Friday, July 29, 2011

Mere humans

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

So many things about God's handiwork are being revealed these days.  With the discovery of DNA, Darwin's Theory of Evolution no longer makes sense.  All the Financial Planners who swore our 401k's would reap a huge reward had no idea the stock market would collapse. 

I have a rare condition where I get migraines that are like minor strokes- lost my short term memory for a week once.  When I was a little girl, I thought God was angry with me and would strike my head.  It was terrifying.  But, then when I accepted Christ, He sent me to the right doctor who diagnosed my condition.  At first the doctor prescribed medicine for me that gave me more migraines.  Then when the doctors got my medicine right, the insurance company tried to get me a cheaper generic that wasn't for my condition.  I prayed for help.  And God guided my doctors to figure out the right medication, the insurance company found the right generic.  We are human.   God is God. 

We definitely should go to the doctors.  They have so much knowledge to help us.  It's best to pray for them, for wisdom.  As humans we have a lot to think about!  He knows exactly what we need.  He is our Healer, our Creator, and the Great Physician.  He knows more about our bodies than anyone on earth.  I believe compassionate doctors, please God very much.  But, we are mere humans.  None of us are perfect.

Psalm 146

1 Hallelujah!
O my soul, praise God!
2 All my life long I'll praise God,
singing songs to my God as long as I live.

We have a boat load of experts these days!   But God is the highest and only completely accurate expert.
3 Don't put your life in the hands of experts
who know nothing of life, of salvation life.

The medicines we have today will probably be foolishness in the future.  But God, He can heal us using anything (even our careers).  My hope is in Him.
4 Mere humans don't have what it takes;
when they die, their projects die with them.
5 Instead, get help from the God of Jacob,
put your hope in God and know real blessing!

He made the sky that has no limits.  It's infinite.  There's no dead end.  He made the ocean that never seems to disappear.  He is awesome!
6 God made sky and soil,
sea and all the fish in it.

These verses describe the people He looks out for.  The people in the horn of Africa are here.
He always does what he says — 
7 he defends the wronged,
he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners — 
8 he gives sight to the blind,
he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people,
9 protects strangers,
takes the side of orphans and widows,
but makes short work of the wicked.

We tend to watch the movie stars, the rich and famous.  But not our God.  He watches ordinary, mere humans.  Jesus loved the little children and chose normal men to be His disciples.  It's one of the things that drew me to Him.  He looked out for widows and orphans.  He doesn't expect me to be perfect and prefers it when I'm simple. 

So glad He's in charge!  Things would be sooo much worse if He wasn't.
10 God's in charge —
Zion's God is God for good!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

God is

I know God has a sense of humor.  Just think about the giraffe, that neck...  As I journey through the Bible on this blog, I'm also journeying with my career.  I wrote a giant list of all I need to do to set up my photography business (excluding artwork and writing).  Then I sat down in a dull sigh. "Father, I'm overwhelmed.  Please give me wisdom as to where to start." 

I was expecting a profound thought or Bible verse.  But what came to mind was a song from the movie, "Mary Poppins," sung by Julie Andrews, "Start at the very beginning.  A very nice place to start.  When you read you begin with A, B, C, when you sing you begin with do re me..."

Portfolio!  You can't get anywhere in the arts without one.  So I've been plugging away on my portfolio web site lately (the link is on the top, right column of this page), which is why I'm in and out of my blog.  I have 140 gigabytes of photos...  It may take awhile to sort out the very best.  And, today I submitted some photos to a local newspaper for the editor to review.  I'll let you know how it turns out. 

This Psalm is one of David's, a song of praise.  Some of the verses repeat, "God is..." in them.  The first step in being a Christian is believing God is real. 

Psalm 145

1 I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King!
and I'll bless your name into eternity.

2 I'll bless you every day,
and keep it up from now to eternity.

There's so much we don't know about Him, the more we learn the more magnificent He becomes.
3 God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
There are no boundaries to his greatness.

It's true!  So many generations of Christians and Jews have stood in awe before Him.  Can you imagine the testimonies?
4 Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;

each one tells stories of your mighty acts.

5 Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking;
I compose songs on your wonders.

