OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! aND i’M STUCK!

This week’s episode of “Oh, Lord! It’s Monday!” is all about being STUCK! As an adjective it means “unable to move, or set in a particular positionplace, or way of thinking“. So, let’s use it as an adjective on this rainy Monday morning. So, have you ever been STUCK? Maybe it was in an elevator; or in a room; or in traffic; or maybe mud? I know about that last one. I was about 20 when I bought a new Datsun truck. It was my first brand new vehicle. About the same time I was introduced to riding dirt bikes.

Just about a mile from the house was LaGrange Mountain. It was filled with great riding trails. One day, I had this dumb idea. “I’ll take my truck instead of the dirt bike!” Bear in mind it was a 2, not 4, wheel drive. I knew there were some hills it wouldn’t conquer, but there were some other trails. So off I went with my dumb idea. About 4 miles in I came upon a mud hole. I stopped, looked at it, and decided which side of the mud hole I should traverse. I was wrong. And I was STUCK! To make matters worse, it was in the middle of the week, there wasn’t anyone else out here. As I was commiserating about my dumb decision and dreading walking out, I heard a dirt bike! God sent me someone!!! Hallelujah! God foresaw my poor, make that DUMB decision and prompted another person to decide to ride his dirt bike that day! He stopped, we talked, and then he went back to get his truck and I was UNSTUCK! Needless to say, I didn’t try that again!

More than vehicles, elevators, and doors–we can get STUCK! Maybe it’s that job you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that home you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that marriage you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that mindset you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that you’re STUCK spiritually. You can’t move and it seems that no amount of effort you put into being UNSTUCK, you’re STUCK there like my Datsun truck. And if on this particular Monday you are feeling STUCK, then God has sent you this edition, just like he sent me that man on a dirt bike. Are you ready to get UNSTUCK? Well, here’s your own personal dirt biker coming your way!

You CAN’T get UNSTUCK! How is that going to help you? I’ll be glad to tell you. Even though you DON’T what it takes to get UNSTUCK, God does! All you have to do–NEED to do–is quit trying and begin trusting. For STUCK people, God has a very specific promise and process. It’s found in Isaiah chapter 42, verses 18 and 19:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present.

I’m about to do something brand-new.”

From The Message

In the case of my dumb decision, I needed to forget about it. I couldn’t go back in time and change that decision. All I could do–all I could hope for–was to be alert to the sound of someone else heading my way. What you need to do–what you MUST do–is stop trying and begin trusting what God tells you. Don’t limit the way that God will get you UNSTUCK! It may not be instantaneous–and if it’s not–it will be a process. And in His Process, you will find that His Grace is all you need. Are you still STUCK? Wait! I hear someone coming! And He’s coming for you!

When we trust God to be there to help us get UNSTUCK, then we can say: Good! Lord It’s Monday! What shall we do together?

THE FAMILIAR

Normally The Familiar isn’t a good thing because it keeps us from experiencing the Adventures God has for us. It denies us the wide open spaces where we uncover and discover the greatness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. It hides and denies us the truth that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us. The wide open spaces teaches us how to hold on to God in every situation and throughout all seasons.

But. . .but sometimes we need to go back to The Familiar–the good Familiar. I’m talking about those times and places where are reassured of God’s faithfulness to us–even when–especially when–we have been unfaithful. Or maybe it’s a season of doubt where we struggle to embrace our future. Even David, the mighty King and Warrior, needed to go back from time to time to The Familiar. Psalm 23 places were essential for David. Before he became a mighty warrior and long before he became the Mighty King, David was a shepherd. And when life as a Warrior or as a King became difficult, I can easily imagine David singing this Psalm to himself–maybe even out loud.

As a shepherd in the wide open spaces, David experienced the faithfulness and provisions of His Heavenly Father. Imagines of green pastures and still streams helped him remember the Faithfulness of God. I have my places where I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me. Sometimes all I can do is go there in my mind. And sometimes I can literally visit those places. Each time I find myself renewed and refreshed, and enabled to go forward into “my” unknown future, but a future that is known to God–and a future where I know He is right there with me. What are The Familiar places for you? Places where God’s amazing love and grace overwhelmed you? The Familiar isn’t a place made to live in–but it is the place to visit where we find the reassurance we need when the Journey becomes difficult.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

his bed

This morning I am thinking about yesterday. I know, oh, do I know! As followers of Jesus we’re not to live in the past. But here I am! Honestly I don’t know how people live in the past–be it sad, bad, or even good. But like an old snapping turtle, yesterday has bit me and it’s not about to let go–and it’s painful. So, what has caused this harbinger of Good News to do the very thing he counsels people in hard times not to do? Let me tell you and perhaps it will help me let go.

