Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Yellow Cat

Some nights are made for ponderings under the stars. Most nights are made for drinking tea with cream and sugar. Few nights should be marked by tears. Fewer still seem to be given to great revelations. Tonight is a rare combination of all of the above.

While I was staring up into the heavenlies and slowly sipping my mug of English breakfast, something darted past me. It was a yellow cat. It skittered into the night, leaving me to my thoughts. After pulling the scattered leaves of my mind into a paragraph or two of thought, I decided to put my laundry in the dryer.

At the laundry room door, I saw the yellow cat. It looked frightened. I called softly to it. I waited. He waited. He mewed. I called to Him again. Instead of appearing terrified, he took a step toward me. As soon as he sniffed my hand and I scratched his head a shift happened. The apprehension disappeared. The yellow cat began to frantically rub against my legs and seek my hand to pet him.

At my ankles was a love-starved, attention-hungry cat. My view shifted. How many persons do I know who are love-starved and attention hungry? Once they realize that their Maker desires to be their Husband (Isaiah 54:5) they become frantic with excitement. Those who were once afar off, outcasts, windowed, unlovely, and unloved are now accepted, loved, part of the group - chosen.

How would you feel at that reversal of position? Wouldn't you be ecstatic? Wouldn't you put your paws on the Maker's shin to try to get closer to His hand like that yellow cat did to me?

Our Maker sees our loneliness. He sees our tear-streaked and frightened faces. He calls to us and waits. He is patient with our apprehension. He calls again. He accepts us, tames us, makes us like Him.

Tears burned in my eyes when I realized that in spite of my confidence in Christ, I too, feel like a rejected stray sometimes. Tonight not only did my heart ache for those who are love-starved, but I realized something more... I am the yellow cat.

~ Johanna

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chasing After Beauty


The more I get alone the more I see I need to get alone more, more. 'Cause just when I think that I'm alone Your Spirit calls out to me. And even silence has a song, 'cause that's when You come sing over me

Still, let me be still
Let me be okay
With the quiet in my heart
Still, I want to be still
I'm so quick to move
Instead of listening to You
Shut my mouth
Crush my pride
Give me the tears
Of a broken life,

Oh this world, it falls around me and flutters all it's Beauty in my eyes. But let me choose the solitude, Simplicity has always simply changed my life. 'Cause even stillness makes me move, 'cause that's when my heart, learns to dance with You

This song has been on my mind and heart recently. Partly because I have been chasing solitude a good deal in the midst of the craziness of Summit life. Partly because the LORD is teaching me to lay aside my flesh, its desires, my will, my longings, and my chasing of good things over the pursuit of the best things, etc.

All summer in small group I have been pulling out Jeremiah chapter 3 and Ephesians 5:22-32 discussing spiritual adultery and its direct violation of the marriage covenant picture God paints between His people and Himself. I have often called this a discussion of "personal idols" (you should also be able to find this lecture for free on iTunes). I'm finding that I have many. I shan't list them all, it would take all night and I need to sleep soon. Perhaps more will come to light in later posts, but for now, let me share one...

I have a love affair with Beauty. Now, Beauty is not bad. It is Beauty that leads us to the LORD. That is the purpose of the Beautiful. However, sometimes I get caught in the trap of loving Beauty, rather than letting it bring me into the presence of God.

Last week I spent about five days in Pagosa Springs, Colorado preparing the main lodge and guest lodge for 30 Summit Semester students. I drove down to Pagosa with my dear friend, Allison, who kept exclaiming at the majestic peaks we encountered along the way. I kept going on about how green everything was.

One evening I spent about 45 minutes laying under the vast sky and the Milky Way, thick with stars... It captivated my breath and imagination. Yet not the way if often had. There was a constant humming sound, my thoughts were too scattered to bring real conversation with the Creator, it wasn't quite perfect.

Friday morning, before we left for Manitou, I took a long walk up the forest access road into the National Forest. Things quickly became less perfect. Two tanker trucks rumbled past me. The constant sound of distant machinery grated against my ability to pray. I rounded a bend, expecting the noise and trucks to be related to eager hunters.

Wrong. Dead wrong. A bivouac of campers met my eyes. Pick-up trucks and tankers were clustered 'round. A deep gash in the earth made a massive ditch. Three huge silos jutted into the sky. Taller still was the biggest oil drill I have ever seen. A murky sludge was gushing into a holding area. The noise in the midst of pristine Beauty was unbearable. I couldn't decide weather to glare or burst into tears. Once I was safely passed I chose the latter.

"They are ruining my forest!" I fumed to myself. "Stripping the woods of their silence, some animals of their homes." You might see how silly it is that I would think a forest could be owned, and more ridiculous still that I might own it. But this is a particularly special section of land. I am familiar with it. In many ways I do feel some claim to it. Its Beauty has drawn my mind to the LORD so many times. Its stillness has given place to some grand thoughts, deep prayers, and hearty conversations.

What would not come before came. I began to pray. I realized that I was making Beauty an idol. The LORD opened my eyes to see that the fall broke Beauty. Yet brokenness is not the end. The Father began to show me that Beauty thrown into chaos could go three ways: it could be discarded, repaired, or remade.

Repairing Beauty would mean putting all the pieces back just the way it was at the beginning. Remade meant taking the pieces and making them into something even more Beautiful. Suddenly, redemption was everywhere I looked. The loud drilling was still there. The silos weren't swallowed by a crack in the earth. But redemption was possible, none-the-less.

The bush next to me was a picture of redemption: it had long thorns, red berries, and cheery green leaves. The thorns were an obvious reminder of the curse in Genesis 3, the berries of sacrificial blood, the leaves of new life. One day thorns and thistles will cease to infest the world. One day we will see the earth fully redeemed, no longer groaning under the curse. Last week that day hadn't arrived. Sadly, it hasn't come this week either. But the Day is coming. Redemption will make things more Beautiful than they were in the beginning.

Praise to You, O Christ!

~ Johanna