WHEN IT GETS HARD AND HEARTBREAKING!

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.

Psalm 143, verse 10; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

This morning is one of those morning’s I don’t like! No, the coffee pot didn’t fail me, thank God! Yesterday afternoon was busy for me. I packed my bags for a trip I don’t want to make. My wife Debbie’s cousin, Michelle, is in a hospice center in Auburndale, Florida. She is dying from a rare and rapidly advancing form of cancer. We are leaving this afternoon for that 12 hour trip to be with the family. A little background here. Michelle’s Dad, Wiley, has been and is more of a Dad to Debbie than her own Dad. So Wiley’s daughters are more like sisters to her. So they are like sisters-in-law to me. We just need to be there.

We are in a very hard moment of life. And though I am “just” an in-law, some may say “outlaw”, they are my family, too. And their friends are our friends. I’m trying to process all this pain, and yes some anger, and it’s. . . well it’s just plain hard! So I’m reminding myself that sometimes life IS hard. It’s the nature of this fallen world we all live in. And even after 66+ years of living here, I still don’t like it.

And is it OK with you if I’m honest with you? Well, I’m going to be honest with you, like it or not! I am struggling right now. More than struggling, I’m in a quagmire. Now I’ve got a choice: I can wallow in this quagmire like a pig wallows in mud. Or–I can do something different. Being covered in this muck isn’t desirable for me. I’m not the brightest person in the world, but I sure ain’t the stupidest either. So, the only option is to do something different. And what would that be? I’m so glad you asked me this question.

I can do what the most prolific song writer ever did when he found himself in the mud hole of life. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. I know this thing called cancer isn’t His Will. Sorry fundamentalists and Calvinists. Not everything that happens in life is God’s will. It’s OK to disagree with me on this point. But you’re still wrong. And I am going to be blunt with you: I haven’t a clue as to what God is teaching me in this hard and difficult season!

But there is something I do know. I know that God is Good! I know that He loves me. I know that He is faithful to me. He proved it to me on that Cross and a gazillion times since then. And I know that whatever it is He is teaching me, it’s good, good for me, and will bring Him honor and glory. What am I doing right now? Checking the list of things we need to pack, making sure they will get into the car, and I am saying the very same prayer David did when he was in the muck and mire of life as it happens: May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. God, I sure need some firm footing right now! And if you can spare the time, please pray for our family and that I will be a good student of Jesus–paying attention to Him and applying what He is teaching me!

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MAKING COMPARISONS

For who in all of heaven can compare with the Lord?
    What mightiest angel is anything like the Lord?

Psalm 89, verse 6; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

One of the favorite pastimes for many is making comparisons. Some turn it into a sport. Others have made it an art form. By definition, comparison is a consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people. One thing is like another because of… Another thing is unlike another because… But unfortunately, most comparisons are made based on opinion, not facts. For example, the selection of the 4 college football teams to play for the national championship. Comparisons were made on the teams selected, and teams not selected. And though the process is projected as being unbiased and nonpartisan, it’s still the result of of opinions. And some people even compare opinions to a certain body orifice–everyone has one and most of them stink.

Seriously, comparing is quite common. We compare one product to another. One person to another. And especially comparing ourselves to others. We look at another person and think, “I could never do what they do.” Or, “Well, I’m not as bad as they are!” We compare political ideologies, theological perspectives, churches, and you name it. Compare! Compare! Compare! Some even do “taste” comparisons. Which cola tastes the best? Which cheese is cheesier?

But there is One that there is really nothing to compare with. And that is God–revealed in The Bible–affirmed by Jesus–and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Sadly, some want to compare God by their traditions; their opinions; even worse–to the values of this world. Truth Time! Nothing and no one compares to God. And this is why we need to stay close to Him, to know Him through the Scriptures, and listen to Him. Attempts to comingle Him and what the world says will only lead to disaster and destruction. Sure! He will contradict everything the world says is right. But He IS God. And there’s just no comparison between the two!

WHEN THINGS JUST AIN’T RIGHT!

1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.

They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.
10 And so the people are dismayed and confused,  drinking in all their words.


11 “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
12 Look at these wicked people—enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.
13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? 14 I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain. 15 If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. 16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!

17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. 18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. 19 In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.


21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. 23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.


27 Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

Psalm 73; from the New Living Translation

Have you ever felt like David did here? How can those who do wrong get by with it? They even seem to prosper while doing what is absolutely wrong! Maybe it’s your boss. Your neighbor. Some family member. Or the politicians in Washington D.C. Perhaps these thoughts are your thoughts about the United Methodist Institution. When things just ain’t right there are a number of ways to react to them. I’ve seen them all. But worst of all, I’ve done them all.

We could just ignore it and go on. You know, “Out of sight, out of mind!” But this rarely work for any length of time. Sooner or later, and usually sooner, it comes back into our minds with a vengeance. And we get even madder. We could scold the ones perpetrating this just ain’t right thing. It may make us feel better for a while–but nothing rarely changes. We would blame the ones promoting that just ain’t right thing! You know, like United Methodist Bishops. Placing blame at the feet of someone else nearly always fails to change the outcomes. We could scream and rant about that just ain’t right thing. We might even gain a few fellow like-minded screamers and ranters who will join in with us. We’d have a choir, but again–no resolving the just ain’t right thing! And we might even wish that the fleas of a thousand camels infest their armpits and various body orifices.

David understood these desires we have when things just ain’t right! But listen again to him in Verse 21: “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. Bitterness, vengeance, and even the desire for justice doesn’t change anything–except out heart, mind, and soul. All of this erodes the calm confidence we had in the beginning with God. So, what can we do when things just ain’t right????

Remember! That’s right! Remember! Not the just ain’t right part! Remember what David wrote in Verse 28: “But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. Stay near to The Father. Make Him your shelter. And then tell everyone about the wonderful things that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do. Don’t slip and by all means, don’t lose your footing! Stay and stand on The Rock!

