And God Spoke through Peacocks and a Cable Guy…

 

Peacock Blue by StacyJMT

 

As I awoke this morning, my thoughts filled with a certain dream of mine. Not the singing-the-National-Anthem at-a-Dodgers-game in-your-skivvies kind of dream. The goal-in-your-heart kind of dream. The one that fills your waking hours, and sometimes seems as unlikely to occur as the Nation Anthem solo.

This was a morning when the dream seemed far from being achieved…mostly because of my own shortcomings, as I see them. It can take a long time to wait for a dream. After a while, waiting becomes the status quo; and it begins to seem as if the dream will never be anything more than its name.

I turned over to take up my Bible for morning meditation. As I did, my eyes fell on a Dasani water bottle on my nightstand. Sunlight filtered through the semi-transparent label, catching my attention with a beautiful blue-green color. I had a passing thought that it would be a lovely color to use in one of my art pieces; then picked up my Bible, said a prayer, and opened to a random page.

Nothing is ever random in God’s universe. I found myself looking at Ezekiel 39:8: “It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of.”

A little ripple of shock, followed by excitement, went through my heart. The Lord had heard me, and was telling me that my dream would come true. It reminded me of the Daily Word devotional for this date–“With God, all things are possible.” Even if I couldn’t see how.

So I arose and went about my day. Who knows—maybe, somewhere ocean-deep in my heart, I didn’t really believe my dream would come true. In any case, God must have thought I needed a clearer message. So He sent me peacocks.

Peacocks. Four of them.

I live in the Central California coast—like, in a condo, in the middle of an area that has streets, industry, homes. No zoos. No aviaries. The wildest bird I’ve ever seen here was a white dove.

But today there were four magnificent peacocks taking a leisurely stroll across the deck outside my window. All I could do was stare at them. Peacocks.

With beautiful Dasani-blue feathers.

I watched them, bemusedly, till they disappeared. Who knows where they came from or where they went.

A few minutes later, a cable guy knocked on the door. On a Saturday. And we don’t have cable. However, our DSL is coming up for renewal, and we’ve been thinking of changing to cable. That has been my job, to research the services, and discover which company and which plan would give me the bandwidth speed I need for video conferences. I’ve been distracted with this—I’ve been fretting about it, trying to figure it out, worrying that I wouldn’t get it done in time, doubting that it was even possible to get faster internet where we live.

Suddenly, there was the cable guy on my doorstep. He gave us a flyer that had every plan we could possibly need on it. Told us that they would be installing cable in other condos around us next week. Mentioned that there were no contracts to worry about, no installation fees, no prime-time slowdowns of service. Just effectively answered every one of my questions, dispelled my worries, and took the matter out of my hands, giving me exactly what I hoped for.

Peacocks and a cable guy.

When something that unusual happens, I can’t help thinking that there must be a reason. Within moments, it sank in.

With God, all things are possible.

I may think this dream of mine is way out there, too impossible to come true. But so are peacocks in a condo complex. I may think I need to work extra hard, earn my dream, be worthy enough before it can come true—do a whole litany of tasks before I can have what I want. When all along it’s really a gift of God’s grace, which He will lay on my doorstep at exactly…the right…moment.

Dasani blue. Whenever I see it, I’ll think of peacocks, a cable guy, and God’s clear, eclectic voice speaking to me on a sunny Saturday.

With God, anything’s possible.

Even the unlikely.

 

Photography by Stacy J-M Taylor

 

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The Kingdom of God is Within You

 

An eloquent writer in the WordPress community recently posed the challenging question: “If you didn’t know anything about the Kingdom [of God], how would you define it?”

When defining the Kingdom of God, the first verse I think of is part of Luke 17:21: “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

I always drew great hope and comfort from that verse. “The Kingdom of God is within you.” I felt it was a treasure hunt of sorts—it was the Lord telling us that we can look within ourselves and find the holiness of His perfect Kingdom, through the Presence of the Holy Spirit. It made me feel comforted to think of this, because there are times when I feel so inadequate. But then I think to myself, the Kingdom of God is within me, waiting to be discovered! I can do more, through Him Who strengthens me!

