I remember looking up excitedly as I saw the new International Space Station passing right overhead! That was more than a decade ago now. This morning at precisely 6:43 am I looked up and, for the first time since then saw it pass over again, right on schedule. Since I first looked up more than 200 visitors have been to the ISS while its odometer has approached the two billion mile mark! Since I first saw the ISS it has passed within my sight over 2, 700 times and not one time have I looked up to see it until today.
I have to admit though that while the ISS has circled the globe over 75,920 times I haven’t really thought much about it. For me it has been ‘out of sight and out of mind’. But though I have not been aware of it, looked up to see it, or thought much about it, none of this changed the activity, research or impact of the ISS on the nations and crews with their families who have actively worked with it.
Late one night in a conversation never to be forgotten Jesus chastened a very religious man, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? … But if you don’t even believe me when I tell you about things that happen here on earth, how can you possibly believe me if I tell you what is going on in heaven?” (John 3:10-12) Just because we are unaware of what God is doing in the world and in people all around us it doesn’t mean He is not busily working in all sorts of ways!
My prayer for all of us is that the ‘eyes of our heart’ will be opened to become more aware of the God all around us who always has been, who is and who will always be. (Revelation 1:8) It is only through knowing Him that we shall always be.
“I don’t do color,” I have heard myself say. It’s not that I don’t like color. I love color! I just don’t have any sense of what looks good. When I am out and about I sometimes see that I am not alone. Now this morning I briefly toyed with the idea of wearing a purple tie. I left it in my closet, not because it would not be right for today, but because I have no sense of style.
Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras and the day when tradition dictates all fat should be consumed in the house in preparation for the season of Lent. While I am a Methodist I have not always been one and so I realize that for many the word ‘Lent’ is simply a misspelling of that stuff that gets on your sweater. However, in many churches Lent is the solemn season for fasting and introspection lasting about six weeks on the liturgical calendar. I am comfortable with observing this season and also with not observing it. The ‘liturgical color’ of the season is purple (hence the idea for my tie).
We live in a day when communication seems to have broken down all over the world. From Kiev to Moscow, from the board room to the ball room, from the state capital to the nation’s capital we are divided. Much of this division has to do not with what we want but with HOW we want it. Democrats and Republicans, Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists and Methodists, Russians and Ukrainians, all want the same things. We want to live in peace in this world and in the next. What we differ on is HOW to get there.
So while I will be observing an Ash Wednesday service this evening as the traditional beginning of the season of Lent I recognize that what matters is not so much HOW or even WHEN we in humility ask God to search our hearts but that we do. The Scripture says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts: And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-4). If you have not asked this of God, no matter what your tradition, this might be a good time to begin.
The thought was overwhelming. Although I was driving I took my phone out of my pocket to call my wife who was several counties away for an appointment. At that very moment I saw she was calling me. Now I had forgotten to take my phone out of its silent mode and I had not been aware of the incoming call.
Although the call was not an emergency, it was a reminder in a wonderful way of God’s very presence inside me. “Into my heart, into my heart. Come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart Lord Jesus!” I still remember learning that song as a child. I remember believing it as I asked the Lord Jesus to come in.
It has taken a lifetime from that moment so long ago to appreciate how powerful a change this has made on my life. God is truly our Great Friend, unlike any other. He consoles, guides, promises, protects, chides, disciplines, encourages. He loves!
In my life as this wonderful Friendship has grown I have long lost count of the many ways He has done these things. I cannot imagine a life without Him! My greatest concern is displeasing Him. I know that I am far from perfect and that I do displease Him at times. It is at those times, when I realize I have gone astray in some way that my heart breaks and I run as fast as I can back to Him. How thankful I am for His many wonderful promises! “I will never (ever) leave you!” “Your sins and transgressions I will remember no more” “I will come and I will receive you to myself” “I am with you always, even to the end of this age.” And they go on.
As I said, I cannot imagine life without Him. Into my heart He came. In my heart He stays. Have you asked? Do you believe it? If you don’t I would love to talk with you and tell you so many, many stories of how good, how faithful, how wonderful is this, the greatest of all Friendships. It is an offer to everyone no matter who you are or what you have done.
It was their 50th wedding anniversary. After all the guests and family had left and the house was empty again Gertrude turned to Henry.
“Henry, how come you don’t tell me you love me anymore?” Gertie, 50 years ago today I told you I loved you! If I change my mind you’ll be the first to know!”
That doesn’t get it!
We need reminders. It’s not that we forget, but little things: misunderstood words, half heard comments, the look that meant something else, and soon we begin to wonder if we are still loved. So we need reminders- many and often- lest we descend into a pit of doubt and despair.
One reminder I have on my desk looks like wood but it feels like a rock. It is both. Over 225 million years ago a tree fell. It was covered with sand and mud. Over time, as water seeped in, the minerals in the mud and sand replaced the wood and it became a rock. It still looks like wood.
When I look at it I am reminded that when God’s Spirit lives inside us and we turn our lives over to Him, He replaces us!
We still look the same on the outside but on the inside the change is enormous. “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community…” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Little by little, in turning our lives over to Him, different things begin to appear in us. “…affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity, Willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (Galatians 5:22-13)
Some days you may feel more like wood, others more like rock. As we let God change us from the inside out some days we are more aware of our godliness and on others more aware of our humanity. But every time you catch a glimpse of God in yourself or anothers, rejoice!