The Birds Still Sing

This has been a wild weather week for many of the southeastern states in the USA; strong wind gusts, hail the size of golf balls, booming thunder, sharp lightening, and tornadoes ripping across the land.  Thankfully, my mother and I, and our home, were left untouched.  A few branches scattered across the lawn, but nothing more.

Over the years I have been amazed at the power of storms; and, equally amazed at the resolute attitude of animals to keep going and rebuild in the wake of any storm’s aftermath.  Like ours, their homes are often destroyed, too.  I have seen a bird’s nest keep hold on the tree branches in the roughest of winds, and have also seen them topple to the ground in the softest of breezes, but I have never seen these winged creatures give up in despair.  No matter the calamity, the birds still sing.

It seems that animals and birds have an inborn understanding of God’s character revealed in nature.  They sense God’s finger drawing messages of love in the earth and His voice speaking truth in the wind.  I love the verse in Romans 1:20 that tells us, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and the sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”  God is everywhere and He can be found if we look with eyes searching for truth.  He promised that if we seek we will find.

Why is it so easy for us humans to despair?  Why don’t animals give up when nature strikes its cruel blows?  At the end of every storm, how can animals accept their tragedies with composure and continue on in peaceful stride?  Why do we humans agonize over material ruin while the birds still sing when they have lost all?

Jesus taught the truths of nature to His followers when He said to them in Matthew 6:25-27, “I tell you not to worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, because your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

If only we humans could take hold of positive resolve when adversity strikes.  If only we could move on peacefully to build again when disaster takes away what we toiled so long  to gain.  If only we would determine to search for God’s truth in the middle of every mishap.  When we seek, we find.  When we knock, the door is opened.  When we ask, we receive all we need.

The next time difficulties come your way, don’t forget why the birds still sing.

 

What Do I Do About It?

I have shared before, what I call, the wisdom of Lucy.  Lucy Shockney is a dear friend whom I met in France where she and her family were missionaries for many years.  God has blessed Lucy with terrific insights into everyday life.  Recently she shared another nugget of gold.  She was talking about the difficulties in life that come to us all.  No one is exempt from hard times.  Lucy writes:  “If the question that plagues you is ‘why,’ knowing why doesn’t solve the problem.  The real question is, ‘what do I do about it?”‘  That’s the one that solves the problem, that refuses to submit to circumstances.  The ‘whys’ are a distraction.  The ‘what am I going to do about it?’ is the road map to greatness.”  I find her thoughts simple and yet profound.

It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of doubt, depression, and anxiety.  To ask why is easy and even understandable.  We want answers to our melancholy.  We want it to go away, so we ask why?  However, as Lucy pointed out, to merely mull over the why question will do nothing but distract us from the road to our liberation.  Indeed, it is in asking ourselves, what are we going to do about it, that the path to freedom from our despondency will be revealed.

So, what, exactly, can we do about it?  Two answers come to me.  The first has been a favorite of mine from the time I became a Christian.  It’s found in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things that you do not yet know.”  Isn’t the truth of that verse amazing?  The promise is: just by calling to Father, He will answer, and He will reveal truth to us that will aid us in our troubles.  It’s not a maybe or possibly so; it’s an “I will.”  Anytime God says “I will,” it is well worth our time to meditate upon that truth and follow it through.

The second thought that comes to me in regard to, what can we do about it, is found in Matthew 7:7.  Jesus was talking with His followers, encouraging them how to live successfully in this troubled world.  He said, “Keep on asking, and you will receive.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  I have listened with sadness to some Christians who have misunderstood this verse.  Some actually believe that God is being somewhat cruel, insisting that “keep on asking” means, if we ask enough times, He will answer.  Oh, my!  That interpretation is so incorrect. What would enough times be?  Five?  One hundred?  It’s absurd to consider that Jesus would be so callous to the things that hurt us.  That’s not how love works; therefore, that’s not how Jesus works.

So, what is He saying?  He’s telling us that every time we find ourselves in some situation of despair, then ask, seek, and knock.  He says to keep on doing this with every trial that comes our way.  With every new feeling of sadness or with every new burden that weighs us down, we must seek Him and His help.  We must so diligently ask, seek, and knock that it becomes a habit in our lives.

As Lucy reminded us, when we quit focusing on the ‘why’ and focus instead on ‘what can I do about it,’ then we put ourselves in the way of deliverance from all that drains our joy.  So, when troubles come, and they will, what can we do about it?  Call to Father.  Ask His help.  Seek His comfort.  Knock on the door of His guidance, and He will show you great and mighty things that you never even dreamed about.  It’s a promise.

Hidden Beneath The Couch Cushions

The other day I had a sweet flashback to my childhood. It happened when I found a quarter that had fallen to the floor near the couch. As I bent to pick it up, my mind suddenly traveled back in time to when my sister and I were little girls.

