When A Crash Is Inevitable

In amazement and dismay I watched a car weaving in and out of thick traffic at a great speed.  Is the driver crazy?  I thought to myself.  Upon further thought I decided he’s probably not literally crazy, but certainly someone who has lost ability to see danger lurking.  There was very likely no thought in his mind that he would loose control of the car.  Perhaps he even pictured other drivers admiring his skills.  The way he was driving was definitely dangerous, not because he didn’t know how to drive, but because he didn’t know how to properly control the driving.  Control is altogether important.

There are many who want to throw control out the window, thinking that to be a controlling person is a wrong thing.  Quite the opposite is true.  To be in control of good, common sense is a very good thing.  To be in control of one’s desires, looking to God for help, when evil would tempt and overtake, is desirable.  To try and control another is never good, but to make right choices for one’s self, to be so in control of one’s thoughts that all thoughts lean toward God Himself, that is the safest place to be in.

When we try to make our own choices with no thought of God, we are like, as David Jeremiah wrote in his book, Is This The End? Signs of God’s Providence,“without God at the wheel of the human heart, we are like a driverless car careening down the freeway.  A crash is inevitable.”  Like the man who was weaving in and out of traffic, putting aside a good choice of safety; when we leave God out of the equations of our lives, we also step outside of the safety of God’s protection.

I love what David wrote in Psalm 25:10, “The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness, all those who keep His covenant and obey His decrees.”  God has given every one of us the right to make our own choices.  We are in total control of what we choose; but what we choose will control us.  Will the choice be God at the wheel?  Will it be our own selves, driving madly through the uncertain highways of our lives?  If the latter, be aware, a crash is inevitable.

“Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.”  Psalm 25:5   Now, that’s a good choice to be in control of, choosing to ask God to do the driving.

A Promised Reunion

This week I attended the funeral of a very dear friend.  When I was much younger I dreaded the very thought of a funeral.  It seemed a scary thing to me.  Now, my understanding has deepened.  I have come to understand that for the one who personally knows Jesus, a funeral is not merely an acknowledgement of death; it is a celebration of life lifted to a new height.  The spirit has left earth to see the face of Jesus.

What a promise to everyone who knows Him.  Just think, the moment we exhale our last breath on earth, we inhale our first breath in sheer paradise.  Sickness is suddenly vanished.  Tears are no more.  Pain is gone, never to return.  Grief, despair, tiredness have all ceased to exist.  Loneliness can never be known again.  Feelings of low self esteem and rejection will never touch us.

When we try our best to imagine this reality, the very thought sends, what I call, joy bumps all over.  Someone we love may have passed on to their new life and we are saddened not to see them for awhile; but indeed, it is only for awhile.  Parting is not forever for those who are counted as God’s own children; it’s just a temporary separation.  It’s a time not to dwell on the departure, but to look forward to the reunion.

That must be why Paul could say in II Corinthians 5:8, “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.”  Our earthly homes are just a part of our pilgrimage as we pass through life on earth, en route to our final destination, which is to behold the face of the One who made the only way for us to have eternal life with Him.

As the old hymn says, “What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, and I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace.”

Traveling In The Dark

I enjoy reading about the origins of words and phrases; for example, do you know the origin of the phrase, “good night, sleep tight?”  In times past, there were no box springs as we have today.  The mattress would lay across a myriad of thin ropes which, after every night’s sleep, would have to be pulled tight before a person crawled into bed the next night.  If they didn’t, the mattress would sag, making for a very uncomfortable sleep.  Hence, the saying of well wishes for the person to have a,  “good night and sleep tight.”

I read of something else very interesting to do with the verse found in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  During Bible times, when caravans would travel, perhaps from Egypt to Jerusalem, bringing their goods for sell and trade, they would travel day and night to get to their destination.  In order to travel at night they would have their servants go before the teams of wagons and horses carrying lamps to light the road ahead.

At times when individuals traveled through the night they would actually attach lamps, by way of a leather holder, to the front of their legs while carrying a lamp in their hands as well.  This helped the traveler to better see the potholes or large stones in their way.  Without the lamps they could easily fall and get hurt or lose their way altogether.