WHAT’S YOUR IF?

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? 

Romans chapter 8, verses 31 and 32; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

IF! Some say that this is the biggest little word in all of vocabulary. IF has the potential to change situations, circumstances, and perspective. One thing must be replaced by another. When that happens it could be a game changer. IF this is true, and I happen to believe it can be, then tell me: What Is Your IF? IF you don’t want to tell me your IF, then tell yourself and be honest about it. But for IF to be that positive game changer, then we need to put some time into identifying our IF. I mean a lot of time.

Here are some examples I’ve heard and heard recently. IF my spouse could just understand me.” “IF my children would just listen and do what I tell them.” “IF I could just get that promotion.” “IF I could just get rid of this sinus mess.” “IF the Republicans could get back in the White House.” “IF my spouse would just leave.” “IF my spouse would come back.” “IF the Democrats can maintain control.” “IF people would just show up on time to work.” “IF they would just work!” “IF everyone would just drive electric vehicles.” “IF people would accept that global warming is real.” IF! IF! IF! Oh, one more just for my Wesleyan sisters and brothers, “IF I could just get out of the UMC!”

But my most favorite IF is this: IF a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hopped! Two things about IF. First, they rarely happen. Second, when they do happen, they rarely, IF ever, produce that desired outcome. In short, IF isn’t the solution. Well. . .unless that IF is tethered to the right thing; rather, Person. Look again at this morning’s opening passage and you see that word IF. To be that game changer we need in our lives, then God must be for us. So, how can we know that God is for us?

Well, Einstein, read the next sentence: Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? So just quit looking for all those other IFS because they have NEVER proven themselves to be true over and over again. But God? Well, you try to figure that out for yourselves. And while you’re figuring it out, just think about the Cross. Then know that whatever you are facing, HE if with you and working on you, in you, and for you. And He won’t ever give up on you. Now that’s an IF you can take to the bank!

WHEN LIFE PUTS YOU ON HOLD!

Have you ever felt like your life has been put on hold? You know, like when trying to talk to someone at the utility department; or getting an attorney to call you back AFTER you’ve paid them their retainer (no, I haven’t been charged with a crime or being sued!). Well, that was me yesterday. And I must be honest with you–I didn’t handle it very well. Unless, you consider getting impatient handling it well. And this morning, here is the Passage that The Spirit put me to mind:

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Luke chapter 2, verses 25 thru 32; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

What? A verse from the Bible that’s all about Advent and Christmas? Preacherman, don’t you know it’s not the right season? Let’s take a quick detour before I get back to today’s reflective thoughts. Where is the rule that states you can’t read about The Incarnation except during Advent and Christmas? It must be some “unwritten” rule because I ain’t found it yet! Talk about how culture influences us the wrong way! Geez, Louise! OK, back to the main highway.

Being put on hold is annoying and frustrating. I don’t know what consultant told them that elevator music would calm the caller down–but they lied. But then there’s that voice: “All of our customer service representatives are busy handling other calls. Please remain on the line and the next available customer service representative will be with you.” Oy vey!!! And there are moments, times, and situations where it seems that life–even God, Himself–has put your life on hold.

Maybe it’s the impending divorce. Waiting to recover from surgery. The upcoming court date. And if you’re a Tribal Member of the United Methodist Institution, it’s the waiting to be set free. Yesterday it felt like I was on hold for hours–but it wasn’t. And that attorney? After 5 calls, she returned my call. But if you are waiting, then think about Simeon. God promised him that he would see The Messiah before he died. Simeon never wavered; at least as far as we know. He was steady and steadfast; being put on hold didn’t change his mind about God’s faithfulness. Let me say this again: The waiting did not change Simeon’s mind nor heart about the faithfulness of God!

Need more than one example? Abraham and Sarah were put on hold 40 years for the birth of Isaac. Rebekah was put on hold 25 years for the birth of Jacob and Esau. Joseph was put on hold 13 years. Moses was put on hold 40 years to lead the Hebrews out of slavery–as a sheepherder for his father-in-law. Caleb and Joshua was put on hold 40 years before entering The Promised Land–even though they believed and trusted God. David was put on hold 15 years to be crowned a king. And even after The Resurrection, the disciples were put on hold 50 days before the Holy Spirit arrived to live in them!

What I’m telling you, and what I had to tell myself again and again yesterday–life doesn’t put us on hold indefinitely, nor forever. God is faithful! Just don’t give up! And if you need a song to sing instead of listening to that God-awful elevator music, try this one on for size:

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

Psalm 91, verses 5 and 6; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

So, if I tell you will you tell me? What are you afraid of? Me? SNAKES!!! On a plane, on a train, in the lane–I’m terrified of snakes! I hate snakes! Just call me Indiana Jones! If you understand this reference, then you are old like me! I know there are some good snakes out there. But to me, the only good snake is either a dead one or the one I can’t see! When I do see a snake, my heart starts racing and my mind goes wild. Terror sets in. Oh, that fight or flight reaction? Unless I have my shotgun, I always opt for the flight reaction. So, if you have a pet snake, don’t let me in your house if I have my shotgun! And there is no way on God’s green Earth that you can get me to NOT be afraid of snakes. So don’t even go there!

But seriously, what creates in you the same reaction I have to snakes? Fear is a slave driver that takes over and controls your perspective, decisions, and actions. Call fear your social and spiritual influencer. Are you afraid of _____________? (you fill in the blank!) The number of things that creates that terror are more numerous that the stars in the universe. We can’t avoid those things that make us afraid. But we do have a choice in what we do with those fears and terrors.

