Archive - August 2015

Monuments, Landmarks, And Bridges: A Pause To Reflect

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

Can I just talk to you for a while? Will you allow me to paint pictures in your mind before they fade out of mine? Can I share with you the thoughts swirling in my head that I don’t quite know how to put into words?

Do you remember that place? That place where the light shines through the trees a little differently? The place where the air is lighter, and the atmosphere sets you at ease?

Remember the creatorHave you ever been to a place where the noises that surround you are ducks and geese conversing about the weather, and the wind rustling the leaves? Where the loudest sound is the river babbling and running into another river, and running into the sea, and the laughter of children fills the air.

Have you seen the green hills as they fade into purple mountains that fade into grey heights that fade into the sky as their peaks pierce through the clouds and laugh at the rain falling below?

Do know the tree, the very old tree that stands by the river and offers shade for all who pass by? How he wishes to be heard, and to tell those who would listen the stories of the generations that have gone before, and their trials and triumphs. When night falls he stretches his arms toward the sky and points to the stars and The One that hung them and keeps them in place.

Do you remember a time when you took your cues from the rising and setting of the sun, and you own stomach, instead of the clock and the calendar? When the most important thing you had to do was watch a nine-year-old bond with a basset hound.

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Have you taken the time to pull down from the shelf the book of an old friendship and dust it off? And have you marveled at the grace that has kept it bound throughout the years?

Do you know the feeling of sitting down to a card game with old friends, and having your sons join you for the first time? That’s what children are for after all; learning what we know and passing it on to their children. The important things, and the not-so-important things.

If you know that place, will you go there with me for just a moment? Will you stand on the mountaintops and bask in the goodness of God? Gather some stones and build a monument there on that mountain.

The first court west of the Alleghanies

The stump of the tree that the first court west of the Alleghenies was held under.

Go back in your mind to a time when The Lord Of Creation showed Himself to you, and conquered the enemy you faced.

The monuments in our lives show us where we’ve been, and what we’ve been through. They point to the old ways and what was good about them, and what needed to change. And they remind us of The One who pulled us through when hope seemed lost.

There are landmarks too, that show us where we’re going. They point out the path we should take so we don’t get lost. Because when it’s one mile south of the Big Chicken, you can’t miss it. And if it’s right next to Twins Stadium, everyone should know where it is. Even if they’re from out of town.

No matter how far we think we’ve come, or how successful the trip, we’ll always need the monuments and landmarks. Because there will always be bumps in the road, twists and turns along the way, and unexpected road blocks that stop us in our tracks.

And we never know when we’ll wake up one morning to discover another heartbroken wife, or another town devastated by tragic loss. In those moments we always wonder why, and we want to know what made them do it.

The wrong side of townWhatever we reasons we find to explain it, at the root of it all, there is always someone who forgot the monuments, ignored the landmarks, and burned the bridges that connected them to their fellow man, and The God that formed them in their mother’s womb.

And when they were lost, they took directions from the one with the greasy smile and the bad intentions, and followed them to the wrong side of town.

When you find yourself lost on the wrong side of town, it’s so easy to stay there, and so hard to leave.

So it’s up to the ones who remember the monuments, and followed the landmarks to the Narrow Way, to be the bridge builders. To help the lost ones find their way back to The Light. Bridge Builders

And when the bad days come, when the thing we were so hoping for doesn’t happen, we’ll need to look back on the times when we knew God’s hand was working. We’ll need the monuments to help us remember. To tell the story one more time of when the doctor looked at your husband and said “You should have died from this.”

Then you can find the peace that tells you that The God who hung the stars is still in control. And always was.

In those moments of looking back, you’ll sometimes find that the things you thought were important weren’t after all, and the things that seemed unimportant meant the world.Landmarks

Remember the mountains, and the peace that was there on those hilltops, where the sunlight danced in the trees. And remember The Creator of those mountains, Whose presence is infinitely greater, and Who holds even the tiniest sparrow in the palm of his hand.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3

No matter how far we think we’ve come, or how successful the trip, we’ll always need the monuments and landmarks. Because there will always be bumps in the road, twists and turns along the way, and unexpected road blocks that stop us in our tracks.