When the writer of Psalm 119 wrote, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” the reader of that time would know exactly the importance of that verse.  Just as lamps were a requirement for safety to the night traveler, God’s Word offers the same safety as we travel through the darkness of this world.  How easily we can fall when temptations roll onto our path, like a huge stone on the road, ready to trip us and cause us harm.  Often times we don’t know which way to go in our lives, what decisions to make, but with the light of God’s Word, we can better see the direction we should take.

God’s word is the light that reveals truth, that shows us the way, that points to peace, that shows us how to obtain the very strength of God when our own resilience fades away.  When we are in the darkness of despair or sorrow, God’s word lights our difficult path, guiding us to find the answers, granting us wisdom on what we should do, filling us with a holy comfort that the world alone cannot give.  God’s Word is the only light that can pierce any darkness found in this world.

We must all walk through the dark, but we don’t have to walk without the light.

 

 

Beautiful Like An Eagle

I was cutting our grass yesterday riding the tractor lawn mower.  I love being outside, riding and thinking, enjoying being immersed in the nature around me.  At one point a shadow quickly passed over me.  I looked up.  Oh!  An eagle or a hawk!  Probably a hawk, I mused as I watched the magnificent creature glide on the thermals, wings outstretched in splendor.  My heart was filled with an excited joy just in observing this impressive bird.  But, wait!  What in the world!  That’s not a hawk!  That’s a vulture, doing what vultures do, seeking death to satisfy their appetites.  I stared long and hard as the bird dipped and soared higher and dipped again.  How easily I had been fooled.

Then I thought how easily God’s children can be fooled, too, in our spiritual worlds.  Someone comes along, for example, and proclaims himself or herself to be a Bible teacher.  They use their words with authority.  Something doesn’t seem quite right as we listen, but we don’t want to be judgmental, so we quash our thoughts, chiding ourselves for our distrust in this  “brother or sister.”

I’m not talking about making a mistake in Scripture interpretation.  We’re all learning throughout our walk on this earth.  I’m talking about consistent inner feelings of unease that come whenever we hear the words of a particular someone who is proclaiming God’s words.  May I encourage you; don’t forget that the Holy Spirit is residing in you.  He is your best teacher as you listen to others teach and as you study the Scriptures for yourselves. When something isn’t quite right, the Holy Spirit will prick your conscience with unease.  I urge you, brothers and sisters — investigate!  Ask Father to lead you into His peace as you seek truth.  Remember, He has promised that if you seek you will find.

You see, Satan is out to conquer and divide.  He is the greatest illusionist of all time.  The Scripture warns us of him in II Corinthians 11: 13-15, “There are people who are false apostles.  They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.  I am not surprised!  Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So, it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

These are perilous days.  One has only to listen to the national and world news for a few minutes to know that countries everywhere are in political, moral, and spiritual disarray.  Therefore, Satan and those who follow him in this world are having a heyday, inserting doubt where truth abides, painting themselves as colors of light on canvases of darkness, fooling the fainthearted, seeking to destroy the faith of all God’s followers.

Do not be one of the fooled ones!  Do not accept everything you hear as truth!  Importantly, do not quench the nudging of the Holy Spirit when He warns you of danger lurking!  Pause, pray, seek truth.  You will find it, for that is the promise of the Holy Spirit  to all who come searching for Him.

Remember: not every large winged bird is an eagle, and not every man or woman speaking in the name of Christ is a follower of Him.  You need not be troubled by this fact; you need only be looking diligently, entreating God with an earnest heart, and He, by His sweet Holy Spirit will lead you into His truth.  You may stand alone in your discoveries but do not shrink back in fear of what others think.  It only matters what your Father thinks.  Stand firm in His truth, and His peace will wrap itself around you all your days.

 

Wounded Warriors

Last week, while taking a longed for road trip across America, my mother and I stopped in Dallas, Texas to visit the Presidential Library of George W. Bush.  We both especially wanted to view his portrait gallery of wounded warriors.  It was a moving experience.  As we gazed into the painted faces, listening to the stories of these courageous people, tears would spring to our eyes.  Some were amputees, some suffered PTS (post traumatic stress).  Others had brain injuries.  Their physical injuries varied but in spirit they were the same — they all pressed on.