But making up your mind to NOT be afraid doesn’t really work. So, if this morning you are afraid, I have a suggestion for you. Do what David did. Make up your mind BEFORE the terrors come about the Presence, Power, and Goodness of our Father. Read carefully what David sung about before he started singing about those dreaded night terrors:

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    He is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with His feathers.
    He will shelter you with His wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Verses 1 through 5; from the NLT

Remember that when you surrender your heart and life to Jesus, you need to fill out a change of address form. You don’t live where you used to live. Every moment of your life is lived in God’s Presence–the only Presence that can and will take away our fears. And to my fellow Tribal Members of the United Methodist Institution, don’t be afraid if your Annual Conference takes away the church property. It wasn’t yours to begin with–and know that God has already factored that possibility in and He has a plan for you.

Someone telling us, “Don’t be afraid!” doesn’t really help us. But listen to what God told those Hebrews who were so afraid when the Red Sea was in front of them and the Egyptian Army behind them:

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Exodus chapter 14, verses 13 and 14; from the NLT

You can’t control what fears you–but you can control your reactions. Just stay calm! After all, that’s what God says! And I leave you with another song. Listen to it!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139, verses 7 through 12; from the New Living Translation

Rather than my ponderings, reflections, and musings–you get to write today’s blog. At the risk of sounding like an English teacher, write your essay–in your heart and mind, and in the comments below if you are so inclined–write an essay answering these 4 questions:

  1. Where are you seeing God today?
  2. What is He saying to you today?
  3. Where do you see God at work today?
  4. Where is He asking you to join in with Him today?

COMING AND GOING

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,

both now and forever.

Psalm 121, verse 8, from the New Living Translation

In days which are hectic and fast-paced (nowadays it seems like it’s every single day), do you ever wonder, “Am I coming or am I going?” Direction is important in life. It matters when we are going somewhere. It matters on one-way streets. It matters on compasses and gps. And it matters in your life. Everyone is going in some direction. Even the most sedentary person is going in some direction. The issue is that first question I asked: “Am I coming or am I going?”

Many people–far toooooo many people–do not realize the direction in which their life is heading. Without knowing where we are going (or coming), eventually it leads to disappointment and feeling lost. And maybe you are honest enough to admit you have no clue as to which direction your life is headed. But there is Someone who does. God watches us every moment of every day. This is very comforting to know–at least it should be.

Why? He knows where we need to be. And since He knows where we are–He knows exactly how to get us from where we are to where we need to be. And as He watches over us, He provides us with a super-abundance of Grace and Mercy. He never abandons us. When we run away from Him–He runs after us. When we doubt Him–He is still the same. When we give up on Him–He NEVER gives up on us. And wherever we are headed–and whatever we face along the journey–you can count on God being right there–not as an observer–but as our Guide and our Strength.

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

WALK LIKE THIS!

Footprints In Sand At Sunset, Shoreline Water B1452

If you do what the Lord wants,
He will make certain
each step you take is sure.

Psalm 37 verse 23 from the Contemporary English Version

This morning I will be taking my beautiful wife Debbie to a nearby hospital for surgery on her left foot. She has some issues that causes quite a bit of pain and discomfort. Dr. DePorter will cut a couple of bones to straighten those toes and remove a couple of joins to correct a couple of hammer toes. Sounds painful, doesn’t it! But to be able to walk without pain and to enjoy her walking, it’s necessary. Oh, one other thing, this won’t be her first rodeo. Dr. Deporter did the same thing to her right foot–and it worked. So, there’s a high confidence level that how he helped her right foot will also work on her left foot.

And here’s this morning’s Kingdom Lesson: It’s safe to follow the steps of Jesus. In thinking about all the ups and downs in his life, David learned an important lesson: He will make certain each step you take is sure. But there is a qualifing condition: If you do what the Lord wants. Dr. DePorter told Debbie that her right foot healed so good and accomplished what the surgery was designed to do was because she followed his post-op instructions. And her left foot will do the same–simply by following his post-op instructions.

And though our lives may have hectic and chaotic situations, it doesn’t mean that we have to walk with a painful limp. We can rest assured and be confident that if we simply do what HE says that will make our steps sure. Dr. DePorter’s surgery worked on the right foot, so there’s high confidence that it will do the same on the left foot. And God has proved Himself to know what He is doing time after time. So, just follow in His Footsteps. The Bible let’s you know where He is going and what He is doing. After all, if He can make a stay in a tomb just temporary, there’s nothing He can’t do for you!

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

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE STARS LAST NIGHT?

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139 verses 7-12 from the New Living Translation

Last night, as is often my habit, I went outside and looked up to see there stars. But I couldn’t see a single star! Not one, mind you! What happened? Is the apocalypse happening? Has there been a tear in the space time continuum? I tell you, there were all gone! Yes, I was sober; and yes I was outside! But not a single star. Oh, and there were no clouds anywhere; so don’t even think that it was because it was cloudy. I know this because the Weather Channel App informed me there were no clouds! So what happened to the stars that I love to watch?

Could it be where I was at that particular moment? Hmmmm. . . I wasn’t at home; I was in Huntsville, Alabama for our Tribe’s Annual Conference. The problem seeing the stars was that the lights of the city obscurred the view. They were still there and still shinning; but all the other lights made it nearly impossible to see the stars. And here’s a very human story. Sometimes we think we can’t see God, that somehow God has abandoned us. He hasn’t. It’s just our perspective. When we allow other things to override our relationship with Jesus, it “looks like” Jesus has hit the road and left us.

He hasn’t! Last night I had to remind myself that the stars were still there, even if I couldn’t see them. And God is still here with you and me–even if we can’t see Him. We cannot escape or hide from God’s presence. This is the point David is making in this Psalm. And nothing on the third rock from the Sun can get in the way of God’s presence and love for you. So remember, if you can’t see Him it doesn’t mean He ain’t there! Just be confident He is there for you even when–especially when–it seems like He’s disappeared. He hasn’t! So stay calm!

