Too Many to Sort

25 Sep

I’ve tried for days now to decide what I want my next post to say. And frankly, I haven’t been able to settle on one. My thought are many and run the spectrum of thundering prophet to feeling more like a grubworm under a rock. Nothing has surfaced as the prize idea. It’s like looking at a jar of buttons without knowing what garment one will go on. 

I found myself looking at photos I’ve taken thinking I might find inspiration from them. Well, I enjoyed flipping through the many folders and files. But,  I became captivated with an image of a solitary figure–that one thing moment. Feel free to enjoy it for what it is or to post a thought, a verse, or a quote to go with it for a meme.

Have at it. Let me hear your thoughts.

Rest in Turmoil

18 Sep

At times I find it difficult to rest in God’s word that he has everything under control. Especially when I don’t see the evidence. Those times seem to be happening in greater frequency lately. Headlines declared a hurricane was bearing down on our east coast while half way around the world a typhoon at least twice as strong was brushing northern Philippines as it heads for Hong Kong. More shootings left more families with gaping holes and grief. Politics, economic forecasts, and social unrest shows a world that resembles a wobbling top.

If my anxieties were limited to the news, I could simply turn off the news. Instead, family drama equals the distress in the media. Learning the shower faucet isn’t working and must be rebuilt before anyone can use it hit me as the proverbial straw. Though trivial in comparison, it still stared me down as one more broken thing to deal with.

I feel guilty telling the Lord that I need to see his hand move in my situation, even if it’s to resolve one thing, a little thing. About the time my thoughts go there, I’m reminded to be thankful for all the things God has done for me—miraculous ones included—and continues to do. Then I stumble across words of encouragement like the verse of the day: Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” (NKJV). And, Psalm 16:8 “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved,” (NKJV).

As I read through the Old Testament prophets, I am reminded how the mighty think they determine their destinies, but their fate and the future of their nations are in God’s hands. Through the way God deals with them, he declares to me his mercy and grace, anger and judgment, and righteousness and holiness.

And as it says in Psalm 16, “he is at my right hand.” Instead of holding a natural weapon to use against the problems I face, I hold in my right hand, the hand of the one who with his words spoke all things Into being. The one who with his breath can turn jungle into desert. The one who will answer when I call.

So, I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. With it, I pray for patience, joy in the waiting, the grace to see it fulfilled, and the strength to be

A new day dawning: photo by Charles Huff

faithful.

Trials to Perfection

11 Sep

The old maxim warns us, “Be careful what you ask for.” At times it seems like traumatic events pile up on me when I ask for God to draw near to me and draw me nearer to him. You probably know what I’m talking about. I want more of his joy. I want to sense his presence and feel his arms wrapped around me, holding me, letting me know I’m doing good. I want my heart to be increasing in love and purity.

In response to my prayers, I have, at times, felt swept up into heights of praise and worship—only to be placed in a crucible and ground with the pestle of life’s adversity. Other times, I’m moved from crucible to pot for boiling out more dross.

Painful Reminder

While sitting in my crucible this week, I started a new discipline called bullet journaling. The journaling training encouraged writing down one thing I am thankful for before doing anything else. On the reserved spot on my sheet of paper I wrote, “Trials: they remind me Jesus is still working in my life.” It’s good to know he hasn’t given up on me, and I’m reminded in his word that he never will. I don’t enjoy the purifying process, but I thank Jesus for it.

Followed by Awe-filled Hope

Then I opened my digital Bible to read, and the verse of the day drove home to me Jesus’s word for me. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 says, “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.”

Read that verse again. Consider the powerful words in it. It is an expectant prayer to the Creator of all that exists. We can not only ask, but also know he will be intimately at work in our lives—whether in world events or our individual needs. He will give direction and purpose. That purpose involves his immeasurable love and the patience (endurance, steadfastness) of Christ.

Sometimes the Small Stuff Is Most Important

But the biggest word (at least the word that grabbed me) in the verse was “into.” God Almighty directs us into. This into is not like getting a seat in the nosebleed section of an arena where is love and patience is being displayed. It’s neither the front row seats. It’s not even a backstage pass where we can stand nearby or even shake his hand. Paul’s prayer is for us to be directed into more of Jesus.