I couldn’t help but think of my own father.  He was also a wounded warrior.  He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was there during the TET offensive.  He was wounded there and evacuated to Honolulu, Hawaii for surgery.  Most of you who knew my father probably never knew that he, too, like many wounded warriors, suffered PTS, but like the other heroes — he pressed on.

I remember a day when I was sitting in his office.  We were just chatting, talking about many subjects as we often did.  Somehow the conversation turned to the days of the Vietnam War.  I asked him, “Dad, did any of the people you knew over there ever get killed?”  I can still recall the goose bumps that sprung to my skin at his one word answer — “everyday.”  There was a faraway look in his eyes for just a moment and then he came back to present day and we talked of other things.

There will always be wounded warriors who suffer for the cause of their countries.  Proudly they serve, knowing what could happen to them at any given moment.  It’s the same with spiritual warriors, too.  We serve lovingly and joyfully, knowing also that during any day, an attack of darkness against light could befall us.

We may be happily going about the business of the day, when in an unexpected moment, tragedy strikes.  A phone call comes of an accident to a loved one, a doctor’s report of a terminal illness, an unsuspected pink slip shatters a work day, the bank informs of overdraft, divorce crushes the heart, unfaithfulness strangles joy in a second, death takes away.  Every morning when we awake, none of us knows what form of adversity may come crashing into our world.  No one is exempt,  but like all wounded warriors — we can all press on.

All wounded warriors are created in the image of God.  What does that mean?  It means we were created to cry like Jesus cried, He felt everything we feel, He was tempted in every way that we have also been tempted, He was angry at the money changers in the temple, He was disheartened when friends did not stand with Him.  I often think, too, about who Jesus’ friends were: fisherman.  Can’t you just imagine the fish stories that were told around the camp fire?  Don’t you know Jesus laughed along with all of them?  He laughed and He cried. Jesus was a wounded warrior.  He felt pain, endured tormenting emotions and temptations.  He cried in grief.  Above all, on the cross, He was wounded for our transgressions, but like all heroes, He pressed on, choosing to do the courageous thing.  We can, too.

When we hurt, or are reminded of the scars we carry from our personal wars, or cry out in pain of desolation, we also have the strength to carry on.  It’s a strength that comes from God Himself.  We are created in His image; His strength is our strength.  That is why Paul could say in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, this one thing I do; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.”  This doesn’t mean that we literally forget the wounds that have come to us, but it means we don’t allow what happened in the past to define what we can become today.  We are all wounded warriors, but let us be warriors of courage and defiance to what would hold us back.  Like all heroes — press on.

 

 

 

Aaaaah — The Shower

It has been a good day; in fact, a most enjoyable day, but by the end of it a great wave of tiredness swept over me.  It was like, one minute I was full of energy, and the next I felt so weary I just wanted to find someplace to stretch out and close my eyes.

When the moment came to do just that, I was then faced with a decision: take a shower before resting or wait until the morning.  I toyed with the choice I had to make.  A small thing, but in the moment of growing fatigue, the matter loomed large in my brain.  Take it in the morning, my brain whispered encouragement to me.  You’ll feel so awful sleeping dirty between clean sheets, indecision shouted loudly.  Indecision won.  I put myself in the shower.

Ohhhhh, how good that felt!  Hot water beat down onto tired muscles, soothing away aches, replacing weariness with new vigor.  Why did I ever even think of waiting till the morning?

Why do we toy with the same thoughts in our spiritual worlds? When we discover that we’ve let something into our lives that takes us a step away from closeness to our Father — why wait to make it right?  When temptation wins a battle — why wait in misery before we take that spiritual shower, letting the Holy Spirit wash away all that is soiled in our lives?

Spiritual dirt is no fun.  Just like physical dirt makes us feel yucky all over, so it is in our spiritual worlds.  The longer we wait before taking a spiritual bath, the deeper grows our misery.  Why do this to ourselves?  Never wait till morning to take that shower; jump into Father’s arms right now with a repentant heart.  Let His love and forgiveness replace your weariness with His own joy and renewed vigor.

To all who consider delaying that needed spiritual shower, consider the words found in Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.'”

