What Next?

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If you are here, reading this blog, whether for the first or 50th time, there is something inside you that is seeking to know more about God. That is why I write, to try to put in words what it seems God is revealing to me. I do not believe that you have to be a member of an organized church or even call yourself a Christian to truly seek God. It seems to me that all you need is a heart that knows there is more to life than what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears.

I haven’t written here for a long time. Today is well over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic that has changed the whole world in ways we cannot fully understand right now, except to know that life in the before times was much different for all of us, and it is unlikely to ever go back to what we considered “normal.” Somehow, I have let myself get stuck in a rut–too much TV, too little exercise and fresh air, too much inertia and stalling and paralysis as I sit in my living room, stretched out in the recliner, with a blanket over me, waiting for the pandemic to end and life to begin again for real.

Phooey! What nonsense! Life is here and now and it won’t wait for me. I have to run behind that train and either get on board or take my own path. I think I’ll begin with a little, slow stroll here, reminding myself and hopefully someone else that life is what we make it. If I am not satisfied with how my life is going, then it is up to me to make changes, to push in the direction I want to go.

Right now, I am still employed full-time at a job I love, but more and more, I think about retirement. I am, after all, 63. I have decent health with a few problems to take care of in the near future (hip replacement, oh joy!). I still have a brain that mostly runs on all cylinders, although it’s never won any races, always preferring the slow, unpaved lane.

In the next 30 days, I plan to write here every day. I have no idea if anyone else will want to read this. Most times, I think my own thoughts turned into words on this blog are probably just boring to anyone else. But maybe there is someone out there who is seeking to find what God has in store for him/her too. If so, come along with me. I hope that in my quest to figure out what is next in my life, you will also begin to figure that out for yourself. And, I especially hope we find God is smiling over us in the process.

“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might, He increases strength.” Isaiah 40:29. Just ponder that for a moment. Maybe, just maybe, when we feel the most worthless, the weakest, and the least mighty, if we reach out to God, He will show us how to tap into strength we didn’t even know we had.

See you tomorrow, friend.

Amen and amen.

Making Wise the Simple

I am always convinced that if I could fully understand the truth and eternal meaning of just one verse of the Bible, I would have all the wisdom of the universe. I have yet to achieve that goal. From time to time, I get a glimpse that takes my breathe away, leaving me ever searching for more yet fully satisfied.

I write here in an attempt to dig down to the truth. As I dig, my shovel clangs into big rocks of assumptions and half-truths. That is the real heavy lifting–to remove that rubble before it slides back into the deep where the truth is. The misconceptions and prejudices of those who raised me are the gravel and clay of a lifetime of thinking in the same way. No one intends to believe a lie, but we all believe what we believe.

As I dig, sometimes making the excavation deeper, sometimes wider, I try to listen. The noise of the news of this world is a siren blaring, drowning out that still small voice. But, when I pause from my own effort and look without expectation that I will see what I want or what I think ought to be there, I can begin to hear.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7.

There is still hope for me yet.

Amen and amen.

The Same

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever

yet He makes all things new in the heart of a believer.

Nothing in life ever stays the same except

the One who dwells in eternity

who created us

and died to save us.

As we spin through the universe

held here only by gravity and grace,

we need to bring Him the sacrifice of praise.

Come outside your city, your comfort zone

to the Cross to meet him there, alone.

There you will find whatever you need.

Finding it, you’ll know He’s all you’ll ever need.

The author and finisher of faith

gentle and lowly in heart

asks only that we come to Him.

If we make that journey

out of our city to look at His cross

we find our way, our truth, our life,

brand new, never to be lost.

Perspective

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We cannot know anything except from our own perspective, our own little window to the world. My perspective is limited by time, the day I was born and the years I’ve lived out. It is limited by geography, where I have lived. It is limited by my own intelligence or lack thereof, as well as how willling I am to learn from others.

But, our perspecitve can always be expanded, by reading, by traveling, by interacting with people of different backgrounds, nationalities. faiths, and ideology. If we are willing to try to see beyond our own little glimpse into the world, God can expand our perspective as far as we’re willing to allow.

In the Bible, God used people with limited perspective to instruct us about who He is and how He operates in this world. In the gospels (the new testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the only account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is in the book of John. John devotes 44 verses of chapter 11 to this extraordinary event. John 11:1-44. If the length of the account is any indication of its importance, it was incrediby important to John, given that it he devotes so many verses to it. Because of the importance John obviously placed on the event, especially given that this miracle is so much more startling and, well, miraculous, it makes me wonder why there is no other account of it in the Bible.

Ultimately, only God knows that. However, It does tell me that my limited perspective is valuable to God and those He’s connected me to, which includes anyone reading this. Although I can only know what I know, God surely placed me here and now for a reason that suits His purpose. Hopefully, what I see through my little window to the world can help someone else see the world from a new perspective.

The point is–God values our individual perspective, and we should too, especially as it evolves over time by our connections to others. God works all things for good, to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. I will be looking out my window and keeping the light on. Say howdy if you see me!

Amen and amen.

What’s the Point?