It's interesting there are times I read the headlines and think, "Praise God."  There were tornadoes that were sent away from people, defying all the science earlier this summer.
6 Your marvelous doings are headline news;
I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.

It would be wonderful if this were true.  One look at comments in the New York Times leaves me wondering how we got here.  But I must remember there are still a lot of believers in our country.
7 The fame of your goodness spreads across the country;
your righteousness is on everyone's lips.

8 God is all mercy and grace —
not quick to anger, is rich in love.

9 God is good to one and all;
everything he does is suffused with grace.

10 Creation and creatures applaud you, God;
11 your holy people bless you.

They talk about the glories of your rule,
they exclaim over your splendor,

12 Letting the world know of your power for good,
the lavish splendor of your kingdom.

He can't get voted out of office.  Shew!  Crazy times. 
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal;
you never get voted out of office.

He's not like us getting sidetracked, forgetting, He's working it all out.
God always does what he says,

and is gracious in everything he does.

I've experienced this in my life.
14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck,

gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

15 All eyes are on you, expectant;
you give them their meals on time.

16 Generous to a fault,
you lavish your favor on all creatures.

17 Everything God does is right —
the trademark on all his works is love.

18 God's there, listening for all who pray,
for all who pray and mean it.

19 He does what's best for those who fear him —
hears them call out, and saves them.

20 God sticks by all who love him,
but it's all over for those who don't.

21 My mouth is filled with God's praise.
Let everything living bless him,
bless his holy name from now to eternity!

My friend Murugi from Her World has asked for prayers for the horn of Africa- Ethiopia, Somalia, and parts of Kenya.  They are experiencing a devastating drought.  Feel free to pray with me if you like. 

Dear Heavenly Father I lift up those in Africa who are suffering from the drought.  Please send rain and hope to these people. I pray You will be present with them and send in workers who can help them.  Comfort those who mourn and bring food to those who are starving.  Nothing is impossible for You.  You control the weather.  Let Your light shine on those who feel forsaken.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

We are having high humidity in New Jersey.  So, we know what it is to be thirsty.  Before I became a Christian, I was angry and empty.  But now I'm full of joy, hope and peace.  Reading the Bible, singing, and listening to my Pastor's sermons really help.  There's still day's that I feel drained and worn.  My cup gets empty and then it's full again. Jesus has an endless supply.

Challenge sponsored by Katie Lloyd Photography

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My refuge

I love this Psalm.  It describes God as our fortress- our mighty Protector.  We definitely need protection : )

Psalm 144

In these verses the word "my" is repeated.  The description of God as our Rock, and a Mighty Fortress is in many of the beautiful old hymns.

1 Blessed be the Lord my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle — 
2 My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.

We sang the verses below quite a bit in college, there were hand motions too.  I'm not so good with the hand motion stuff...  When we accept Christ as our Savior, and the sacrifice for our sin, we become His.  So it makes sense that He is ours.  It's a love relationship.  It reminded me of these verses-
4 He brought me to the banqueting house,
And his banner over me was love.

16 My beloved is mine, and I am his.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.
Song of Solomon 2:4, 16 NKJV
Who am I?  This question has been asked for centuries.  God is so perfect and so awesome, why would He bother with us.  We fuss and fret, fight and love, hope and fail.  Yet we are His creations- His works of art.  As an artist I know what it is to keep re-working a painting until it's right.  He never gives up- we are His.  It's all about Him, He loves us that much.
3 Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.

My husband and I watched a DVD about creation.  Every detail on earth is so scientifically perfect, such a masterpiece.  Ice crystals are perfect in symmetry and shape, birds have a cooling system built into their bodies so they can breath while flying long distances.  Our God loves beauty, perfection, and intricate detail.  It's interesting that He is revealing so much to us these days.  We finally have the tools to understand so much more.  Even lightening brings necessary elements to make soil fertile.
5 Bow down Your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
6 Flash forth lightning and scatter them;
Shoot out Your arrows and destroy them.
7 Stretch out Your hand from above;
Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters,
From the hand of foreigners,
8 Whose mouth speaks lying words,
And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

9 I will sing a new song to You, O God;
On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,
10 The One who gives salvation to kings,
Who delivers David His servant
From the deadly sword.

