Saturday, January 30, 2010

Do You Hear It?

Oscar Hammerstein II said the hills were alive with the sound of music. Where I live, that music plays against verdant pastures and brilliantly green hillsides. Angus cow-calf pairs dot the scene like quarter notes on a musical score. Each cow has a calf at her side, and she paces her stride to match its own faltering steps.

The calves are so fresh and new that they shine like onyx in the morning sun, dark against the grass their mothers graze. There is a tenderness in it all, in the grass, in the animals – a moment set against the rush of time when nothing matters but the protection and nurturing of a young life.

I drive through this landscape every morning on my way to school. And in the late afternoon I return on the same road to see long shadows thrown across the pastures by the grazing cattle.

Yesterday it was warmer; the temperature had climbed into the high 60s, and the cows had turned their eyes away from the sun, their backs to the west. As I slowed to watch them, I wondered what there was of God out in that pasture. I knew there was something there, something He would say to me if I paused in my hurry home, and searched for His message.

The cow closest to the fence line along the road stood at an odd angle, sideways to the sunlight. Her shadow stretched wide across the grass, and several feet away lay her resting calf, tucked exactly within the edges of her cool shade, sheltered from the heat of the day.

She knew.

She knew exactly how to stand to shade her calf, and she stayed there until the glare of the sun had passed.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1 NIV).

Our God knows, too. He knows exactly what we need, and He is there to let us rest in the shadow of His comfort.

And if we still our hearts, we may even hear the music of His love around us.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Oxygen

On my return flight from Colorado this past holiday season, I listened to the familiar emergency survival instructions as the plane taxied out to the runway.

If the cabin lost pressure, the stewardess said, an oxygen mask would release from the overhead compartment directly above each passenger. Using a demonstration mask, she showed us how to slip the elastic band over the back of our heads, secure the mask over nose and mouth, and breathe normally.

Then she cautioned that in the event of such an emergency, we were to put on our own masks before we tried to help the person seated next to us – even if that person was a child.

At first, this seemed like a harsh statement, but it soon made sense. How could I help anyone else if I were about to lose consciousness myself?

This practical, life-saving advice applies to other areas of our lives, as well, yet too often we fail to consider its logic. Instead, we offer advice to our friends in difficult situations when we don’t have a solid grip on our own challenges. We try to give them answers, when we’re not even certain of the questions.

It all comes down to preparation. Are we prepared? Are we grounded in the Word of God? Do we know where our lifeline is – our emotional and spiritual oxygen mask – in case of depressurization?

Sadly, many of us don’t. We don’t spend time every day reading the promises and assurances of God. We don’t fill ourselves with the confidence of His faithfulness. Therefore, when the air gets thin, we start to panic. What good will we be to anyone else in that condition, much less to ourselves?

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19). Do you really love yourself in the way God wants you to, or do you ignore His grace and belittle yourself for not measuring up? Do you love yourself enough to get the spiritual nourishment you need?

Start today by opening God’s word and taking a deep breath of His life-giving wisdom. Be prepared so you’ll be able to help others near you who may be gasping for air.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Window Watching

Elvis Presley once described television as a box with a window in it – a one-way window with people looking in but no one looking out.

He was right.

I have one of those windows in my living room, and another very similar window on my desk. In fact, I have many windows on my desk via a computer system of the same name that allows me to see more than one place at one time.

However, I prefer the window above my desk through which I can see a portion of the living world where greening hills cradle a glassy pond, and still-gold cottonwoods flame up from the valley floor like torches.

Sometimes I sit for long uninterrupted moments taking in the view, exploring from a distance the sheer rocky brow of a neighboring hillside, or the rippling breath of dawn as it brushes across the pond lighting the water and waking geese and ducks and egrets. It’s the constancy of life that draws my gaze outside, and it calms me during otherwise tedious hours of chasing black words across the white window of my computer screen. And it calms me immeasurably more than whatever happens to be on the television in the other room.

But the window that gives something in return, even more than the pastoral setting of our surroundings, is God’s word. When I look into that window I find out who I am and where I’m going. I see the one who loves me like no other can; I see a pathway ahead that, should I choose it, will take me into God’s very presence. And I find deeper peace than even the most beautiful of earthly settings can offer.

Not everyone has a breath-taking view out a picture window. Many do, yet they rarely take the time to drink it in. But everyone can get a copy of the Bible today, whether in print or online. This year, regardless of your situation, make the choice to look through the window of God’s word to find your way. Unlike the people on television, He is there looking back at you, waiting for you to join Him.