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

I CAN’T CALL HIM! missing my dad!

Well, I made it through Dad’s birthday–it was challenging, but I made it through! I made it through my birthday–another challenging day, but again, I made it through. And this week has been another challenge. Twice a year we come down here to Lake Millsite (Florida) to visit family and friends. I would always call Dad to let him know we made it safely. And then call him every day we were here. And when we arrived here Monday, I couldn’t call him. And once again, here’s that challenge that reminds me of how much I miss him.

God is pulling me through each of these challenges–and to be honest with you (can I be honest with you?)–I don’t like these recurring challenges. I want them to be over–but I still find myself missing Dad. And the pain becomes fresh again, and the loneliness that comes with it–I think I would rather get a root canal without that numbing stuff. Something is missing–someone is missing in my life. But God? He keeps pulling me through these moments. I say pulling because, well, you may find it hard to believe–but I can be stubborn and hard-headed.

I am learning something, in spite of my stubborn side: I can count on God! He gives me a song; sometimes a scripture passage; sometimes a person; sometimes a scene in nature; and always His Presence. And if you are facing a challenge today–you can be assured that God is Present and He is at work in your challenges. My grief is roaring and rolling over me right now. I’m hurting. And I wish I wasn’t. But know what? God is pulling and tugging, tugging and pulling me to help me get through this moment. Our Heavenly Father is a mighty tugger and puller. Count on Him today, tomorrow, and every moment of every day.

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.

Isaiah chapter 43, verse 2 (New Living Translation)

TODAY’S GOING TO BE GREAT!

Today’s going to be great! I don’t know what all is going to happen. Still, today is going to be great. Of this I am confident! Without knowing any single detail, it’s going to be an amazing day! It’s not because it’s my birthday–but because of The One who gave, is giving, and will always give me life. And the source of this confidence is found in Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” I haven’t always been able to have such resoluteness. There have times and seasons where I dreaded getting up. But not today; or any day for that matter.

Today God is going to keep revealing His heart for me! And for you! He is going to stand by me, helping me to cope with the hard stuff. He is going to show me the wonder of His creation. He is going to reveal how much He loves me. He is going to throw in some surprises of His Grace. He is going to be faithful to me, even if I slip and become unfaithful to Him. His arms and heart are wide open for me. He’s going to show me some moments that seem at first to be ordinary–but He is going to make them extraordinary. And if I find a moment I need to cry? Well, He has an unlimited supply of Kleenexs and will gently wipe away my tears. He’s going to protect me–and do more than I can even imagine!

What about you? Do you have this confidence? Perhaps you’re facing another round of chemo. Perhaps this is your last day at your job. Perhaps this is the day divorce papers are finalized. Perhaps your day includes visiting a family member who doesn’t remember who you are. Perhaps it’s another day of waiting for your prodigal to come home. Perhaps there is a funeral you will attend today. So, this kind of confidence is missing in action for you. But remember that God is never missing in action. When our heart is open to Him and our trust in Him is unconditional–God is always with you. And even when it feels like He’s no where to be seen, He is still there because that’s WHO He is!

Rejoice that God has made this day, for in this day He is at work in your life. And His work is always good–and more than good FOR us–it’s the BEST work because you are made in His image. God is doing something right now–so REJOICE! Today is full of unlimited and unimagined opportunites to experience His love and grace for you.

So, Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him!

HE’S UP TO SOMETHING!

He’s up to something! Ever heard that? Ever SAID that? Usually it’s not something good. But Someone else is up to something today–in this very moment that you are reading this! And it’s more than good; it’s GREAT!!! Who’s up to something great? So glad you asked. It’s God! Every day, every hour, every minute, and every second of your life God is up to something! And while some may think or even say that it’s not good–they are WRONG! Others may give up–YOU may even give up! Give up on things getting better. Give up on a certain person. Give up on yourself. But not God! Listen to what He said so very long ago:

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Isaiah chapter 43, verse 19

Whatever I was facing–whatever I am facing–and whatever I will face–God is the Great Turner-Arounder! Divorce. A mother will Alzheimer’s. Watching your dad die. Losing a child. Losing a child who has gone to the “far country”. It does not matter. God is prepared and is already on the move in your life. Even if you don’t believe me. Even if you can’t see it. God doesn’t wait for us to believe He is at work as the Great Turner-Arounder! Remember, those disciples on Saturday after Jesus had been crucified. They didn’t believe it and they couldn’t see it. But their perspective did not prevent The Resurrection! And your doubts–well, God is up to something right now FOR YOU! Just trust even when–especially when–you can’t see it or believe it. I leave you this morning with a song:

I SUPPOSE I COULD EAT LIVER AND ONIONS NOW.

Thought I might give up an update on this latest unplanned journey with the COVID-19. So far I haven’t had the respiratory distress that many of my friends have had–and that’s a good, very good thing. But I do have that persistent sore throat and my body feels like–well do you remember the movie Men In Black (the first one)?

Taste buds–I have none! I can’t even taste my coffee! But thank God, this elixir of life still works even though I can’t taste it. And thus, the topic of this afternoon’s musings: Liver And Onions! Every year Debbie and I have been together we’ve practiced the Lenten discipline of giving up something. And every year I offer to give up liver and onions. And Debbie tells me the same thing!

Since I have no sense of taste, I could try liver and onions. But I’m not! If I did not like liver and onions before I lost my taste buds, I will not eat them in a box. I will not eat them with a fox. I will not eat them in a car. I will not eat them in a bar! The memory of their taste is enough to keep me from doing it now though I know I couldn’t taste it. What’s all this babbling have to do with The Kingdom?

