Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Living in Laodicea

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 
'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock...."

Revelation 3:14-20

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson 2013

Laodicea was one of three famous cities of the Lycas River valley. Six miles to the north of it lay Hieropolis, a city boasting hot springs and thermal baths. Ten miles to the east lay Colossae, known for its pure, cold springs.

Laodicea had to have its water piped from a spring five miles away. The water was so heavy with minerals it slowly clogged the pipes. By the time it reached the city, it was tepid. The foul, lukewarm was nauseating. Early readers of Revelation would have made the instant connection to Jesus' threat to spit (literally, "vomit") it out of His mouth.

It was a wealthy city, however, so rich that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 A.D., the citizens turned down Roman aid and rebuilt it themselves. Laodicea was famous for the black cloth produced from the beautiful wool from its sheep. The citizens were proud of their black clothing, but Jesus saw them as naked and advised them to be clothed in the white clothes of His righteousness.

The city was also situated near the quarry from which came a powder used to make salve for eye ailments. Jesus saw their blindness and told them to anoint their eyes with the salve He offered in order to restore their sight.

This letter to Laodicea is especially poignant because God was talking to the church there. His own people were blind, naked, poor, and tepid.

This breaks my heart.

I have so many times been all these things. I have been too full of the world's cares to see my emptiness, too blind with duty to see my nakedness, too busy with the temporal to have time for the eternal.

Thank God He loves me enough to reprove me. Today He stands waiting at the door of our hearts. I can't help but wonder, How did it get closed? I didn't mean for it to happen. I don't know when it happened.

I just know He stands, He knocks, and He waits.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Baby Blues

She's a new girl, and she's having trouble adjusting to life in my office. Sometimes she doesn't listen to me. Other times, she just sits and stares into space.

No, I don't have a difficult employee. I have a brand-new computer. She is doing a lot of whining right now.

So am I. I've spent the last couple of days working on it. I spent today talking with the friendly folks at tech support to figure out what is making my baby so colicky.

It's not like it's my first one. I've been a new mom before. I remember the late nights holding its hand, the little messes it makes, the days I have to give it a time-out until it does what it's told.

Right now it's pretty much consuming my days. I'm on a first name basis with the tech guys. We're going to chat again next week, to see if the wayward child is responding to therapy.

I'll try to keep up my posting in the meantime. But if I miss a day, it's probably because I'm conferring with the doctors. Or my baby's been banished to the corner.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Under the Spotlight

I will trust and not be afraid;
For the LORD GOD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
Isaiah 12:2

Some years back a traveling evangelist came to a nearby town to hold Billy Graham-style meetings in the school gym. His team asked for assistance from the area churches for people to pray, to counsel, and to help with the music.

Someone asked me to sing a special, which I gladly did. The night I sang, an acquaintance from my school days came up and mentioned how much she liked the song. She just kept on about how amazing it was. I secretly basked in the praise but replied as humbly as possible, "Oh, it wasn't my doing. You remember how shy I was in school."

"I know," she agreed, "that's what made the song so amazing."

Okay. It wasn't my ability that impressed her. It was the fact I had been able to get up there at all. That was humbling.

 Later I was struck by two things:

*The fact I was stung by her agreement with the very words out of my mouth.
*How much God has really changed me from the timid little teenager I once was.

Often our lives become so full we spend much of it doing, instead of being. This is usually considered to be bad. If we are doing the right things, however, we don't stay the same. Somewhere along the way, the song changes. We may not even realize how much.

I once yearned for the acceptance and approval of others. The more I tried, the more I embarrassed myself. After a few of those failures, I retreated to a life of safety in the shadows.

That's where God found me, dusted me off, and gave me a new song.

Today I have an audience of One. My goal is to make every day a solo performance straight from the heart to the only person whose approval I need. I already have His acceptance.

I fail at that goal every day, of course, because I'm so miserably human. But I know God is still at work on me. His stage is the secret place of my soul. His spotlight reveals my motives, illumines my heart, and dispels the shadows. 

Being under the spotlight can feel pretty intimidating. It can get a little heated under the light. It's a good place to be, though.

Lit up. Under scrutiny. Singing our song for Him.

How have you changed over the years? Has it been for the better or for the worse? Can you think of a time you feel under the spotlight of God's scrutiny? What did you learn from it?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Missing in Action

Whatever is true, 
whatever is honorable, 
whatever is right,
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,
dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8

Yesterday I went MIA. Yes, gone. Missing in action on this site.

