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.

What Next?

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.

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.

What Are You Looking For?

You can be sure that’s exactly what you’ll find.

What we focus on shapes and colors our world. Like “Where’s Waldo?” in the kids’ book section, we can train our eyes and ears to see and hear whatever we want, even when it’s hidden in obscurity in the middle of a puzzle.

Philippians 4:8 dares us to focus on, meditate on, concentrate on and seek out the good in life. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

It is desperately important for us to search out the truth. When has there ever been so many lies and half-truths? We are drowning in misinformation and meaningless tidbits of nonsense. But we can ask God to reveal the truth that rises above that cesspool, always and forever unchanging and certain.

We can look for nobility–not in the royal lineage of kings and queens–but in the poorest people giving the most, the sickest people complaining the least, the true heroes that never seek applause.

We can search out purity–of hearts, of smiles, of the blue sky, gray sky, hurricanes or gentle breezes, from the joy that comes not from a bottle or another person or riches or fame but from the love that comes first from God and then gets passed on from person to person, a pure gift that is wonderfully contagious and infectious.

We must look for and aid justice–in our courts and governments, in our homes and businesses and especially in our relationships, justice extended to everyone.

We are blessed beyond measure when we look for loveliness–in the lonely old man’s timid smile as he dares to look you in the eyes as he passes you at Walmart, in a child offering you the gift of a pebble retrieved from his driveway, in an old memory that comes unbeckoned but oh-so-sweet.

We need to listen for anything that is of good report–and then pass it on. If someone does something good, congratulate them and tell others about it. No matter how small the accomplishment, notice it and compliment that person. Never miss an opportunity to encourage someone, especially yourself.

Focus on whatever has virtue. Look for goodness and value everywhere; you’ll always find God at work there.

Turn your spotlight of attention on whatever is praiseworthy. When scanning the headlines or the horizon, pass quickly over the ugly, nasty, mean-spirited, negative news and wastelands until your eyes and ears rest on the good, praiseworthy miracles of life hiding in plain sight all around us.

If we only ask God to guide our eyes and ears and minds and souls to look for these good things, He will always show them to us, delighted to delight us, excited to enlighten and encourage us.

Amen and amen.

Supply and Multiply

“He who sows sparingly

will also reap sparingly,

and he who sows bountifully

will also reap bountifully.

God loves a cheerful giver.

Now may He who supplies

seed to the sower

and bread for food,

supply and multiply

the seed you have sown

and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 10 NKJV

Since every bit of everything good

comes from God,

we can hold it loosely and easily

allow it to flow on to others.

Even if the good Lord Himself

takes it from our hands,

we can rest assured that

He’s opening our hands

to receive something better.

Whatever we get from Him

benefits us most

when we send it on to someone else.

It’s God’s law of supply and demand.

He multiplies everything He’s given us

in ridiculously lavish proportion

greater than what we’ve given.

And He tops it off with whipped cream and a cherry,

the sweetness of joy & love & patience

& peace & goodness

& greater & greater ability

to trust Him more & more.

Amen and amen.

2020 vision

He started out firmly settled on one direction.

He knew without a doubt his way was right, the most righteous

thing to do was to continue doing what he’d always done.

Then he he got the promotion he’d been waiting for.

He was going on to even bigger and better things.

He was on his road to success.

Then Saul saw the light of his Savior

on the road to Damascus.

Jesus’ light struck him down to the ground

and blinded him to everything in the world.

Saul was left in black isolation

until Jesus sent a terrified servant to heal Saul’s blindness.

Like Saul, Ananias did not want to see beyond what he believed,

but they both accepted the truth and did as Jesus said.

The seed of truth accepted into the rock hard clay of unbelief

shattered lifetimes of reliable, familiar notions of what must be true,

what they’d always known to be positively true.

May our current 2020 vision of what must be true,

what we’ve always known to be positively true,

fall away like the scales from Saul’s eyes

if in fact we’re blind to Jesus’ light,

most especially and desperately those of us raised and steeped in certainty of belief

and long traditions of thought or ancient ruins of doctrine that no longer

hold life or water.

Ruin us for life as we’ve always known and cherished it

as we walk our road to Damascus without Jesus.

Strike down our proud hearts set on going our own way

and blind us with the light of your love

so we’ll know the way, the truth and the life

and no longer be only who we think we want to be

but who You’ve truly created us to be.

Amen and amen

Thlipsis

Nope. That’s not a typo. It’s what is happening to you if you live in this world, and I assume, if you’re reading this, you live here on planet earth.

Thlipsis is the Greek word for tribulation, and it means pressure, oppression, stress, anguish, adversity, affliction, crushing, squashing, squeezing, distress. It is pressure that comes against that which otherwise is free and unfettered. It is what happens to grapes when they’re made into wine and olives when they’re made into oil.

We might think we’ve cornered the market on this kind of crushing, pressurized stress here in our modern society, but it has always been part of living in the world. More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus faced the impossible anguish of being nailed to a cross. He knew what was coming, and in His humanity, He was under the same kind of crushing weight of oppression that we face each day, except He didn’t try to escape from it, but willingly died a horrible death for the sole purpose of saving me and you. He knew the unimaginable suffering of the cross, but trusted our Father’s plan to raise Him from death so that we, you and I, could live with Him in eternity.

Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation (thlipsis); but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

What a hilariously encouraging concept! If only we choose to believe that Jesus is our Savior, that He died for you and me, then the crushing weight of the world becomes cause for “good cheer!” When we’re cheerful, we feel light and airy, not weighed down and depressed. The more the world and its ruler, Satan, presses in, crushing the life out of us, the more Jesus breathes His life into us. As we allow Him to breathe His life into us, we become like fine wine that cheers others without any drunkenness or stupor and oil that anoints ourselves and others to reach our true, creative potential.

I laugh in the face of thlipsis! How about you?

Amen and amen!

Can’t Hear Thunder

In my neck of the woods, when someone is hard of hearing, we say they can’t hear thunder.

The day before Jesus went to the cross for us, He devoted much of His time to teaching us what we need to know most: the way, the truth and the life. But as a man, fully human, His soul was troubled, knowing the suffering He faced.

Jesus said, “‘Even though I am torn within, and my soul is in turmoil, I will not ask the Father to rescue me from this hour of trial. For I have come to fulfill my purpose–to offer myself to God. So, Father, bring glory to your name!’ Then suddenly, a booming voice was heard from the sky, ‘I have glorified my name! And I will glorify it through you again!'” John 12:27-28, TPT.

Those nearby were startled by what they heard, some hearing thunder and others thinking an angel spoke to Jesus. Only a few recognized the audible voice of God thundering from heaven.

We have to truly want to hear the truth that is still thundering from heaven. Even then, we often only hear the thunder in the whirlwind. (Psalm 77:18, NKJV) Even God’s most dedicated servants sometimes have to run away from the world to hide in a cave until the raging wind passes, the earth stops quaking, and the fire subsides before we can hear the still, small voice of our God. (1 Kings 19:12) Even then, we may be reluctant to accept God’s calling instead of carrying on with our own plans.

But, if we’re willing to cry out to our Father God, He will hear us and deliver us out of our trouble. He will answer our cries “in the secret place of thunder.” (Psalm 81:7, NKJV, TPT)

For too much of my life, I couldn’t hear thunder. I really didn’t want to hear the truth because I knew it would mess up my plans and my way of thinking. Now, I am trying to quiet my soul enough to hear God’s still, small voice in the midst of the thunder.

Amen and amen.