|Posted on July 17, 2021 at 1:50 PM||comments (1267)|
A few weeks ago I talked about 911 dispatchers describing themselves as the person that only gets called in the “worst moments of someone’s life.” What an overwhelming responsibility that is. Worse, while they are not physically present in the midst of the emergency as other first responders are, they suffer the same PTSD because of the overwhelming compulsion they feel to help.
Did you know that some studies indicate that first responders, including 911 operators, experience suicidal thoughts at a rate that’s more than double the general population? It’s no wonder the average time operators stay in their job is only 2-5 years. And for all that, they earn about $40,000 a year. Given the hours they put in, that’s less than what some get to flip a burger.
And the worst part is, they often don’t even get to know whether their life saving efforts worked. By the time the emergency is resolved, they’ve moved on to the next disaster.
We’re a bit like that in our own lives. We move from one disaster to another trying to help where we can, putting out fires, and hoping to make 24 hours stretch far enough to solve 4 days’ worth of trouble. And much of the time we can’t tell if an emergency has actually resolved, or if it’s just been buried under a bigger problem.
As Christians we’re certainly called to be the one that those around us cry out to for help, but we are not asked to figure out the world’s issues on our own. While we are challenged to bear one another’s burdens, Psalm 46:1 promises us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” We are the point of contact, but the real ‘fixer’ is always going to be our Heavenly Father.
When we’re in the middle of our own disasters or being called on to help others in the midst of theirs, we should keep our minds focused on the fact that if we try and make repairs to a situation with only our own strength, we will fail. We are simply too weak and too susceptible to bad choices to carry out the fix on our own.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Is the Apostle Paul suggesting that God is like a genie in a bottle and all we have to do is ‘wish’ for something and it will come to pass? No. He is telling us that even when we feel overwhelmed we can endure because the strength we need doesn’t come from us – it comes for God.
That passage goes on to tell us that the “if we do this, we will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep our thoughts and our hearts quiet and at rest…”.
We know we’re not promised perfect stress-free lives, filled with great blessings of material and physical perfection. In fact, many passages of scripture warn us that we must expect difficulties here on earth. John 16:33 says we will have trouble. But it goes on to tell us to keep our chins up because we might have “tribulation in the world, But God has overcome the world.” That is the message we need to share with those who come to us for help.
We are creatures that want an immediate pay off, and we want to be the hero of our lives, and that of those around us. That’s not a bad desire, so long as we keep in mind that our only superpower comes from God. It doesn’t matter how smart, strong, prosperous or hard-working we are, we are still weakened by our own sinful nature. In our own strength, we will never be able to throw enough money or time at something to make it just go away.
We may not be able to solve every single issue for those around us, but we can love others into the knowledge of God’s desire to work in their lives. Like the old saying goes “give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.”
Like that 911 operator, all we can do is send help… and show others where their real permanent answers will come from.
Be blessed my Friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on July 4, 2021 at 12:35 AM||comments (158)|
Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day as a Nation. Across this country people will be marking the occasion in one way or another. Why? Because back in 1776, the first 13 American colonies were declared free and independent States from Great Britain and an oppressive king. Those early Americans took their freedom seriously.
These days we still mark the day with fireworks because on the first Independence Day anniversary in 1777, people gathered to watch as the sky illuminated at dawn over their newly freed nation. Today, some 315 million people will be enjoying a holiday from work, 150 million hot dogs will be eaten, and those fireworks will light the night skies across the US. Folks will trek to the lake, gather for parades and barbeques, and honor the holiday that marks the freedom that had been so long fought for.
But freedom was an elusive thing for many. People of color weren’t given the right to vote until the Fifteenth Amendment was passed in 1870 – and even then, many were denied by state constitutions, poll taxes, literacy tests, the “grandfather clause,” and outright intimidation and discrimination. And women weren’t considered US citizens, with a right to cast a ballot, until 1920.