I try to sing new songs to God.  For my morning prayers, I went through the Love Chapter- 1 Corinthians 13 and pulled out the definition of love.  Then I wrote the definitions in a list so I could pray better- instead of random thoughts, or a memorized prayer.  I take the main words and then apply them to each day.  You can see some of my weaknesses in this list- focus isn't easy!  Letting go of harsh words isn't either.  Remembering I am more than a mind and taking care of my health is also a weakness.  I also pray little prayer snippets all day.   Here's my overall list, how I pray varies depending on what's going on- some of my thoughts are in parenthesis-

  • Today!  (Help me focus on today)
  • Heal my creativity, me  (Heal my creativity and all the memories of those who've said I can't do it)
  • Freelance (Help me focus on my work today, forgive me for getting sidetracked)
  • Perspective on time  (Help me use my time wisely, it slips by so fast!)
  • Health  (Guide me to take care my body)
  • Dreams  (Help me dream dreams that align with Your will for me, Your overall plan)
  • Friends  (Lead me to new friends and help me remember my old friends)
  • Healthy things (Help me to remember to participate in healthy things not things that don't please You)
  • Family, nation  (specific requests about my family- please heal my brother, help our country get on track)
  • Finances  ( bless us financially Father, and guide me to good work)
  • Don't give up  (help me not to give up)
  • See needs of others  (help me not to be selfish but see the needs of others)
  • Contentment  (Help me know You are in control so I can be content)
  • Be myself- the me God made me to be  (help me be myself and not try and be someone else)
  • Keep track of sins  (Help me not to keep track of the sins of others- so I can forgive like You do.)
  • Pleasure in truth  (Help me find pleasure in the truth as it's revealed.)
  • Trust God  ( Help me trust You)
  • See the best  (Help me see the best)
  • Dwell on the past  (not dwell on the past)
  • Keep going to the end  (to keep going to the end)
  • Church (to be a part of Church)
  • Unforced rhythms of grace (to be a part of the unforced rhythms of grace and not make things too difficult)
  • Praises 
11 Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners,
Whose mouth speaks lying words,
And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood — 

What we do today and pass on to the next generations really matters.
12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style;
13 That our barns may be full,
Supplying all kinds of produce;
That our sheep may bring forth thousands
And ten thousands in our fields;
14 That our oxen may be well laden;
That there be no breaking in or going out;
That there be no outcry in our streets.

Amen!  When I am centered on the Lord in the morning- my days go much better.  I find peace and the safety of His mighty fortress protecting me.  My refuge who calms my soul and helps me have courage to face the battles and joys of each day.  But time of day doesn't matter anytime is good for God. : )
15 Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The pits

Sometimes life seems like the pits.  My worst morning ever, was when I was getting ready for work several years ago.  I went to put on nylons and my fingernail went through them leaving a nice, big hole.  I went to use the blow-dryer and it zapped and died.  I was living in Seattle, WA at the time and it always rained.  My 1967 Ford Mustang had issues (as you might remember from an earlier post "Rainbow Moments").  I started the engine and then went to turn on the windshield wipers and nothing...  I had a towel in my passenger seat.  I rolled down the driver's side window and drove to work.  I had to stick my arm out to wipe the windshield with the towel.  A truck driver with a sense of humor... pulled in front of me and I got what seemed like a tidal wave on my car.  But I did get to work, late, and prayed all the way.  It was the pits!  But I got there safely, wet but safe : )  Times like these happen.  This Psalm describes one of David's times in the pits.

Psalm 143

When I'm in the pits it feels like God forgot me.   But David keeps his faith.
1 Listen to this prayer of mine, God;
pay attention to what I'm asking.
Answer me — you're famous for your answers!
Do what's right for me.

This is another thing that hasn't changed in modern times.  No one wants to go to court.  It's still crazy.
2 But don't, please don't, haul me into court;
not a person alive would be acquitted there.