Like much of the nation, I've been consumed with the unfolding tragedy in Massachusetts. I've been grieving with the bombing victims and their families, cheering on the authorities in their search for the suspects, and praying for safety for all involved.

I awakened yesterday morning with a deep sense of sadness and fatigue. I decided to scale back my usual duties and take a break from the news. My husband and I took an afternoon drive and went shopping.  He helped me buy some curtains for the living room and put them up in the evening.

We picked up some fast food and enjoyed a quiet dinner with the family. At ten p.m. I was ironing curtains and thinking about what a wonderfully patient husband I have.

Now, I'm not exactly recommending shopping as a cure for the blues. I'm only suggesting it.

What I am encouraging is a healthy balance between work and play. Between grief and celebration. It's not healthy to turn away from injustice and the suffering of others. Neither is dwelling there.

We have become a society sickened by the macabre. Death is the new frontier, and we are fascinated with its exploration. We fixate on the what revolts us, while a world of beauty and life blooms around us largely unnoticed.

Jesus came to deliver us from the bondage of death.Then He sent us back into it to pull others out of the wreckage. We give our hearts to a hurting world, but we keep our minds closely guarded against its influence.

I'm back today, more refreshed and grateful for the many beautiful ways God reveals Himself to me.

Are you ever caught up in the sadness around you? How do you keep your mind focused on those qualities described in Philippians 4:8? What are some specific ways to "dwell on these things"?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In an Instant

 For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Psalm 90:10
Like many Americans on April 15, I watched with horror as the events at the Boston Marathon unfolded. My immediate interest was in learning if an acquaintance who was running in the marathon had escaped harm. As the nation awaited more details of the bombing, news outlets filled the hours replaying videos of the first moments of the blasts.

One video in particular struck me. At the moment the first blast ripped through the crowd, the area was engulfed in thick, white smoke. As people ran from--and toward--the carnage, a small bunch of yellow balloons slipped from the chaos and floated toward heaven.

A wave of emotion rose in my throat. Some child had only moments before been laughing, playing, eating goodies, and clinging with pride to those balloons. Then the laughter was gone, swept away in the violence that killed and maimed and stole away innocence forever.

Today I learned that at least nine of the victims of the terrorist attack were children. This morning the name of eight-year-old Martin Richard was released. Martin slipped into eternity in the same blast that critically injured his mother and sister.

"I just can't get a handle on it," neighbor Jack Cunningham said of the boy's death. "In an instant, life changes."

In an instant.

Life is precious. It's a gift, and it's too short to be squandered. Cherish it and fill it with all the joy you can find. Make every moment count for eternity.

You never know what the next instant will bring.

What keeps us from living life to its very fullest? How does this dishonor the Giver of Life? In what ways can we make better choices in order to live in joy, no matter what our days bring? What can you change today so that if the next instant brings eternity, you will be ready?


The Associated Press

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Look to the Mountains


I will lift my eyes to the Maker 
Of the mountains I can't climb  
I will lift my eyes to the calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer 
Of the hurt I hold inside  
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You
-Bebo Norman

Yesterday was gray and cold here in the northern Idaho, matching my spirits. I stood at the sink in our kitchen, making dinner and contemplating (code word for "worrying") about a couple of ongoing trials in our family.

I'm a fixer-upper by nature. When a problem is presented to me, my first reaction is to start problem-solving. A friend once told me we are a "git 'er done" kind of family. It's very frustrating to me when someone I love hits a wall, and no answer presents itself.

My kitchen window looks upriver toward the east. As I loaded dishes in the dishwasher and "contemplated" the situation, the sun--which had hid its face most of the day--appeared briefly to light up the brown hills that loomed on the horizon. They glowed in stark relief against the waning day as a Scripture popped into my head:

I will lift my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
 Psalm 121:1-3

What does it mean to "lift my eyes to the mountains"? How do we "lift our eyes" when trouble hits?

For the Psalmist, looking to the mountains may have meant looking toward the hills of Jerusalem, where the temple stood. Israelites traditionally turned to Jerusalem to pray. But the Scripture indicates more.

It's our reminder that God is a creator, an infinite problem-solver, a powerful ally. The Scripture challenges us to look up when we're feeling down. It encourages up to set our sights on God when our natural response is to look inward. Mountains remind us of God's ability to call us to new heights of faith, to conquer hardship and gain broader perspectives.