If you ask most people today, I’m sure they will tell you that they feel their freedom is restricted in one way or another. We live with closed mind sets that have been developed over generations. Even when we claim that we have liberty in our lives, we are bound up by ‘stinkin thinkin', fear, personal prejudices, traditions that have no meaning, entitlement, and just plain laziness.
It’s much easier to stick with what we know than it is to break those chains and allow our eyes to be opened to what is real. Like an old pair of shoes, old thinking can feel comfortable, but over the long run it destroys the alignment in mind and body and can cause permanent damage and pain. So where is the freedom in that?
In John 8, Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were following Him. He told them that if they believed in Him, “they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free” (John 8:32). But they argued back, saying they were already free as descendants of Abraham, asking how Jesus could set someone free who wasn’t a slave.
In verses 34-36, Jesus answers them simply. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
We live in a world where it’s all about personal freedoms and equality. Not that we’ve achieved it, but I believe we are finally coming to realize that we must seek it. Not just because we’re being forced to, but because it is the way God intended us to live. We should absolutely be the frontline soldiers, fighting for the liberty of everyone, and acknowledging our own misconceptions.
And beyond all that, we must understand that even if perfect equality is achieved, we are still slaves until we are set free by our salvation. We are chained up by our own sin and mortality. Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
We want freedom and equality for everyone on earth. Christians should be a moving force in the world that acknowledges that it doesn’t yet exist, while insisting that it becomes reality. And beyond that, we need to be the voice that loudly proclaims that only in Christ is true and permanent freedom already offered. And that liberty is immediately available to everyone who seeks it and is the only lasting freedom we will ever need. Now that’s a cause for celebration.
Be blessed my Friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on June 26, 2021 at 11:40 AM||comments (1551)|
Much of our lives we struggle with the misconception that old age is going to come on gradually and gracefully. We believe we will elegantly come to accept the fact that our hair has turned silver, we’re a little slower than normal, and we tire more easily. When someone we love begins to show the signs of age, including a bit of crankiness, we aren’t exactly sure what to make of it.
So let me help, as a person standing on the other side of the timeline. First of all, imagine your surprise when you realized it isn’t gradual at all. One morning you’re putting on your makeup and overnight, while you were innocently sleeping, lines have appeared where previously there was unmarked and very tight skin. From nowhere jowls have grown and the shape of your face is one you don’t recognize.
Upon further examination you find you have chin and nose hair! How does that happen? Is your body growing a fleece to keep you warm as the destruction of your cells makes you feel the cold more strongly?
You spend the morning mowing the lawn and get your normal sore back as a result. Except it NEVER GOES AWAY!!! You go to the phone to call your best friend and suddenly can’t remember why you walked into the next room – let alone the name of your friend.
Those million details you kept in your head are gone in a flash, and you find yourself writing little yellow sticky notes and putting them in various places around your house as reminders. But of course, you won’t think to look at them, and if you do you’ll likely not be able to read the writing or remember what your cryptic note means.
Aging is not particularly graceful or slow. It’s sneaky, unexpected and frightening. I’m not trying to freak you out or anything, but it can happen at any time, so you need to be prepared. Suddenly a stranger will be looking back at you in the mirror, and you’ll realize that it’s you. I don’t know if it works this way because God is kind or because we are blind. Either way, life as you know it will change.
What never changes though, is the love of our Father for us. We see our children as forever young, dreading the day when they won’t need us anymore. But God views us realistically, knowing that the older we get the more we need Him. We have this idea that mature Christians require less of God than baby Believers, but nothing could be further from the truth. And He, fortunately for us, will never age out of the parenting business.
My favorite scripture, Isaiah 46:4, says “Even to your old age, I am He. And even to gray hair, I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry and I will deliver you.” The older I get the more that promise has meaning for me. Everything inside us is changing, and everything around us feels foreign. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And more than that, when we’re feeling too weary to move down the road, He will pick us up and carry us to wherever we need to be.
