Unsurpassed

ce-caves-of-orion-spacescape

Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch a fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss

– Matt Chandler –

I’m staggered by this.

That God is the Center, the only One worthy of glory.

And for Him to seek this glory is not arrogant–because what is arrogance but viewing yourself as higher than you are? That’s not a problem for God–there isn’t anyone higher!

What glorious kingliness, to be perfectly Love, Light, Truth, Beauty, Justice, Power!

Nothing surpasses Him.

“Lord, I come before You
To honor and adore You,
For who You are and all that You have done.
Lord, I am not worthy,
My heart is dark and dirty.
Still somehow You bid for me to come.

So clothe me in humility,
Remind me, that I come before a King,

And there is nothing,
There is nothing,
More precious, more worthy.
May I gaze deeper,
May I stand longer,
May I press onward to know You, Lord.”

– “There Is Nothing,” by Laura Story –

So then, no wonder He cannot give this glory away.

“I am the Lord; that is my name;
 I don’t hand out my glory to others
or my praise to idols.”

– Isaiah 42:8, CEB, emphasis mine –

One distant speck of a planet, less than a fleck of dust in a galaxy, a breath, next to nothing in the midst of a horde of starry swirls, monstrous asteroids, and revolving planets.

And in this miniscule dot of a planet, there are tiny fists that dare shake at the cosmos.

People. A filmy shudder of vapor, a breath of passing wind. Yet we humans somehow dare to lift our chins in defiance. Somehow, we dare to declare ourselves as gods, as the deciding force of the universe.

“You have always been because what it is that you are is God, or Divine Intelligence, but God takes on individual forms, droplets, reducing its power to small particles of individual consciousness.”

– Gary Zukav –

God in heaven laughs.

How could He not?

The sheer absurdity of His created creatures, who to Him must be like the tiniest insects in strength, lifting our powerless fists in uprising.

And meanwhile, His power makes all things hold together. It is not possible–but what if God were to allow another to have His glory? Would not the very foundations of the universe crumble? Would not this fabric of existence unravel in an instant?

In the face of our pitiful, obstinate mutiny, how easy it would be for Him to lightly press down His finger and smudge away that microscopic creation from the page of His story.

Yet He doesn’t. Instead, He steps down and takes on the frame of one of these dust specks.

The God of galaxies, Lord of stars spangled like diamonds across heaven’s velvet. The Controller of planetary spins and brilliant fireball-suns and crashing tsunamis and quaking subterranean plates.

Be still, speechless, breathless at this:

This God came to us.

To us.

Does this crumble your ego? It should. What He chose to do should make us quake.

Because the Alpha, without beginning, was born out of a teenage womb into a pile of manured straw.

Because the Omega, endless One, died, bearing the brunt of the Father’s justice.

God in skin–raw, ripped, bloody skin.

Becoming a human, He used that moment to atone for the vileness of those He created.

With the same breathing-out that filled the lungs of the first man, the first to raise a fist against Him

With that breath, He cried out, having bared His pure heart to the dagger of His Father’s fury. He breathed out, one last exhalation.

A shout of cosmic victory. “It is finished!”

He warned that praiseless lips would make the rocks cry out. The stones and mountains did–shaking and roaring and cracking with the darkness that fell, vibrated to pieces by his cry of triumph.

God with us died for us, because of us. Right there, on a man-hewn plank of wood.

Who else was pure enough to be the sacrifice?

Who else was man enough to suffer with us and for us? To intimately know us?

Who else was God enough to overcome even death?

Because, this God is so beyond our strength that Death itself was no match for Him. He rose.

He rose!

I really can’t comprehend this.

I can’t grasp how high He is, how clean and glorious and marvelous He is in comparison to us. I don’t think my human eyes can hold that much light or fathom that depth of spectrum. My human heart can’t seem to grasp how much of His atoning pain was because of my rebellion. My ears can’t hear all of Love’s harmonies, though I hope the music will grow stronger as I journey. My mind can’t expand enough to allow God’s thoughts to enter.

I can only bow.

Mr. Chandler’s right. I feel strikingly like I’m holding an inch of dental floss.

Maybe less than an inch.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?”

– Psalm 8:3-4, NKJV, emphasis mine –

Thank you to Gale Titus and Public Domain Pictures for today’s spacescape!

The Day When Light Was Born

galaxy

“God separated the light from the darkness.”

-Genesis 1:4b, NASB –

That would have been the light show of the ages, the fireworks to see.