In David's time, there were literal enemies hunting for him.  There was that giant, "Goliath" he killed and all the Philistines who were angry, just to name a few.  He had a lot of enemies.  He feels like he's in a spiritual desert, where'd God go?
3 The enemy hunted me down;
he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life.
He put me in a black hole,
buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.
4 I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,
my heart heavy, like lead.
5 I remembered the old days,
went over all you've done, pondered the ways you've worked,
6 Stretched out my hands to you,
as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.

Now, David realizes life without God would be death in itself.  I agree.  I can't live without Him.   David writes a beautiful prayer/song.  I'm always asking God for directions, I get lost driving, but I also need direction with my life.  "Point out the road I must travel."
7 Hurry with your answer, God!
I'm nearly at the end of my rope.
Don't turn away; don't ignore me!
That would be certain death.
8 If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
I'll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
Point out the road I must travel;
I'm all ears, all eyes before you.
9 Save me from my enemies, God — you're my only hope!
10 Teach me how to live to please you,
because you're my God.
Lead me by your blessed Spirit
into cleared and level pastureland.

God's justice is always right.  Man's can get a bit messed up at times.  We just can't see the whole picture like God can.  And... there's politics.  I love David's reason- "Why?  Because I'm your servant."  Even though he went through so much calamity, he remained God's servant.  Sometimes it's not easy- but the rewards are divine!  And there's nothing like seeing someone else's struggles to put mine in perspective.
11 Keep up your reputation, God — give me life!
In your justice, get me out of this trouble!
12 In your great love, vanquish my enemies;
make a clean sweep of those who harass me.
And why? Because I'm your servant.

Here's what Jesus thinks about our simple acts of kindness. It turns out when we serve others, we're also serving Him  : )
Matt 25:31-46
31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  40 And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'

44 "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'  45 Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'  46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Have a great weekend!

In His love,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

This is Isabel from my last post : )  Here she is posing for her glamor shot.  I sure love her. This is one of the photos I took to paint her portrait.  It reminded me of the other side of the story.  God saw this elderly woman, lonely, angry and empty, living in a Nursing Home 28 years ago.  He loved her so much, He sent a young college student to be her friend and lead her to Himself.  And, now she's dancing with Jesus and the angels in Heaven.   He doesn't forget us or ignore us.  He'll take care of us too, when we get older.

Challenge sponsored by Katie Lloyd Photography

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oy! The mouth...

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
I found this Psalm to be a bit humbling...  I know.  I know, that's part of the purpose of God's Word.  To help us understand He is God, and we are the sheep. 

     It reminded me of one of my first ministries.  I got a burning desire to read the Bible to someone in a Nursing Home.  So I found an organization that would match me up.  When I got to the Nursing Home, the lady told me, "We're going to try you out with Isabel.  She hates people and won't let anyone visit her, even her family.  You seem like a nice person."
     Yikes!  I prayed and walked over to where she was resting.  The first thing she said was, "What are you doing here?  Did THEY send you?  I don't want you here!"
     You see, I wasn't very nice to Christians before I accepted the Lord and these thoughts came to mind.  So, I sat down in a chair, smiled, and looked up to Heaven.  I could feel God's laughter, so I silently responded, "Ok Lord, I know this is where You want me."  Then I could feel His love.
     Isabel calmed down and asked what I wanted to do.  So I told her, "Whatever you want to do.  I can just keep you company.  Or we can read the Bible."
     "I hate the Bible."
     So I sat silently.  Finally, she said, "Well I guess it's ok for you to visit."
     Our relationship lasted for several months.  We were in Washington state at the time.  She described living in the untamed Cascade Mountain range, in a cabin, with her husband.  She told me stories of bears, and trains.  How she loved her husband and what a great man he was.  I can still see images in my mind from our talks.
     I had to paint a portrait for college.  She let me take photos so I could paint her.  Isabel always wore a bright yellow visor and multi-colored gown.  The painting turned out great (I only have a slide or I'd show it to you).
     One day the Lord prompted me to share the Bible with her.  He let me lead her to Christ.  We read the Bible for several weeks.  I was able to take her to my Church in a wheelchair once.  And then, the Lord prompted me to help her with her family.  I told her, "Isabel, I've loved this time with you.  But, I think it would be better if you could meet with your family.  I'm sure they miss you." 
     She agreed.  I stepped out of the way and let the family re-unite. The family wanted the painting so I gave it to them.  With our mouths and a little silence, we can bring great blessings, healing, and hope to others, with God's help.