As children we were given our chores to do. At the end of each week we were rewarded with our weekly allowance. I remember when I used to get 50 cents a week. Then it rose to 75 cents. I was so excited when it rose to a whole dollar!

To supplement our income, my sister and I discovered that sometimes, when our father sat on the couch, coins would fall out of his pockets and slip down between the couch cushions. Oh, what happiness, when upon our couch cushion explorations, we would find an assortment of quarters, nickels, and dimes. We were rich!

Now, it didn’t happen every time we searched. There were many days when we lifted the cushions to find the space empty of the treasures we had hoped to find. Did that stop us from looking another time? Absolutely not! We always believed that, with our diligent searching, the day would come when we would strike it rich once again.

When we grew up, something was revealed that touched me sweetly. We were told by our mother, that there were many times when our father would deliberately hide the coins for us to find. He got as excited as we did when we found the waiting treasure.

Once again, as I reflect upon something that took place in my physical world, I am also reminded that our Heavenly Father behaves in the same way. He inserts blessings into our lives all the time. Sometimes, He gives blessings to us outright; but at other times, He hides the coins beneath the couch cushions, taking pleasure with us when we find them.

Jesus told us in Luke 11:9, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Please don’t ever stop looking diligently for what you need in God! If you do give up in the asking and seeking and knocking, it may be that you’re sitting on your quarters of blessings and don’t even know it. The coins of blessings are there. Have fun searching!

The One Necessary Thing

The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, are records of Jesus’ life on earth. In it we read about many of the miracles He performed. We take note of Jesus, the great storyteller, revealing spiritual truths through everyday experiences and examples. We see Jesus and His busy schedule: teaching His followers, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, preaching in the Synagogues, debating the religious leaders of the day, casting out demons, even settling disputes among His disciples.

Yes, Jesus was a very busy person, teaching many truths about successful Christian living. However, throughout His ministry, it is interesting to note that Jesus points only to one crucial thing that is necessary to living the abundant Christian life. There is only one thing we must practice in order to know His peace, courage, strength, joy, and direction through all our days.

We have no record that Jesus ever taught a seminar on sermon preparation. There is no record of Him giving instruction on how to conduct a feeding program and helps to the poor. He never gave a lecture on healing ministry, He never suggested a tea cafe to reach the community or a daycare center for the children. There is no record that He gave instruction on conducting a youth camp at the Sea of Galilee. All of the above are wonderful tools today, that when led by the Holy Spirit, the love of God can be shared. Even so, there is no record of Jesus giving any teaching on these matters.

He taught one necessary thing: it’s a tremendous spiritual truth that is absolutely essential in order for any of the above to be effective in leading others to know Jesus. It’s a necessary thing in order for any of us to maintain inner peace in the midst of turmoil. It’s a thing often ignored; it’s often put aside until a later time; it’s often hurried through on the busiest of days. It’s the thing called — prayer.

How to pray is what Jesus taught, and it is what He showed us by His own example. Even on His busiest of days, when He was ministering all day and into the night, it is recorded that “Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.”Luke 1:35

Jesus tells us how to pray in Matthew 5:9-13. We call it The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a tremendous model on how we should pray. There is another instruction on prayer that Jesus gave us, recorded in Matthew 7:7-8, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.”

There are those who would read these words and quickly say that they have asked, sought, and knocked, and God did not answer their prayer. Here is an important truth: God always answers our prayers. Sometimes He says, yes. Sometimes He says, no. Sometimes He says, wait a while. In the meantime, we are instructed to keep asking and seeking and knocking. Why do this if the answer is wait or if the answer is slow in coming? Because asking and seeking and knocking is for our benefit. Those actions keep us focused heavenward. When we focus heavenward, our very thoughts take on a more godly attitude. When we take on a more godly attitude, then God is able to build strength of character in us. When strength of character is built in us, then faith and trust in our Father grows more secure.

Too often we focus on that which we don’t understand, and we quit praying. Jesus urges in His teaching to — keep on keeping on. That determination and obedience is what sharpens our spiritual ears to hear Him when He speaks. If we aren’t ready to listen, it stands to reason that we will never hear. When we do not hear, discouragement sets in, and we declare that God doesn’t answer our prayers. It’s a spiritually debilitating circle. It doesn’t have to be so!

Let’s determine today, and each day as we awake, that we will obey the teaching of Jesus and we will pray; we will talk to Him, telling Him quite simply how we feel about things going on in our lives, what we feel we need, perhaps how we are worried about those around us, what we would like to happen in our world, etc. Ask God for help with everything that troubles you or confuses you. Just talk. Pour out your heart in your own words. When we do this, we will grow to understand that prayer is for our very best. We will grow to a greater understanding of God and His ways. We will come to know a joy so great it can never be measured. Remember this — of a certainty, such immense joy can never be found — without the one necessary thing — prayer.