To my younger friends, just so you don’t get too afraid of the future, I can tell you that there is also great joy in being able to act goofy without care, dress crazy without thought of fashion, and go to the store without your make-up or your partial dentures. If someone notices, we can always blame it on old age.
And the added benefit is that we grow into an understanding of what’s really important. It’s hard to weight the importance of our decisions and treasure individual little moments when we think that life will go on forever. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn to prioritize the beauty of life when we are young? But I supposed we’d miss a lot of adventures if we did.
The gift of age is in the memories of little milestones that have marked our lives. Those little victories and defeats are what we will chew on when food no longer tastes good, or our teeth don’t work like they used to. The really lovely thing about aging is that we have the opportunity to appreciate all the precious things we’ve enjoyed, and the many times our Father has sustained us.
My prayer for the young is that they intentionally build those memories. And to the old I say be kind to yourself. We must let go of anything in our past that causes pain or regret and make the firm decision to give ourselves grace. Because that’s what God does. There is joy, even in aching joints or a bit of loneliness. Because even to our old age, God is there to carry us.
Be blessed, my Friend. God is on the throne.
|Posted on June 19, 2021 at 2:40 PM||comments (1008)|
Father’s Day is upon us. There are few more precious celebrations, although it seems that these days it’s a little less marked than it used to be. Perhaps that’s because we have so many different family dynamics and mixes. But when you think about what it means, we should absolutely give it more than just a passing nod.
While studies indicate that the most influential person in a child’s life is their same sex parent, I can tell you that having a strong and steady dad in my life has informed everything about me as a woman. A boy wants nothing more than to be instructed by a father that he can look up to and model, and a girl’s every male-female relationship is a reflection of how her father treated her. Mothers generally nurture our emotional side and dads help teach us what to think of ourselves. While there’s a lot of give and take in that dynamic, it is still basic to how God created the family unit.
I heard an author say once that ‘it’s not about the memories we make with our children, because we are the memories.’ I know from personal experience that a child doesn’t remember or see all the faults in their parents because what holds the most value is all the little moments of attention that they receive. A man can be a productive bread winner, an accomplished musician or a great athlete, but what will stick in a child’s mind is the morning he got up early to make pancakes before the big math test in school.
Parenting looks a lot different in 2021 than it did in 1957 when I was born, I’ll give you that. But what hasn’t changed is that what a man models to his children, and the attention he demonstrates to them, forms their first idea of how they believe God will treat them. That’s a huge responsibility.
We know that God is steady and unchanging. And more than that, we know that He is a constant source of support and love, no matter how haywire we might go. Zephaniah 3:17 says “For the Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Those are the qualities that a true man of God demonstrates to his own family.
In the midst of turmoil, it’s not whether he can stop the storm, it’s the fact that he’s willing to keep one arm on the wheel, and one arm wrapped around his family to help them weather it. That may happen from a distance, given the dynamic of our culture today, but it must happen. Dads must be present. If not in body, then in support and love.
The most important thing a dad does is bring peace and quiet – not necessarily exemption from pain, but stabilization at every victory or defeat. In fact, some of the best fathering comes when a man can step back and let his children make a mistake. That’s how our heavenly Father models good parenting to us, and how a strong dad makes even stronger children.
I think that we need to remember that no matter how old a man gets, he’s more than just a dad. He’s also a son. That’s why he can celebrate the many milestones of his children but can also understands the mistakes they will inevitably make. We don’t need superhero dads, perfect in every way. We love our father’s because their imperfections make them ours. We need to thank them for their love, pray for their continued wisdom and strength, and continue to look to them for guidance even when they might slip up a little.
So thank you to all the dads out there. We do celebrate you today. And we hope that you know we aren’t looking for you to be perfect, just in tune with the prompting of your own Heavenly dad. We will pray for you every day and this holiday in particular, and we acknowledge your great influence in our lives. No matter who we are, or how old we get, we will always need our dads.