Psalm 141:1-8

David starts out with an outcry to God.  He feels alone, like God isn't listening.  Hmmm I know that feeling.  He asks God to make his prayer like incense,  a sweet aroma.  David always acknowledges the power and might of God.  I ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me through the Bible, and for words to say to others.  I've never thought of asking Him to give me words to pray. 
1 Lord, I cry out to You;
Make haste to me!
Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.
2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Oh man... here's the part about the mouth.  It's very important and very hard to control.  People don't understand what we mean, we don't speak the same language, we argue, we cut down, humiliate, but we also bring great blessing, hope, love and healing to others.  Such a mystery.
3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice wicked works
With men who work iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

It reminded me of what James wrote about our mouths:
James 3:5-10
5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
It seems besides traffic jams, what we say is a great test of our faith...  It's so true.  I've met people that appear so handsome or beautiful, then they speak and they aren't at all.  I've said things that I wish I could erase somehow.  But we still have hope : )
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is a good way to think of it.  If we get corrected it's better to be corrected by a Christian in love, than without love.  I was taught early on that if you're anxious to get out there and fix someone, you should stay quiet.  Pray first, examine your own heart and then ask for the words to say.  When you'd rather not do it, then you're ready to correct someone else.  Guess that applies in marriage too.

5 Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

This sounds horrible.  Another reminder of how awful it must be to fight in a war.  I know it's necessary, but it sure can be brutal.
For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.
6 Their judges are overthrown by the sides of the cliff,
And they hear my words, for they are sweet.
7 Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave,
As when one plows and breaks up the earth.

So beautiful! 
8 But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord;
In You I take refuge;
Do not leave my soul destitute.
9 Keep me from the snares they have laid for me,
And from the traps of the workers of iniquity.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I escape safely.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Get me out of here

This could apply to so many situations.  Homes, war, school, work- almost anywhere that people gather, things can deteriorate.  David is in the middle of things again.  Some want to go to war and David doesn't want to.   He knows all to well what war is like.

Psalm 140

Some of this describes what's on TV, doesn't it?  Sometimes I feel it in my heart and I need to pray for deliverance, forgiveness and a clean heart.  We can change the channel or turn off the TV.  But sometimes life isn't that easy to control.
1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
Preserve me from violent men,
2 Who plan evil things in their hearts;
They continually gather together for war.
3 They sharpen their tongues like a serpent;
The poison of asps is under their lips.

The word, "Selah" is unknown.  It's thought to mean, "lift up" like we say, "Amen."  It could also be a break in the song- either just voices or just instruments.

Even today, we need His protection.  I feel like I need to be watchful of the things I watch on TV, magazines, books, music, even bad guys roaming the streets.  So many things disguised as entertainment can cause problems in our souls.  I believe some of it has to do with our pasts though.  Before I became a Christian, I was proud of the way I could cut down arrogant people.  My friends used to love to watch me.  But after I became a Christian, I learned that both pride and humiliating others were wrong.  Whenever I see this now, I feel sad.  I still have moments of being very direct with people, but I try and do it in honesty and love.
4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
Preserve me from violent men,
Who have purposed to make my steps stumble.
5 The proud have hidden a snare for me, and cords;
They have spread a net by the wayside;
They have set traps for me.

David always gives us some bright spots in his Psalms : )
6 I said to the Lord: "You are my God;
Hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord.
7 O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation,
You have covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
Do not further his wicked scheme,
Lest they be exalted.

This is focused specifically on the evil leader.  You could probably see it as either a curse or an honest response to war.  Personally, I see this as a request that the leader receive what they are telling others to do.  Many times in battles, the mastermind isn't in the actual battle.   Sort of makes me think of the verse "do to others as you'd have them do to you."  Sometimes leaders (family, work, war...) ask things of others that they themselves aren't willing to do.
9 "As for the head of those who surround me,
Let the evil of their lips cover them;
10 Let burning coals fall upon them;
Let them be cast into the fire,
Into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
11 Let not a slanderer be established in the earth;
Let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him."