A Pony In The Junkyard

My mother and I were away for the fourth of July.  It was nice where we stayed but it had an unfortunate view of a junkyard across the street.  That evening we gazed out the window and noticed a pony.  We felt sorry for him as he meandered around rusted pieces of cars and other scattered metal objects.  Even so, he seemed content munching on patches of grass around the pieces of junk.

That evening it rained, which put an end to any fireworks, but the streaks of lightening and booming thunder made up for it.  As we peered out the windows to watch the storm, we noticed the dear little pony.  He was trotting in haste, jerking his head from side to side with every rumble of thunder.  We could see a shelter at the end of the small field.

“Get in the barn!  Get in the barn!” We both yelled to a pony who couldn’t hear us. We felt absolutely helpless to offer any assistance or comfort to the frightened pony.  There he was, soaking wet and overcome with such fear, that he was blinded to the shelter within his reach.

I couldn’t help but think how we are so often like the frightened pony.  There we are nibbling on patches of goodness when along comes a storm that shatters our peace of the moment.  Suddenly, overcome with anxiety from the chaos that enters our world, we run around hoping for a way out; but everywhere we look, we see nothing to help us.

Our heavenly Father offers us shelter at any time of day or night.  When we are scared of what tomorrow might bring; when we feel hopeless to find an answer to what is unknown; when we long for an end to our turmoil but there is none in sight, all we have to do is succumb to the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  

It’s really so simply, isn’t it?  We can run in circles, focusing on the pieces of junk in our world, running in terror at thunderous problems that appear insurmountable; or, we can run to the safety of our Father.  No matter the conflict, no matter the fear, no matter the unknown; our Father offers His own peace in exchange for all our stress.

Poor little pony who was so focused on the thunder that he forgot the shelter available to him.  Poor you and I who become so focused on the troubles of this world that we forget the spenders of heaven that are available to us, just for the asking.

An Old Blue Sewing Box

This past week my mother and I were doing a cleaning out of closets and drawers attempting to do away with those things that are worn out or that we just don’t use anymore.  As I was walking through the den, my eyes glanced at something very familiar on the floor.  It was my mother’s old blue sewing box.

“Mom,” I called out.  “Should we get rid of this old blue sewing box?”

“Absolutely not.” she answered and added, “That’s my special box,  You gave it to me when you were sixteen.  I remember you worked hard babysitting to make enough money to buy it for me.  It’s precious.  I never want to throw it away.”

I was very touched at her reasons for keeping this now frazzled and worn looking sewing box.  In her mind I had given her a precious gift, not because it is of monetary value, but because of what it cost me to give it to her; many hours of working because money was sparse.  I didn’t mind how many hours I had to babysit; I just wanted her to have it out of my love for her.

As I reflected on my mother’s love for this worn out box that no one else would want, a beautiful thought came to me.  When you and I look in the mirror, we may see lines on our faces and hair tinged with silver.  We may have failing eyesight and perhaps a roll or two that we wish would simply disappear.  As the years pass, we increasingly become like the worn out sewing box, but to our heavenly Father we are precious.  He would never throw us out because  we are very valuable to Him.  It cost His Son greatly to make us a part of His family.  Jesus gave His own life to be able to present us to His Father as holy, washed clean by His precious blood,  He did what He had to do on the cross out of deep love for each of us.  He willingly died that we may live forever.

Because of that wonderful unfailing love, one day these worn out bodies of ours will be made completely new!  Until then, we can rest on the promise of II Corinthians 4:16 & 18, “…Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

We may be like an old sewing box today, but tomorrow promises that we will be made whole; no pain, no tears, no sorrow; only peace and gladness for eternity.  We are indeed pilgrims just passing through this broken world until we reach the next, most glorious one.

The Knotted String

I was watching a program on TV where a little boy, aged six, was performing a magic trick.  He took a piece of string from his pocket.  It was about eighteen inches long.  Making a fist with his left hand, he pushed the piece of string down between his thumb and forefinger.  With a big smile and declaring his magic word of “abracadabra,” he waved his right hand over the left and then pulled out the string.  It had several knots tied in it.  The boy then took the knotted string and pushed it into his fist and shouted the magic word again, “abracadabra!”  He pulled out the string and it was once more a string without knots.  The little boy smiled at the applause.