Yesterday it didn’t rain, so I headed off to Dad’s. There’s still a lot to sort out and make decisions about. No one wanted Dad’s bed, so Debbie and I decided to get it. Tuesday Debbie will have a “foot overhaul”. The bed she and I sleep in is high–his bed is low to the floor. It will be easier for her to get in and out of bed after surgery. There were some other things he wanted us to have still there–so off I went. My truck and trailer headed out, and when I got there, I and a good friend started to work. As we went into his bedroom, I remembered the last time I saw him there. The hospice nurse had changed his clothes and made up that bed–and for the first time in a long time he didn’t look like he was in pain. But I was–I was visually reminded of how life changes. And now there was no bed in HIS bedroom–and what’s a bedroom without a bed?

When we arrived back home, we immediately went to work unloading and moving things around. And last night as I prepared to lie into that bed, it hit me hard. I was sleeping on HIS side of the bed–the same side I last saw him in HIS home. And this morning–Yesterday is doing a number on me–in my heart and mind. Did I sleep good on that bed last night? Sure–but I was physically exhausted. I could have slept good on a floor. And this morning–I am sorting through the morning after. And truthfully, I haven’t done well with it. And as God and I were sorting through this heavy grief, He came to me. Not with answers, but His very Presence.

Has my ache and pain disappeared? Absolutely–NOT! I am just as heartbroken right now as I was Yesterday, and This Morning. The snapping turtle that bit me doesn’t seem to be inclinced to let go of me–if anything, he seems more determined. But I am different–different because God sent me Himself, my very best friend–The Holy Spirit. So, I know that this voracious snapping turtle will release his bite on me–at some point, because he has no choice because I am leaning into and leaning on The Holy Spirit. This moment’s power filled truth came into my heart as I listened to this song. I pray it speaks into you as it is speaking into me–as I deal with Yesterday!

OVER TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER!

Yesterday was the day we were coming home from our most recent sabbatical. Before we left Pigeon Forge, TN. we decided to do a little shopping. We visited several places and headed out. Then “our” plan was to stop by Dad’s home and pick up a couple of items. That was our plan–until we reached Chattanooga. Well, it was before we reached Chattanooga. It all started in Cleveland, TN.

What started? Traffic problems! It came to a complete halt! Debbie was driving at the time and I know she doesn’t like driving in the rain, especially in heavy traffic. So we exited off the Interstate and swapped driving responsibilities. Rather than get back on the non-moving interstate, we turned on our WAZE app, and headed in another direction. I left it up to the app to get us back to where we wanted. And it did! It didn’t take long until the Interstate traffic in Chattanooga to come to a complete halt. At times we were moving about 2 feet an hour (or so it seemed to us), the rest of the time the right foot was on the break pedal.

And what should have been a 30 to 40 minute drive time turned into over two and a half hours of alternating not moving at all to barely moving. It was daylight when we arrived in Chattanooga and it was dark when we left it all behind. Needless to say our side trip to Dad’s was cancelled and we headed for home. Today’s musings are about being still when we should have been moving forward challenging the posted speed limits.

All of this prompted me to remember Psalm 46 Verse 10 this morning. Really it was all over me in that two and a half hour mess. I experienced a calmness in the rain and slow when it was moving traffic. The Holy Spirit was all over me, around me, and best of all–IN me. Interstates are made for moving, not sitting. That’s the same view we have about life. But then something happens–and life comes to a dead stop.

When this happens we have options. We can fret, stew, and become agitated, honking endlessly the horn. And yes, there was a time in my life I would have done such a thing. Or–I said OR–we can live within Psalm 46 Verse 10. When it comes to Psalms, normally I don’t turn to Eugene Peterson’s work “The Message”. But this time, it spoke to me and into me. In the stillness of what should have been a fast moving Interstate, I was calm.

Debbie thought I had lost my mind when I started saying: “OK, all you trucks and cars! I believe in you! I believe you can start moving again! That’s it, just a little. Now push on a little bit faster!” Rather than cursing the long line of cars and trucks in front of me, I was encouraging them. Did it work? Sometimes, but I never stopped encouraging them to go forward. And here’s this morning’s important lesson for us.

When life brings us to a complete halt, Remember God! Far above traffic jams and pressing deadlines, there is God. And while our plans get changed, God’s plans for us never change. In those moments when your life comes to a complete halt–whether it’s an Interstate highway, at work, at home, or when you are all alone–remember Psalm 46 Verse 10“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” And everything means everything! Knowing God is difference between blowing fuses and being at peace.

IT’S OPEN SEASON!

Sitting this morning in the darkness just before the dawn, I had this thought: Open Season! I’m not talking about hunting or fishing or trapping. It’s that assault on the very things that have kept our nation and society safe and strong. I think the term is called cancel culture. Revisionists who do not like truth have always sought to rewrite history to promote their own personal preferred future; even though that preferred future is frought with dangers and ultimate disaster.

