I can still hear in my mind, the sounds of the marbles as they entered each new level after being dropped into the crudely carved hole on one end of the top board. The first level gave a high sound as the marble ambled along the slightly tilted strip of wood inside the box.. They picked up speed with each of the five levels.
The box my father made from orange crates probably wouldn't catch the eye of today's children. They were simpler times. It was unpainted and was all of three inches wide, two feet long and a foot, maybe a foot and a half high. It was my older brother's.
There were times when one marble at a time being plopped in was not good enough and we dropped hand-fulls in as fast as we could, creating quite a rumble. If the marbles jammed, all we had to do was shake the box vigorously side-to-side and away they would go.
Sometimes I would lay a hand on either side to feel the vibrations made inside the labyrinth's dark caverns as the marbles raced down the inclines. At other times, I lay my ear on the top wood to hear the sound better, especially the next to last which had a deep bass pitch. The assorted tones came from thin strips of different woods: oak, maple, walnut, pine and hickory. Odd how much enjoyment a few pieces of wood and a bag of marbles gave us.
No matter what kind of marbles we used the end results were always the same; put them in the top and they shot out of the only opening on the bottom. We never expected anything to change. It was a simple contraption that entertained us hours on end.
“Stupid they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” People going around the merry-go-round of life and not changing their way of doing things is on the rise. Popping pills, drinking yourself into oblivion, shooting up or running away, all produce the same results each time. Probably the saddest thing is that there is no one there with you to hold you up.
Kind of like the parable that Jesus gave about where you build your house. If you build your life on sinking sand, it's already going down, but add to that the storms of life and you soon are defeated, nothing to grasp or hold unto. The house has no foundation and is not built on solid rock.
Believers face the same life issues as non-believers with one sharp difference; they have someone to turn to every time, someone to see them through the hard places.
All through scripture we are admonished again and again to choose life rather than the death of living without the Savior, Jesus Christ. Refusing to make a change is not something new, nor the giant issues we deal with on a daily basis. No, God has been calling men and women to come to him since the beginning of time. One of the examples I think of often is Moses and the snake found in Number 21:8, NIV.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
God is use to rejection, rebellion and people thinking they know best. In the case with Moses, who was trying to lead the people from slavery into freedom, there was always drama and this was just one example of people who were grumbling and complaining and wanting their own way (kind of like us).
God sent fiery serpents among them and when the people were bitten they died... unless... they looked up to the snake wrapped around a cross. Easy right? Get bit (by a snake or the world) and live simply by looking up to what was held up for them to see and be saved. Did everyone live. No. One could say what was written in black and white and stamped by God was not good enough. And these were the people who had seen, with their own eyes, God in action: they walked through the Red Sea on dry land, saw water come out of a rock, etc., etc. We are asked to believe and use our eyes of faith.
The great lie is that God is not enough. We want bigger marbles, something that dings and bings when new levels are conquered. Somehow there has to be more, more, more. Back to the marble box - drop a marble in and listen and wait until it comes out. Plain? Yes. Simple? Yes. Complete? Yes. Satisfying? Yes. Lasting? Yes. There was a time when we were grateful for simple things that worked.
That's a good description of Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, look to me and live.” That's not complicated. Jesus is complete in and of himself for our salvation. He is the water of life and the bread of life. Most importantly, once we look to him, we not only begin to change how we live with better results, but now gain everlasting life.
You won't have to rely on memory, which is often faulty, but your joy will be new every morning and he will put within your heart a continuous melody. Where do you look to find answers that give you life rather than a monotone, flat, same old, same old?
Come, hear the heartbeat of the Lord as you lean on his breast and ask him to be your all. Jesus isn't a marble box. Your life will change... for the better. The process is simple and it works!
For weeks the rain has been falling. It's a good thing because of the lack of snow melt. There are times it is so heavy you can't drive and have to pull over and wait. When cloud cover is heavy, it causes some folks to want to roll over and sleep more. I'm not among them. It's daylight and I'd be “burnin daylight” according to John Wayne (From the Cowboys,) if I didn't rise to the occasion and get my day started.
Notice how I've missed using the words damp, dreary, dark, foreboding, depressing etc.. Those are things I wade through each morning when I go through Facebook posts and hide them from myself and others before they have a chance to enter my soul. Yeah, those words may be things that cross my mind or be part of how I feel, but I don't give them life by speaking them.