I thought to myself that the piece of string is a lot like our lives.  We would love the paths we take to be smooth, without any knots of difficulty along the way, but life’s roads are filled with bumps and ruts.  Why does God allow difficulties, we may ask ourselves.  I find it interesting to note that, not only does God allow the crooked places in our roads, but He often designs them.  We read in Ecclesiastes 7:13, “Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what He has made crooked?”  Do you find that concept difficult to accept, especially when we know that God does all things well and for our good?  Why would He design a difficult path for us to take?

Have you ever trained for a marathon?  Have you enjoyed watching the skilled olympians during the Olympics?  If you’ve been in the armed services, you will be well aware of what boot camp entails.  Does anyone reading this watch American Ninja?  What amazingly difficult obstacle courses for those athletes! To gain anything worthwhile in life, there are deliberately planned barriers and hurdles along the way.  Why?  They make us stronger.  They sharpen our skills.

It’s the same with anything we purpose to do in life, whether we want to sing, or act, or dance, or teach, or practice law or medicine.  Without the exhausting, and at times, seemingly impossible tasks to conquer along the way, there would never be success.  Isn’t that a daunting thought?  It really is true, the old saying, “no pain, no gain.”

It’s no different in our spiritual worlds.  If we never had a struggle in life, then how would we know the strength of our heavenly Father?  How would we ever know the joy that He lovingly gives to us in times of emotional upheaval?  How would we know the sweet relief of His peace if we never knew a broken heart?  It is through the pain, that indeed we gain, sweet trust that emotionally equips us to get through anything.  It’s like that favorite song of mine by Andrea Crouch that reminds us, “If we never had a problem, how would we know that God could solve them?”  It’s an amazing joy that cannot be measured, when we experience our God changing the impossible into everything feasible.  It’s such experiences, after times of slogging through the knots and ruts in our road, that puts the ecstasy in all the crooked places of our personal worlds.

When You Want To “Slap ’em to China!”

Have you ever been in a discussion when it was difficult for the majority of the group to get a word in because of one dominate person doing all the talking?  Isn’t that irritating?   I find it especially frustrating when the dominate person speaks as if he or she is the expert in the subject, when it’s obvious that they know very little.  Have you ever just wanted to, “slap ’em to China,” as my mother would say?  Whew!  I can feel my anxiety level rising with the very thought of such an exasperating person!

Even so, what about that verse in Philippians 2:3, where Paul instructs, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”  This verse is often misunderstood.  I have watched people over the years beat themselves up for not remembering to think of themselves as almost despicable.  What?  When we ask Jesus into our lives we become sons and daughters of The Almighty Holy One.  Is that a lowly, despicable position?  Absolutely not!  To think of ourselves as a  lesser human being than the people around us is not what this verse is teaching.  It’s about respect.

Respect was not what the person in our illustration was exhibiting.  That person was thinking way too highly of himself, not giving honor to the others in the group.  When Paul was instructing that we think of others as better than ourselves,  he was teaching that we must not automatically assume that we are the most intelligent, the most skilled, the most liked, etc.  It could just be that someone else knows more than we do, is more skilled in a particular area, and is more popular than ourselves.

My father would often say that “balance is the key.”  I have found that balance is the key in all areas of our lives.  A balanced diet is the most healthy for our physical bodies as is a balanced exercise regime.  A balanced use of our time, in our waking and sleeping hours, promotes a quicker thinking in our minds, a sense of well-being, and an energy that is otherwise lacking.  A balance in our spiritual world where we use our time wisely, whether praying, playing, working, meditating on the things of God, spending time with family and friends, honoring them and respecting them, makes for a well rounded person.

To respect others, to build them up, to urge them on in their goals and aspirations, to encourage them where they are weak — that is thinking of others as better than ourselves.  It’s simple recognition of truth; truth that says we must all know what our gifts are, and equally we must know what they are not.  We must be willing to heed to the experience and knowledge of others with the attitude that we might learn something of value from them.

We must be careful, guarding our hearts, when we find that we are beating ourselves up as if we are the lowest of the low, because our Father loves us dearly.  Equally, be careful of developing an over inflated head — best to let someone else do the complimenting of our knowledge and skills.  If we do it ourselves, we could end up being the exasperating people that others want to “slap ’em to China!”