Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Space between the Dash

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For soon it is cut off, and we fly away. ~ Psalm 90: 10


There is a poem called "The Dash" written by Linda Ellis about how our lives can be reduced to a certain amount of time between two dashes, two dates on an endless stretch called eternity. The point of the poem is to challenge the reader to make the most of the "dash" they have between the two dates.

Within the space of one month, to the day, a new grandchild was born, and an elderly uncle died on the date of his parents 88th wedding anniversary. I remember Mom telling me many years ago that I "had my whole life in front of me."

No longer. I am glad to be in creeping middle age, but I do notice a change. Yet I have had millions of thoughts, and thousands of experiences by now. I've had thousands of times to get mad, thousands of times to cry, and on and on. The other day I was struck by a verse I've read many times before, just realizing what it could really mean. In fact, it was the way that the Apostle Paul signed off on most or all of his letters:

"Brethren the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen" Gal. 6:18

His grace is always available, ready instantly for me to avail myself of it. The fact is that God Almighty has favor for every situation I have to endure for the rest of my life. Spiros Zodhiates says this of the word charis, #5485 in the Greek Lexicion: 

"joy, favor, acceptance, a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude, grace. A favor done without expectation of return; absolute freeness of the lovingkindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and freeheartedness of the Giver, unearned and unmerited favor. Charis stands in direct antithesis to erga, works, the two being mutually exclusive. (page 1739 Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, AMG Publishers, 1986.

Charis, yes THAT is available and ready at a moment's notice for the dash between my own two dates. So really, what excuse do I have for not taking it? 

Just as I wrote this, a lying thought crept in, "Oh, another blog post. Here you go again." No! His grace is with my spirit even now, in the middle of the afternoon doldrums,  in the midst of a hot July day. What excuse do I have for refusing it? What excuse do any of us have to not grab hold of charis available to be with our spirits 24/7/365?

I wrote in my journal on July 9-- "Let not today be a day of futility." Lord, help me to make the most of the dash that will be known as my life one day in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Take a Pause that Refreshes...

He who testifies to these things says,
"Surely I am coming quickly."
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
John 22:20

Today I want to share a poem I wrote that reflects how I feel with all the craziness of the world, and how I only feel an escape from the insanity when I pause to take a look into God's precious Word. It is the only pause in this life that refreshes.

I live in a world where there's too many choices
Surrounded, ensnared, by too many voices
So many demanders of my attention
Yet each day I lose more of my own retention
What does the future hold, how should I live?
To whom should all of my energy give?

A time of great grief, overwhelming sorrow
And yet I have hope for that day called tomorrow
It has still not appeared what yet I shall be
But when Christ appears, His face I shall see
And with all the books, great learning, and media
We'll realize that Jesus was God's one great idea

Life as I know it will from earth disappear
My jaded pursuits be suddenly clear
"It did not matter," He whispers to me
"I was the 'one thing' that mattered truly
I alway have loved you and I was enough
You didn't need people, you didn't need stuff."

I will behold the One with eyes flame of fire
And will realize at last He was all my desire.

copyright 2016 Megan Vance

Friday, July 8, 2016

Grumpy and Stressed to Finished Work Rest

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.

Psalm 23: 2-3a

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. My body ached from an overzealous workout yesterday. As I stumbled downstairs to make my coffee and read my Bible, I found it was still quite humid outside so no opening the door to hear the birds.

I made myself some nice, strong coffee and when I went to sit down to read my Bible it seemed to have disappeared. I spent nearly an hour looking for it. Upstairs, downstairs, in the dining room, in my prayer closet, even outside in the car. It just plain old disappeared and I thought for sure I was losing my mind.

I began to stew and belittle myself, and could not understand why this was happening. Finally, I got good and mad and then I lifted the blanket off the couch and bingo, there underneath it was my Bible and journal. How could I have missed looking there after wandering from room to room?

Then, I finally started to read and had a delicious (full) second cup of coffee. I put the cup down on the little table instead of on the bookshelf where I normally do. But the cup didn't make it onto the table, instead it crashed to the floor and made a huge mess. More than even the mess, I was mad because now I would have to make myself more, and it had been just the perfect cup.

What a way to start the day. My routine had been disturbed not just once but twice. Instead of reading where I normally do, I went over some chapters in the book of Hebrews. I read once again that the whole point of this universe is Jesus. Jesus is everything God wants to say to us!

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself[fn] purged our[fn] sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1: 1-4

God was so gentle with me, and helped me recover. I eased my aching body with an epsom salt bath. My body began to relax. Yes, of course Lord little irritations rise during the day. Do I need to let them set the framework for a bad mood for the rest of the day? Of course not.

Even as I write this a fly buzzes around the room. I detest flies and their buzzing sound. Do I need to get uptight? No. Christ endured the buzzing flies too. He was the Son of God. Why should He have to suffer all these little annoyances? But He did, and He did it all with joy.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2
 Jesus saw that there was joy ahead waiting for Him, so He didn't once complain even when He was dying on the cross. What started off to be an awful day because I allowed myself to be stressed out has now become a blessed day. And all because I looked unto the One whom has all the right answers, all the perfect coping mechanisms, and especially unchanging happiness in the face of the deepest difficulties, even paying for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus waits for me to come to Him and refresh myself once again in His streams of perpetual life giving water. Somehow He cares even about something stupid like a misplaced Bible or spilled coffee.  I give Him my petty everyday stress, and He gives me His rest for the most difficult times, the annoying times and everywhere in between.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Real Truth about Old Age

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." II Cor. 4:16-17

My outward man is perishing. I know it, I feel it in my bones. A new pain in my back seems to have made itself unwelcome, I can't keep up with the rapid pace at which my colored hair turns gray again, and most alarming of all, I've had little slips in my mind here and there. I hate to even admit it.

I think to myself, I don' t have the strength and vitality that I had even ten years ago. And I see my dear mother, who cries nearly every day about not being able to "get back" to where she was. She mourns it. But it's all a part of life, a life that can still be worthwhile, in spite of the fall of man in the garden and the subsequent curse.

 The above verse from II Corinthians tells me the real truth about old age. It does not have to be a b####. Our outward man perishes.The word for perish in the Greek lexicon is Strong's #1311, diaphtheiro. It means: to rot thoroughly, to ruin, corrupt, destroy, perish.

A seemingly unpleasant thought: we all have an appointment with death (unless we're  part of the Rapture generation). I recently read a classic book about the Civil War  called House Divided.  Over and over it described battlefields where bodies rotted and left a stench. How they suffered  in that "rich man's war."

I never really thought about the horror of the battlefield. But our very life is a battle, a battle with sin and death. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we get the great privilege of sharing  His great victory over it. He graciously removed its bitterness  and took away its stinger.

"O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?" I Cor. 15:55

If I grow in grace and knowledge of Him I don't have to fear death, or even fear old age. One time I snapped a picture of my aged father with his head held back, and eyes closed as he listened to my sister play Christmas music on her violin. I calligraphied a verse for him along with the photo:
"Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear,
Even I will carry, and I will deliver you." Isaiah 46:4

Old age is a part of God's plan. Paul says our life is a light affliction. How could he say that when he was stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hunted down as a criminal and ended up with his head in a basket? We must conclude then that cancer, heart disease, strokes and broken bones and even broken minds can be just a light affliction. If we take His great salvation, this magnificent promise helps us endure and even flourish through all of life's trials.

We talked about the brevity of  life yesterday. Dad reminded us we're already in eternity, even here and now. When we cross over from this life to the next, we'll realize our entire time here was just a tiny speck on an endless line. That makes life, pain, and suffering bearable. We are only strangers passing through.