Negative self-talk is popular as people replay the broken record of “I have a right to express how I feel!” You do, but if you're always complaining about how unhappy you are and never look for the bright side of things, that is where you will remain. Depression is a hole you have to crawl out of while it continues to pull you backward.
Looking for other people or things to make you happy is like winning the lotto, probably not going to happen because much of your happiness and mine is found in our own hands. We have to make the choice of looking for the positive perspective of life by seeing what we do have instead of pampering ourselves by finding words that agree with our mood.
That's the reason I do a lot of deleting of negative posts-they defeat, deflate and delay any chance I have of responding to every situation I experience and seeing a positive side in my life. When you know the person posting copied the saying from a sight with the word depression in it, you know it will coddle your low feelings.
I can compare this to losing weight. I know, bad subject. However when someone says they are having trouble losing weight and I watch as they consume not one plate but two at gatherings and then top it off by a sampling of every dessert available, I shake my head. We are our own worst enemy. By consuming three family size bags of chips each day what do you think will be the results at the end of week two, will I have lost five pounds or gained five pounds?
Discipline is a hard thing especially when we have low self-esteem and feel like we aren't worthy of anything better or we will never be good enough. If you wait to be self-motivated by these thoughts, you might wait a long time. Thankfully God settled it for all of us by stating none of us will ever be good enough, but wait, he doesn't leave us there, he instructs us on how to think and speak change into our lives.
I don't care how deprived you are, how horrible your past, how many times you have tried to do better or if you think it can't work, it does. The reason it works is because God's instruction tells us what to look for and how we should think in order to arrive at our happy place. He lets us know up front that the drama we are surrounded by contains not one iota of happiness that lasts.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” Philippians 4:8, NIV.
A lot of folks think of this as escaping reality. No, by changing our thinking pattern and our underlying belief system we become proactive in our search for happiness and our state of being begins to loose it's heaviness. This is where we all have to gain a good split personality and separate ourselves from all the negativeness from who we really are.
There are times I have had to force myself to socialize, sit in the sunlight and to put away the second bag of chips and read positive and self-help articles to interrupt what's going on in my mind. God also saw to it that some of the characters in the Bible demonstrated a depressed state of being and after telling us their woes, showed the turn around when they countered it with what God did or said.
So if you're someone who burns daylight because you would rather not face another day of the same old, same old, then you are someone who needs to get out of the rain, you're drowning. Change the “same old” by doing something for someone else and while you're at it, do something for yourself. Is there one thing you have put off? Do it and get some physical exercise along the way. Mentally think of what God tells you to think about and sit and write a prayer that includes your blessings. If you're breathing, moving and writing, that is three things you can start with.
While some people may need medication to help, all that most of us need is to give ourselves a swift boot and make the adjustments mentally, physically and emotionally to be happy in our daily lives. And for goodness sake smile, the world needs your example.
The rain may come down, but God will lift you up.
One of the hardest things anyone has to do is to learn to believe God's Word and put it into practice after they have read it or heard it spoken. You have in fact arrived at the door and knocked. Thoughts race through your mind. “This is silly. He can't help me. I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. It doesn't feel real. Other people will think I'm a fake. I'm scared.” You're not thinking anything new. Many thousands have thought the same things as they knocked and wanted to be accepted into the kingdom of God.
You have already done the hard part by identifying that you can't live life all alone and without guidance and help. God knows how many other ways you have tried to live your life without him. But something seems to be missing. It's okay to be desperate and dependent on wanting to know where to go from this point.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” Luke 11:9, 10, NIV.
Let me tell you about what your mind would have you believe; it lies to you. Unless Jesus Christ is in our lives, we haven't been renewed in our mind to know the truth of God. If we knew the truth we would already know he can help us and that no one is good enough. Deciding to knock on heaven's door doesn't require intelligence, in fact, it is the first time you are using wisdom; two different things.
Did you feel comfortable riding a bike the first time? Faith isn't easy when you begin on your journey. If your life has been anything but pristine up unto this point and you have failed and failed and failed again, you can believe people will be skeptical, but this isn't about what other people think, it's about you living for God and letting him steer your way. It's not God and you and them. It's God and you.
I have in my home a Bible that belonged to a man who went to prison. While there, he received Christ on February 2, 1994 and he began to think a different way. He gained hope and believed he could have a changed life. When he was released, he apologized to people whom he had hurt by his actions and for months lived his life with Christ by his side, including going to church with my family a few times.