No Lone Soldiers 

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5)

In Christ we are never alone. We are never abandoned. And we are never left to fight our battles on our own.

But sometimes it can feel like we are.

The presence of God is very real, and there have been many times in my life when after a prayer over a horrible situation, I’ve felt the peace that passes all understanding wash over me.

But there have also been times when I’ve desperately wished for another human being to reach out to.

God promised He would always be with us, but it was never His plan for us to go through life without any human contact. In the very beginning God decided He didn’t want man to be alone.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18)

I don’t think it’s taking scripture out of context to say that this verse is talking about much more than marriage. From this union would come children and grandchildren. The first couple were told by God to make more of themselves, to fill the earth with people. In giving Eve to Adam, God gave all of us the gift of companionship.

In Ecclesiastes we see the same theme repeated.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-10‬)

In the New Testament we find again the reminder not to isolate ourselves.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews‬ ‭10:25‬)

Yet as I look around me I see more and more Christians living in a bubble.

We are so busy with our lives that we don’t have time for anyone else. We’re so focused on our needs and desires that we hardly notice those around us. We go through life with blinders on not recognizing the suffering of others.

We are fighting our battles alone, and we’re leaving our brothers and sisters to fight alone.

Everyone I know is fighting a battle. Everyone. I don’t know anyone who is just cruising through life taking in the scenery.

And you don’t either.

Maybe you’re thinking of someone who seems to have it made. That’s just it, they only appear  to have it made. I promise you they don’t. I promise you that they’re battling something that you don’t know about. Because everyone is.

Just because they aren’t wearing their troubles on their sleeve, doesn’t mean they don’t have any.

We don’t see it because we aren’t looking, and we aren’t listening. Our lives have become all about us. What we want. What we need. How everyone else can understand us better.

Our culture has become entirely self-centered.

But Christ followers are supposed to be different.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬)

What do these verses have to do with loneliness? With caring for the needs of others? With helping the hurting?

If you read the rest of the chapter you’ll see the answer is: everything.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans‬ ‭12:3-5‬) (Emphasis added.)

We could sum these verses up this way; don’t be like the world, be like Christ. The rest of the chapter contains an instruction manual for how the members of the body of Christ should behave toward each other.

Don’t try to do everyone else’s job. (Romans 12:6-8)

Don’t show a false love. (12:9a) When our love for others is false, we present a false image of Christ.

Don’t focus on the bad; focus on the good. (12:9b)

Treat everyone like a brother. Give preference to each other. (12:10)

Don’t be lazy. (12:11)

Be hopeful. Be patient in hard times. Pray for each other. (12:12)

Meet each other’s needs. (12:13)

Even the ones that have done you wrong. (12:14) This is hard I know. Especially when you feel like they’ve gone too far.

But this is the essence of grace living. The first three chapters of Romans tells us we are all the same. We are all guilty of the same crimes, and all bought with same blood.

We are all guilty

The writer points out some very nasty sins, and then tells us that we are all just as dirty, and just as defiled. We are all covered with the same spots. Before we accepted Christ we were all equally messy. But the grace of God makes us all equally clean.

If God can forgive my sins, surely I can forgive a brother of sister when they disappoint me with their behavior. Grace doesn’t mean much to me if I won’t extend it to those that have hurt me.

Often those that hurt us, do so because they are hurting themselves. They are in pain and lash out because of it. They need to be shown real Christian love that puts others first.

In mirroring Christ we put our own needs on the back burner, trusting God to meet those needs, while we let Him use us to meet the needs of others. Christ told us to love each other the same way He loved us.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John‬ ‭13:34‬)

Christ loved us so much that He died for us. He laid down his life so that we could live.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

He calls us to love each other with that same intensity.

Most of us won’t be asked to die for the church. But there are other ways we give our lives.

We give our time, our talents, and our resources. We let someone else take the credit. We lay down our pride and forgive. This is presenting our bodies a living sacrifice. Our reasonable service compared to all that Christ gave up on the cross.