I am so glad you asked. The sense of taste is perhaps the most personal of all senses. Seeing, hearing, and touching doesn’t give the effect of tasting. Even the sense of smell comes up short. Tasting is taking it all inward. This is why David wrote this in Psalm 34 Verse 8–“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” David doesn’t say look, see, hear, or touch–it’s TASTE!

Sometimes it looks like or feels like God isn’t so good. Sometimes life absolutely stinks! Sometimes we hear people saying that God isn’t good if He allows bad things to happen. I could agree with that. My sister died 5 months ago and my Dad died last week. This week I have COVID. And even though I’ve lost my sense of taste–I remember how wonderful the taste of God’s goodness to me when I take my refuge is in Him. I don’t have to “taste” it right now to know it’s true–because I’ve already experienced the goodness of God.

WELL, HERE I GO AGAIN!

What a ride this week has been. And now I am adding to my ride COVID-19. Yesterday my throat was sore and my sinuses became an issue. And, I had been exposed. So off to the local state health department, call them when I arrived in the parking lot–then wait. Wait until the nurse arrived. Wait until it was #4’s turn (that’s me). Wait for the delivery of the results. And so it is–Positive!

This wasn’t on my planned itinerary for the rest of the week. I was so looking forward to preaching again–it’s one of my coping devices. It’s something about God’s Word that just lifts me up. I just started a new series called Bones–from Ezekiel’s experience in The Valley Of Dry Bones! But alas, not this week. Instead, I am experiencing what many have gone through and are going through and more will face. I have a sore throat; sinuses running like a politician for an office, loss of taste, yucky feeling, but no problems breathing–yet. Oh, one more thing.

Quarantine! At a time in my life when I need others around me–well, just forget that. And I am learning even more in this newest journey. I am cut off from others–but I am not cut off from God’s Presence through The Holy Spirit. The people I want be around are praying for me, and God is moving through those prayers. My primary care office is ready to get me the infusion therapy if needed. God’s presence and His provisions–so I guess I’m not really quarantined. I simply need to adjust my expectations and rest–rest in His provisions for me. In fact, one of the funeral directors who is a friend of mine, and worked with Dad, called and gave me some advice from his recent experience with COVID. Therefore I conclude, that Quarantine is a state of mind–and I am never quarantined from faith, hope, and love.

Oh Lord, It’s Monday! Interruptions!

Interruptions–now here’s a cause for the Monday Morning attitude! I got up this morning, went to get my cup of joy (aka Coffee!) only to find I forgot to set the timer. So I started it, along with the other 3 coffee makers. Our niece likes Keurig, my sister-in-law likes less strong coffee, Debbie and I like real coffee. Her’s is an electric percolator–and mine is a drip coffee maker. But then another INTERRUPTION–the breaker tripped. OK, I finally got a cup of joy and went to our front porch for my morning time with God and my music.

Then another INTERRUPTION–the Wi-Fi was down. By now I’m about to get furious. I mean, how can the Holy Spirit communicate to me without my music? It was then–clear as a bell–I heard: “Even if there is no music, I’m still here with you on the front porch.” And I thanked The Spirit for this reminder–that He is always with me–even in my INTERRUPTIONS. And here is our Monday Morning truth.

Mondays can be full of INTERRUPTIONS. As far as this goes, any and every day can be full of INTERRUPTIONS. Like death and taxes, INTERRUPTIONS are inevitable. And the typical way of responding to them is like what I was starting to do: be frustrated. Frustrations get in the way of accomplishing the things we want to do. We see INTERRUPTIONS as the denial of what we want. And if we want what we want–INTERRUPTIONS are a pain in the…well, you know. But here’s what I discovered this morning.

Want the right things, and INTERRUPTIONS never get in the way. My best friend, The Spirit reminded me of this truth. He was right there on the front porch even if my music wasn’t! When you are faced with an INTERRUPTION, don’t let it get in the way of what matters the most. Remember, we just went through Christmas and have been reminded that His name is Emmanuel–God With Us! Among all the things you may want–want the relationship God offers the most. Then take that INTERRUPTION as your opportunity to experience the depth of His love, grace, and mercy for you. INTERRUPTIONS are gateways to the deepest kind of peace.

When you know that in that INTERRUPTION God is still with you, then you can say: “Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?” Oh, and in case you doubt me, here’s the verse I remembered:

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

Psalm 139, Verses 7 through 10

I Say, Hold On For Just A Cotton Pickin’ Minute!

Are you on hold? Maybe you’re calling that alleged “customer service”, only after you’ve been yelling at a computer or punching in 3,678 numbers, and you’re on hold. Maybe you just answered the call about your car warranty about to expire and you’re on hold. Maybe you just called about the latest electronic innovation but you’re having issues getting it up and running, so you hear “Your call is very important to us. Please wait for the next available ‘customer service’ agent.” You’re on hold.

Waiting is not a new human experience, though some treat it that way. We don’t like to be put “on hold” because we see it as the obstacle to the resolution we most desire. Being put “on hold” isn’t enjoyable! And the music you are forced to hear. . .geez where do they get that stuff? Musicians and composers who couldn’t sell a single record? “Alleged Experts” say that elevator music is calming down the person on hold. Really? Who did they interview? Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum? Being “on hold” is annoying and frustrating to the point that no amount of elevator music is going to calm us down–regardless of how they hope it will! So what’s a person to do?

May I make a suggestion–with no elevator music involved? When life feels like you are on hold, switch those 2 words on hold. Now it reads “hold on”. Now, YOU say those 2 words out loud: “Hold on!” Why are you reading my next words when you haven’t done what I asked you to do? . . . I’m waiting! . . . I’m still waiting!! . . . Now you’ve got me “on hold”! OK, you’ve said it. Now I want you to shout it loudly: HOLD ON! Is that as loud as you can scream? Come on, try it again, this time even louder!