When God set His heart to create and opened His mouth and spoke four words.

“Let there be light.”

And there was.

The One who is Light and no darkness, called for light and it appeared. I wonder if it was a consuming fire, or an orb of glowing, or a soft hue that flooded the universe’s chasm of nothingness like a whisper?

Whatever it was, it was mingled with the dark. How does light mix with dark?

How does life mix with death?

But in this not-yet world, still without death, God made a point to separate.

All was good, sinless perfection.

Already, lines were drawn.

You notice, God didn’t create darkness. That’s because darkness isn’t a thing—darkness is the lack of light, just like death is the lack of life and evil is the lack of good and cold is the lack of heat. Not things to be created, not objects—but a lack of something.

So God never made darkness—He just spoke out light, saw it was good. Even before darkness held connotations of evil, God deliberately blessed the light, but said nothing about the darkness being good.

Darkness, He did not create.

So in the first recorded creation of God, light is born. And He lays out His will: the darkness does not cross this threshold of the day. The light does not pass over and mingle with the night.

Even in His first creative act, the Almighty God paints a light-picture of who He is—and who His children were to be.

In His all-knowing wisdom, even the light cast against heaven’s canvas is a shadow of what is to come.

We all have this, what songwriter Brandon Heath calls “a strange attraction to the light.”

But perhaps it’s not so strange. Because “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). And we’re moving, breathing creations of His, fashioned in His image. No wonder light stirs us.

No wonder brightness is treasured in our souls as glory, and sunlight pierces like hope, and the gleam of a candle in a window touches our hearts with warmth and home and family. We are made to crave the light.

So, thousands of days, millions of hours, have passed since that split second when God called out light from the emptiness.

And yet, in His creation, darkness descended again. His separation of day and night seemed to crumble as blackness struck hearts and darkness swallowed up lives.

But all was not lost. It was never lost. Light was promised, light for all nations.

The lyrics of Point of Grace’s song tell the story:

“From the beginning the Father
Had a magnificent plan
Revealed through the law and the prophets
To fulfill the redemption of man

You spoke after centuries of silence
In the midst of a still, starry night
And Emmanuel came down among us
And the Father said, Let there be light

Let there be light, let it shine bright
Piercing the darkness with dazzling white
Hope for the hopeless was born on that night
When God sent His Son and said, Let there be light…”

– “Let There Be Light,” emphasis mine –

And so it was that, once again, in the darkness of the ages, Light was born.

And this Light was a man.

And this Light was God.

The best part is, His light has been extended to us, in glorious grace. He taught us that we are made to walk in His light–“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

No more slinking in the shadows. No more languishing in the gray. No more dying in the dark.

We were brought back to life, to be His body, be His light.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

– Matthew 5:14-16, NKJV –

Living in this light, our hearts can reach. Our feet can go. Our hands can hold. Our faces can shine.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

– Psalm 34:4-5, NKJV –

While deceived about the true source of light, American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross got at least one thing right in life by  writing these words:

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Thank you to Petr Kratochvil and Public Domain Pictures for the glorious galaxy photo!

Living Safe

old-ship-and-flowers

“A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for.”
– Albert Einstein –

There is a part of me that craves safety.

Something deep–maybe fear? A wishing that the storms would never blow in.

This part of me–I know it’s selfish. But it is so tempting to just hide and pretend all is well when life has blustered up snow clear past the windows. The cold is everywhere and I’m snowed-in for a good long while.

With people, it’s just so hard to keep saying yes to them and no to the things tugging my heart. It’s hard to say “I’m sorry” again and again, to wonder if I’ll ever get this daughter thing right. This sister thing. This friend thing.

Safe.

Sometimes I just want to be a hermit and make my own pretend world–not because of a lack of blessings, but a lack of security in this real world.

How can I be safe?

I can stop trying.

No more caring–doesn’t love hurt too much?

No more reaching out. At least I couldn’t be rejected.

No more working for responsibilities. Can apathy hurt more than over-and-again failure?

No more vision. Why jump at all if the goal’s too high?

These thoughts, frustrated impulses, almost sweep me away. And, along, with these, comes the deeper conviction that the problem is mine. Something in me must be desperately wrong, for it to come to this.

This. To give in, to follow this only safe way–what is the cost?

Here’s the truth: Living isn’t safe.

And if I give up all these hard things, what’s left?

Nothing.

For safety, I’d be giving up life itself.

The options weigh heavy on my spirit. The real problem suddenly surfaces in my mind, in the shape of a verse learned long ago.

Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God….” (2 Timothy 3:4)

Conviction hits, hard.

More than God?

More than Him, I so often cling to my agenda, my dreams, my way, my rights, my comfort, and my safety.

Pleasure more than God.

But if I were to retreat to the “safe,” lifeless place where my own pleasure lives, all would be lost. This soul wasn’t made to grovel for command or shrink from light or hide away from all that stings. This soul was made to soar the heights of what God’s love can do in a vessel given over.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt –

And like that ship that Einstein spoke of, this soul might have a brief moment of safety by refusing to do what I was carefully knit together to do, formed to fulfill from the womb by my own Maker’s fingers. But if I do, I will miss everything.

If a soul does not surrender to Christ’s shaping…

…it is a tool rusting on the shelf, never to be used to carve a masterpiece…a bird content to look into skies he will never touch with outstretched wings…a stunted sapling afraid to extend its limbs, afraid to reach the heights…

And, yes, a ship.

A ship that will never feel the tickle of waves under her hull, never swell her sails with the swooping, rushing gusts of heaven, never bathe her deck in the shimmering gold cast to the farthest horizons by a sinking sun.

Even now, I’m weighing anchor.

I will not live the life of shrinking back (Hebrews 10:39).

Forget playing life safe.

This ship is setting sail.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV, emphasis mine –

A big thank you to George Hodan at Public Domain Pictures for today’s photo!

Before You Say Anything

Prayer-September 10, 20131

Some people rub me wrong, like stroking a cat’s fur against the grain.

I sit and bite my tongue and sort of smile to myself that someone can just be so aggravating.

I nod and smile and wonder how in the world these people can stir me up so much.

I’ve called myself laid-back. But at that moment, I feel about as easy-going as a coiled-up cobra.

So my eyes sort of roll back in my head and whether it is that person with the voice that grates or that one that sounds like Eeyore in the flesh, I start counting the minutes until I get to rush for the door.

But, the other day, stuck in the presence of a hair-raiser, a thought struck me.

That thought. It interrupted the on-repeat list of complaints rolling through my mind about the person sitting beside me.

That thought. If hearts had knees, the knees of mine buckled in that moment.

That thought. It pierced to that inner place that quivers at God’s thunder.

Before I let my mind ramble on, complaining about another’s inadequacy

Before I let the words tumble from my mouth, spreading around the discontent as soon as I can make my escape…

Before I start telling God about all the things I dislike about a person…

Have I prayed for that person?

Not a murmured complaint to the Creator, asking what in the world He was doing when he let loose this person to walk the earth.

Not a general “God bless so-and-so.”

A real prayer. A from-the-heart breaking that sees the inner person, sees that hurt behind the mask, sees the insecurity that surfaces as criticism.

Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.

– H. Jackson Brown Jr. –

A prayer that understands the value of that person in the sight of God, that treats them as a precious jewel.

So, before you start the inner rant against that person that makes you bristle, what do you do?

Humble your heart and see that your complaints aren’t any holier than theirs just because you keep yours to yourself.

Marvel, because God gave you to that person in that moment, to build them up. Stop thinking about how depressed they are making you and start praying for wisdom. Pray for a gift to give.

In that moment, your Eeyore-like companion may just need a smile and an “I know you can do it.”

When the nails-on-the-chalkboard acquaintance starts to speak, maybe they need someone to really listen.

When eternity is weighed against that moment, the gift you could give that person matters so much more than how you feel.

So, pray.

Pray for wisdom to speak right words.

Pray for love for the one who makes you wonder how you could ever give back good for evil.

Pray for that person. Pray to really see, to understand the pain and the joys of another life. Pray for their spiritual growth. Pray that they would find satisfaction, fullest joy, in the Jesus who can make them whole.

Pray for yourself. For heart-change in the depths of you. For eyes to see past an exterior into a heart. For strength to give when all they do is take.

And, blogger Emily Freeman says maybe the way we give ourselves can make all the difference:

“What if the art we make – whether the work of our hands, the words of our mouth, the simple movement towards others in our ordinary days – what if these are the ways Jesus wants to show Himself to a weary world?

What if the art you make and live is a daily grace God has in mind for someone else?”

– Emily Freeman –

Don’t know quite how to pray, where to begin? The apostle Paul can give you a way to start:

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He had delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

– Colossians 1:9-14, NKJV, emphasis mine –

Amen, and amen. So let it be.

Thank you, Atalie Bale Photography, for another gorgeous photo. I think this one is my favorite!