This is how we are not conformed to this world.

No one should have to fight their battles alone. No soldier in the army of God should be without the support of their fellow soldiers.The members of the body of Christ must learn to stand together, or we will fall alone.

The way of the world is to look out for number one. The way of the church should be to look out for each other.

We are so busy with our lives that we don’t have time for anyone else. We’re so focused on our needs and desires that we hardly notice those around us. We go through life with blinders on not recognizing the suffering of others.

Course Correction

When I was about fifteen a friend of mine and I spent a week in Hilton Head with a family we babysat for. While we were there we had the chance to ride Jet Skies. Since neither of us were licensed drivers we both had to ride with someone who was. We didn’t have to let them drive the whole time, but they had to be there.

I had never ridden a Jet Ski, and I had never driven anything. Ever. Not even a go-cart or a Barbie jeep. The idea of being in control of any kind of vehicle terrified me. So I was more than content to let the woman I was with drive while I rode on the back.

After a while though she started to suggest that I take a turn at the helm. She was sure I would have more fun if I were driving. There was no one around to run into, it would be fine she insisted.

After much persuasion, and what I’m sure was some very awkward looking maneuvering to switch seats, I was in control.

For a little while everything was fine. Jet Skiing was pretty fun after all.

Then I got distracted. I started daydreaming about something or other and before I knew it I was headed for trouble.

Daydreaming has always been a problem for me. I couldn’t get my work done in school because my mind would wander off. Someone could be talking to me for who knows how long and would have no idea what they had said because I was a million miles away inside my own head. Even now, more than two decades later, I still have to force myself to pay attention to the world around me.

When I finally came out of my daydream, brought back to reality by the wild shouting of my adult chaperone, I was horrified to realize we were barreling toward the beach at full speed. Following the instructions she hurled at me, I turned hard, and gunned the engine. I willed the Jet Ski to turn.

It was no good.

We were headed for the beach. And not in a fun way.

Our lives can get blown, or steered, off course so easily. It doesn’t take much before we’re headed for a crash that we can’t control. But the problem isn’t inevitable.

It could have been a lot worse. We didn’t get hurt and the Jet Ski wasn’t damaged. I was imagining worse. Much worse.

What good is a well-exercised ability to daydream if you can’t add some drama to make things more interesting and get your heart racing?

We ran up onto the beach, and got stuck. Try as we might the Jet Ski wasn’t moving. Eventually the guides for our group saw us and made their way over. By the time the Jet Ski had been hauled back into the water, our time was up. We both rode back to marina with the guides.

I was thoroughly humiliated.

And I never wanted to operate another vehicle.

The dangers of distracted driving are well known. Also well know is the reputation of global positioning systems to give you bad directions. Both can lead to being badly off course. Or worse.

This can happen to us in life too. It’s so easy to get distracted by all of the things this world has to offer. The houses, the cars, the vacations, and whatever else we might get into call us away from living the life God intended for us.

A life that may not include all the amenities we’re hoping for, but will bring tremendous peace and fulfillment.

Even the things we believe are necessary can draw us away from our true purpose. Things like school, housework, and jobs are all important, but we can easily let them become the most important. We can get so busy just trying to scratch out a living that we forget to look to the one that will meet all of our needs.

And then sometimes we just get tired. We exhaust ourselves in pursuit of happiness, and we no longer have any energy to spare for the things of God. Or maybe we just have an exhausting life, and we forget to trust the one who gives us true rest.

Our lives can get blown, or steered, off course so easily. It doesn’t take much before we’re headed for a crash that we can’t control. But the problem isn’t inevitable.

If, as a gangly, awkward, suntanned teenager, I had simply let the experienced driver remain in charge that day in Hilton Head, I would have avoided the whole situation. I have enjoyed myself just as much, or more when you account for some unintended beach time, and I wouldn’t have become the brunt of what I’m sure were more that a few jokes.

The Christian life is the same way. We can get so wrapped up in our own plans, and then when we think God is taking us off course, we maneuver ourselves into control, and tell God to get in the back. We think God must have made a mistake somewhere along the way.