Hold on are the two most important words to shout and scream when we need help! But don’t say it to yourself or any other person. Say it to God! Shout it out to God! Scream it to the top of your lungs to God! When everything seems to be falling apart–and when you’re loving it because the plan is coming together–and in every moment between these 2 extremes–we need to allow God to hold on to us. When we are at our best–and especially when we are at our worst–we need to ask God to hold on to us.

God wants to–longs to–hold on to us in the most loving way possible. But He will not–until we allow Him. This is what I learned in this morning’s worship time–and it came through this song. Listen to the words–and when you are not “someone you believe in”–well just listen to the song!

Journey Journal: Day 8

Well, today all I can think of to write is one thing–actually two things. The first thing is that The Journey Continues. But isn’t that the nature of Journeys? I’m not writing about, nor am I near The Destination! Every Journey continues until we reach The Destination. But then, there is always another Journey. The second thing–and this is really important for me. . .and for you: God Is Still With Me In This Journey! And what more could I, or anyone else for that matter, ask. And God is still with you in your Journey.

The Journey Journal: Prepared For The Unknown

Good morning! Dad is coming home today after his short season of respite care–and Debbie and I are getting ready to go to his home to continue that respite care. And my personal epiphany is that I am prepared for the unknown. How do you prepare for what is unknown? I don’t know exactly–if I did, then the future wouldn’t be unknown, would it? I just know I’m prepared. Don’t ask me to explain the calm that is in me at this moment.

My personal respite season is over–until the next one. Even before this Journey began, God made sure I had my own respire season. It ended on a great note. Thomas, a good friend of our grandson Hampton, killed his first deer yesterday afternoon! So, what lessons have I learned from the first part of this course?

Take joy in others! The look on Thomas’s face was priceless! I had put him and Hamp in one stand, I went to another just to be alone in God’s creation. I wasn’t hunting–but I had my reliable .270 with me just in case a monster buck came out. He didn’t, but a small doe came out and I watched her for over 30 minutes. It was Pure Joy watching that little one.

We need to allow others to help us. My kills are taken straight to a processor–no field dressing, no gutting, no cutting! They do that part for a measly $25.00 fee (then they add the butchering cost). But Thomas and Hamp are going back to their homes this morning. So I proceeded to do what I had always counted on CCC Processing to do for me. Hamp and Thomas might have been able to prepare that deer for their travel–but they needed some help. So, this old Grandpa helped them. Dear Lord, how I appreciate CCC Processing! It’s worth the extra $25.00.

I’m going to need some more help in this Journey–and I am being reminded through you, the readers, my friends, my faith family, and biological family–that help is all around me. And The Best Help Of All is that God is with me every step of the way. And there is no doubt about it–Great Are You, Lord!

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)

Wherever You Are, There You Are!

Sunrise at Millsite Lake, Bartow, Florida

Nope, I didn’t write anything yesterday. Seems like I said something about that before our semiannual sabbatical. In fact, yesterday I played a round of golf. And no, I am not ready for the Seniors Tour. I did hit a couple of good drives; and I made one birdie. Enough to make me want to play again. But I was thinking this morning.

I’m in a different location–different county–different state–doing different from the usual things–and a different time zone. But do you know what hasn’t changed?

  • The sun still rises
  • The sun still sets
  • The moon still shines
  • The breeze still blows
  • Nature continues to show her awesome beauty
  • And God is still faithful to me; not just me–but also to you!

As a small child, I never thought about spending Christmas Eve away from our house–because Santa might miss bringing me my toys. This is a small analogy to make–but God always knows where we are. Even if we think–NAY–even if we BELIEVED AND ARE TOTALLY CONVINCED THAT GOD CAN’T FIND US–yet He is always there with us. This Truth doesn’t depend on how we feel. This truth depends on God–and He is faithful.

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Psalm 36:5 (NLT)

Just remember–wherever you are, there you are. And so is your Heavenly Father! Amen and Amen!

Did You Just See That?

Oh, wow! Did you see that? Oh, my–there’s another one. Wait! Another one! Goodness, gracious–there’s another one! And another! There’s another one! And Another! Another One! Man, they just keep coming–one right after the other! I’m telling you! There’s more of them than you can shake a stick at! What? I just had a vision that some of you are shaking your head at me, wondering if I need some special medication; wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end. Well, I haven’t–because in the time it took me to write these words, I saw many more. What is it I’m seeing so many of this morning? Actually, I’m only seeing one at a time. Let’s call them MOMENTS!

During my habitual time of listening to Christian Music to start my morning, I confess I was distracted–again. Instead of simply praising God in worship–I was thinking. Thinking about what to write this morning. Sometimes my words just flow out–most times I have to seek and seek hard on what to write. This morning was one of those latter times. As the music was playing in my earbuds, I was trying to find an idea for this morning. It was then, above my own thoughts, I heard the Spirit say, “Listen to that song, please!” Truthfully? He had been trying to get my attention the whole time–but I was lost in my thoughts.

Well, I listened and the song was “Keep Me In The Moment” by Jeremy Camp. And it was at the line in the refrain I heard ever so clear which said: “Keep me in the moment, I don’t want to miss what You have for me.” I knew what I was missing, so I sat my thoughts down, put them in the corner and told them not to move until I was ready for them to move. And as I lost myself in that Moment of worship, it was then I saw them–one at a time. Moments where God is present and offering me so much–much more than I deserve. He’s offering me His Presence. And with that presence, I find everything I need for anything!