Cancel culture is not only attacking in an open season style against individuals –but the values and ethos that have consistently proven to be favorable for a stronger nation and culture. Cancel culture is fighting tooth and nail against the highest ideas and deepest morals that are challenging to follow–but they build up people, families, institutions, and the world as a whole. Alas, cancel culture refuses to see it and so have declared open season and war on the tried and true.

And it is a war–a war against kindness, goodness, courtesy, respect, decency, determination, and so much more. And whenever there is a war–there is an aftermath and it’s ugly. Battlefield memorials are indeed pristine–but in those moments when the bullets and bombs are flying, it’s ugly devastation. So what are we, the bullseye for cancel culture, to do? Well, we have three choices–but only one of them will turn the tide of the battle.

First, we can just throw up the white flag of surrender–leaving the battlefield in our rear view mirror. This choice declares that it’s a fight not just worth fighting–so retreat to our preppers hideout and bemoan about the good old days. This is a pathetic choice. Second choice is that we viciously counter-attack the people who have been deceived by this cancel culture. Make them hurt as badly as we are hurting! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! This only creates more casualties and it is a poor choice.

Third choice is to stay with the battleplan. Yes, God knew this battle would happen. He’s prepared for it. And He has the perfect plan–and we need to trust that plan. Soldiers who don’t trust their leaders, make poor soldiers. You can trust God’s plan–so stay in the battle and follow His battleplan. Oh? Who just asked, “Well, Preacherman, what’s that plan?” Whoever that was, thanks for asking this question. Here’s the plan–Right out of God’s Battle Manual:

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Romans 12:21

Taking one on the chin for the team and being passive isn’t the plan. Our weapons for conquering evil–and thus this cancel culture–is to do good–just like Jesus did. Sure, His doing good led to that cruel Roman Cross–but that was all part of God’s battle strategy. He knew death would lead to Resurrection! So stop bemoaning what cancel culture is doing and start doing good! Be kind! Be gracious! Be merciful! Be helpful! Be friendly! Hold a door open for someone! Call that frazzled server by their firstname! Smile at those who are being hateful and ugly! Jesus is not a revolutionary–He is a Counter-Revolutionary. Tend to the wounds of those fighting with you. Ask for support when you need it. But never give up the fight! Jesus didn’t when He was on the Cross, and He didn’t when He was in the Tomb!

Sometimes It’s A Tractor Pull

Life is sometimes like a tractor pull! No, really it is. It can be loud and dirty. But that wasn’t my thought just a few moments ago. I’m not an expert on tractor pulls but I know a bit about how they work. A souped-up tractor is connected with a sled that has a lot of weight. The weight is at the back of the sled. Then when the tractor starts moving that weight starts moving towards the tractor until that tractor can’t go forward anymore. When the weight is at the rear, the tractor can handle it–but as it moves closer to the tractor the resistance sets in and eventually it overcomes that powerful engine.

So, how is life like that? I’ll tell you! Last night I left Dad’s home and headed back to our home. I will not tell you the details–but there was a deep–call it a mix of pain and frustration–in my mind and heart. It had nothing to do with Dad’s situation. Remember, life still goes on! This morning as I spent my time with God in private worship, my mind started telling me there were a lot of things I needed to get done today. A couple of times I started to take my earbuds out in order to get the stuff done my mind was telling me I really needed to do.

Then I remembered yesterday’s thoughts about priorities. My mind was like a tractor pull. My mind was in a race to finish all the things I thought I need to get done. Had I chosen that course, the weight of that sled would moved closer and closer to me until I came to a grinding halt. But what I needed to do–and what I did–was to disconnect that sled of things I only thought I needed to do–and to take those moments and simply rest in God.

And how is it with you this morning? Is there a weight you are that is slowing you down from the most important part of your day? That weight, whatever it is, is getting closer and closer to you–and eventually it will catch up with you and you will not be able to move forward. The way to disconnect from that sled of weight is to stay focused on where God wants you to be–right next to His Heart! I think I made Satan really mad when I put aside what he wanted me to think what I should be doing–and stayed focused on what I really needed to be doing! Remember these words of Jesus found in Matthew 11, verses 28 and 29.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The Message

Mountains And Floods!

What mountain is between you and the kind of life you deeply long to have today? At this exact moment, what flood is sweeping you away from the life you once knew? Where does your hope come from that says you will get over that mountain? Who will rescue you from that flood? IS there a source of hope AND strength that will simply get you through today without being crushed and broken? IS there even hope for a better tomorrow? What source of help has been tested and proven true over and over? IS there such help?

Image if you will, a new car manufacturer comes up with what they claim is the best, safest, and most reliable car ever. Imagine if you will, they claim it will get 60 miles per gallon of gas and go from 0 to 70 in 4.6 seconds. But then they also say, “We haven’t tested it yet. Heck, we haven’t even tried to crank it! But we just know it will do what we claim!” Would you be the first in line at the dealership to buy one?