I always feel so humble when I read about this side of the Lord in the Bible.   He really cares and has compassion for those who are hurting.  Sometimes it feels so lonely and endless.  But He's not done yet!
12 I know that the Lord will maintain
The cause of the afflicted,
And justice for the poor.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name;
The upright shall dwell in Your presence.

I've thought of this verse often when I was out of work, or financially challenged : )  It's true.  He always provides.  There's a huge reward in believing, never alone, never forsaken.
Psalm 37:25-26
25 I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.
26 He is ever merciful, and lends;
And his descendants are blessed.

This verse came to mind too.  There's a time to wait and a time to move on. As one of my friends used to say, "God has to give me a swift kick in the behind to get me to move on sometimes."  In other words, God has a way of letting us know when it's time to move on. 
1 Corinthians 7:17
And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don't think I'm being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Made by God

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
Ok, so for my younger years, I had perfectly straight hair.  Except for the part right above my right eye-  one curly lump.  I was waiting to ask God what He was thinking with that in Heaven.  But, things changed, now all my hair is curly : )  I like it, it's so much easier to style.  We get so picky about our appearance.  But what we consider a flaw, God did with love.  There are no accidents (like parents sometimes think)- we were all created by Him.

Psalm 139:13-24

God designs us before we were born.  He already had something figured out.  Hair color, eyes, nationality, strengths, weaknesses, He knew.  The more I learn about bodies from science, the more I am amazed at our design.  Even our fingers bend in three places.  We blink to keep our eyes moist.  Our tongue gets dry when we are thirsty- our stomach growls when we're hungry.  Maybe He knew some of us would skip meals while working : )
13 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb. 
14 I thank you, High God — you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

We were made to worship God.
I worship in adoration — what a creation! 
15 You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something. 

He even loved us while we were teenagers.  He knew we'd need to grow and learn.
16 Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

I drew the cartoon above from my imagination- but can you imagine God's?  Wow!  Don't think my mind could begin to grasp what He thinks.  He's counted the grains of sand on the shore, knows the stars by name.  I knew what people look like before I drew my cartoon, God creates from nothing.
17 Your thoughts — how rare, how beautiful!
God, I'll never comprehend them! 
18 I couldn't even begin to count them — 
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! 

One day He will do away with wickedness for good.  We're all looking forward to that.  But for now we need to serve Him and guide others to Him.
19 And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers — out of here! —  
20 all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations. 
21 See how I hate those who hate you, God,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance; 
22 I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!

David is asking again for God's examination.  So glad we have the Holy Spirit today, so we get immediate feedback.  Personally, I get this bad feeling when I mess up- or just get something wrong.  But, I ask daily for guidance.
23 Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about; 
24 See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong — 
then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Examine me

It took me a long time to be open to asking God to examine my heart.  I was afraid of what He'd find.  That He'd make me feel guilty for everything I ever did wrong, or point out my faults.  It was after about 32 years as a Christian, I finally gave in and prayed, "Ok God, examine me and let me know what I need to change."

His response was amazing.  Peace.  So I asked again.  I felt warm and safe.  Guess it doesn't pay to be afraid of God does it?  He already knows everything about us and His Holy Spirit lets us know when we're off track.

This is a beautiful Psalm by David.  I'm going to break it down into two posts because I don't want to miss anything.  I also feel bad when my posts get too long.  Enjoy!

Psalm 139:1-12

To me, this describes acknowledging God's presence.  And then, asking what He thinks.  I confess, as an expressive, most people know what I'm thinking.  But God knows what's in our hearts.
1 God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
2 I'm an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.
3 You know when I leave and when I get back;
I'm never out of your sight.

Sometimes when I get tongue tied or I know I'm treading on shaky ground, I'll ask the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say.  My mind clears and I know how to speak in love.  This has been a huge help in my marriage.  I'm not a super-saint though and sometimes blurt things out...  intense fellowship, as my Pastor calls it.
4 You know everything I'm going to say
before I start the first sentence.
5 I look behind me and you're there,
then up ahead and you're there, too —
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
6 This is too much, too wonderful — I can't take it all in!