This prayer was written to the church in Thessalonica. Paul had to flee the city after spending a shortened time with them because the Jews stirred up the people. Elsewhere Christians were suffering for their faith. So, the heart of the letter is to affirm the gospel as it had been first given to them and to assure the young church of Jesus’s return and faithfulness.

Dive In

Our need for such comfort is no less now than for those in the first century church. We need both his love and his patience in every life experience. And we need to let that comfort we receive flow out to those around us. Jesus said unbelievers will know we are his disciples because of the love (his perfect love) we have for one another. Let’s immerse ourselves in it. Absorb it into every fiber, every dark corner, and then put that love on display to those near us.

Image 4 Sep

I Need a Break

28 Aug

Photo by Charles Huff

Comfort. Where do we find it? How do we define it? Do we recognize it when it’s right in front of us?

Jesus said those who mourn are blessed for they will receive comfort from God. Paul exhort us to comfort one another with the comfort we have received. When everything around us batters our sense of direction, stability, and worth; it’s hard to find the comfort.

How do we access it? How do we connect?

I remember a friend who had experienced a tragedy so great that he wanted only to get blind drunk. I stayed with him to keep him safe. Justification: doesn’t Proverbs say something about giving strong drink so a man can forget his sorrow? My friend succeeded in his goal. In his case it worked. He was finally able to release his grief. And he also got so sick, he never got drunk again. Even so, I don’t have this strategy on my solutions list.

I have often sought escape through other more acceptable means. Get alone in nature and let the tension drain out as I observe the beauty and wonder around me as I vent to God. (Yes, those two can work together and simultaneously.)

Doing something on the opposite end of the pendulum swing. Go to a museum or theme park, watch a comedy movie, have dinner with my wife, or when circumstances are right, take a getaway for a night or two. Sometimes these allow me to get far enough from the turmoil to allow my mind to have a fresh approach.

Beyond these things, we could add hobbies, crafts, even work if our emotional earthquake is at home in the family. Any one of them provide an opportunity to clear our minds and refocus. Sometimes, that is sufficient. Other times, we return from our quiet place only to find our situation still unstable and perhaps volatile.

A better place to go to:

The Bible contains stronger recommendations that provide comfort and peace beyond understanding. The good news is there are far more than I have room to list. Search the scriptures and you will find the one perfect for you
.
The Book of Psalms have many calming declarations.

“I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain,” (Psalm 3:4 NASB).

All eight verses of Psalm 121.

“When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,” (Psalm 61:2b, NKJV). But, again, the entire Psalm.

Psalm 23 and especially verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” (NKJV).

Jesus shared his own encouragements:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” (John 14:18, NASB).

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NASB).

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11, NASB).

If that isn’t enough, the apostles shared their own discoveries through the persecution and suffering they saw and experienced.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all [d]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:6-7, NASB).

“I pray that the eyes of your heart [x]may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the [y]saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe,” (Ephesians 1:18, NASB).

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NASB).

These are but a sample. I want to share something that happened years ago but still encourages me today. It was a time of trauma and failure, but Jesus proved himself trustworthy and faithful.

When my second born was thirteen months old, he contracted spinal meningitis. The part of my heart which was not torn with grief was angry that God had allowed such a thing. I feared what my little one’s future might be like or how short it might be. Through the raging storm in my soul, I heard God say he knew just how I felt. My first thought was, “You are God. You are above sickness and calamity. You know the end from the beginning. How could you possibly know how I feel?”

Unruffled, he simply said, “Because I went through it with my Son.”

My arrogance crashed down on me and smothered the raging fire of anger, rebellion, and pain. I repented, and God turned my mourning into dancing. The doctors were amazed at my son’s speedy recovery and without any effects remaining.

Do you have favorite comfort verses? Please share them.

If you have a memory of the Lord’s help and comfort, let me know. You can be a guest blogger on this site. Remember, Paul exhorts us to comfort one another with the comfort given us.

