isaiah tells us that trusting in the Lord will allow us to soar on wings like eagles. An eagle’s wing span can be over seven feet and yet those powerful wings weigh less than two pounds. Nevertheless, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane! By using the wind and updrafts that come off hills and mountains, the eagle’s wings can carry it as high as 10,000 feet and move it faster than thirty-five miles an hour. During migratory season, those wings can easily carry an eagle over 125 miles in a day.

Isaiah is correct: trusting in God truly will allow us to fly like eagles. With faith in God, we will have strength and stamina and, like the eagle, we can rise to great heights. Just as the eagle uses the wind to propel himself up and through a storm, we can use God’s power to fly through the storms of life. When we trust in the Lord, we can soar like eagles. May you soar today!

You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren. [William Henry Hudson]

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 40:31 (NLT)]

For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. [Psalm 91:3-5 (NLT)]

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AFTER THE STORM

compass plantThe terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. [Acts 27:20 (NLT)]

“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! [Psalm 107:28-30 (NLT)]

While walking this morning, I could see the toll last night’s hail storm took on the wildflowers. Many that yesterday stood tall and proud over the prairie were now bent and broken. These defeated looking plants made me think of a friend and the storm that overwhelmed and nearly defeated him.

Raised in a Christian home and once a believer, he lost his faith in a loving God years ago when a series of medical errors left his child with severe brain damage. Angry at God and then disillusioned by the hypocrisy he saw in his church, he decided to worship the god of achievement and wealth. All went well for him until one day it didn’t. The storm hit when the multi-national corporation for which he worked closed its doors. In spite of his stellar resume, nearly two years passed without employment. When the economy tanked, so did his investments and his savings dwindled to nothing. Upside down with his mortgage, his god of success and prosperity was nowhere to be found. It was at that point that this once proud man literally fell to his knees and humbly admitted his defeat and nothingness to God. He wanted to believe but needed to know that God really was there. He didn’t ask for relief; he asked for reassurance of God’s presence. “Show me that you exist, that you care, that you are good!” was his simple prayer.

Most of those drooping wildflowers along the trail will again stand tall when the sun shines. Like those flowers, my friend was raised up when he turned to God and allowed the Son back into his life. Within a day of his prayer, he received a call from a struggling Christian-based non-profit and, within a week, he’d started working there as the CEO. Several years have passed and he is happier and more content than he was in his previous life. Because of his business acumen, the organization he serves is now thriving and people’s lives are being changed in incredible ways. His child is still disabled and his standard of living is not what it was before the storm, but he lives joyfully in the knowledge of a loving and good God—a God who can still storms and lift a drowning man out of the sea.

A hail storm can knock down flowers and, sometimes, God knocks us to our knees with a storm of troubles. It’s when we’re on our knees, however, that the only place to look is up! When we ask God to reveal Himself to us, we shouldn’t expect Him to do it with a job or financial support. After all, God only promises relief from all of our troubles in the next world. In this life, we will be relieved only from some of them; other troubles He will enable us to endure. Nevertheless, when we humbly and sincerely ask God to reveal himself to us, He will.

If God seems far away, who moved? [AA slogan]

But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him. [2 Chronicles 15:4 (NLT)]

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EMBRACE YOUR INNER TORTOISE

Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing. [Psalm 37:34a (TLB)]

And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. [Galatians 6:9 (TLB)]gopher tortoise - rabbit

 

In the familiar Aesop’s fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the over-confident hare takes a nap midway through the course while the tortoise, plodding steadily along, passes him and wins the race. I’ve always seen the moral of the story to be “slow but sure wins the race” with an added warning to beware of over-confidence. I never thought about how the tortoise must have felt as he trudged along so slowly. Did he ever measure his pace and progress against the hare’s? Did he think he could even finish the course let alone win it? Did he ever entertain thoughts of quitting? If I’d been the tortoise in Aesop’s story, I’m afraid I might have given up in despair long before discovering the sleeping hare along the road!

We recently visited a nature preserve that is home to several gopher tortoises. After comparing them with the rabbits in our neighborhood, given a choice, I’d prefer to move like the rabbit. Sometimes, however, life moves at the tortoise’s pace. Progress seems to come in fractions of an inch instead of feet and it’s easy to get discouraged.

Lord, thank you for the course you’ve laid out for us. Help us accept that sometimes progress is painstakingly slow. Give us endurance and patience so we can travel steadily (and joyfully) along the path you’ve given us.

