Tag Archives: storms of life

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

Come

17 Dec

Last weekend I read a post by another writer that reminded me I also had a word for the year: Come. I smiled as I remembered it. I missed it during the rehab of our house. It, along with my writing, got overrun by the self-imposed deadlines of the work on the house. From July to Thanksgiving we went from construction zone to seeing our imaginations turn out to be less than the reality.

In the beginning: chaos

After Thanksgiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The disruption began much earlier as we began packing our lives into boxes and having that interrupted by surgery and recovery. In short, it has been a year-long, grueling project. My sixty-nine years seemed so much older at the end of the year than it did in the beginning as muscles and joints ached and didn’t recover as they used to. (And that was with my son, grandson, and my son’s brother-in-law doing most of the heavy work.)

When I needed it most, I heard a whisper in my spirit, “Come.” It took on many forms. Sometimes, “Come. Tell me what’s bothering you.” Other times, “Come. Rest in my arms.” And, “Come. I have something to show you in my word.”

No matter how the Come presented itself, it delivered peace and love. It yielded the fruits of contentment, thankfulness, and at times a bit more awe.

With Christmas only days away, I am reminded of another Come. The shepherds said, “Come, let us go see for ourselves what the angels have declared to us.” The invitation to come is for everyone. Jesus’s arms are always open and welcoming. He can never be inconvenienced. He will never turn away from a seeking heart.

I pray you will let the word Come be your word for today if you haven’t experienced Jesus’s love for you. I would love to hear from you if you have questions, if you respond to the call, even if you want to share how a word for the year impacted you.

Posting a comment comes directly to me. It can remain private between us, or I can allow it to be posted. I will honor your request if you want it private. Merry Christmas.

Do You Have God on a Dimmer Switch?

24 Sep

In my last blog Ah, the Mona Lisa, I pointed out how imitations of something don’t affect the true worth of the original. I used the Mona Lisa as an example. We all know this to be true. I then said negative attitudes toward Jesus based on what people see in His followers is like rejecting the masters’ paintings because the copies are flawed.

That blog could be interpreted as me speaking to those attacking Christianity, but when I wrote, “a lot of the vilification directed at Jesus and all believers result from the imperfect representations of Jesus,” I hoped to challenge all who call themselves Christian. Would their expressions of Jesus resemble a fine painting or a cartoon?

The apostle John gave us another analogy: light versus darkness. Drawing from the Psalms and prophets, John wrote that at the core, the message of the gospel is God is light and no darkness can be found in Him. (See 1 John 1:5) He goes on to say that we can’t claim we are in Him if we walk in darkness. Think of it this way: imagine having just one of those football field lights in your living room. The brightness of the light bounces off every object in the room with such intensity that all shadows disappear. In response, we shield our eyes and fumble for the dimmer switch to bring the light down to allow some darkness back into the room—not to total darkness again, but to a level where we are comfortable.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine, (Matthew 5:16 NASV). I would add brightly because the verse goes on to say the light should cause men to glorify God for the good work they see in you. Dimming God’s light in us so we fit better in our circles runs contrary to God’s heart and Jesus’ command.

I should note that some of us in the body have the ease and ability to stand out. Perhaps in communication, leadership, or casting vision. We have to be on our guard to be sure it is God’s light shining and not our own. Pride and presumption can sneak into our lives and become an offense to others.

How do we find the balance?

Focus on becoming comfortable standing in His light. We mustn’t reach for the dimmer switch to adjust God’s light shining on us. His goal is to make us into the likeness of His Son, that requires changes in us. And change is uncomfortable. Our choices are simple. Accept the changes with its discomfort and rejoice. Or, reach for the dimmer switch to stay in what we know. Become like Jesus? or attempt to change Him into our likeness? Paul’s answer to those who say they are Christians is to seek and set your affections on things above where Jesus is sitting beside the Father, (Colossians 3:1-3).

Crown-worthy Preparation

2 Jul

My life took a tumble within the last few weeks. On top of surgery and recovery, I went through hard to swallow disappointments, discouragement, and dashed dreams. Paul wrote that I can rest assured that what I’ve experienced is not uncommon, so I know you can relate to me. Perhaps some are in the tossing, turning, and free fall of life right now. If so, take heart. God has a purpose.

Have you ever watched clothes in a dryer? Especially noticing your favorite shirt rolling up the side then dropping down, disappearing, catching a glimpse of it in the back before showing up again pressed against the glass? Knowing it will in the right time come out of the chaos dry and wrinkle free gives us patience to let it continue.

Recently, I read an article on how to polish rocks using a rock tumbler. I couldn’t help but see a metaphor for what I’ve been going through and of life in general, especially the Christian life. The rock polishing process begins with selecting the right stones. And once selected, they are scrubbed to remove surface crud. That may include knocking or chiseling off sharp protrusions before being put into the tumbler.

As much as we say we found Jesus, the fact remains he chose us–before the foundations of the world Paul tells us. And after our being joined to him, we often see much of our crud purged from our lives. Joy fills us when we realize for the first time how great it is to be free of those things.

When we think life couldn’t be better, we experience upset. Confusion, pain, and disillusionment tosses us like the shirt in the dryer and like the stones in the rock tumbler. Here is what to remember. After the choosing, scrubbing, and shaping, the craftsman puts several stones into the tumbler along with some hard grit and water. He then turns on the tumbler for a specific amount of time. At the end of that time, he turns off the tumbler, washed the stones, and checks their progress. Then the process is repeated.

Jesus is the master craftsman. He has a purpose for each one he chooses, a purpose far greater than scrubbing away our crud. He puts us together with others {we aren’t alone in our tumble}, uses the washing of the word and the power of the Holy Spirit to smooth out other imperfections. The stone-polishing process is repeated until the ugly rock shines with the brilliance of a precious gem. (Note: the gem was there all the time, but only the Master could see it.) And so it is with us. Jesus is changing us from “glory to glory.”

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…”
Perhaps the next time life is a jumble with no stable ground to stand on we can remember our heavenly stone polisher. Instead of fearing or complaining we can say, “I’m becoming what God sees in me and shown to the world–a gem suitable for being part of his crown of glory.”

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.

http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=0a3227eb2f3937e79c5e59b94&id=fcb8fb7873&e=54d718ca28

Consider the flowers of the field

24 Jun

I love the fact that Jesus really does know what we face on a day-to-day basis. He knows our tendency to worry about everything–especially those things that might affect how others perceive us. But He told us not to worry even over what we wear because Solomon in all his glory was never clothed as gloriously as the flowers of the field. Here are some picturDSC_0129adjust72es I took yesterday. I hope we all can be encouraged by their glory.DSC_0126crop72DSC_0132crop72DSC_0127crop72DSC_0123crop72

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.

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