They require a change of direction and reward us with a vast new horizon.

Are you challenged today? Do your trials have you feeling down? Lift up your eyes. God will take care of the rest.

What is your biggest challenge today? What answers do you need? What practical steps can you take to "lift your eyes" to God?

Photos courtesy Erik Thorson. Copyright 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bird in a Snare

Do you have someone who leaves you fuming? Is there a person you care about who always makes your life miserable?

This week I had the honor of guest posting on the blog of Terri Picone. Head on over to Bird in a Snare for this week's post.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Magnificent Contradiction

The royal feast was done; the king
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'Tis our follies so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

"The ill-timed truth we might have kept-
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say-
Who knows how grandly it had rung?

"Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders--oh, the shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the fool
That did his will; But Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The king, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"

-The Fool's Prayer
By Edward Roland Sill  


Erik Thorson/2013

If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age,
he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.
1 Corinthians 3:18-19

It's the great mystery of heaven. God loves contradictions. He is the eternal One who entered time and space. He is all-powerful, yet He became weak for us; the majestic King who wore our crown; the Master who became the servant to His creation. He is the Lord of Life, the One who chose death for us. 

He's the dead man who rose from the grave.

The legacy He left behind was a grand list of opposites:

If you want to live, come and die.
To be forgiven, you must forgive.
To go higher, you must go lower.
To be wise, you must become a fool.
To have it all, you must be willing to give up everything.
When you are cursed, you will bless in return.

Oh, the power of contradiction!
It really is magnificent. God knows how to purify our motives and take us straight to the heart of the issues clouding our vision. By living a life of God's contradictions, we learn to separate ourselves from the deceit of this world. 

Because, ultimately, this world is going away. The place we live in now is not as solid and eternal as it feels. A new heaven and earth is coming, a world in which only righteousness lives (Revelation 21:1-5). We're just here to get ready for that day.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:18,25

What other contradictions can you think of that God teaches us? What gives this irony its great power to challenge and change us? How does it purify our motives?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Difficult Times

But realize this,
that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 Timothy 3:1

This morning, Americans were greeted with the image of a cardboard cutout of a U.S. soldier being used as target practice by North Korean troops.This was accompanied by the announcement of Kim Jong Un that North Korea plans to restart the development of nuclear weapons.

This follows news of increasing military tensions on the Korean peninsula. Behind the dispute of the smaller nations of North and South Korea loom the shadow of the behemoth forces of the United States and China.

Currently, there are about 38 conflicts being fought around the world, with about eight of them considered to be major wars. An estimated 378,000 people died in armed conflicts each year between 1985 and 1994.

But war is not the only front in the battle to save innocent lives. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions have occurred in the U.S. alone. Approximately 42 million abortions are performed every year worldwide. Recent news has spotlighted the gruesome practices of late-term abortions and infanticide.

Today marks the seven-year anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who was starved to death despite the wishes of her family.

Approximately two million people, about ten percent of the American population, are incarcerated for crimes. More than sixteen nations worldwide have been flagged by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF. Cities, states, and nations are falling into default as financial collapse catches up with loose budgets.

For men will be lovers of self, 
lovers of money,
disobedient to parents,
malicious gossips,
without self-control,
haters of good,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.
2 Timothy 3:2-3 

Why am I talking about this today? I'm not trying to depress you; you can get enough of that every day just by watching the news.

Today is the day for action. Jesus Christ called His followers "the salt of the earth."

You are the salt of the earth;
but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, 
except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
Matthew 5:13

Salt is vital for our body's needs. It's a preservative. It has antibacterial characteristics. It makes food taste good. It creates thirst. 

Salt that has lost these properties is worthless.

My question today is, are we being the salt Jesus has commanded us to be? What should our response be to the day's challenges? Do we keep our heads down, take care of our own business, and look the other way? 

Or do we step forward to be that purifying, preserving, vital force God desires? Do our lives make others thirsty for God?

Or are we only fit to be set aside to be trampled underfoot as the world marches to destruction?

Today I'm praying about what God has called me to be. What passion has He put on your heart? What are you doing this day to walk in that calling?

To read an inspiring article by Terri Schiavo's brother, click this link.
 Remembering My Sister Terri Schiavo

There is so much more. Somewhere there is a need that is just waiting for your unique talents and gifts. Put aside your own trials and heartaches for a day and ask God what you can be doing to reach out to a hurting world.

 Difficult times call for people of courage to stand up.

It's time.