Apple of God's Eye

1apple-2Would you agree that every person has a desperate need to be someone’s one and only? Do you wonder why small children vie for attention without care for their siblings? And why we feel stabs of hurt or pain when our spouse or children or friends prefer someone else to us? Or why we eagerly check Facebook or Instagram after we pour out our hearts to the world? I think the only honest answer would be a longing to be seen as unique, to be the only one, to be special, to be adored by someone we desire. Last summer the dark sky threatened rain in the August morning. Rain was imminent, the air heavy with promise. The fierce gathering of clouds fit well with the condition of my heart, heavy with anticipation after the prior day and night of waiting at the bedside of my dying mother-in-law. Unusual for my sensitive nature, I had not shed any tears yet, though I had observed others around me holding back and restraining their own emotions.

This particular morning the time had come for a faithful servant to be called home. Our family’s beloved matriarch was in her final hours. Our pastor had come to see her, administered the Lord’s Supper and led us in song and prayer.  Now he was gone. Morphine to dull the pain had been administered. We could do nothing else but wait for the end.

Time was hanging heavy and the only thing I could think to do was to look for comfort from someone who loved me. So I called my own mother, who of course would listen and offer some word to try to sooth my need. Spilling out the news in a string of sentences without breathing, I walked out onto the porch into the humid stillness. I waited for words of wisdom to comfort me, but the Holy Spirit led her to utter a message for my husband's mother, who was in greater duress.

“Tell her she is the apple of God’s eye and that she is under the shadow of his wings.”

Simultaneously huge drops of rain and enormous tears stung my face. The truth of those words cut right to the desires of my own heart, even as they were meant to encourage our loved one going to the Lord. Those words of wisdom from one believing heart to another were so appropriate. They echoed the love the Lord has for each of his children. For me, for you, and for our loved ones!

The Psalmist David wrote Psalm 17 with this thought in mind as he prayed for protection against the attack of his enemies. He pleads with God in verse 8:

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings" Psalm 17:8

Not only does David acknowledge that he currently has the distinction of being the apple of God’s eye, he also commits himself to the shadow, the place under the loving Father’s protection. Peter echoes the same understanding of his only hope in a fervent confession of faith to Jesus:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

When pain or sorrow enters life, or when we just do not understand what is going on, can we remind ourselves of this place of affection only we can occupy in the eye of God? Can we flee to his Word and the shadow of protection under his wings?

Yes, by God’s grace you can do all of this and more. God loves you eternally and proved it by carrying your burdens to the cross. He redeemed you and lives in your heart.

In the future when you are tempted to believe you are not anyone’s favorite, stop and remember who you are. No matter what circumstances life may deliver, stop and remember your unique status with the Lord. When the day comes and your loved ones are in need, remind them of the apple and King David’s reassuring picture of their worth in God’s eyes. Through Christ, you are unique, special, adored, loved, longed for, and desired.

You are the apple of his eye!

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But A Breath

image-13 A few nights ago, I took my dog for a late evening walk. With the sun setting in the distance, casting a warm glow across the brilliantly decorated trees, the scent of campfire hung in the air. A thick warm sweater, hand knit wool hat and gloves, and bright orange scarf kept me warm and cozy against the refreshingly cool wind. My dog and I strolled slowly around the block, reveling in the soft clicks of leaves meeting pavement, crunching piles of them underfoot as we walked. The evening was as perfectly Autumn as they come.

Caught up in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, I felt the sudden urge to use my body to the fullest of its capabilities, and I began to jog. The dog and I ran the length of 3 blocks before slowing to a walk again, panting slightly as we caught our breath together.

I stopped at a corner to stretch my muscles, surprised at how limber and able I felt. It had been well over a year (possibly two) since I’d run like that, and several months since I’d managed to even walk without waddling. Toward the end of my recent pregnancy, I had endured chronic hip pain, severe heart burn, loose joints, insomnia, and extreme fatigue. I had slept on my side while wishing I could sleep on my stomach, caught myself panting after climbing a normal set of stairs, and held on to furniture for dear life as I struggled to put weight on my legs without pain first thing every morning. Now, just a month and a half past the birth of my fourth child, those problems were largely gone or disappearing. Not only was my physical strength returning, but my mental clarity as well. No longer pregnant, I once again had the stamina to do more with my days than nap and mope.

In retrospect, I can see that my “preggo problems” were zapping my energy and preventing me from accomplishing things my non-pregnant self easily accomplishes. For nine months I lived in something of a fog, unable to meet deadlines or keep commitments or remember what I ate for breakfast. My children went through periods where they watched a lot of tv so that I could rest, and we only ate healthy food for dinner if my husband made it. (Which was often. Thank goodness he likes to cook!).

Despite the hip pain and heart burn, if you would have asked me during my pregnancy how I was feeling, I would have told you, “pretty good! Can’t complain too much!” I had normalized and accepted all of the pain and discomfort of pregnancy to the point that I might have even told you I was rather enjoying being pregnant. At times during my second trimester I even thought with delusion how nice it would be to remain pregnant forever. I wouldn’t have to endure the pain of childbirth that way! ;)

But pregnancy does not exist for pregnancy’s sake. Pregnancy was designed to develop and nurture a beautiful person created by God. Lord willing, the physical pain and discomfort of pregnancy does not last forever, but is replaced by a new life with a baby and a body on the mend (albeit stretch marked and saggy!).