Is there really any reason to pray intentionally if God already knows our hearts and souls better than we do? I mean, if He already knows, and if He can and does answer the prayers of our hearts when we don’t even realize what we’ve prayed for, then why bother? Why not just let Him take care of everything without bothering Him?

I believe the first and most important reason to pray intentionally is that it helps us get closer to God. The words we use don’t matter to Him nearly as much as to us. We need to express what is in our hearts so we will better understand where we fall short in giving God the glory He is due, how our pain or disappointment or hurts have kept us from trusting Him, and how we need to change in order to live that abundant life He wants for us.

Praying intentionally is the best way to worship God in Spirit and truth, which is, after all, what He wants most from us. John 4:23-24. You see, we cannot really know the truth about ourselves unless we are willing to take a good, long, unflinching look at ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost impossible to avoid fooling ourselves and being fooled by that liar, Satan. If our introspection is only that, a solitary, inward look at ourselves, we will miss most of what is most important. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t see what you don’t see. Unless we present our thoughts, desires, heartaches, plans, and dilemmas to someone else, we don’t have any way to see when we are off-course, off-kilter, or off our rocker.

We could just talk to a good friend or anyone we love and trust. But, just like us, they can only see from their perspective. Two limited perspectives are better than one, but my limited perspective plus God’s unlimited, eternal perspective is infinitely (pun intended) better. God can advise, correct, and enlighten me as no one here on earth can.

He is also a gentleman who waits for us to come to Him. Unless our hearts are open and actively seeking Him, His provision and guidance are not activated. By the same token, unless we openly discuss what we’re thinking about, worrying over (pointlessly, of course), or stupefied by, He will allow us to work it out on our own. We are free to make all the mistakes we want. We can run away from Him as fast and long as we want. We can exercise our free will until we are experts at doing exactly what we want when we want with no one to blame but ourselves when it all falls apart.

Or, we can just start talking to Him, the One who created us and loves us regardless of our rebellion and foolish pride. If we take just a little time to talk to Him, He will always shine the light on the truth. Maybe then we’ll see the way out of the corner we’ve worked our way into. Maybe we’ll discover that it was time well spent. It is always our choice.

Amen and amen.

Prayer?

I can only speak for myself, but I believe that prayer is the pathway to real, sustaining hope. Now, I don’t mean any particular form of prayer, only that which allows your heart to best open up to God. Because I am a Christian in a long term relationship with Jesus, I always pray in Jesus’ name when I am praying aloud or blessing a meal. But I absolutely do not believe that prayer must include any particular words. In fact, I believe that the words we consciously choose are mostly irrelevant to God.

I’ll try to explain. And, I can only explain from my experience. Although for decades I have regularly read and done what I call studying the Bible, I am certainly no Bible scholar. However, that is not a caveat because I do not believe that being a Bible scholar is necessary. Sometimes, I am afraid our knowledge of who we think God is, derived from our studies, can blind us to God’s infinitely creative and personal interaction with each of us.

Okay. The explanation of what prayer means to me is lifting my thoughts to God, as well as allowing Him into the deep crevices I cannot access with my conscious mind. I also believe in the power of intentional prayer–of prayer that articulates the desires of my heart as pointedly as possible. I have seen many, many prayers of this sort answered. I have also had many more either unanswered or denied. That does not change my belief that God has heard them and answered them perfectly.

But, whatever words I use have to be mostly irrelevant to God, who knows my heart and soul incredibly better than I do. You see, if our conscious words are what tip the scales for God to answer prayers as we want, then smarter, more articulate people have better access to God and His promises and provisions. What utter nonsense! God does not care one whit about our I.Q., lineage, education, or eloquence.

What God cares about is the sum total of our hearts, whether they are willing to trust Him or not. Time and time again, God has moved on my behalf in a way that only afterwards lets me know the content of my heart’s desire. One example of this was years ago, after I had made a decision to leave a very comfortable, secure job to open my own law practice. After I had been working for myself for about six years, out of the blue, I got a phone call offer of a job I thought was totally unavailable to me. I was blown away, because, until the offer came, I had not allowed myself to even think about leaving private practice, much less pray about it. Only afterwards did I realize that God had indeed answered a deep prayer of my heart.

This little explanation only barely begins to scratch the surface of how prayer works. I hope to have more to offer from my perspective in the days to come. Until then, I pray that you allow yourself to pray in any way that gets you closer to God. That is really all there is to it.

Amen and amen.

Hope!

Without hope, I couldn’t keep going on. I’d just give up and let life trample me into the ground. With hope, I am always able to at least peek my head out from my hiding place to see if there’s a path to a better place.

I was born with a good, steady supply of natural optimism. I am a half-full kind of person. In fact, I’ve driven many coworkers and friends to distraction by constantly looking on the bright side.

Even so, without hope, my optimism would turn sour and rot. It would dry up like a fat maple tree seed in autumn and catch a ride straight out of town on the next incoming breeze.

Optimism is a part of me, like my now graying hair, too small eyes, and too wide hips.

