Be Comforted by the Rock of Ages

Today during worship, I sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages. It is a beautiful song, especially sung by the Mennonite Choir in the video above, and it’s also sung around the world; below there’s another sing-along video with the lyrics both in English and Khmer (the language of Cambodia), and also a third video by the choir at Michael’s Children Home. The choir in the third video has a mesmerizing new arrangement, starting at 1 minute and 28 seconds; I strongly recommend you take a listen.

I believe the diversity we have in Christ, and in our brothers and sisters around the globe, is indeed a pleasure to behold. I invite you to join me in song and praise, wherever you are, so we can make Christ’s joy complete.

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Girls With Swords, Week 6

“Good men must not obey the laws too well.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this week’s study, we were given this quote and asked to explain what we thought it meant.  I really had no clue what to imagine the quote meant, but finally came up with this answer to the challenge:

“It needs context. I went and tried to read a little bit of the essay that the quote is from, and it’s generally about government.  In more entirety, the quote actually says ‘Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.’ The essay also argues the ‘government’ between Laban and Jacob; how Laban and Isaac are the keepers of the land, [and are in charge of making decisions on matters concerning their land, and though Jacob lives there too, he must simply earn his keep.  He has no power over what happens to the land.]  So from the little that I read, maybe it means that there is no HUMAN state that is flawless.  Only God’s state is really Good.” 

Later, my dad shared a new thought with us, a sermon that he had heard spoken, and it cleared my understanding of Mr. Emerson’s quote. It dealt with the story in John 5:1-18. In the story, Jesus was healing a man who couldn’t walk.

When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” (verses 6-9, NCV)

According to the laws of love, Jesus did a wonderful thing.  He healed a man who had been trying to reach an angel’s healing touch for 38 years.  Who could have possibly been against such a good act of kindness?

“Because Jesus was doing this on the Sabbath day, some evil people began to persecute him.” (Verse 16, NCV)

As wonderful as was the kindness that Jesus showed to the cripple, the Jews weren’t happy with his work because it was on the Sabbath, which was their holy day of rest.  According to the Jewish laws, no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus, however, never allowed the laws of the Sabbath to stop Him from doing a good deed.

“But Jesus said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.” This made them try still harder to kill him. They said, “First Jesus was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. Now he says that God is his own Father, making himself equal with God!” (verses 17-18, NCV)

There are many stories where Jesus healed people on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-31, 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6; John 9:1-16).  Jesus was hated for His work.

“Every actual State is corrupt.  Good men must not obey the laws too well.”  Jesus matched the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly in this story: He is a good man, the only good man on earth, but He didn’t follow the Jewish laws perfectly.  Instead He followed God’s flawless law: love and mercy.

 “Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Mark 10:18 (NCV)

Amen, Lord Jesus!

“Our Warrior-King is beautiful. His very image is beyond compare. The wondrous span of creation captures a mere fragment of his beauty. The mighty ocean, soaring skies, and majestic mountains declare the powerful, immeasurable, enduring beauty of his strength.  Each and every living thing-from plants to animals- is an irresistible revelation of the fact that our God is gorgeous! He lovingly formed his sons and daughters to carry more of his majesty, glory, and beauty than any other creation.  We are his masterpiece.” –Quote from Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords

“Being kind to people who see no kindness, or little of it anyway, [moves me].  Also being reliable. I am moved by quality, whether it’s quality of life, writing, behavior- perhaps I have high expectations, but…”    -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“Read the Psalms.  All over the place, [the scriptures can bring you perspective when you’re anxious or afraid], it calls God “a fortress”, “a shield”, “my strength”.  I never really understood the concept of the Psalms until we came up with Belaedria, and Escaping the Lair.  Taliesan [our fictional character] is always impressed by the Psalms.  He convinced me that God really is our shield!” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual  

Micro-Dimensional

I received an Omax MD8210 for my birthday last week: a digital compound binocular LED microscope.  I had a microscope on my wish list, but I expected for the good models to typically fall into the price range of $1,800 to $3,000, so I didn’t expect for such an expensive birthday gift.  This particular model is very cheap, but it’s very high powered and works wonderfully.  It took me a day or two to learn how to use it, because it’s got 5 different little knobs to focus with and it’s got a wet lens that needs immersion oil.  Considering I didn’t receive a user manual for it, it was a bit of a challenge to figure it out, but I looked online and found the manual on manuallib.com (a library of user manuals).

Viewing microbiology: it’s like entering another dimension.  Yesterday Lacy and I went outside, and we were looking for specimen to view under the microscope.  Fspidersor the first time, she was thinking very small.  She saw a spider on its web; it was just a little bigger than the tip of a ballpoint pen.  “What are you going to catch, little guy?”  She asked it.  “You’re tinier than anything else that would get stuck in your web. Are you going to eat something three times your size?”  Only later did we discover just how many tiny bugs that were smaller than the spider that set it’s trap on the cactus, waiting for its prey to fall into it’s web.  (Of course, that’s not taking away from the fact that the spider’s web really could ensnare something three times the spider’s size.)

