The Jubilee Year

On August 11th I turned 50 years old.  I’m a half century old!  I remember reading a t-shirt once that said, “50’s not old if you’re a tree”.   And now I’m reading, “50 is the young person’s old and the old person’s young”.  How true.  The mannequin, Madge, made it to my birthday party- she was a bit aloof  I might add!

The birthdays that end in a zero are always reflective.  As I prayed and pondered over this one it came as clear as a bell- it’s a Jubilee Year!  This is my jubilee year!  I plan on celebrating Jubilee all year long and invite you to celebrate as well.

In Leviticus God told his people to care for the land in a way that let it rest every 7th year so that the land observed a Sabbath rest.  Then they were to count 7 sabbaths of years-  seven sets of seven years (say THAT fast), amounting to 49 years and the next year was the year of jubilee.

“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee year for you.”  Leviticus 25:10a

Part of the dictionary definition of “consecrate” is to declare or set apart as sacred or to dedicate solemnly to a service or goal.
Now I know that this is a stretch of application for this Scripture, but I desire to set apart this 50th Jubilee Year as one dedicated to living in liberty and proclaiming liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants- the liberty of studying God’s Word, walking obediently with the Spirit and experiencing God’s blessings of freedom, rest and safety.  Want to walk along?
Lord, I don’t always feel free, restful and safe.  Will you show the way to true jubilee- to being liberated from the things that prevent us from walking in Your deep and true freedom, peace and joy? Thank you for being constantly present and constantly accessible through Your Spirit and Your Word.
Leviticus 25:10a;  Isaiah 61


We’re Artists!

In the newspaper we read of an art exhibit in the area nursing home of works done over the lifetime of our friend, Dellon.  Now I ask you, who could turn down an invitation from an eighty-something year old?

Many of these pieces are on the walls of friends and neighbors and we are fortunate enough to have a couple as well.  Painting has brought pleasure to him over the years and he smiled  as we talked about being an artist.

After complimenting Isaac on the picture he had drawn, he quickly invited me over to his house to see his other drawings.  Now I ask you, who could turn down an invitation from an almost 6 year old?

The next week I ventured over to a very busy household with four small boys (Isaac is the eldest of the four) to see the exhibit of his works up on the wall in the play room.  He had been working to copy the pictures from a book that taught how to draw various figures such as bears or spacemen.   Isaac’s mom is working hard to encourage his gifts and interests with books and materials and even an “artist” birthday party complete with homemade French berets and a paint easel!  Good job, mom, and happy sixth birthday, Isaac!

I received a drawing as a gift for my refrigerator at home and he smiled as we talked about being an artist.

Isaac and Dellon are artists.  Okay, so neither of them have works up in museums (yet), but God has placed that interest in them and  it brings pleasure to their lives.  I was inspired to seek ways to use art in various ways to encourage others in their faith.  How exciting.  I smile as we talk about being an artist.

You may not be an artist, but God has placed other interests and abilities in you to bring pleasure to your life, to the lives of those around you, and to God.  Are you a carpenter, a quilter, a cook, a letter writer, a conversationalist, an organizer,  an athlete? It is part of your purpose to use those abilities.

Do you remember the quote from the movie “Chariots of Fire”?  Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.  And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Spend at least an hour this weekend  pleasing God as He sees you using the abilities that He has given you.  Oh, and encourage at least one person that blesses you by using their abilities.  I smile as we talk about being an encourager.   What makes you smile?

PS- If you’re a cook, I’d be glad to be the one that encourages your abilities!!

Thank you Lord for making each of us  with purpose and that you find pleasure in the good use of our abilities.  May we be faithful  to use them for You and to be a blessing to others as well as ourselves.  Help us to risk practicing and not being “good enough” or “as good as so-and-so” but instead to focus on You as the giver of all gifts and abilities.  May we sense Your pleasure in our desire to please You.

Romans 1:8-12

The young father lifts his child up overhead and smiles as he looks into the face of his baby that brings him such great joy.  He speaks up at the child playfully and then brings her down into his arms and tucks her  into a tight hug.

Do you need a picture to visualize how God responds to His children? Then keep the picture of the young father and his child in mind as you read this part of God’s blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 that is often read at the end of a church service.