We can't escape His Spirit.  I really don't want to.
7 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
8 If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
9 If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
10 You'd find me in a minute —
you're already there waiting!

This is interesting.  These words remind me of what I read about the New Jerusalem:
Revelation 21:23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.
I love this.  When bad things happen, the worst time is at night.  It feels so lonely and unending.  But God is there- it's not even night to Him.
11 Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
12 It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.

Sometimes human relationships get painful.  But God doesn't want us to be afraid of Him, just confess and change direction.  He wants to forgive (1 John 1:9), forget (Psalm 103:12) and move on.  Something I try to do as well.
1 John 4:18-19
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

By accepting Christ, we receive His Holy Spirit who lets us know what we've done right and wrong.  Jesus said it this way-
John 16:7-9
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment... 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

In my last post, the potter and clay came to mind.  There's much more to the story.  When I was studying for my Bachelors in Fine Art, a required course was... POTTERY!!!  I was terrible at it.  I'm clumsy and my pots turned out crooked or with a 2 inch bottom ...  Not my best grade in college for sure; no worries, I aced painting.  In Pottery class, I learned the basics.  It's amazing how much it relates to being a Christian.

Creating a pot begins with a big block of clay, like all the people in the world, God chooses us because we chose to follow Him.  I had to select the right size chunk out of the block for the pot I wanted to make.  He has a plan for all of us. Once selected, you knead the clay to get all the bubbles out,  you add a bit of water to make the clay soft.  It reminds me of when I started out with Jesus, I was full of bubbles (sin, didn't know the Bible at all, wrong ideas).  He had to work out those bubbles, and the Bible provided just enough living water to soften me up so I'd be open to His teaching. 

Once the clay is soft and the bubbles gone- it's time to throw it on the wheel!  If you are coordinated it lands in the middle of the wheel.  Can be a long process... sigh.  But not for the Master.  Then you place both of your hands on the ball of clay.  If you are using a manual wheel, you kick it with your foot to make the clay go round in your hands while adding a bit more water.  This is called centering the clay.  Too much water and the clay goes splat.  Jesus centers us on Him.  He is very good at this.  This is when we learn to trust Him and not depend on other things to make us feel good or safe.

After the clay is centered you leave one hand on the outside of the ball and place your fingers in the center using your thumb on the outside to bring up the walls of the pot.  If you press too hard the wall gets too thin and collapses.  Two hands and a foot moving at the same time?  This reminds me of when we try too hard to make ourselves into something He doesn't want us to be.  He's the Master Potter and knows just the right amount of pressure to apply.  When I tried to make pots, I'd press too hard and squish the pot then have to pull off the clay and knead it again.  Sometimes we experience this in our lives with Christ.  We fall away and seek the Lord to bring us back to Him; His patience is amazing.  For me, after a time like this I am all the more eager to be centered on Him and things go much better.

Next comes the kiln, where the pot is placed in a fiery furnace and made strong, ready for use.  For us, to be His servants.

Challenge sponsored by Katie Lloyd Photography

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thank You

This Psalm repeats the words, "Thank you."  So I made a little Thank You card.  But it's repeated, that means the Lord wants us to remember to say, "Thanks."  Sorry this post is so late, vacation last week and well, since I'm at home, I'm the Technical Support lady in our house : )  After much frustration and muscle twitches, my husband's laptop connects to the internet again!  He said, "Thanks," about three times already.  Thanks to God for internet access, laptops and all those computing skills I learned in IT.  I couldn't have done it without Him- seriously.

Psalm 138

Angels listen to us.  That is so cool.  I highlighted my favorites in blue but you might have other favorites.
1 Thank you! Everything in me says "Thank you!"
Angels listen as I sing my thanks
2 I kneel in worship facing your holy temple
and say it again: "Thank you!"
Thank you for your love,
thank you for your faithfulness;
Most holy is your name,
most holy is your Word. 
3 The moment I called out, you stepped in;
you made my life large with strength.

If only our world leaders and politicians would listen to God's voice, I really don't know who does and who doesn't though.  Some probably do.  I'd love to hear them praise God.
4 When they hear what you have to say, God,
all earth's kings will say "Thank you." 
5 They'll sing of what you've done:
"How great the glory of God!" 