Not to Us, Lord, but to You

7 Aug

This is a special week for me (not just me). The calendar lines up with the same days/dates alignment as forty-five years ago. Monday, Aug 6 is my wife’s birthday. It fell on a Monday back then and was the first of her birthdays we were able to celebrate together. However, we had bigger things on our minds. Both of us had arrangements, schedules, plans, details, and frayed nerves demanding our focus and strengths. Because four days later—Friday, August 10—we stood before our families and friends to become a new creation of God. He took two different people and made them one.

While we look back at that date as the day he made us one as husband and wife, the truth in our experience is he is still making us one. Each day stress of life tests the strength of our bond. We could allow selfishness and pride wedge into a crack in our relationship. Misunderstanding, feeling slighted, bruised egos, assigning blame, not enough me-time, and not enough we-time all land on the welcome mat to our hearts, waiting to be invited in.

Together we have faced struggles that have separated other couples. I don’t say that to our credit. We could never have survived on our own. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,” (Jeremiah 9:23). The only special thing in us—our present superpower—is in Jesus. He teaches us how to repent and to forgive, what it is to love, and how loving him more draws us closer together instead of drifting apart. Jeremiah continues the exhortation with, “…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.”

So, our forty-fifth wedding anniversary is not about what happened back then. It’s a celebration of experiencing forty-five years of Jesus enriching our lives and making us one. We know that each year we have together will be 365 days of his on-going perfecting of what began four and a half decades ago. We will have more reason to celebrate, compounding annually. Or, I should say, it will as we seek him, to understand and know him more.

It is customary to give congratulations for these milestones. I like the high-fives, but I want all to know: we didn’t do it by ourselves. We don’t deserve the praise. It is only by Jesus changing and keeping our hearts (on a daily basis) that we are able to see this day and rejoice in the 16,424 days that have gone before it. 

When Trust Gets Broken

3 Jul

I always thought of myself as one who is not a people-follower. In my pride, I felt I had chosen the higher ground. I could make it sound so spiritual. If asked or if the subject came up in conversation, I quickly pointed out that Scripture points out many things we are to be and do for one another (love one another, bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, exhort and so on), but nowhere are we told to trust one another. Rather, we are told many times to trust in God.

Self-defense

We have avoided a lot of pain through the years by not being people followers. We have also missed out on a lot of joy by keeping our distance. During some time of reflection in recent days, I’ve realized the wisdom I’ve implemented in my life had been founded on years of betrayed trust in my formative years. I expected understanding and support from family and friends. Life as depicted on both the big and little screens reinforced those expectations. When they went unfulfilled in real life, I felt trust had been broken. With each successive unfulfilled hope, the feeling deepened in me until I trusted others just so far—far enough to have a relationship that I could afford to lose.

Spill-over

It’s only natural to find that attitude filtered into my relationship with Jesus. I’ve trusted him for decades, and each year I pray I will trust him more. However, I find I still maintain my own safety cord. I’ve said my slow but somewhat steady growth in faith is governed by my plodding nature. I test each new step to make sure it’s solid ground, level, and not slippery before I put my whole weight on it. But the bare truth of the matter comes down to how much I trust Jesus with my life.

I desire to be that totally-sold-out, ready-to-walk-through-the-fire, convinced-nothing-can-separate-me-from-his-love, and able-to-do-all-things-through-Christ-who-strengthens-me type of Christian. But nearly seven decades of disappointments in others built quite a defensive wall around me. I’ve even held it against God for things he allowed in my life and for prayers where the answer was no or at best delayed. The audacity of it, right? Oh, not against God, but against my heart in the matter.

My Challenge

I know I’m wrong in these things. I’m working it out with Jesus to change me, to make me more like him. He is fully trustworthy, and I desire to be worthy of your trust, as well. I hope to be able to say like the apostle Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” But please, please, please, don’t put your trust in me. I know it sounds like I contradicted myself, but I want an honorable reputation. I hope others see me as dependable, reliable, my word is my bond even if it ends up costing me more than I anticipated. Just don’t allow me to be a brick in your wall against trusting Jesus. In all the minutes and events in a day, I will likely disappoint you even with my craving to be trustworthy.

In all things/all relationships:

Trust Jesus. Trust him to strengthen me when I am being obedient to him and to correct me when I run afoul. And pray for me.

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