Whatever you are facing in This Moment–remember that God is also present. Whatever the battle you face in This Moment, God is there waiting for you to put Him in the game. He will fight for you–and He’s a great fighter. He’s never lost a battle. Don’t let another Moment pass you by where you fail to see The Faithful Presence of your Heavenly Father. Every Moment He is with you. Remember these words of David who at first thought he found a Moment where God was not with him:

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Psalm 139:7-12 (The Message)

And to help you see This Moment, here’s the song from Jeremy Camp:

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)

The Mystery

This morning I do not feel like writing. The above picture barely scratches the surface of how I am feeling. It’s all kinda knotty and strewn everywhere. It’s a tangled mess–and I really don’t feel like writing this morning–but I must! (There’s another blog idea in that statement somewhere–doing what we must do when we don’t feel like it. But that’s for another time–not this morning.)

In case you haven’t been following this most recent saga in my life, yesterday morning my sister joined my Mother in Heaven. Huh, amazing how it is difficult to say “died”. We use softer terms like: “passed away”, “is no longer with us”, “has gone home”, “left the bonds of this world”, or “is now at peace”. Truth is, Jackie died. I know, that sounds so stark–so feelingless and obtuse. But Truth is often blunt.

It happened sometime around 3:30 a.m. I spend the night with Dad Tuesday and I wasn’t going to wake Dad up with that kind of news. He was resting well, and I knew that for the next few days, resting well would not likely happen. When he did get up, I shared the news. We cried a bit, had breakfast together and prayed together. After making sure other family members were going to check on him, I started my little over 2 hour journey back to my home. I had forgotten my medications (and please, no comments about my “medications” from the peanut gallery–see I still have a warped sense of humor!).

I pulled out onto the highway, but before I did, I pulled out my phone, connected it to the speaker system in our vehicle, opened up the K-Love app to listen to music. Music is one of my solaces–and helps me stay focused. On about the second or third song–God overwhelmed me with the reminder of His faithful presence–and His healing. Whoever set up the music to be played yesterday morning did not know me, or my deep, deep needs. But God did–and The Spirit made sure I heard this song at just that exact moment. Who but God, can see like that! It is a mystery–a mystery I live within each day. Here’s song. Hope it relates to you in what you are facing.

What Would You Like Today?

“Place your order when you’re ready.” “Would you like to try our new chicken sandwich today?” “What can I get for you?” “What would you like today?” It’s what we hear from our favorite (or most convenient) waist building, cholesterol raising, arterial clogging fast food joint. Whatever form the question takes, it all comes down to this: “What do you want today?” Now there’s a question, a question we all answer–but seldom think about HOW we answer it.

Yesterday as I sat in the doctor’s waiting room with my Dad, waiting for his name to be called, there was a certain gentleman (I use this term very loosely) who wanted to be annoying by talking very loud on his cellphone. Fortunately he did not have it on speakerphone. That was left up to another person who answered one of those calls, ON SPEAKERPHONE, where everyone in that large waiting room heard, “Press 1 for blah blah blah, Press 2 for more blah blah blah…” Oh, and let’s not forget the individual who was watching some ad on his tablet WITHOUT Bluetooth ear buds. I doubt–I hopefully doubt–that none of the 3 aforementioned individuals wanted to be annoying when they awakened from their sleep. Nonetheless, their decisions and actions said, “Today I want to be annoying!”

What’s my point, other than silence that %$%^&**# phone when at the doctor’s office? Today, July 31, 2021 you choose what you want for this day. It can be a day of joy or misery. A day peace or heartache. A day of contentment or a day of contentiousness. We can’t always control what happens to us–but we are in control of how we respond. How we respond comes out of what we want.

When Nehemiah finished his building project, the people came together and Ezra began reading God’s words to their ancestors. Those words made them realize they had been wanting the wrong things–so they started wailing and crying. But listen to what Nehemiah told them in Nehemiah chapter 8 verse to: “This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” (The Message).

Order when you are ready. I think I will have the Joy of God! Your turn, make your choice, but make it wisely!

We Need Graciousness!

I remember back when (dear Lord, I’ve turned into an old coot!) the gas lines in 1974. For you who haven’t a clue of what I’m talking about, and for those who forgot about it, I’m talking about “The Great Gasoline Shortage of 1974. I admit that even as a teenager I was frustrated with the long lines. But there is an even greater shortage today, this very moment–and that is the shortage of Graciousness.

Maybe I need to define Graciousness since there is so little of it going around. You may notice (hopefully!) that you can hear that word Grace! There are a lot of ways of defining Grace, but my personal favorite is this:

Unmerited and unconditional kindness and favor extended to everyone.

As a people and as the People of The United States of America, it seems that the majority have forgotten both the value and importance of Graciousness. Please, for the sake of this Republic and for the sake of the human race, Be Gracious! And in the morning and all day long, Be Gracious! Then on the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after than, and. . .hopefully you get the point. And the point is BE GRACIOUS!

Stuck In The Mud–Saturday Stories 18 January 2020

So far my Saturday Stories have been about moments where God shows up in unexpected places. Well, this Saturday Story is about what the phrase “young and dumb” looks like…in me.

STUCK IN THE MUD

It was back in 1977; I had my first pick-up truck.  One day I decided to take it off the paved road through some trails.  I had been on this particular trail before, but on a dirt bike.  It had rained that week and my truck was only a two-wheel drive, but I felt confident I knew that trail well enough to stay out of trouble. 

Things were going pretty well, I had made it through some rough parts of the trail when I came upon a place in the road that was covered in water.  I stopped and looked at it carefully. I knew what this place in the road looked like when it hadn’t rained, so  I decided on a course of action that would I felt would take me safely to the other side. 

I really believed that if I backed up a bit and went through the right side of the mud hole I could get to the other side.  I really believed I could get to the other side.  So, I backed up a bit and moved full speed ahead.  Now, I believed I was well on my way to the other side.  About one-fourth of the way through I slowed a little but I kept on going, confident I was about to get to the other side. 

About two-thirds of the way through, I found that my faith in my reasoning ability was wrong, seriously wrong.  My truck came to a complete stop and would not move.  No matter how hard I tried, I remained stuck in the mud.  This was in the days before cell phones, so there I was, miles from the main road, and not another person in sight.  My choice and my decision were seriously flawed even though my confidence was high.  There I was on LaGrange Mountain, alone and stuck, unable to go any further, or even go back. It was the middle of the week and the likelihood of someone coming along in another truck was the same odds as a snowball’s chance in that certain place.

Just then I heard a dirt bike coming down the trail. Good news to me. Better news he stopped. Best news was he went back to get his truck and a chain and pulled me out of my created mess. Reflecting now on that “young and dumb” moment, I wondered why did this stranger decide to go riding that day? And of the many off-road trails, he ended up where I was stuck in the mud. Call me simple-minded and naive, but I think God may have been at work that day–even though I wasn’t aware of it.

The Moral Of The Story

Our choices and decisions can be…often are flawed. Without the right information that fits the situation we can end up where I was that day in 1977, stuck in the mud. But because of His Grace, God has already been at work. He’s ready for our “stuck in the mud” moments. It may not be as dramatic as a lone dirt bike rider who had his truck and chain ready to help, but God knows where we are, what we are facing–and best of all, He has a plan–and if we follow His plan, we get unstuck.

Addendum to my story: Once I got unstuck, I went back the way I came in and left that mud hole in my rear view mirror. I learned enough not to try that again! Allow God to help you make more than good choices, but the best choices of all.

EVEN THERE IN THAT PLACE–Tuesday Thoughts 14 January 2020

My Tuesday Thoughts on what to write this morning were running wild–wild as a trio of adolescents on a 3 day binge on candy kind of sugar rush. When my thinking gets like this, I have to really force myself to stop thinking–so that I can listen. Now I have it–it’s Psalm 139 and three words from that Psalm–YOU ARE THERE!

Who’s there? God, of course. Most of us like to consider ourselves Masters Of Camouflage. Like an Army sniper in the field, we think we can hide and no one see us–or see what’s going on inside us. But regardless of how or even where we hide, Even There God finds us. When God asked Adam and Eve, “Hey, guys! Where are y’all?”, He knew where they were.

It wasn’t a question of confusion; it was a question of trust. God was asking Adam and Eve, “Do you still trust me, trust my love and that I am still good even though you did what you did?” Smack dab in the middle of their self-imposed mess, they did trust God. And in this Psalm David seems to be reflecting on his life. He’s known up and downs. He’s been faithful to God and been a rebel against God. He’s hidden in caves from King Saul, and he’s tried hiding from the King of Kings.

And what he could do with Saul, successfully hide, he never could do with God. He found out what Adam and Eve discovered–in the middle of our messes–Even There God Is Present. And in His Presence, He is still trustworthy, He is still loving us, and most of all, He is still GOOD! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why some people think God is out looking for people just to punish them. And if this day you are trying to hide from God because you “think” He’s mad at you, or that He doesn’t want you–Think Again! In your fear, confusion or despair–Even there in that place He is present and He is still Good And Loving On You.

And it’s just not in the places where we try to run and hide from God, but it’s true also in the places where circumstances and consequences have placed us. Problems at work. A “we no longer need your services” moment. Chemo or radiation therapy. A disintegrating family. A nursing home. A funeral home. Even in church.

My beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is in utter chaos; or so it seems to many of us. But even there, God is Present. God Is Faithful. God Is Loving Us. God Has A Plan. And God is still GOOD! What I’m saying is this: Wherever you are–whether it’s the result of you poor choices or whether it’s the result of forces beyond your control–Even There God Is Present. Even there He is still Faithful to you. Even there He still Loves you. Even there He is still GOOD. Even there, He will lead you out and back to where you belong!

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

Wednesday Wondering-The Long Suffering Of God

Last night as I was lying in bed I heard in my heart “long suffering”. And the passage I thought of first was Psalm 86:15. Even though I cut my teeth on the King James Version, for decades I’ve used more recent translations. But those other translations miss something, in my humble opinion, that the translators used in the King James Version; and here it is:

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

The subject is God and David proceeds to add some descriptive words about Him. Most like the idea that God has tons of compassion, grace, mercy and truth; and why not like that idea. But there is another description David has: Long-Suffering!

We don’t use that phrase in our everyday conversations and rarely consider what it means when it comes to God. It’s my contention that it’s because those two words, long and suffering, are words our culture does not like nor appreciate. We avoid long–long lines and long waits; and we avoid by all means possible suffering –because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable so we avoid the vexatious.

I took a moment this morning to look up that word/phrase long-suffering in both the Hebrew and from the dictionary. The Hebrew word is ‘arek and it comes from another Hebrew word ‘arak. It means to draw out, lengthen. From the dictionary it defines it as: having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.

And I realize that God experiences LONG-SUFFERING in dealing with me. There are still moments when, after I fail, I wonder how in the world God puts up with me. The Enemy whispers, “You blew it again, Randy, and God is through with you.” If you’ve faced many failures, it’s easy to believe him; that God is simply tired of you.

But then I remembered King David. He lied to protect himself; lusted for his friend’s wife; murdered that friend; sought to do things without seeking God’s guidance–and here in Psalm 86:15 David proclaims hope–through God’s Long-Suffering. God prolongs giving up on me–prolongs giving up on you. He persists for us because of His love. He shows patience in spite of the trouble we cause Him.

So, today, I want to remember God’s Long-Suffering, not as an excuse to keep on failing, but as a reminder that HE loves me so much that Jesus Long-Suffered in the Wilderness, in the Garden, and on the Cross–and I don’t want Him to Long-Suffer again because of me. At times my heart is divided, but today–in this moment–I choose to have an undivided heart for the ONE who is LONG-SUFFERING for me. I can’t give up–YOU can’t give up–because HE never gives up on us. HE goes the distance for us–whatever it takes. So, why would any of us do less for HIM!

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