Digital Can’t Replace Natural, You Just Have to See

Bernie Sanders, the well-known American politician, said yesterday on his Facebook post, “Let me be clear. Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity…” Whether you believe him and the well-respected science that says our world is changing and it is the fault of technology and humanity, truth is, a climate still exists outside today, in most areas of the world, which we can enjoy. And can we, in good conscience, go too long a period without enjoying the nature God has made?

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.” Romans 1:20 (AMP)

I’ve felt stressed lately and decided to do, what I call, a social media fast. No internet. No Facebook. Not for entertainment, not for research, zilch! Constantly I search online about historical events, culture, written articles, science, religion and more, and I love to keep up with the latest even in media, actors, and politics, but on the social media fast I don’t even allow myself to do that. “I am blessed to have a home library, I have a cabinet full of old movies and games, I have a backyard, I have a life outside the digital,” I told myself. I even have “faith in the unseen” to pray and ponder on.

I have to remind myself – I remind you, too – Your hopes, your dreams, those you love are not bound to the digital. God exists in the natural. Love exists in the natural. You just have to experience nature to know.

A few weeks ago, I think someone’s prayer for me was answered when I was in my backyard garden. I have been sad a lot – an undertone of sadness glooms my life, if I let it – but when I went outside and enjoyed the fresh cool air, the sunlight, and the greenery, my spirits were lifted. It was not an accidental lifting of the spirits. It was purposeful.

First, I went outside to read my daily Bible reading. It was possibly the most tragic story in the entire Old Testament (Judges 19). I cried and grew angry at the injustice of a woman’s death, and read about how the whole nation of Israel went to war over her murderers’ heinous crime, as they tried to right the wrong. It reminded me of what is happening today in our world, with such a corrupt view on what is “natural” and “acceptable” and “free”. That made me very sad, but then my dog Trig dug a hole to serve as his recliner behind me, which got my mind on my surroundings. The sun was warm but the air cool, which in my opinion, is the most relaxing weather.

That’s when I started noticing the trees rustling, and the lush green garden.

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Patches of clover fill the grass, and who knew, bees pollinate even them?

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Common buckeyes like to light on the vibrant, orange lantana bush and feed there. Kat had a camera, so she captured everything we saw.

But two truly magical moments stood out to me as an “answered prayer” or else God strictly loving me.

The first “hug” was when a baby caterpillar was on my shoulder. I was standing underneath an ash tree that’s about three or four times my height, with its branches looming all around me, hanging around my shoulders, when suddenly a little green worm dropped onto my shoulder unexpectedly. Mom was using her shovel and pulling a plant out of the ground when I told her what happened. “Hey, there’s a caterpillar on me,” I said to her, and at the same time she showed me the baby bug on her own shirt. “It’s a baby lightning bug.” It made me feel good to see the new life all around.

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(Actually, I later found out it’s an ash sawfly larvae, before its head turns black. Looks like a caterpillar, doesn’t it? It is related to the birch sawfly larvae found in England.)

The second “hug” was more magical, more providential and less coincidental. Now I have a beautiful garden, but like I said, I hardly ever walk in it because I’m too digitally bound to my gadgets and computer, which is a habit I’m going to break after having found that enjoying nature is an anti-depressant, but that is beside the point. The reason why I know the Holy Spirit was with me during this incident is because a still peace inside showed me a cloud in the sky at just the right moment; I gazed heavenward and saw the only cloud in the sky move in front of the sun, shading it with an outline of pearl-white lining, and it sat still for at least 30 seconds, creating a grey atmosphere. Notice this moment, you’re being blessed. The peace lingered until I decided to go over to where Kat was taking pictures. We talked for a few moments as she captured more garden pictures. I almost forgot the feeling until the blessing came…

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“What’s that flittering around the lantana?” Mom asked after we came back over to the door, about to go back in. We debated whether it was a hummingbird, because it flitted and darted the way the little bird does, in a fast-wing-motion. Mom realized, “I think it’s a hummingbird moth!” I have never seen one of those before! After doing the research (so much for not online researching; I had to go online to find out the species) I found that it is a white-lined sphinx moth, found in Central Texas, known as a desert moth, which only comes out in cool moist air, usually dusk, although it was 3:00 PM. It doesn’t like direct heat because the wings overheat easily. It needs to drink a lot of fluid to stay hydrated. Wow… Amazing! I am convinced the only reason we witnessed the beautiful moth was because of the cloud that rested in front of the sun for 30 seconds, which created the perfect climate for the moth to make its rounds. Maybe some could say, especially the older generation, “You need to get out more…” because it could be a common occurrence, but really it was not. Mom was as amazed as I am, and she enjoys the garden much more than I do. It was God and love.

So if you find yourself doubting God, or feel sad from life’s letdowns, take a little time in the natural world. The unnatural shall not cloud the natural; digital desires cannot remove spiritual needs. We will continue to yearn for more in life no matter how distracted multi-tasking has us. And we will continue to need nature in order to create a better argument against the demons that so often plague our mind.

In conclusion, climate change does not have to scare us, neither does the injustices of the world have to cause us despair, because God is not only loving but He is just and will guide everything, even the drifting clouds and the rebirth of spring.