His background read like a tabloid, full of abuse, drugs, drinking and criminal activity. The whole family, brothers, sister and parents were infected and lived without knowing if they only knocked, Jesus would answer and change their lives. Those who did know, couldn't be bothered by people who thought they were better than them.
Unfortunately the short stay in the half-way house was not long enough and the lack of finding good employment because of his record was unattainable. Never having taken any drugs other than those prescribed and for any long duration, I can't pretend to know the immense pull to be under the influence of their alternating state. But I do know, addiction whatever the form, is always pulling, wanting you to return to it. It then becomes a choice of which pull, God's or others, you answer to.
The man gave in to what had ruined his life before and in June of 2016 his own son found him in bed with a needle stuck in a vein. The repercussions of his death are like an unending nightmare that keeps replicating itself in his family members.
Thankfully I don't have to decide about his final resting place. That is in God's capable hands and only he can read the heart. The man knew the way. He had asked, sought and knocked. He had asked Jesus to come into his life and looked for ways to make the necessary changes. He knocked, but he grew weary and stopped knocking, stopped depending on God and found a way to make it all go away.
If you're scared, it's okay. We all are in some way, because we know that without the grace that God showed us, the man's story I related could be our own. Each person who comes, who asks Jesus Christ to be their personal savior and studies and looks at how God wants him to live daily, will be found knocking everyday. We all go astray if our mind is not renewed daily.
People ask other people or turn to the stars to find out what they should do. We are warned about both in the Bible. People seek escaping all their troubles or covering up their need of God in a lot of unsatisfying and destructive ways only to find out in the end they still have to answer to God.
Everyone who comes to Jesus comes the same way. We are all under construction and will not be perfected until Jesus returns for us, so don't let other people's comments offend you. Learn to live for Christ and not for other people's approval.
You will receive all you need and so much more from a relationship with Jesus. Along the way you will find that no one can compare to him. But once you have knocked... keep on knocking because all you're looking for is found behind the door that is opened unto you.
You can do all things when you find your strength in Him and not in yourself. Won't you give him your difficulties, your desires, your fears, your life right now? Knock, you know you need to.
“Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! How much you can accomplish! And what your potential is.”
Those are powerful words written in the diary of a young Jewish girl who along with her family were in hiding for two years during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Her diary is considered a classic of war literature. Surely someone so bright, so encouraging had a wonderful life. No, Anne Frank died in 1945 in the Bergen-Belsan concentration camp.
To have known freedom and then to be whisked away and confined in an apartment where you have to run and hide in secret places every time the enemy came around, could not have been easy for a teenager. Everything depended on her listening to instructions and then following them.
Did you every not listen to someone's good advice and end up in a bad place? Lost what you considered most precious all because you did not follow through with what you were told? Perhaps we all have in some area of our lives.
Does it surprise you that the Bible can affect our lives for the good and clearly tells us what happens when we do not? It's not a book of dos and don'ts but one of life and death, clearly telling us how to live a life that will benefit us as we serve God. I think of it as a book within a book because of the different stories given as examples of how this all works.
One in particular I'm fond of, is the story of Ruth, a down and outer who makes it to the big times by doing what she is told… but wait I'm getting ahead of myself.
Ruth was a woman who worshiped idols, not uncommon for those who don't know God. She married a Jewish man who died not long afterwards. Since his mother was in her land, she stayed with her. But one day Naomi (the mother-in-law) decided to go back to her homeland because both her husband and her two sons had died. She became very bitter.
She told her son's wives to stay in their homeland. One did and one did not. Ruth made a decision to change religions and went back to Bethlehem with Naomi because the famine had ended.
As it turned out Ruth gleaned (gathered grain) in a relatives field, so they could have food. The owner, Boaz saw her and asked his overseer who she was. He then went to her and said in today's language, “Listen up.”
Because he knew of the kindness Ruth showed to Naomi and knew their situation he gave her some specifics of what to do and not do: don't go and glean anywhere else, stay here among the women who work for me. Take notice of the field where we are harvesting and follow along after the women. When you are thirsty, go and get a drink.
Ruth was astounded and asked why he should be concerned with her or why he should give her the time of day. Do you ever feel like that when someone is good to you? Grace is hard to understand for those who have not known it.