Hope, on a completely different hand, comes from outside me, like a gift left on my doorstep from a secret admirer who yearns to be discovered. Hope bubbles up as if from our bellies in an unexpected giggle over something we’ve seen a hundred times before but never reveled in till now. Hope is the bright white cloud floating across that impossible blue sky, waving hello.

Hope comes from the place where God designed my soul, a place I can’t remember but will always know. Hope waits for you to turn your head away from the misery of this world just so you’ll see the wink and heel click jump before it skips away.

Hope. Look for it. It’s right there where you never expected it to be, camouflaged in plain sight, a chameleon perched on a sunny windowsill on a dreary, rainy day.

Amen and amen.

Good Riddance 2020?

The last month of 2020 arrived today. Some say good riddance, but not me. Not all of it. Surely we’ve learned some lessons too hard to be learned any other way.

Our toy box got too full. We had to turn it over, dump it all out, examine the mess, and hopefully, throw away all but the best, that which delights and encourages and inspires.

Love is not really love

until it circles

with no beginning or end.

If I only love me,

it’s a period. An end.

If I only love others,

leaving myself alone in the dirt,

it’s an apostrophe

without a subject.

If I love God only

but forget about my neighbors

and loathe myself,

it’s merely an asterisk,

a sign that explains nothing,

no substance behind or below.

If I love myself and my neighbors

but forget about God,

I’ve underscored nothing;

I’ve got a line in the sand

that washes away

a thousand times a day.

Even worse, if I love myself

and the God who created me,

but forget about my neighbors,

I’m just a forward slash

(or back slash, depending on

which way I lean),

unstable and divisive.

The only way

for love to be real

is to let it flow round

and round,

a circle that never ends,

from God to me and to

all my neighbors

who become my friends,

and back to God;

a circle

out of time

existing in eternity

in no way bound

by our tiny minds—

a whirlwind

that strengthens

and refreshes itself

with power

that makes everything new.

Amen and amen.

Hold Down the Fort!

Jesus is the “word of the truth of the gospel,” the One who brings “forth fruit.” If you’ve accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, the good results of your life belong to Him; He has “delivered us from the power of darkness.” Colossians 1:5-6, 13.

On our own, we’re swimming, mostly drowning, in the enemy’s sea of darkness. When we accept Jesus, He pulls us out of that darkness. Unless we jump back in, it no longer has any power over us. I cannot count the number of times I’ve jumped back in, but I’m eternally grateful that every time I’ve cried out for Jesus, He’s pulled me out again.

Jesus is perfectly able to save us from the darkness, to cut off and revoke its power over us because “by Him all things were created,” “whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” Colossians 1:16. Who better understands how to control anything than its creator?

That is why He tells us to “stand” when we put on the whole armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18. He repeats this command because it is so vitally important. Our job is to “stand,” “withstand,” and “stand” as we “put on the whole armor of God.”

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Ephesians 6:12. On our own, we can’t even see what or who is really behind the forces against us. Occcasionally, the Holy Spirit gives us a quick glimpse of the real enemy, a flash of a snapshot of the perpetrator. That momentary peek comes with no other clues or context, and we don’t see the cohorts or chain of command.

But, as we accept the armor He’s created especially for us, we get to participate in His line of defense against the real enemies behind our problems. Standing with other believers who have also volunteered to put on their armor, we serve as a line of defense, a bulwark, a barrier, a citadel and a stronghold through which the enemy cannot penetrate. We stand in the light, arms linked, guarding those we love, all those to whom He’s connected us. We don’t fight the battle ourselves, but we get to hold down the fort while Jesus fights for us.

Amen and amen.

7-31-2020

The end of another month.

All of 2020 & especially since March,

the pandemic has consumed us all.

Whether we’re infected with covid-19

or just the fear & isolation & pandemonia,

it surrounds and encapsulates.

The ants still scurry back & forth

doing their work.

The birds still fly & sing.

The possum still sleeps, or so we think.

The lion stands proud & high

& doesn’t need to roar.

The world has pivoted on its axis.

A slight tilt of a half degree

otherwise unnoticed but for

the constant faint sound, just beyond

our hearing, almost heard.

The swoosh, swoosh,

air in & out of respirators,

keeping some of us alive for a while.

“For a mere moment

I have forsaken you,

but with great mercies

I will gather you….

For the mountains shall depart

and the hills be removed,

but my kindness

shall not depart from you….

Behold, I have created the blacksmith

who blows the coals in the fire,

who brings forth an instrument

for his work;

I have created the spoiler to destroy.

No weapon formed against you

shall prosper,

& every tongue that

rises against you in judgment,

you shall condemn.” Isaiah 54:7, 10, 16-17.

We are not abandoned

or left to fight alone.

The battle rages beyond

the reach, outside the pall

of the pandemic.

We were caught unprepared

& off guard,

thrown to the ground

& down for the count.

But Jehovah the Lord

saw this coming from

before the clock started.

His blacksmith has

wrought out of the fire

the weapon to destroy

the enemy, melt his veneer

of lies and mirrors,

vaporize his disease.

“As wax melts before the fire,

so let the wicked perish

at the presence of God.” Psalm 68:2.

Amen & amen.