Yet who am I, and who’s to say I know what I’m talking about? As I read different perspectives on the subject, I began wondering, what if I’m wrong? When you question something you believe in, and face the thought that it may not be exist in the way you thought it did, it shakes you up inside. It really “rocks” your world, in the earthquake sense of the word.

So I turned to the wisdom of others. I belong to a discussion group in which we discuss the works of 19th/20th century author Grace Livingston Hill; and to this group, I asked the question, “Am I wrong?” Their answers have uplifted, enlightened, and inspired me.

One friend had this commentary, which has helped me find peace and confidence in my own opinion:

 

“As for this one particular verse, the best way is to go to the original Greek or Hebrew
texts to see what they say. Often, words and phrases in the original text could not be easily translated to English because there just wasn’t anything comparable. I believe it is a mistake to assume that English translations are the final word.

The connotation of a particular phrase can change from Greek to English, or even from Grace’s time to our time. So “within you” may mean something different to you and I than it did to the KJV translators in 1611 and something else to those who wrote down what Jesus said. The huge number of translations is proof that not everyone agrees with everyone else’s interpretation of the original text.

Do you want a perfect example of changing connotation? If I told someone of Grace’s day to “reach out and touch someone”, they would physically touch another person. However, someone from my generation [look out, I’m showing my age] would probably pick up the phone and call someone! There are many other words and phrases that have changed meaning dramatically just in our lifetime—Just read a GLH book to find more! We have to be very careful about reading today’s meaning into yesterday’s writing, especially where the Bible is concerned.

Here’s what I’ve found on BibleGateway.com after reading your post :

Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible by Robert Young is an extremely literal translation that attempts to preserve the tense and word usage as found in the original Greek and Hebrew writings. Here is Luke 17:20-21 in this version, courtesy of BibleGateway.com:

And having been questioned by the Pharisees, when the reign of God doth come, he answered them, and said, `The reign of God doth not come with observation; nor shall they say, Lo, here; or lo, there; for lo, the reign of God is within you.’

The Amplified Bible covers both —the brackets are part of the translation and are not mine. “Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].

American Standard Version: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.

New Life Version: It will not be said, ‘See, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For the holy nation of God is in you.”

Wycliffe New Testament: neither they shall say, Lo! here, or lo[!] there; for lo! the realm of God is within you.

Worldwide English New Testament: People will not be able to say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is! That is because the kingdom of God is inside you.’

Many versions (like NIV) include both “within” and “among” with one or the other as a footnoted possible translation. On BibleGateway, some are saying within and some are saying among, so it looks like the jury is still out.

Jesus did, after all, say specifically that His Kingdom was not of this world in John 18. In Luke, the pharisees were asking about a literal kingdom on earth, but Jesus seems to be pointing out that it couldn’t be seen here or there, it was somewhere that it couldn’t be seen.

Be encouraged and listen to what God is speaking to you. After all, He’s got the FINAL, final word.”

 

Another friend shared this definition of the Kingdom with me:

 

“The kingdom of heaven is the church living out the purposes of its king Jesus while we wait his return to rule his kingdom on earth.”

 

A third friend summed up both perspectives beautifully with her own:

 

“The Kingdom is within each of us who are true Christians, and the Kingdom will also be an actual happening/place one day in the future for those of us who believe.”

 

I’m grateful for the question, the challenge to my beliefs, and the wisdom of others. I do believe, as I always have, that Christ’s kingdom will come on earth some day. In the meantime, I hold with confidence to the notion that his Kingdom truly does exist inside us, too.

I know it does, because I have seen it, in all its glory, within others.