I'm always amazed when I read how Jesus looked at people. He “beheld” people, an act of intense looking inside and really knowing all there is to know about the person he is looking at. I think that was the kind of look Boaz gave Ruth. He heard what she had done for Naomi and what she had given up.
Ruth's life had reached a point of crisis the day she left Moab and walked with Naomi. JFK said, “When written in Chinese the word “crisis” is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” Now Ruth was faced with something she couldn't understand; grace.
“Why are you paying attention to me? Why are you so good to me? Why do you care?” Grace was the answer to all of her whys. Boaz spoke back to her with “good news.”
God cares that much for us, all the time. He can't help but love us because he is always loving. He is never going to stop looking at you once you are his.
The “good news” is Jesus. He is for everyone – the imprisoned, the frightened, the dying, those in crisis and those who want to find themselves. He is watching. He is waiting. He saves. He gives you new life. He is the way, the truth and the life that you have been searching for.
Ruth's story is a story of redemption and as she follows Naomi's wisdom, she finds herself in the middle of the linage of Jesus Christ.
Don't short change yourself. Reach your full potential through Jesus and spread the good news to everyone you meet. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot
Some say they have never heard him sing, while others shake their head and walk away. Do we take time to listen for the soloist? A trained ear will hear him. Let us look for him.
Haggai was the Lord’s messenger and his message to the people of his day was “…I am with you, saith the Lord.” Haggai 1:13, KJV He is with us, it’s true. I saw him one day as a child wept as she recited John 3:16. It wasn’t fear but God moving her one step closer to him.
Special services make it easy to feel God’s presence and for the Christian whose life has been freed of sin, there is a rush of joy wanting to express gratitude to God for taking away the trouble in their heart. The world cannot understand the concept that what makes one holy also makes one happy.
Did you ever wonder if God has moments when he can’t contain his happiness for those who trust him and come to him through his son Jesus Christ? Zephaniah gives us the answer.
“He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
Who would have thought that God can be so overjoyed that he bursts into song? The scripture may be speaking about his people Israel, its conversion and restoration and the glorious times which are to follow, but in essence, it is talking about accepting Jesus Christ as Lord.
A shepherd rejoices over finding a lost sheep and a woman rejoices at finding her lost coin, so to, all heaven rejoices over a repentant sinner (Luke 15:10). This is, if we so must rate it, the ordinary joy of heaven. But Zephaniah steps it up to the next level and wants us to know that God becomes involved too. The conversion of the Jews is a subject of peculiar delight and exultation to God himself!
He will save; he will be Jesus; he will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins. Prior to this, their life is a shadow.
In the original language God is referred to as Yehovah Eloheycha, "The self- existent and eternal Being, who is in covenant with you." What a covenant it is!
No song of lament here, only overflowing pleasure in people finding out who God is. Is it any wonder that as we read scripture and understand its meaning that our enjoyment of God should increase? I am amazed and humbled to know that God actually sings about me.
Lost people returning home mean everything to God and nothing tells it better than the parable of the Prodigal Son and the young man who showed arrogant disregard for his father’s authority as head of the family.
After all the mess the young man’s life culminates, we see his father running to him full of love and compassion. God’s love is constant, patient and welcoming. What did it take to bring you to your senses that you were in need of a Savior? Or what will it take? The son in this story was as lost as the coin and the sheep in the other two parables, but now God puts flesh on the “lost” of mankind.
We want to exclude people who aren’t clean, let someone else take care of the castoffs of society. They deserve what they get. That’s where this guy’s brother was at. Like the older son, it may be a case that you never traveled down a path away from God and don’t see the need to rejoice when a scumbag comes home.
God’s people must not stand aside and above, but must join in heaven’s celebration when those who were lost have been found.
When you read from the gospel of Luke, pay attention to the part about the shepherds, it’s just not a good read, its there for a reason. Shepherds were not allowed in the city. They were outcasts of their day. Many were thieves and untrustworthy. Jesus would come, not to the proud and powerful, but to the outcasts, the humble, those considered “last” on the social lists. It was to these men God brought the first news of his Son’s arrival.
Listen to the music everywhere, the sounds of great joy! Never tire of all the renditions proclaiming the birth of the Savior of the world. When all is silent, listen for the soloist. Do you hear what I hear? A God, a God so full of glory and grace who sings because another one of his children has come home. Was it you?
