Tag Archives: overcome hardships

The end of one year–the beginning of the next

31 Dec

Do you have a peaceful place, a place you retreat to for silence, reflection, escape? A man- or she-cave. Soaking in the tub behind a locked door. A place everyone knows not to disturb. Maybe it’s a deserted island only in your imagination.

When I look back over our experiences is 2019, a large part of me cries out, “Thank God that is over.” It was like one storm followed another eroding my island sanctuary away until I found myself standing on a one square foot needle of rock reaching up off the earth. Looking down, I could see what I had lost, but lamenting over it gained me nothing. Only in looking up and declaring it’s only you and me God can anyone find meaning. And that is what God has been after all along.

I’m reminded of the Japanese Lutheran pastor sitting in a prisoner of ward prison at the end of World War II. He knew his fate included a firing squad for treason because he had provided aid to enemy prisoners to ease their suffering. He was okay with that. The torment he faced came from letters he had received from his wife and daughter that last few days. They spoke of American planes flying over dropping pamphlets telling the people to leave the city. The Japanese armies ordering them to stay put. He advised them to do as the pamphlets said. Then the letters stopped. Not knowing their outcome drove him to the brink. He cried out that his life was worse than death. He said he had nothing left. No one to turn to except God. With that, he begged God to forgive him for thinking of Him in such a way. God is not a last resort. He’s first and only.

Jesus prompted me with a word for the year at the beginning of 2019: Come. I began the year rejoicing in that word and found great delight in responding to it. However, several times I had to be reminded in my spirit in the one-foot-square moments what God’s desire was and is in the word He gave me. Like the Lutheran pastor, I had to repent for making my relationship with Him a lower priority and value in my life, thinking I could manage on my own.

I come to the end of 2019 with a challenge, not nostalgia, and a renewed purpose to seek Him and the work He wants to do in and through me in 2020. Like the golden sunlight at the end of the trail in this picture, He awaits with His splendor to share with me.

Photo by Charles Huff

Love’s Answer

23 Jul

False accusations. Unjust decisions in the courts. Deep political and philosophical divisions pit neighbors against neighbors. Intolerance. Blaming. Persecutions. Lawlessness. Corrupt leadership dragging the region into chaos. Christians feeling the brunt of it all.

While it might, to an extent, sound like today’s newspapers articles, this is Paul’s description of the church in Thessalonica. In fact, the people of the city were warned to expect this and worse should they decide to follow Christ. Yet, they chose to believe in and follow Jesus.

Paul’s letter goes on to confront false teaching, fear of men, and their questioning the great hope they had learned. He reassured them that what they believed in the beginning is true. Circumstances have no effect on God’s promises. Not even death can prevent it. After one sets himself up as God and wages total war with the Lord’s faithful, Jesus will come to gather his followers—both living and those already dead—and will defeat once-for-all his and our enemy.

His exhortation on how they should respond to their situation has undoubtedly encouraged Christian generations since then. To strengthen his word, Paul reminds them of his own experiences. His challenge calls us still today when we may want to strike back. My paraphrase: Let Jesus draw you deeper into the Father’s love and patience in the Holy Spirit to be manifested outwardly to those who oppose you. That redefines tough love, but it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Help me, Lord.

How has the Lord been teaching you to let him fight your battles?

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When Broken Things Stay Broken

12 Mar

I know. The title sounds like I have an answer for broken things. Well, I don’t. I can’t suggest how to unbreak things. I know this from first-hand experiences. This past month has seen a rash of things breaking. And, they’re still broken. We’ve had to work around some, but all in all, we’ve simply had to go on.

Maybe you’ve had a month like ours. First the car wouldn’t start. That happened the week the temperatures dipped down below zero again. I tried a number of things, but none helped. It came down to replacing the starter. My son came over the day the temps jumped up above freezing and replaced it for me. He had to put a tarp over the car to shield him from the drizzle that started when he was working on it.

After we enjoyed the use of the car a few days, it began to choke and die every time we try to move it. So, it sits again until we can have things checked out on it.

Then my computer crashed after a system update. I spent hours on the phone with tech support to no avail. I had to take it to the store (half an hour away) to be told I had to leave it for two days—or more, depending. That evening the store called to tell me the hard drive died and they can’t retrieve any of my files. I worked around this break. I learned I could connect my kindle fire to a Bluetooth keyboard and continue writing. I didn’t have to buy a new computer; I saved money by replacing the hard drive. However, I can’t do a thing about the lost files. That part of the event is still broken.

As I sat in our kitchen Sunday visiting with friends, I noticed one of our cabinet drawers sitting at an odd angle. I thought the drawer face had broken off. Strange as that would be, what actually had happened was stranger. The back wall of the cabinet separated from the cabinet and allowed the drawer rails to drop and free-hang from the front connections.

News from friends of cancer diagnosis, suicide, and other tragedies topped off our month.
I don’t share these things to make you feel sorry for me/us. Our lives are not all that different from anyone else. Christians are not promised nor given charmed lives. We don’t have a spiritual Midas touches where we can turn tragedies into treasures.

I share these things because I started my day melancholy, but the Lord reminded me of the lessons he has taught me and I’ve shared with you all recently. I began to thank Jesus for calling me back to childlike faith (Lessons from Pan and Poppins). I’m comforted that I am not alone—will never be alone—in frustrations and trials. I can overcome by Holy Spirit fire the Lord breathes into me (Fire by God Not for God). And I’m encouraged by God’s word for me for the year: come. How awesome it is to have his desire become my desire. These put my broken things into perspective: they are far better in his hands. I can find rest in that.

