Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tidings of Comfort and Joy - Part 1

A friend lies in a hospital bed and freely admits on Facebook that he is afraid. Another is worried about a doctor's request for further tests. “I'm only twenty,” he says. “How can I possibly have cancer?” Someone else pens a song about facing a first Christmas and a coming new year without a beloved's face at the table and voice in their ears.

And God's response? Tidings of comfort and joy.

But is that what we want? Don't we want our problems to be fixed, our pain taken away, the tough days to come to an end? What He gives us is His Presence in the midst of our difficulties. He wants to be born right smack in the midst of our problems, to arrive in the middle of our darkest night, that we might find comfort and joy right where we are, in the middle of our smelly and primitive hopelessness.

Instead of checking items off our Christmas lists of wants, God gives us what we need... His Presence in our pain, His sharing in our suffering, His love to fill the void of loss, and Hope to hang on to in the days ahead. He gives us what we need to see us through.

“In this world you will have tribulation,” He told us. “But take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Tidings of comfort and joy.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sunrise Surmise

My soul needed to see the sunrise this morning.

I argued against it, saying that it was too hot outside, too humid, and the chairs on the deck were still soggy from yesterday's rain.

The spirit within me argued back, and so out I went. And there were blessings...the squirrels coming out of their nests to likewise greet the morning...the cock's crow from down the street, the first to serenade the coming day...and finally, the bright ball itself. I went back inside grateful that I hadn't wasted the opportunity to start the day in such a way.

Sometimes I fight against the voice telling me to meet with the Son at the start of the day. There are always excuses...I'm too tired or my time is too short or it's just too inconvenient today. Yet what happens in those morning minutes largely determines the course of the hours that follow. I'll face the same hurdles regardless, but how wonderful when I can remember the warmth of God's embrace, the faith that He will turn the problems that crowd my day into showcases of His glory...the belief that I will see God rise above any challenging circumstances that may come. The sun will rise without me, but I can't fall back on the encouragement of those morning moments with God if I didn't take the time to drink them in first thing.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name."
(Psalm 103:1 KJV)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Walking Shoes

“Where are my shoes?” my son asked as he hurriedly grabbed what he needed in order to survive another day at school. Knowing he was already agitated about other items he hadn’t been able to locate, I quickly laid his footwear out before him. “There’re right here,” I answered, hoping to calm him somewhat before he headed out to where his friend waited patiently for him in the car.

Laying out my son’s clothes and finding missing footwear have been a part of my life since his birth seventeen years ago. For years now I’ve rummaged for clean jeans, missing  jackets, and lost socks and shoes of all sorts and sizes. Especially the shoes. I’ve set out school shoes, tennis shoes, soccer shoes, and work shoes. But more important than any of those are the spiritual footwear I’ve laid out for him to walk in.

The Bible tells us that as Christians our feet need to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Sometimes, as was the case this morning, that peace is a little hard to find. So all his life I’ve been placing spiritual shoes before him by teaching him to look for it in the pages of his Bible, dig into the promises of God and unveil the hope for the future that God’s Word contains. He’ll find that the spiritual walking shoes he’s been missing have been waiting for him there all along.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." 
(Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Turtle Crossing

I marveled that the little box turtle lumbering his way across the road hadn't yet been run over by the high-speed traffic. Stopping my van opposite the little creature I jumped out to lift him to the grassy berm on the side. Legs tight inside his shell by the time I reached him, only his head poked out to watch my approach. Paralyzed by fear of the cars that zoomed around him or simply too exhausted to go on, it looked like he’d decided to rest awhile right where he was.

I, too, once left the secure life I had known and wandered into dangerous territory. The layers of protection I carried around me – experiences I thought would shield me from the hazards I’d meet along the way - could not get me safely to where I desired to go. My only hope was the help offered from above. I looked up and accepted the free ride.

We must be willing to point others we come across in our journeys towards that Hand that reaches down to rescue them from the circumstances in which they find themselves. It’s the only way some of them will ever reach the Other Side.

"Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes." 
(Psalm 17:7 NIV)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Treasure Here

My favorite photo from our recent vacation has nothing to do with the family, friends or scenic vistas we visited. In fact, I’m not even sure why my son captured the image on film. His brother had taken a piece of driftwood from along the beach and marked a big “X” in the wet sand with the words “Treasure Here” written beside it.

Reminiscent of pirate maps that directed the treasure seeker to the location of hidden wealth, the photo prompted thoughts of another treasure map in my possession: my Bible. Following the directions found in its pages likewise directs the seeker to a treasure trove of incredible riches. Clues to health, wealth, life and true love are all hidden in its pages.

In days of old it was the one who possessed the map who knew how to find the bounty, while other treasure hunters had to stumble along largely in the dark, piecing together clues as they could find them and gathering information from those they could glean from in passing. So many fall in that latter category today, spiritually, seeking truth from others they come across when in fact the map to true riches is easily available to all in the pages of God’s Book.

I plan to clip that photo to the front of my Bible to remind myself that truly there is “treasure here”…if I’ll just take the time to dig into what’s buried inside.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
(Matthew 13:44 NIV)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Times of Testing

With a house full of teenagers, I knew to expect occasional outbursts and emotional power plays during this trying time of hormonal change and emerging adulthood. Yet there were days that I handled the stress better than others.

I didn't do very well on one particular morning and entered my devotional time frustrated and upset. God quickly let me know that He knew exactly how I felt. He reminded me of the Israelites sojourn in the desert and how they begged him for one thing after another only to moan and complain when He gave them the very things they'd asked for. Their repeated rebellion cost them the right to enter the Promised Land.

God knows what it's like to have sometimes-difficult children. And I found encouragement that day in the knowledge that He doesn't ask me to go where He hasn't already been. While my kids would eventually outgrow that stage in a matter of years, He had to struggle through four long decades of continual attitude adjustment! But the Bible says that He "stood their test". Surely then, with His help, so could I.

" Where your fathers tried [My patience] and tested [My forbearance] and found I stood their test…"
(Hebrews 3:9 AMP)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This is the Day

Twelve times a year I celebrate the first day of the new month. It’s a day in which I rejoice in the blessings of God and the life He’s given me, and I do so by filling it with little activities and actions all geared towards making the day special in some way. I do simple things like putting new pictures in picture frames, going out for breakfast, or changing my schedule around to include some playtime instead of just work on that day.

One day during a discussion of “firsts” in our lives I shared with my pastors my practice of first-of-the-month celebrations. Quite naturally they asked me what kind of things I do to mark the day. And suddenly I found myself hesitant to tell them, afraid that my little ceremonies would sound frivolous in light of the spiritual discussion we were having at the time.

In thinking about the situation again later, however, I asked myself what is wrong or unspiritual about simply enjoying life? Repeatedly in the Bible we are told to rejoice in our salvation. Not just once a month, but every day it gives God joy to see me enjoying the world He created and the blessings which fall from His Hands, in whatever way I choose to do so. No activity is unspiritual if it’s done with gratitude in one’s heart towards Him.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Psalm 118:24 NIV)
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