It's hard to come back to a place of normal. After a while, normal feels stranger than when every thing went wrong and you were left with sorrow and emptiness as you try to piece your life back together. There is no choice, there is no direction to go but up. That is a good place to be, because this time you can determine with the help of God “I can make it,” and instead of wallowing in your state of affairs you use them as building blocks.
We all fail. It's what you do with the lessons failure brings, what it teaches you, as you move on to become stronger and owlish in the future. There is enough despair in the world that you can stay under the circumstances forever or you can set a new goal and anticipate future success.
It reminds me of the woman (in fact several women) in the Bible, that had nothing left to live for and was prepared to die along with her son after she made them a little cake with some oil. Elijah enters the scene and asks her to feed him... first. She tells him what she is about to do and he says two important words, “Fear not,” and then proceeds to tell her to make a the cake for him first.
This is kind of funny because if you know anything about Elijah at all, you know he himself had reached a point where he prayed that he might die. He was afraid of a queen named Jezebel. So when we think of the Bible as a bunch of old stories, we need to look again and find every instance where what was happening parallels our lives and use it to improve ours.
Nothing can be harder than being in the pits and looking to God for answers and believing in what he is telling us, but if you are ever to mature in your faith it has to go beyond attending church and hoping things will change. You have to find answers for yourself because no one knows you better than you... and God of course.
While we do not have any prophets running around prophesying over us, telling us what God will do for us because of our obedience, we do have the Bible which is the place we need to go when anyone tells us what to do. If it does not line up with what God says, toss it away.
For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 1 Kings 17:4, NIV
It happened exactly as Elijah told the woman. She needed food for the table and her family. Because she did for God first, she was rewarded and blessed. I'll bet that set the tongues wagging about where the woman who had no husband was getting her provisions from. As a woman of faith, you will learn to relish the things God provides for you on a daily basis and it doesn't matter what people think.
One thing to remember is God isn't keeping score of how often you fail, he is noting how often you are trusting him to get you through the night, another day or the week. He will encourage you in many small ways by doing things or showing you things that only you know about. He is an amazing God who loves each of us intimately. He touches our heart when no one else can.
The widow was destitute and had no one. There was no agency to provide her with funds to tide her over until she was on her feet and no morale support from those going through the same thing. But the one thing she did have was a belief in God.
Despite her situation, God's grace came through for her by way of provision for her and her family. He will do the same for you and please don't loose heart if it doesn't come instantly or in the way you thought it would. God also likes to surprise us and often fulfills his Word in ways we never thought of or restores us back to a place where we are able once more to provide for ourselves.
Restores always? No. I'm not claiming to look into God's crystal ball and see what is in store. Sometimes we are in need of nothing but spending time with him. Sometimes it is a place where we learn empathy for others so we can help them in their time of need.
The words of Paul in Philippians 4:11 come to mind, where he speaks of contentment no matter what circumstances he found himself in... something he learned by both having and not having.
God forgives us through his son Jesus Christ and once forgiven we begin on a path of learning about our relationship with him by what flashes before us and by periods of darkness where it's like we are abandoned by him. Both are good places to be and experience because life isn't just about loving the highs we experience, but by trusting him in the lows too.
Contentment is what brings us to a place of normal and a solid foundation where we can be unafraid to acknowledge our weaknesses and move ahead in the strength of the Lord. Do you delight yourself in what God has to say or are you looking for excuses of why it can't work?
Don't let fear stop you. The Lord is waiting for you to come back.
A mother was watching her four-year-old child playing outside in a small plastic pool half filled with water. He was happily walking back and forth across the pool, making big splashes. Suddenly, he stopped, stepped out of the pool, and began to scoop water out of the pool with a pail.
“Why are you pouring the water out, Johnny?” the mother asked.
“’Cause my teacher said Jesus walked on water. And this water won’t work,” the boy replied. (More Holy Humor by Cal & Rose Samra)
Innocence makes us laugh. The supernatural, the storm, the command of the situation and the take away from the whole incident around Jesus walking on water was not mentioned by the little boy. Is he so different then we adults?
Actually that is the way many folks treat Jesus. They want a better life. They become confused by why they can’t snap their fingers and make it all go away by doing what Jesus did. And if it doesn’t miraculously work in the moment, they toss him away and try some other solution for their troubles and return to a life that will never satisfy their spiritual needs. There is an empty space, a hollow that only Christ can fill to make things “work out” in our lives.