“May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

The position that God has towards His children as He “lifts up His countenance” is one of a Father lifting His small child high over head and looking up in loving pleasure.

Spend a few minutes imagining yourself being lifted up by the Lord and looking down into His eyes full of love, joy and peace.  He desires you to be at peace with Him and at peace in your soul.

Peace.  If you cannot look into the eyes of God, is there sin in your life that needs to be confessed?  Is there shame or fear that makes it hard to believe He could want you as His child?  Are there circumstances that whirl around you that pull your eyes from His face?

Whatever sin has been committed, confess it quickly and look into His eyes of forgiveness for restored relationship.  Whatever the source of your shame or fear, dare to lock eyes and find understanding and a source of courage.  Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this day, seek the eyes of your Savior and return to this position of peace in your soul.  Seek Him and walk through the circumstance with Him in His peace.

Dear Lord, thank You that You are a loving heavenly Father.  Help me to believe that You love me and desire to be in constant relationship with me.  Help me to picture myself as Your child looking down into Your face and seek to restore or keep my relationship with You strong and constant.  May I find the peace that comes from looking into Your eyes.

Job 33:26;  Psalms 123:2;  Hebrews 12:2

Okay, so as the pastor was ready to let us out of the church service,  he raised his hand and said, “Receive the blessing.”   Now I ask you, if he goes ahead and says the blessing over us, do we really have a choice but to receive it? 🙂

The word “receive” has been rolling around in my brain for the past several days.  When my husband speaks loving words to me or a friend gives a compliment to encourage, how many times do I allow it to run off like water and not receive it into me to glean its intended benefit?

If the words of a blessing are like a gift, then let’s pretend that you think of the perfect gift and then place it in a box to give to the person of your choice.  You go to your loved one’s door and with anticipation, ring the bell.  When they come to the door they say, “Thanks, just leave it there on the porch.” and return to the house.

It has been received in one sense of the word, but not as the giver intended.  How disappointing to you, who so wants the gift to be opened and used.  If the gifts keep stacking up on the porch, you are so sad that your loved one isn’t really getting the benefit of your gifts.

The word “receive” can mean something is given, but in the deeper sense it means to welcome, to hold, to accept as true or valid.

In the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, he states that each person has a gate to change and no one else can open it for them.  Do we also have a gate for receiving, a gate that no one else can open so that we can’t be truly encouraged or blessed without opening that gate and receiving it?

The Bible speaks of many things that we are to receive, to allow in through the gate; the gospel, salvation, Jesus Christ, baptism, the Word, the Holy Spirit, power, God’s promises and blessings, forgiveness, love and grace to name a few.

So today let’s examine the gate that may be preventing us from receiving the blessings from God and from others who desire to encourage us.

Find one verse in the Bible that addresses a challenge in your life and visualize it as a wrapped gift from God.  Take it in your hands and unwrap it, look at it from every angle and enjoy it.  Let it come into your heart and have its intended result of encouraging, directing, or convicting you.  Look into the eyes of the Giver and see the love He has for you, His desire to give good gifts to you and to help you.  Use the words to ward off discouragement or hardship as they are intended to do.

If a friend or spouse compliments you, stop, look into his or her face, think about what they said and say “thank you” (with no “but…” or “if only…”).  Take the words in and let them speak to your heart and encourage you.

I know that gates also keep certain things out, and for a good reason, but we’ll look at that another time!

Now, receive Gods blessing;

“May the Lord bless you  and keep you; may the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;  May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you His peace.  Amen.”

Lord, thank you for Your Word that is full of promises and words of help and direction.  May I open the gate that allows me to receive them into my life and use them as You intended.  May I better understand Your love for me and Your desire to walk through every moment of every day with me.  Bless me, keep me, shine on me, be gracious to me, lift up your face to me, and give me Your peace.

Numbers 6:24

So on Saturday I enjoyed my devotions over a nice cup of hot chai, visited with my daughter in law, played with the grand baby, did some cleaning and watered the plants outside when my brain did a screech to a halt.  The wheels spun as I dug in the memory bank for the source of the interruption of my cruise through the Saturday routine.  Hmmm… oh my, I remember, I’m to sing at a funeral today and the practice is in a half hour!