Just as I enjoyed my pregnancy, accepting the pain and discomfort I lived with daily, I often find myself enjoying this world as I willfully ignore the pain caused by sin all around me and within me. Sometimes I even think with delusion how nice it would be to live here on earth forever. I wouldn’t have to face death that way! I cling to this life as though it’s the best there is, as though I don’t hope for something greater to come.

But this world is not all that God has planned for us. This temporary life of pain and sin will eventually be replaced with a new, perfect, eternal life. God has Heaven in store for us after our earthly death! When we compare our time in this world to the one God has in store for us, this time is so brief. The Bible refers to our life as “a breath.”

Psalm 39: 4-5 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”

As Christians, we can approach this short time we spend on earth surrounded by sin and the pain of death much the same way an expectant mother suffering from “preggo problems” views her pregnancy: focused on the end goal. Just as a mother yearns to hold her baby in her arms at the end of her gestation and labor, we can yearn for our heavenly father to embrace us one day at the end of an earthly life of suffering and death.

Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Rather than cling to the pain that we know, we can cling to the hope that we have.

Hebrews 6:19a “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

How do you feel about death and the life to come after it? Are there times when you cling to this imperfect life fearfully as though it’s all you’ve got? What reassures you of the hope and assurance of eternal life with God that we have as Christians?

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Everywhere I Look

This has always been my most favorite time of the year...by far. There's something about the angle of the sun at this time of year as it shines through the golden leaves, the brisk mornings which make my cup of coffee taste that much better, the cool nights that bring with them a coziness as I sink into the couch under my favorite blanket. And then there is the landscapes. The brilliant reds, oranges, yellows that fill the stands of trees against the vibrant blue or graying autumn skies.

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It's amazing that the time of year when everything is beginning to die and decay is also one of the most beautiful. But why?

Of course there is an in depth answer to this question which involves the breakdown of chlorophyll and other leaf pigmentation. But I often find myself thinking about an answer to that question that cannot be found in a science book.

Why did God decide to clothe the trees in these glorious colors year after year as a result of a scientific process? Could He not have accomplished the same goal in a much less beautiful, less grandiose way? Of course He could have. Why did He choose to create over 20,000 different species of trees and 375,000 types of plants to cover the earth? Could He not have created a vegetation that was all of the same color lacking any fragrance, any texture, any interest whatsoever? Of course He could have.

But He didn't.

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He created a world full of incredibly beautiful and complex living organisms. He filled Lily of the Valley, Roses, Jasmine and so many other blooms with heavenly scents that are unmatched by any man-made fragrance. He created daffodils so intricate, so perfect that grow from a seemingly simple bulb planted in the ground. He gave each plant its own bloomtime, resulting in landscapes that are ever-changing but always gorgeous. He caused the forest floor to be covered with patches of brilliant greens which somehow manage to grow even under extremely low light conditions. He spoke all of these plants and trees into being and then filled the earth with astounding pollinators, such as butterflies, honey bees and hummingbirds.

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But why?

The answer is actually quite simple: because He loves us and He wants us to glorify Him.

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And even though we deserve none of it, He wants us to be happy. God could have created a world that was 100% functional with no beauty at all, but He chose not to out of love for you and me. Even though we are worthless sinners, having earned nothing but eternal damnation, the Lord saw fit to give us a world that sparks wonder, amazement and ultimately, points us back to Him.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. Psalm 19:1-6

The next time you take a walk, drive your car or look out a window, linger just a moment longer. Take in the sight and remind yourself that it is not there as an accident or coincidence. God created that scene just for you.

And then smile and thank Him :)

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A Takeaway from Robin Williams Death

As I'm sure you all know, Robin Williams committed suicide a few days ago. I've noticed that everyone on social media, the news and online are talking about it. Why? Because everyone is saddened by the loss of someone they "know". You see, despite the fact that it is likely that none of us have ever actually met Robin Williams or know much about his life beyond the TV and movie screen, since we've seen him over the years we feel as if we've known him. We can recall scenes from a movie he was in. We can remember the voice of Genie in Aladdin.

He was a real person and he is really gone.

While everyone has been posting about the movies he played in or how they enjoyed his comedy, I wonder if we are focusing on the wrong things. Earthly status and fame are fleeting and temporary, but the eternal status of a person should be of a much bigger concern to us.

We can all be saddened by the passing of someone we have all seen on TV. However, every single day over 155,000 people across the globe die. Each one of these 155,000 people are as real and precious in God's sight as Robin Williams was. They are someone's child, mom, dad, brother, or sister.

And the reality? The reality is that MANY OF THEM are not ready to stand before God and face eternity.

Let's not let the tragic death of Robin Williams leave us sad and without hope like those who don't know God. All the world can cling to is looking back on someone's life and hoping it had some meaning or left some mark on the world. We as Christians need to look forward to the calling God has put on our life. There is a growing desperation in our world for HOPE; to hear the truth that life is more than short term pleasure and fading beauty; that there is something that satisfies more than wealth and fame.

There is real hope and joy that can only be found in Jesus. There is a peace and comfort that only knowing him and his free gift of salvation can bring (Romans 8:38-39). Because, the truth is that death comes to us all and each of us will stand before our creator, at the brink of eternity, and have to give an account for our lives (Romans 14:12).

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You don't have to look far to find someone in need of the gospel message. It could be a family member, a neighbor, a coworker or a teen at your local high school. Starting today, let's do everything we can, within the sphere of influence God has given us, to share the good news of hope, life and freedom in Jesus Christ.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” - Galatians 5:13-14