The prelude to Jesus walking on water was the loud, rough wind that was blowing. It howled. It churned the sea with waves. Peter seeing Jesus, bravely began to walk to him. Then reality set in and he saw and heard that “boisterous” wind whipping around him and felt the sea drenching his flesh. Fear took over and except for Jesus reaching his hand to him, he would have drowned. Have you ever experienced those feelings?
When my husband found out he had prostrate cancer, he had all kinds of wild thoughts crowding his mind. Although he knew a lot of Bible verses, they did not override all he was experiencing. He had a decision to make about which way to attack this invader of his body. It was a perfect time for Jesus to show up and say “you’re healed.” The water didn’t work in the way we had hoped. There was no miraculous healing. He could have bailed out, but chose to believe he would be healed in God’s time and by other means.
The relentless storm lasted five months until it blew itself out; however, Jesus was present with him throughout the ordeal of the weeks of radiation therapy and the subsequent side effects lasting beyond.
Sometimes we place ourselves unknowing where the end results can be fatal. Once, when maneuvering through the mountains after dark, I rounded a curve that was sharper then I anticipated. There were cinders on the road. As I firmly pulled the wheel to prevent my going over the edge, I only had time for one name to be called out. Yeah, that name was “Jesus.” The water worked. My bumper caught a tree and propelled me back where I needed to be.
I believe we can see Jesus in the midst of our circumstances both in an instant if needed or over a progressive, long haul. The key is, we have to have him in the picture to begin with. No Jesus; no peace, no hope.
To see the miraculous, one has to be in a place where nothing else will do. As long as we can work things out our way (and how we try) why should Jesus show up?
The little boy tried to walk on water by himself, under his conditions. The object is to be where Jesus is, to partner with him, to take his hand and say “help.” As long as we are safe in our little boat of ways to make things happen, we aren’t trusting in Christ to come along side and calm our sea.
Fear was gushing from those men in the Sea of Galilee. It had all but materialized when Jesus came walking toward them. Fear wants to so grasp our attention that we forget scripture and row as fast as we can away from the answer found in Christ. Only when we are headed toward Jesus can a bridge over troubled water (couldn’t resist) be constructed.
Once we are elevated above the situation, we see such a vivid surreal scene, like floating above an emergency gurney as doctors and nurses frantically work to revive you. Wouldn’t you know it, fear jumps back into the picture and tells you there is no hope for what your eyes see. It overrides the truth of scripture and we no longer walk on the skin of the water but succumb and sink into the depths of despair.
The secret to walking on water is Jesus. Doubt wants to say there is no end to the torment of the moment. We cry out like Peter, “…Lord, save me,” (Matt. 14:30).
For that to happen, to enter into that dimension of the miraculous, we have to get out of the boat of what we know and walk toward what we have yet to learn. Believing and trusting in Jesus only grows stronger when practiced.
Have you been bailing out the water because it doesn’t work? Perhaps your self-sufficiency is blinding you or what is more the truth, fear grips you each time you try to meet Jesus on the water. The only way to move past the failings and tragedies of this life is by allowing ourselves to take his hand. After all, he created both the seen and the unseen. God is willing, are you?
A few years ago I thought I missed the headlines forecasting a difficult week ahead. An in-law was dying. A transmission quit in one vehicle. Our other car won’t start... 50 miles away. Loved ones left to go back home. Doctors canceled appointments. A mother carrying a new grandchild went into premature labor and the big “C” word was floating way too close to home. Okay, so those are things that make one unhappy, now what can I counter them with?
The following week, a long awaited prospective job interview came through, labor pains had subsided, A’s & B’s came home on report cards, a house sold so loved ones could move back to PA, one vehicle was in the garage for repairs and I started the garden early. Whew!
Can’t do anything about the sadness and grief of loosing a loved one except respect it. It hurts the heart. The options for cancer treatment were given, a choice was made and we rested in God for the outcome.
Once I went to an ocean inlet when the tide was out and was shocked. I remember the mud littered with bottles, metal and other trash I couldn’t identify. The boats leaned on their keels. That was how the events of the previous week had left me; messed up and leaning in my soul.
Compound problems move me to find something to do for someone else. How was I to know it would come in such a simple form while grocery shopping? It was hardly a good time to shop with the wind knocked out of me and I was sleepy. On a day like that, you can’t find anything that you want and your fixated on why they moved everything from where it used to be found.