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. [Ellen Glasgow]

Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. [Romans 12:12 (TLB)]

But if we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently. [Romans 8:25 (TLB)]

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A FRAGRANT OFFERING

Offer the other lamb in the evening, along with the same offerings of flour and wine as in the morning. It will be a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the Lord. [Exodus 29:41 (NLT)]

But the internal organs and the legs must first be washed with water. Then the priest will burn the entire sacrifice on the altar as a burnt offering. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. [Leviticus 1:9 (NLT)]

GARDENIAThe gardenias were blooming. The aroma of those beautiful flowers filled the air as I walked that morning and I paused in my walk just to inhale and relish the pleasant scent.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrews were instructed to offer sacrificial burnt offerings on their altars as gifts to God, making a “pleasing aroma to the Lord.” As a vegetarian, I found it difficult to picture how the odor of burned meat could be considered pleasant. That morning, however, I finally understood the verse’s meaning. It wasn’t the sacrifice of meat that smelled good to God; it was the prayers that accompanied the burnt offerings that made the pleasing aroma.

As I breathed in the scent of the flowers, I wondered, “Is this how God feels when He hears our prayers?” I want my prayers to be as fragrant and pleasing to God as the gardenias were to me. Perhaps gardenia isn’t your favorite scent; maybe it’s the aroma of fresh baked ginger cookies or, in my husband’s case, fresh cooked bacon. Either way, let your prayers be as pleasing to God as your favorite aromas are to you! By the way, I have a sneaky suspicion that praise and thanksgiving smell best to Him; whiny complaints probably smell a bit like burnt toast!

O Lord, please accept my prayers as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. May you always find them sweet smelling.

Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering. [Psalm 141:2 (NLT)]

And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. [Revelation 5:8 (NLT)]

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A FIRM FOUNDATION

Santa Rose de Lima - Abiqui NM
You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. [Ephesians 2:19b-20 (NLT)]

Four years ago, a Seffner, Florida, man went to bed and disappeared. As he screamed for help, he, his bed and then his entire bedroom vanished into the earth, never to be seen again. A sinkhole some twenty-feet across had formed beneath the house and the house simply collapsed into it. The house was demolished and the hole filled with four truckloads of gravel. Two year later, the hole reappeared, measuring 17-feet across and 20-feet deep and the area now is deemed uninhabitable.

Apparently, sinkholes are a natural component of Florida landscape and pose a geological hazard throughout the state. My “Sunshine State” lies on bedrock made of limestone or other carbonate rock which is dissolved by naturally acidic rainwater. As the rock dissolves, underground cavities or caves form. Eventually, the ceiling of the cavity can no longer support the overlying weight of what’s above it. Since our Florida home is made of poured concrete, I thought our foundation was firm until I learned about sinkholes. Florida is not alone; about 20% of our nation’s land is susceptible to sinkholes.

How firm is your foundation? If you live in the San Francisco area, not very! One of the most dangerous seismological zones in our country is the Hayward Fault in California, running between Richmond, south through Berkeley, Oakland, and Hayward to San Jose. Every year it spreads or creeps about 4.6 millimeters a year. That’s only about an ant’s length, which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up. In a hundred years, that’s about a foot and a half. That little bit of creep every year moves curbs, creates gaps in roads, and cracks foundations and walls.

When Hayward’s paving crews repave and fill in cracks, they are only treating the symptoms, not the cause, and the pavement continues to crack. Steel bracing rods are inserted into buildings but they, too, are only short term solutions. Hayward’s first City Hall was built in 1931 directly on top of the fault line. Gradually splitting in two, no amount of plaster, cement or steel rods can hold it together; it is now unusable and abandoned. All along the fault line, the ground continually moves and pulls apart sidewalks, pipelines and any structures sitting on it. It’s not just the Hayward fault that endangers structures and people—we have the San Andreas (California), Cascadian (Pacific Northwest), New Madrid (Midwest), Ramapo (East Coast), Wasatch (Utah), Denali (Alaska) faults and numerous others. As the man who sank to his death in Florida learned too late, sometimes we think our foundation is much firmer than it actually is.

While sinkholes and earthquakes are a fact of life and reason for concern, we should be more concerned about the base upon which we build our lives. We may think we’ve got a disaster-proof life built on a firm foundation of money, job, health, family, education, skills, talent, friends, status, or even looks. If Jesus isn’t the cornerstone, watch those bricks start to collapse when even one of those things is removed. When we choose to build our lives on God’s bedrock, even if we live over a sinkhole or the Hayward fault, when disaster hits (and it will), we will neither cave in nor fall down!

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. [Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)]

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand. [“How Firm a Foundation” (attributed to Kirkham or John Keene)]

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