Be bless my friends. God is on the throne.
|Posted on June 12, 2021 at 10:30 AM||comments (687)|
My sweet old dog Sissie has been under the weather lately. Nothing specific beyond the ravages of time. At 18 she’s deaf, nearly blind, has arthritis in every joint, and just generally wants to sleep and eat more than anything else. In spite of all that, she has moments of real joy, and I know that in her mind she’s still a puppy running through the fields with her big brothers.
But while I was researching some things to make her more comfortable, I came across a vet’s article about deafness in our pets. The Doctor said we need to remember that our animals don’t have any idea what hearing loss is, so they don’t realize they can’t hear us anymore. They just think we’ve quit talking to them. That makes me incredibly sad.
But it also made me realize that there are many times in life when we become deaf. Not physically, although it seems time has that on the agenda for us eventually, but spiritually. When the pain in our body or in our situation seems unbearable and we feel like we’re screaming out to God for relief, we start to ask ourselves WHERE IS HE? And if we don’t hear from Him immediately, we start to ask ourselves why He’s not responding - why He’s quit hearing us.
The reality is that God never stops listening, is never unaware of our cries, and never stops responding to us with loving words. We have simply become so wrapped up in the pain we are deafened by it. Our spirit becomes defeated, and head down tail tucked between our legs, we can no longer hear His voice.
With Sissie I’ve learned to spend time every day with my arms wrapped around her. I hold her close and whisper into her ear, just as if she could hear my voice. She may not be able to make out the actual words, but I know she feels the vibration and senses that I’m holding her and loving on her. In those moments, she remembers what safety is.
I have this picture in my mind of God doing the same with us. Just when we’re feeling the most isolated and lonely He stops and wraps His arms around us, stilling our agitation and whispering into our souls. We may not always hear the Father’s words, but we can rest assured that He is there. And His loving arms are available even when we don’t feel any need at all.
Psalm 23 says “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” He is always there trying to keep us on the right path. That rod isn’t a stick that He’s just waiting to beat us with. It’s there for directing us even when we walk through those shadowy canyons that are filled with death and evil.
In 1 Kings 19, the Prophet Elijah was looking for an answer from God. In Verses 11-13 he was told to “Go out, and stand on the mountain… The Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rock into pieces… but the Lord wasn’t in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake; and then a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in the fire… but after the fire a still small voice.” And that is where Elijah finally heard God.
We can spend so much time looking for the big manifestations and miracles, we forget that God is present in our everyday moments. He is not just for us – He is with us. We get so accustomed to His presence in our lives we start to think that we’re doing everything on our own. Then some big disaster happens and we realize we haven’t heard from God in a while. But it’s really not that we haven’t heard from Him, as that we haven’t heard Him. Spiritual deafness.
I was watching a television program about 911 Dispatchers. One seasoned veteran said, “Can you imagine if everyone in the world had your number and they only called on the worst day of their life?” I can’t help but wonder if God doesn’t feel that way sometimes. He never leaves us, but we tune Him out so much we simply can’t hear Him even when He’s speaking words of love to us. Then something happens and we wonder why we don’t recognize His voice in our lives.
Our relationship with the Lord isn’t one that was created to only be developed and honed in our moments of great need. Our knowledge of God’s real character and love must be grown by recognizing His presence in the everyday moments. And acknowledging Him keeps us attuned to the sound of His whispered words.
Our real growth as Christians will come when we hear His voice in our daily lives, our biggest triumphs, and in our most profound needs. Remember, it’s not always a roar – sometimes it’s a whisper.
Be blessed my friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on June 5, 2021 at 10:10 AM||comments (605)|
Needing to get a minor medical procedure done, I’ve spent a considerable time in various waiting rooms this past week. First there was the multiple appointments prior to deciding to do the procedure, then pre-registration several days before it, and finally the wait on the day of. I can tell you, each waiting period felt significantly different than the last because the circumstances were changed.
Everything we experience here in the natural is a reflection and a learning tool for the things that we should understand in the spiritual. So, though you might get tired of hearing it from me, I can’t help but wonder what these life lessons mean in our overall lives.