“Do you see the bread for $.89 anywhere?” a man’s voice interrupted my unfocused shopping. He had reached for a loaf of bread that was clearly marked $2.24. When I told him the price his hand retreated as though bitten.
“Here is bread for $.74.”
“That will do.”
A short distance down the aisle the man was looking at the jelly and jam. As I drew near he asked “What kind is this?” By now I surmised that he could not read and perhaps his eye sight wasn’t so hot either being the label had big red strawberries all around.
“Is there any here without sugar?” I found the sugar free preserves and he accepted it from my hand. He must have been diabetic too.
“Strawberry,” I said as I handed it to him.
I had interacted with a stranger who couldn’t read, a man very dependent on others to meet his needs using friendliness and quaint jokes to get him over a difficult hurdle in today’s world.
What gets you by the insurmountable difficulties that arise in your life?
Thank goodness we have a Heavenly Father who is always concerned with our everyday lives and he lets us know that he is there for us and that his Word has the answers for what we often are afraid to ask.
From experience, I know a pile of troubles occur from time to time in everyone’s life. Likewise, a collection of good things can also happen in a row.
Of what good would it have been for Christ to have been beaten and bruised if we don’t take advantage of “…the chastisement of our peace…” and “…his stripes…” by which we are healed of Isaiah 53:5?
Most people didn't have a problem joining in the celebration and waving the palm branches as Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. A problem arises however, when we are reminded a week later that those same arms are raised in anger while the same people shout “Crucify him!” We like singing “God is Good, All the Time” until that week of unbelievable hard things hit us and we shout “Why me?” in God’s face.
We understand little of the great passion of Jesus Christ. He isn’t just God in the good times, he is Lord during what we consider to be bad times too. I believe the more a person is able to erase the line separating the two, the sooner one is able to live everyday in and through Christ. It is the only way to know his peace and to experience his healing touch.
Walking in Jesus circumvents the feelings of doubt, fear and anxiety and allows us to function. It allows us a clear view to observe how God works in each event in our lives. As we rest in Him, we are revived physically and mentally and able to function in today, all because he took our grief and carried our sorrows. Jesus is the one who makes life palatable enough to go on.
He sees the pain. He knows you suffer. He sees your broken heart. He feels your heaviness. Now won’t you ask him to come and carry your load? He said he would. Let’s see… peace or stress… which do you want?
A caveman sitting under a tree writes…
“I’ll take heaven” …by golly
Man, man, magnificent man-
Creates forces that outshine the stars
He can shoot himself up and tap dance on the moon
Or hurl himself clear out to Mars!
He can unleash a force that evaporates steel,
Since he’s learned how an atom behaves.
Yet he has no recourse but to bow to the force,
That summons the dead from their graves.
The poem is from a 1996 B.C. cartoon by Johnny Hart. He died April, 2007. As a committed Christian, he found a way to tell the world what was on the inside of him. He was glad that his Christian themes made people both in the secular and Christian arenas take notice…even to the point of debates which cost him the loss of some papers carrying his comic strip. Mr. Hart’s heart was sold out to Jesus and it showed.
Scripture affirms that what is on the inside is what will become apparent to those on the outside. We can’t help it.
What’s on the inside is the essence of being a Christian. In Joseph’s case it was what kept him from the temptation offered by Potiphar’s wife.
“ But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her." Genesis 39:8-10 (NIV)
He couldn’t deny whose he was.
The high priests didn’t yell from the outside the Holy of Holies to God within. They had to go into that place and they knew if there was anything inside them that offended God the rope that was attached to their ankle would pull their dead body out.
David wrote, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving kindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” Psalms 40:8-10 (KJV)
Having Christ within not only helps with temptation but it also allows us greater latitude of peace both for ourselves and what we are able to display to others.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18 (NIV).
That would seem to be a tall order, but with the peace that Jesus Christ has given us it’s more that you can imagine. If you’re still capable of “loosing it” perhaps you need a nap or maybe you need to give that area, that besetting sin, to God to cleanse.
How wonderful to be able to walk through life at peace with the strength that God gives to combat the temptations from the dark side! Having Christ within also helps us when we are traveling at the speed of light.
“We're in no hurry, God. We're content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. Who you are and what you've done are all we'll ever wan.
Through the night my soul longs for you. Deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you. When your decisions are on public display, everyone learns how to live right..” Isaiah 26:8-9 (MSG).