Latest devotional published

3 Aug

Do you remember that song about those “lazy, hazy days of summer”? You do know those days are not limited to just suDSC_0128mmer, don’t you? They even creep into our Christian lives. I have a thought or two on those–the first being how much we desire them and how easily they slip in. As enjoyable as they may seem, beware of the hazards.


When Do I Stop Trying, Let Go and Let God?

19 Sep

A saying we nearly immortalized by having it made into a wall plaque says, “Do all the things you can do and when you are done, God will do all those impossible things you cannot do.” It is a more clever way of saying “God helps those who help themselves.” These are often mistaken as scriptural quotes, but neither quote can be found in the Bible. They’re not there.

Elements of them are in the scripture, and I would say that the former is more accurate than the latter. My objection to the God helps those quote is that it has the effect of putting all responsibility on mankind, reducing God to some ethereal referee. The former quote recognizes our responsibilities: to be faithful, to endure to the end, to work while the day is still with us; but at the same time affirms we will face situations that are impossible with man, but all things are possible with God.

At the beginning of our marriage God arranged circumstances to squeeze us into making a long-distance move in a car that caused me daily anxiety over it making across town. We packed it with all of our personal belongings we would need upon arrival at our destination. We hired a moving company to pack and store the rest until we could send for it. Before getting in the car to start our journey, I placed my hands on the hood and prayed. I stated my faith that God is the God of the impossible, but in my heart I still wondered if that included all the mechanical engineering and mechanical functions that were failing in my car. On the trip with it loaded to the maximum, that car could not have run any smoother or stronger. For those hours covered in my prayer, the impossible happened. After we arrived, it resumed its problematic tendencies, and in a short time we traded it in for something more reliable.

He is the God of the impossible, but he does not want to be a casual observer until called upon. I believe one reason he allows difficulties arise before us is to remind us he is near. Be as joyful and thankful for his fellowship every day as you are for his interventions in your impossible situations. Enjoy him. You will find He will help even when you don’t think you need it. Because of that, you will have more confidence to believe him for the impossible.

Life from a new perspective

4 Jun

Do you ever have those times when you ask the Lord to fill your cup, fill it to overflowing and running over–and He fills your plate instead? Those can be tough times. We know. We are coming to the end of one of those, or at least we think the end is in sight.

We’ve had our times of moaning and, in all honesty, complaining about the pressures and the heaviness we have felt through this time. We would not have called it complaining, but in simple terms, that’s what it was. But in the scattered moments of quiet times my wife and I tried to understand what we were to gain from our experience. We found quiet places when we could get out of the house and take a walk. We talk about things as we walk that we can’t talk about with everyone around us. In that way we sort out our thoughts.

On one walk we agreed that the Lord was teaching us at the beginning of these last three years that He is our provider and that He really can do more than we can ask or think. In the last four months He has been teaching us to serve as our plate went from full to running over.

I shared with my wife that I awoke one morning confessing that it is hard to focus on the needs of others and serve them when our basic needs demand attention. That’s when God’s economic plan made sense: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you,” Matthew 6:33. And Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Most people work with the paradigm that they will do for others after all their own needs are met–after all, charity begins at home. They will have time for others when all their work is done. That is man’s way; God’s way is to begin with serving others. That is what living in the kingdom of God is about.

Obstacles or Opportunities: It’s all in how you look at it.

9 Mar

“More than once I have tried to picture myself in a position of a boy or man with an honoured and distinguished ancestry which I could trace back through a period of hundreds of years, and who had not only inherited a name, but fortune and a proud family homestead; and yet I have sometimes had the feeling that if I had inherited these, and had been a member of a more popular race, I should have been inclined to yield to the temptation of depending upon my ancestry and my colour to do that for me which I should do for myself.” Up From Slavery, Autobiography of Booker T. Washington.

I am quietly slipping into the Kindle generation by cutting my teeth on the Kindle for PC. I am so delighted to find literary treasures for free such as Booker T. Washington’s autobiography. Many times he gave me reason to pause and consider his insights, especially when I viewed them from his perspective. Some were downright show-stopping.

Take the one quoted above, for example. The background information is that Booker had been a slave before the Civil War. After emancipation his family relocated to another state where he knew no one. They were poorer than poor. As a slave, he had no education. Everything in his life was working against his efforts and desires to be something else, something better. And he saw that as a good thing. He saw each barrier to overcome as a way to exercise his will, his education, and his abilities in order to become a stronger person. He believed that, had his way been easy, he would not have been so developed and his achievements would have been less significant.

It is so much easier to give up and say the way is too difficult, that the project we’ve been assigned to is impossible to do, than it is to continue the drive toward the goal. It is easy to throw up an excuse or to shift the blame when the outcome is less than intended. It sometimes seems easier to hide the barriers we perceive in our lives from others or to even lie about our situation so that thing in our past does not become an issue. But how many of us can be glad for the load we have to lift to get to the next level? How many can view the problems as fuel for our motivation instead of sludge to drag us down? The answer is very few, far too few. It is those who achieve great things.

Tuskegee Institute began in a leaky, dilapidated house and chicken coop. In a short time it became an economic engine within the community, complete with student housing, enrollment in the hundreds with an equal number of students turned away because the school could not handle any more. This happened under the leadership of a former impoverished, illiterate slave boy who would not let circumstances dictate his life. The circumstances will change as approach them differently; we will approach them differently as our attitudes toward them change.

Do this simple test. Ask yourself if you are where you want to be. If not, ask yourself why. If you answer that question too quickly, it is probably a major excuse in your life. Now ask yourself how you can turn that excuse into an opportunity for change.

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