Oh, maybe the waiting wasn’t spent in an actual room, but it sometimes seems like most of our time here on earth is accomplished with bated breath, wondering what is coming. Given the circumstances of the past year or more, I’m sure that many felt like what they were waiting for was the next disaster.
As young people, the pauses can seem to be interminable. All we want to do is get onto the next big thing. With age comes wisdom (hopefully), and the experience to know that sometimes the adventure isn’t all we’d hoped for. Eventually, as time seems to speed up, it’s difficult to not look wistfully back rather than anxiously ahead.
The problem with living in a constant state of anticipation is that it can be exhausting. And the older we get, with our inevitable sense that time is starting to slip through our fingers, the more anxiety-producing it can be. Still so much to do, but so little time to get it accomplished.
If we’ve lived our lives trying to please ourselves then it’s no wonder we feel unsatisfied. Our sinful make-up causes us to believe that no matter what we have we’ll always need more. Despite success or comfort, we feel like what we really need is going to be around the next corner. And that, of course, is a moving target.
And even when we’ve tried to live our lives pleasing God we can feel unsatisfied. You’d think we’d have a better grasp on what “well done good and faithful servant means.” If we’re doing all we can - maybe not every minute, but more often than not - you’d think we could give ourselves a bit of a break. But no. We still feel a sense of something missing.
Maybe the question we need to ask is if we might be trying to please God more for ourselves than for Him. In other words, are we just trying to fulfil a mandate that we think will bring us future reward? Because that could be why satisfaction is so elusive.
You see, there’s a difference between ‘pleasing’ God and ‘trusting’ God. If we don’t completely trust in His perfect work in our lives, we will find ourselves getting farther from His will as we struggle and work to achieve some impossible goal. When we move down a path, even if it’s a road God has led us to, we have to keep our focus on the fact that it must be His way and His timing, and not our own.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” The word “’faith’ as it’s used here is the noun form of the words believe or trust. In other words, we’re being told that pleasing God is only the result of trusting God.
We can work ourselves up into a lather trying to do all the right things when what He’s really asking is for us to wait and let Him use us in whatever way He needs to. And, by the way, we need to trust that we are completely safe and sheltered in the Father’s loving will. We just have to keep our listening ears on.
So it’s no wonder we spend a considerable amount of time in waiting rooms. It’s a good and safe place to be, because if we’re moving just for the sake of motion, we keep ourselves too occupied to even hear what God needs from us. One thing about those waiting rooms… they can be very quiet. And they are often a critical step in being prepared for what comes next.
Psalm 46 has one of the most quoted passages in all scripture. It says, “be still and know that I am God.” We intrinsically understand what that means and try to rest in the security of the words. But we first need to back up to the start of that beautiful chapter which says “God is our refuge and strength, a tested help in times of trouble. And so we need not fear even if the world blows up and the mountains crumble into the sea.” It’s much easier to wait when we remember who is in charge.
If we spend our lives trying to find satisfaction, we will likely go to our graves exhausted and wondering what we could have done better. But if we trust in the strength and love of our Heavenly Father, we can spend those necessary hours in the waiting room, taking the rest He’s offering and safe in the knowledge that He will work everything out for our good.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on May 29, 2021 at 10:15 AM||comments (546)|
As my body ages, I’ve started to contemplate the wisdom of that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button that is available to us seniors. You know the one. It’s an unattractive piece of hardware that you wear around your neck in the unfortunate circumstance that you might trip over some unexpected hazard and find yourself in a situation you can’t escape from on your own steam.
Sadly, we never anticipate that we’ll be in a position where we’re completely helpless. Really, it’s almost a blessing that we have the ability to fool ourselves into believing that our reliable bodies will continue to perform just as they always have, in spite of evidence to the contrary. If you think about it though, the aging process is preferable to the alternative which would be death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for heaven… just not this minute.