But God doesn’t make mistakes.

We may not understand the path, or be able to see the road He leads us on, but God will never steer us off course.

We may not understand the path, or be able to see the road He leads us on, but God will never steer us off course.

It’s up to us to trust Him, and let Him remain in control of our lives. We have limited vision and experience. God sees all, knows all, and has experienced all. He is much more qualified to run our lives than we are.

I wish I could say that I learned that lesson all those years ago, but I didn’t. I still fight the urge to do things my way instead of God’s way. I still find myself thinking I’ve got things figured out.

The truth is I’ll never have things figured out. No matter how much I think I know, or how capable I think I am, I’ll never be able to navigate the waters of life without God.

If I would have learned that a long time ago I could have saved myself a lot of worry, fear, and anxiety. Probably quite a bit of embarrassment too.

Not even Jesus Christ the Son of God made his own plans. He didn’t seek to do His own will, but let the Father lead Him in everything.

…I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. John 8:28

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. John 6:38

Why should we elevate ourselves above Christ? If the wisest man that ever walked the earth didn’t presume to control His own life, why should I? Who am I compared to Christ?

Christ knew that to fulfill His purpose, He had walk the path that the Father laid out. The same is true for us.

If I truly want the power of God on my life it won’t do to just let God be the co-pilot while I maintain control. I have to let Him be the pilot, the navigator, and the fuel that powers the vessel.The fuel that powers the vessel

 

Battle Weary Princess

Tired barely begins to describe how I feel most days. I often find myself preparing food at midnight or one in the morning. I climb into bed at two or so only to be awakened five hours later by the sound of my two-year-old saying, “Mama I want you.”

Assuming of course said two-year-old doesn’t feel the need to make this declaration sometime between two-thirty and seven-thirty.

I’m not complaining. Just stating the facts. I’m not looking for sympathy. Everyone has their own battles that they are facing. This is just what my battle looks like right now. It won’t last forever. Another stage of life will come with its own challenges.

But burning the candle at both ends does take its toll. Every day feels like survival mode. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually a weariness sets in that will take more than a good nights sleep to cure.

Sometimes God allows us to get to the place where we just can't take another step to remind us to rely on His strength.

Although that does help.

We all go through times in our lives when the work seems unending. When we are pulled on from every direction. There will be times in our lives when we feel like we have given so much of ourselves away that there is nothing left to give.

Sometimes we’ll be up all night with a newborn, or waiting on a spouse that’s working late. Maybe it will be working two jobs to make ends meet. Or we could be caring for sick loved ones, or some combination of the above.

There will come a time when want to throw up our hands and say, “I can’t take another day of this!”

And it will be true.

Sometimes we can’t take it.

Sometimes we aren’t strong enough. Sometimes the weight of the world really is too much.

Sometimes God allows us to get to the place where we just can’t take another step to remind us to rely on His strength.

God told the apostle Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We forget so easily. When things seem to be going our way, we have a tendency to leave God behind, and to think, “I’ve got this.”

But we really don’t. It’s just an illusion. One small detail can change, and suddenly the world is spinning out of control. Out of our control anyway.

Nothing is ever out of God’s control.

We find ourselves sleep deprived, emotionally spent and ready to throw in the towel.

It’s in our weakest moments that we can clearly see the strength of our God, and how desperately we need Him.My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

When we are handling things ourselves, we don’t leave room for God to work in our lives.

Accepting that we aren’t strong enough doesn’t mean giving up. It means giving it to God.

Even at our strongest, our strength is weakness when compared to an omnipotent God. What is impossible for mankind, God can accomplish with just a thought.

Our strength may fail us. We may have to stop and rest when our bodies are on the verge of giving out. We may try and fail to carry on though the weariness and busyness of life.

But God is never tired, never needs to sleep, and He never fails.

Before we get to the place where we want run away and hide, we need to spend some time at the feet of The Master. We need to fall into the arms of The God of the universe, and let Him carry us.

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

When we feel like we can’t go on, His grace is sufficient.

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