A quick shower proceeds the scan of the closet for appropriate funeral attire, I grab the new jewelry set that was a gift for Mother’s Day and off I go.  The jewelry is the large chunky type and is a cross set, should be nice for the occasion. 

Made it just under the wire to practice, eat lunch with a kind member of the ensemble that offered, and returned to the church.  It couldn’t have been a nicer funeral and on the way out through the kitchen after greeting the family and grabbing a piece of cake I’m engaged in several conversations.

“Should I tell her?” my good friend asks as she takes my chin and swivels my head from side to side?

“Yes?”, my curiosity is up…

“You have on two different earings!  But it’s a very artsy,” she adds with an affectionate grin.

Ah, nothing like a good laugh at oneself!

I may look into starting a new fad.  Want to join me?

As a young girl my parents brought us to the bedside of an elderly, dying aunt.  Her husband of way over 50 years faithfully tended her in their home.  He was a large man, strong from years on the farm, with big hands that were rough from work.  Those big hands  gently cared for his frail wife and her needs.

We all talked in the room around Aunt Ag’s bed that was covered with pink, flowered sheets.  She sweetly smiled up at us, but her eyes continually found those of her dear husband.  Uncle Reuben bent over her and said,  “You’re the prettiest flower in this bed” before kissing her.  I knew he meant it and was speaking of something very deep between them.

That was one of many pictures of  commitment and faithfulness in marriage that a young girl tucked away in her mind and heart.

So then, why has it been difficult over the years to receive the words of a faithful husband, at times sweeping them away with an “oh, you couldn’t really mean it, could you?” attitude instead of embracing them gratefully and standing on them securely?

Before Valentine’s Day I received a lovely bouquet of flowers from Calvin.  He was eager to remember the occasion and was even days early in his eagerness.  Before his heart incident and he occasionally gave flowers but now he looks for opportunities.  (I keep telling him that he used to send me flowers weekly and take me on yearly cruises, but he hasn’t fallen for that yet!)  The flowers are beautiful, but it’s the notes that are appreciated the most.

“I love you now more than ever.”

A few weeks later two bunches of wild flowers appeared on the counter with a note.

“I’m not particularly fond of the vases but I thought the flowers were beautiful- although not as beautiful as you are.  PS can you name these flowers?”

I was tempted to point out how I’m getting older, how I don’t feel beautiful… but I stopped.

I tried to look for his eyes and receive the words, letting them sink in deeply.  I knew he meant it and was speaking of something deep between us.

Today is June 5th and there is a pretty little bouquet of flowers on the table.  Happy Anniversary, Calvin.  I love you and you are a gift to me.  Look for my eyes and receive the words.  Know that I mean it.

PS- I liked the vases (especially the calf bottle), and yes, I can name the flowers- on left are phlox and on the right are blue wild indigo, my favorite wild flower!

Have you ever read the writings of someone that makes you look over your shoulder to see if he or she is in the room?  That’s the way it is for me when I read the devotional “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.  I jokingly say it’s written by “Oswald’s in my Chambers”, because although I know he wrote these things a century ago, they often speak so deeply to me at the moment that I think he must be listening into my thoughts and conversations and responding directly to them. Many feel the same way about this classic book of devotional readings.

Mr. Chambers speaks directly to the heart and cuts to the point.

“The vicarious life of your Lord is to become your vital, simple self.  This is  your line of service- to see that there is nothing between you and Jesus.”  Oswald Chambers

My vital, simple self.

Vital is that which is essential, indispensable, and necessary for well-being.  Simple is not complicated, easily understood and considered by itself or pure.  Self is being considered completely as a an individual being.   This vital, simple self sounds so free to be and do and relate.

Even as I write these words I am smiling and visualizing a scene of simple and free worship.  I get a mental picture of taking off layer after layer of cumbersome, heavy clothing till I’m in a lightweight robe that flows around me as I spin around with arms and face lifted to God.

Lord, I desire to be vital and simple and the self You created me to be.  Help me to shed the facades, the images, the activities, the false ideas, the _____, that put barriers between us.  May I serve You by being real  before You and may I trust You to make me pure and give me true vitality for what You call me to do.  Thank You that You, my Creator, desire deep relationship with me.  It is truly amazing.

1 Corinthians 8:3 and 13:11-12