I read a health column once that said, “if you want to stay healthy as you age, don’t fall!” I suppose that’s good advice at any age really. But the truth is, we know that we will fall – and not once, but many times in our lives. And by fall, I don’t just mean succumbing to the effects of gravity.
Sometimes we end up on our backsides in more than just the physical. It can be a slow slide or a sudden and unexpected tragedy that brings us down, but life will surely throw all it can at us to get us off our feet. I don’t care how healthy we are physically, mentally, or spiritually. There are going to be times when we are weakened by the curve balls being lobbed at us.
And Satan? Whew! That’s a whole other battle. He’s going to make sure we are feeling confused, tired, and ineffective. The more we spin around trying to keep our balance, the easier it is for him to keep us from being focused on what we need to be looking at. And the more the enemy keeps us weakened, the more opportunity he has to stir the pot and knock us off our feet.
But being off our feet isn’t a terrible place to be. Because that’s where our lifeline, our miracle button if you will, comes in. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.”
We can struggle through life trying to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders, thinking we are really stepping up and living the way we should be. But if we do that using our own strength, no matter how talented, able, fit, or capable we are, we are going to fall under the burden.
Eventually we will find ourselves needing rest. Some of us will try and find it in retail therapy or the bottom of a bottle, some in rage and despair -- but if we’re carrying the load in our humanness, we’ll likely look for the comfort we need in a human solution. It’s. Never. There.
But if we just stop and approach the Master, hand it all over to Him, He will refit the yoke to one we can bear – because, as Jesus said, ‘it fits perfectly.’ Jesus will teach us to manage, show us how to cope, and most importantly, He will carry the load we can’t manage.
It’s more than our bodies that need rest, it’s our very soul. We need to lay down whatever it is we think we need to drag around and allow God to do the heavy lifting. That doesn’t make us weak, it makes us faithful. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says “God, who called you to become His child, will do all this for you, just as He promised.”
Our confidence, our magic button, rests in the very nature of God. When everything around us seems unreliable and we feel like we just can’t put one foot in front of the other, we can count on Him to complete the work He begins. And that work is you and me.
Be blessed, my Friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 22, 2021 at 10:50 AM||comments (172)|
The last month or so has been a bit of a transportation challenge for me. My reliable and fully loaded little Acura is down for repairs, and because the parts are coming from China it’s going to be a minute before I get the fix completed. So, in the meantime, I’m driving my faithful 21 year old Ford Ranger, whom I’ve lovingly named Tank.
Tank is a great vehicle, and I’m blessed to have him, but he was built before all the bells and whistles were incorporated. Good old Tank doesn’t feel compelled to let me know when I’ve left my lights on, or the keys in the ignition. He doesn’t give me a 3 gallon warning when my gas tank is low, or provide guidance through GPS. Worst of all, there’s no back-up camera so I’m re-learning where to park and how to back up. Oh… and did I mention he’s a stick shift?
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the transportation, but I realize I’ve become extremely complacent in my appreciation of the little luxuries provided by my Acura. All the things that I quit thinking about, like when I last gassed up and where the spare key lives, have a renewed importance.
I’ve come to realize that the situation is not unlike our walk with God. We can become complacent, counting on Him to do all the heavy lifting in our lives. If we’re not careful, we can end up driving through life without even paying attention to the road. Don’t get me wrong. God wants us to trust and depend on Him completely. But Him not wanting us to be anxious, doesn’t mean He wants us to be comatose.
James 2:14 asks the question “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Now the word ‘faith’ here isn’t being used in the sense of our saving faith, or salvation. Salvation is a gift that we cannot earn and surely don’t deserve. It’s ours even if we drive down the road of life with a blindfold on.