 

Starting with Me: Peace on Earth

Today is World Day of Prayer.  Individuals the world over are coming together as one in their hearts and minds to pray for the goal of “Peace on Earth.” In churches, communities, homes, and between their ears at work, people are focusing on the thought of peace. The thought has an impact—you can feel the very vibrations in your soul. There is power in prayer, and power in positive thinking. Realizing that a blanket of this power is enfolding the earth right now gives a feeling of community and comfort—and strength.

When I awoke today facing a bout of depression, I had forgotten what day it was. I spent way too much time trying to swim through a dark pool of sludge in my emotions and thinking. It’s a side effect of chronic carbon monoxide poisoning—I never know when it’s going to hit me. In a case like this, self-esteem is nonexistent. All I can feel is failure. Hope is there, but I feel unworthy of it. Not only do I feel unable to do the work that is mine to do, but my thoughts tell me I will tank miserably if I even try.

This was my thoughtset as I forced myself to start working. I had to, otherwise I knew the self-condemnation would be worse than ever if I didn’t get anything done today. I sat down at the computer, began checking e-mail, and saw the announcement of World Day of Prayer. At the thought of all those people praying together in the world, I immediately felt the strength of Spirit. And at that, I felt condemned—because, after all, I had spent my morning in pathetic misery, while others were praying for peace with faith and hope. I was worse than worthless.

But I read on, and came to a compelling article by Rosemary Fillmore Rhea. As she spoke of young people from South America and Jamaica who are living in a word plagued by turmoil, I was instantly reminded of the children of Africa, who face the same danger. These children had touched my heart, and I’ve started to try to do my piece to help them. But that was part of the work that I now felt so inadequate to.

Rosemary’s words, however, shook my thinking awake. They told me that regardless of how I am “feeling,” there is necessary work that needs to be done. I need to work despite the darkness or my weakness.

God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I never used to like that verse very much—back in the days when I felt strong within. Oddly, though, now that I am without strength of my own, that verse radiates a hope that makes me want to cry with gratitude. Good Lord, I don’t need to do it myself. “Oh, my God,” my heart mumbles. “It’s going to be all right.”

It’s World Day of Prayer. Someplace, somebody is praying for me. And they’re praying for you, too.

The lack of peace is endemic throughout the world—and really, it always has been. But it won’t always be, if we work together. One by one—cause by cause—and prayer by prayer—we truly can win the race, and establish peace on earth. With God’s help, all things are possible.

Even for me.

 

Send Me

I recently read in a Newsweek article that Congo Ranger Paulin Ngobobo is a “devout Christian.” I’m one, myself. As I read of the atrocities towards the gorillas and the torture and personal danger Paulin has faced in his work, I immediately wondered if he had been praying to the Lord for help.

And I couldn’t help wondering if the Lord had sent me.

Through her art for the upcoming auction, one of my fellow eBay artists asked the challenging question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The answer for all of us? Yes.

Yes, it is our responsibility to look out for one another. Mother Theresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Though I’ve never met Paulin Ngobobo, and only heard of him for the first time last month, he is my brother in Christ. Having heard of the danger he faces, how can I now turn my back on him?

Isaiah 6 quotes, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'”

Some time ago, I said that very prayer. I was eager to make a difference in this world. At that time, however, I had no clue about the ways the Lord would choose to call me. It’s not always been a call I expected, or a path I knew how to tread. Often I’ve felt timid, afraid, and very weak when I see the task He’s given me.

But is that enough of an excuse not to go when He calls?

I don’t know why He placed this cause on my heart, but I’ve heard it from Him. Now it’s my job to do the work that lies before me. Scary? Yes. Daunting? Surely. But it’s my call. And unless I choose to turn my back on it, I need to press on.

There are so many worthy causes in the world today. So much work that needs to be done. To look at it all, it seems insurmountable. So many tasks…but on the other hand, there are so very many people in this world.

What if each of us were to take one?

“Here am I…send me.”