Life happens. To take it too seriously makes us grouchy and miserable to be around. Johnny used humor much like Erma Bombeck did. Below is a letter she wrote back in answer to Father Tom Walsh. He asked her if she thought humor is healing.
Dear Father Tom:
I suspect that you have me confused with Norman Cousins. He’s several inches taller, and he laughed his way through illness. He got a best-seller out of his illness. I got three children. Those are the breaks.
…What I have been doing for 16 years in my column is to put my life in perspective, the frustration of raising children, the loneliness, the pain, and the futility of it all. And it works.
Good luck. I miss you at St. Thomas. Was it something I said? Erma
I surmise that when the Jesus Christ finds residence within our hearts we would be wise to listen to a little girl who was to have heart surgery. The Dr. asked her if she was afraid.
The doctor explained what he thought he would find when he looked into her heart. She corrected the doctor.
“When you look in my heart you will find Jesus.”
“And they said one to another; did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke 24:32 (KJV).
What is inside the Christian defends, gives peace and lightens the load. Living for Christ gives you heartburn. The best way to cure it - share what lies within you with everyone through whatever talents or means God has given you.
“Please pull over to the side of the road. I want to hold you and kiss you.”
The children in the back seat, two blond youngsters caught by my peripheral vision, wouldn't understand what was building up within me. Graham did as instructed.
Cupping his face in my hands, we kissed with the most passion I have ever felt, a soft, lingering kiss. “Graham, you have no idea how much I love you,” I whispered. Tears warmed my cheeks as we continued on our way.
The dream was so powerful I awoke immediately. What a way to start a day. I cried on my way to work unable to shake the lingering feeling of the moment. It was only a dream and yet it would affect my whole day forcing thoughts of other intense moments that took my emotions into custody almost instantly:
Watching twins sleeping, inhaling the crisp air on Machu Picchu in Peru, feeling the spray from the Sea of Galilee, seeing the quilted Andes in Bolivia, observing grandchildren escape the womb, watching Native American dancing or smelling the presence of the Lord, have all left me an emotional cripple.
I have always tried to drink in every extraordinary moment of life, savoring it as a supreme moment of my existence and in so doing, have captured flashes that I can recall at any given time with almost the same amount of felling as when it took place. Passion will do that for you.
Marie Barnett wrote the song, “Breathe.” It speaks of the air we breathe realizing that the holy presence of God is living within and also about ingesting our daily bread which is of course the Word of God.
Another part says, “I’m desperate for you and I’m lost without you.” That was the feeling I had started the day with, that longing and need to express those deep feelings of love.
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fir, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned” (Song of Songs 8:6-7, NIV).
If we are able to feel so passionately, think about how much more God loves us. Anyone who waits around on us day after day, year in, year out, for just a moment of recognition, a few minutes of concentrated sensitivity, has to have it bad; love.
If we fully comprehended that our happiness is found in God’s love it would change us from the inside out. I love The Message’s interpretation of Psalms 4:3-8.
“Look at this: look who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to him. Complain if you must, but don't lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for his verdict.Why is everyone hungry for more? "More, more," they say. "More, more." I have God's more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees. At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep, for you, God, have put my life back together.”
Isn’t that what we desire? Someone put us together please! You may not admit it but it is a common thing to be scattered, having a feeling of disjointedness. That’s why we have to give the Lord time to come to us and touch us with his love. It only happens if we relax in his presence and breathe in time with His Holy Spirit.
By the time Paul wrote the Ephesians, he knew a lot about listening carefully to what God was whispering in his ear every moment of the day through his good times and the bad.
“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.
My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.
Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus.
When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go.” Eph 3:8-12
To think that Paul’s words can be our word astounds and thrills me. Knowing and experiencing the truth that God is intimate with us on a daily basis motivates the magnetic pull to seek his awesome presence more and more each day.
Have you missed the ruby sunrises and golden sunsets or the array of wildflowers covering the land for you? Can he not touch you with all of creation that he throws at your feet because of his great love? Are answered prayers and guidance in life’s decisions, his abiding nurturing to be cast away as something trivial?
Can anyone or I, ever say the most intense moment of their life was not when Jesus Christ came into their heart and scales fell from their eyes enabling them to feel the passion of God? I think not! Breathe in God’s love today. He will embrace you and say, “You have no idea how much I love you.” You will weep, but with tears of joy.