The faith we’re talking about is the unwavering loyalty that is the response to that very salvation. Because we’ve been given such a precious gift, we should crave the opportunity to pay it back by our discipleship. To use the words of the great John Calvin, “people are justified (declared righteous before God) by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”
Being a disciple, as you’ve heard me say before, is a choice. It takes hard work, can be painful and unpleasant, and doesn’t always give us the reward we think it should. But it’s what we’ve been asked to do – and it demonstrates our believing loyalty to God, shows our faith that He will provide, and spreads His gift of forgiveness and grace to everyone around us. Shouldn’t it be reward enough to know that we’re being obedient to the one who sacrificed literally everything for us?
God is happy for us to ride through life in our fully loaded Acura’s, but He still expects us to keep our eyes on the road and be aware of what the Holy Spirit is directing us to do. If we keep that stereo up too loud, drowning out His voice and taking for granted the many blessings in our life, we might find ourselves in a 5-speed pick-up truck for a season. But either way, God is faithful to keep us moving on down the road. We just can’t allow ourselves to expect the blessings instead of being grateful to the One who blesses.
Being a Disciple is going to require us to move out of our comfort zones and drive into unknown territory. As long as we follow His GPS, God’s Perfect Strategy, we’ll be just fine. That unknown road will be the one that brings us to spiritual maturity. In James 1:2-4, the apostle wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Let’s make sure we keep moving in a way that is not so ‘comfortable’ we forget to listen when God speaks, change gears when He directs, and fill up our tank with His Word.
Be blessed, my Friend God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 15, 2021 at 10:45 AM||comments (579)|
Am I showing my age when I mention the classic Steinbeck novel, “Of Mice and Men?” This book is named loosely for a poem that says in part “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft a-gley,” or translated, the best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong.
The poem, “To A Mouse” was written by one of the most famous writers of all times, Robert Burns. He was often called the Scottish Shakespeare. The point of the piece is to apologize to a mouse who had spent a lifetime building his nest, only to have it destroyed by a farmer who was plowing his field – building his own nest.
I don’t know about the life of mice, but I know that no matter what my motivation or plan is, things can quickly go from promising to a pit, especially when I’m operating on my own steam. For the most part, our human motivations are fairly pure. I don’t think we ever really want to hurt someone else, but it can happen nevertheless.
The parallel between the Steinbeck novel and the poem seems remote until you read between the lines of the text. Set in Depression-era America, it’s the story of two men, Lennie and George, who have nothing except a dream of one day owning their own small piece of ground and building a house on it. Lennie has some kind of mental disorder, and George has apparently been protecting him from trouble for a very long time. Just when they have landed a job on a good ranch, a step to fulfilling their own dream, Lennie accidently kills the daughter-in-law of the man who owns the farm. They run, and George feels compelled to end Lennie’s life to save him from what will he knows will happen at the hands of the imperfect justice system.
I know! Great required reading for a high school student, right? But it was an amazing piece of work, and rightly called a literary classic. By the end we have a sad sense of the different ways our lives cross, and how our plans can be so fleeting. “The best laid plans…” Both George and that little mouse had everything taken away in one split second, as did Lennie and the girl he accidently killed.
These days, many of us have been left with the feeling that the things we’ve worked incredibly hard for have been stolen from us. Although we are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t help but wonder if it’s breakthrough or a train. And it can cause us to ask if there’s any point in struggling to come back from the loss.
A lot of people had amazing plans for 2020 that may never happen now. Our High School and College students didn’t get to have the grand graduation they were looking forward to, or a real start to their adult lives. Businesses closed, shattering the dreams of many, and we weren’t able to celebrate milestones or mourn the myriad losses.
Our current mantra seems to be “stuff happens” or “it is what it is”… a variation of the old “best laid plans of mice and men” theme. But if we shift our thinking a bit, even though it can be hard to look past what’s been happening to us, and think more in terms of God’s big picture, those sayings no longer fit. It’s not what it is right this minute, it’s what He says it will be.
He knows what the whole plan is, and how everything works out. We only see our little piece of property. In Jeremiah 29:11 the prophet is comforting the exiles whom an evil king had pushed into bondage. He’s passing on God’s word on the subject, writing: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for (MSG).