He knows all about us, and loves us so much He died for us.  That's one loving Father for sure.  The least we can do is say, "Thanks."  And, believe His love never quits.
6 And here's why: God, high above, sees far below;
no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.

Ok.  So I was born with a "Kick me" sign on my back.  At least sometimes it seems that way.  A friend told me once I have the gift of martyrdom.  I'm not sure about that, and also not sure I'd like to have it.  But, if it's God's will- He'll help me do a good job at it.  Needless to say, I tend to wander into the thick of trouble.  I can testify that God has given me the strength to handle all sorts of trouble.  I actually had to pray in one of my jobs, "Let Your rod and staff comfort me.  So I don't make things worse by saying the wrong things!"  I can laugh now because it's all over and I'm safe.  I can laugh because God helped me let go of the vengeful feelings and let Him handle it.  Every time I started getting angry, I'd quote, "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord," over and over (that verse needs to be said in old English, in my opinion).
7 When I walk into the thick of trouble,
keep me alive in the angry turmoil.
With one hand
strike my foes,
With your other hand
save me. 

There's a reason for everything.  Even the stuff I don't like.  It's all a part of a bigger plan.   One day all the joys and heartaches, pains and triumphs, will be shaped by God's hand into a beautiful soul.   I for one, needed lots of work in the beginning and still do.
8 Finish what you started in me, God.
Your love is eternal — don't quit on me now.

Isaiah 64:8
8 But now, O Lord,
You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand.

Thank You Father for healing me of anger.  Thank You for the many ways You shape our souls and for Your immense patience.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Overcome evil with good

This Psalm contains another curse- it gets ugly at the end.  But in this one, the reason is included.  It reminded me of times when it seems like nothing will ever go right again.  Times when someone has done something that's devastating.  I feel crushed like there's no hope.  But there's always hope, God is bigger than all our troubles. 

Psalm 137

This Psalm was written after Israel was divided into two kingdoms.  The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was taken captive by Babylon and the temple destroyed.  It's very sad.
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

You can feel their sorrow, they lost Jerusalem, and the Temple.
4 How shall we sing the Lord's song
In a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget its skill!
6 If I do not remember you,
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth —
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

Then they cry out to the Lord asking for vengeance.  The interesting part about this is that Edomites were the descendants of Esau.  Esau and Jacob were twins carried by Rebekah, they fought with each other during her pregnancy.
Genesis 25:22-23
22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If all is well, why am I like this?" So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 And the Lord said to her:
"Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger."
Esau was born first.  After they were born and grew up- they fought over who would gain their Father's (Isaac) birthright.  Jacob tricked Esau and waited for him to get hungry.  Then he offered him some stew and Esau gave Jacob his birthright (for food).  Next Jacob put on firs to trick Isaac into thinking he was Esau (the hairy guy).  He received Isaac's blessing.  Then Jacob went on to wrestle with God and received God's blessing to become Israel the Father of the nation.  So this is a repeat of history, only it's a fight between Esau and Jacob's descendants.  History still repeats itself, even today.

7 Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said,  "Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation!"

Here's the ugly part, the curse.  This is saying to kill all of Babylon's children by dashing them against rocks.  This type of hatred destroys souls and others.  There's a time to be angry, to cry and mourn, then a time to move on.
8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
9 Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

It's so tempting to let anger get out of control.  But it's just not worth it.  Later Babylon  was conquered by Persia, the Jews were set free and actually told to rebuild the Temple in Judah.  God used the prophet Jeremiah to help out.

Ezra 1:2-4
2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.
Amazing grace.  Amazing God!

I really don't know if the curse had an impact on the exile.  In the context of the whole Bible, God always wanted to be trusted and worshiped over all others.  Taking vengeance, which is different from self-defense or protecting the innocent, is against God's law (Deuteronomy 32:35).  This is very serious to God.  Jesus tells us to do good to those who persecute us because it will heap burning coals on their heads  : )  It also protects our souls, our hearts.  Ok so I confess, the part about burning coals is encouraging to me.  It's not easy at all to do this. 

Jesus said it this way,
Romans 12:19-21
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 Therefore
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.