Imagine if you will that you see an ad for a used car; the picture looks like that car is in immaculate shape. You go to see it and the first thing the salesperson says is “Well, sometimes it runs great, and sometimes it won’t run at all.” Would you pay Kelly Blue Book full retail price? Maybe even throw in a couple of thousand extra, just because? As nonsensical and preposterous as this sounds, yet this is what many do when facing mountains or when being swept away by some raging flood.

You will never be able to climb that mountain, and that flood will sweep you away–unless and until you trust God enough to surrender completely into His hands. He may not do it in the fashion you want–but He will do it. Trying to conquer that mountain or trying to be rescued from that flood by any other method (see my pun? I’m a Methodist!) will always end in disaster. Cry out to Jesus in this moment–and He will help you climb that mountain. And He will rescue you from this flood. This is His promise:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT)

If A Frog Had Wings

If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hopped. This is one of the many facts in scientific law. Wish as the frog may, he has no wings–so each time he moves as he is designed to move, he bumps his butt. But (pun intended) still he hops, even though wings sure would help soften the landing. What does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life?

How many people today are living with their own IF? And because they are living with that IF, they feel that hard landing of the frog. They look around and see others who seem to be having much easier life than they are. They think to themselves, and often out loud, “You know, IF I had been born to different parents. IF I had their money. IF I had married that person, or NOT married the person I did. IF life had treated me fairly–then I would be as happy as a frog with wings.”

And they go through life sad, disillusioned, defeated, and miserable. IF you think about it, IF is a tragic way to live. Still, they are like that frog who wishes he had wings as he moves about his day doing what frogs do. While it’s true that a frog with wings would not bump his butt every time he hopped–it’s equally true that he wasn’t designed with wings.

And some people have that IF when it comes to God. That somehow God isn’t all He claims to be. That God isn’t fair with them. That God doesn’t care. That God has forgotten them.

  • IF God is real, why is there such a mess out there?
  • IF God cares, why did my spouse leave me?
  • IF God loves me, why did my child die?
  • IF God will provide for me, why did I lose my job?
  • IF God is all powerful, why am I having to take chemotherapy today?
  • IF God _________________(insert your own IF here)

But the problem with this thinking is it focuses on what we don’t have–rather than what we do have. The IF that you may long for will not, cannot give you the kind of life we are created to experience. It is true that while money cannot buy you happiness, it will buy you a place on the beach–and the beach is a better place to be unhappy. But it will not satisfy your heart.

There is a better way to live than like the frog who wishes he had wings. It is living within the relationship where God keeps every promise He ever made for you. God didn’t promise an easy life–but He provides an unshakable life. He provides the life that isn’t shaped by circumstances–but by His Truth and Faithfulness to us. How can I confidently say this? Because all of us are created in God’s Image. We just need to trust–to hang in there even IF everything inside of us screams to let go of God. I leave you this morning with these words of Paul–words that strengthen us for a life better than a frog with wings:

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

Look At Those Hills!

We love the Smoky Mountains. The hills and the peaks are magnificent to us. We go there once a year. After going through Maryville on the way towards Townsend, we catch a better glimpse of our destination ahead. We go, not as tourists, but to rest ourselves. We venture out one day–but the other 6 days are spent in the cabin. And I was think how refreshing those mountains are. But something, rather SOMEONE, just reminded me: “Oh, really? What about the ONE who made those mountains? Reckon He has anything to do with it?”

And I immediately thought of Psalm 121 and Verses 1 and 2: “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Mountains are part of life–both those found in nature and those who rise up in life’s difficulties. As we face mountains, whether they are the beautiful ones like those in the Smokies, or the ones more rugged and difficult, there are two ways of looking at them; as I was just reminded.

We can look at them and think they are going to define us. That they will ultimately either rise us up to the peak, or send us crashing down to the bottom. When those mountains are made of pain, suffering, difficulties, and challenges rise up–we falsely think we have only two choices. We can roll up our sleeves and give it our best try. But most of us are not mountaineers. Or, we can bow down in surrender and believe (again falsely) that we are defeated by those mountains.

But there’s a third choice. We can look for help–but not just anywhere. Look to the God who created the beauty of the Smokies, the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas, and every other mountain made of rocks and dirt. If He can make such beauty (sorry, I don’t have enough faith to believe such beauty and majesty happened because of some big explosion) then He is more than able to help you when those ginormous mountains of pain and problems rise up like it’s Goliath. And He is willing! Though He did not make those mountains of problems and pains–if we look to Him and ask for His help by surrendering completely to Him, then one of two things will always happen. Either the mountain collapses in front of you like Goliath did before David, or His strength will turn you and I into mountaineers.