God always takes care of us. We may have to go through some stuff, but if we allow His plan to be our plan we can count on the outcome. In the parable in Matthew 7, we’re told that if God is the solid rock we build on, no matter what comes… storms, rain, floods (pandemic, unemployment, civil and political unrest, global warming) He will support us and keep us solid and safe. We can build our house on that foundation.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t walk in some amount of fear. It’s natural to fret about the future, worrying for our family and our security. Sometimes the news all seems bad, and that’s where we must override our fear and walk in faith. But, as the scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 says, God has a plan… a hope… and it’s for our future.
Be blessed, my Friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 9, 2021 at 12:45 AM||comments (388)|
“How can I help?” In times of our greatest need, those are sometimes all the words we really need to express. When someone we love has died, there isn’t anyone here on earth who can undo the pain of that separation. When the diagnosis is cancer, whether or not there is the opportunity for some kind of treatment the abject fear won’t be minimized by retail therapy or even good conversation.
There are times when what someone is feeling is so deeply rooted in their hearts that they may not even know the source of the sadness. Have you ever just woken up feeling a little blue – an expression my mom loved? There can be no discernable reason for it – it’s just a part of you.
I know that God will place a burden on our hearts for others. There are times when I just feel troubled for a friend or my children and I don’t even know why. I’m not sure what to pray for, but I feel a sense that there is something in their lives that may be troubling them – maybe even something serious.
My son and I call it ‘mom-dar.’ That niggling little ping when he’s got something going on that needs momma’s special touch and fervent prayers. The world would label it Extra Sensory Perception (ESP), but we know it’s Holy Spirit discernment and a powerful weapon in the war we are waging against the Enemy.
In John 14, Jesus told the disciples that He was leaving them (and us) with a Comforter. We often think of this term as someone who might provide comfort (or ‘counsel’ as some bible translations read) to us in the traditional sense. But the root of the word is from the Greek parakletos, which comes from the verbal root that describes someone who comes alongside another, or someone who speaks in another’s defense. So, think legal counsel as opposed to a therapeutic counsellor.
And, in an amazing turn, we are promised this Counsellor will not only be with us, guiding our steps and our actions, but He will be in us. In John 14:15-17, the Message bible reads “… I will talk to the Father, and He’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take Him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see Him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know Him already because He has been staying with you and will even be in you.”
Pay particular attention to the fact that Jesus said the Father would be sending ‘another’ Paraclete. As much as we can trust the first – Jesus – we can trust the One who has been sent to us. He is the Spirit of Truth in a world where we just don’t know what to believe. When we develop a relationship with, and learn to depend on, the Holy Spirit we have a light in the darkness that the world simply doesn’t have. That’s truly a superpower.
But in case we get overly cocky about our specially gifted advantage, let’s remember that Jesus taught that humility and an open heart was the only way to be certain our own sinful nature wasn’t beginning to creep into our thinking. It can be all too easy to replace our own thoughts with the direction of the Holy Spirit.
So how do we know whether the pinging of our innate radar is just our own suspicions or the prompting of our Counsellor? It comes by letting go of our own pre-conceived notions of a situation, prejudices we have formed throughout our lifetime, and our stubborn need to control every situation.
Romans 8:26-27 TLB says “And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as He pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will.”
There’s an old country song that simply states, “you say it best when you say nothing at all.” So “how can we help?” Only by prayer and seeking God’s will can we really know what we’re supposed to do. There is nowhere in scripture that we’re taught to judge someone else, condemn them for their weaknesses, or insist on them allowing us Christians to be the ‘expert’ at fixing every situation.
But we do have a superpower – and it resides inside of us. If we’re quiet and willing, we can be used to stand alongside others and help them through the toughest situations of their life. That doesn’t mean we steamroll over someone with our loving advice or take every problem on our own shoulders. Sometimes our ‘help’ is best expressed silently – quietly waiting for the Spirit of Truth to speak.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne.