Sunday, September 28, 2008

Been There, Done That?

The last few days, before and since my last blog entry, have been wearing. Prep and the actual "doing" of a Yard Sale are not only time consuming, but energy eating, as well! Yesterday began at 4 in the morning. We were to "open up" at 7 a.m., but had early arrivals at 6:30! In talking and listening with and to these and those that followed, I discovered a whole "cult" of folks that make this a regular routine for Saturday outings. Such statements as, "where have you been?" and "we've missed you!" indicate that some sort of a society has developed "on the road" between sale locations. For some, they will look over the whole "mess" of stuff, just looking for that one item. One individual, when asked what he was looking for, replied, "I don't know, but when I see it, I'll know!" We didn't have it! Still don't know what it was! Others will stop and shop, and indicate that their routine is to "shop 'til they drop!" and woe be to those who are riding with them and want to "call it quits!"

The part I was noticing the most was seeing the little ones taggin' along with their mommies and grannies. Their eyes lighting up and surveying the "stuff-ladened" tables was a study in "passing-on" the "torch of yard sale passion"! I can see busy Saturdays in their futures! I may have added to that un-be-knowingly, as I usually would end up giving them a toy of some kind. It was somewhat redeemed by the immediate instruction from their parent, "what do you say?" To which they would reply with a shy smile, "Thank you!" Ah, manners still in good stead.

Other comments heard were things like, "I don't need this for I don't have any place to put it!" But the item, joined by other numerous and mixed variety, was loaded into their vehicle anyway. At one point, a couple drove up in a 16 foot enclosed truck. I thought they had come to "buy us out" but they simply commented when asked, "We just like to be prepared!" They left with a just a handful of "stuff", the gas used in the process probably tripling the price they paid.

So, how do I evaluate this new society and its passion? I ask a Korean friend of mine if this was done in his country. The reply was no. Having lived in two other countries myself for long periods, I do recall that it was not done there either. My take on this right now. Well, I was glad to bring joy to a few folks. And though we did not get rid of all we wanted to, we did manage to net more than the cost of the ad in the paper, and the gas used getting and returning tables to use. Maybe enough to buy a week's worth of groceries! And we did get to visit with a whole lot of folks that we'd never have had the opportunity to, had we not done so.

But I do have this observation. It seems our society in America is consumed with "possessing stuff", be it new from the local Walmart, or from someone else's front yard sale. It is "stuff" with which we seem to build our small "fort" of security. When I look to the losses which have taken place with the recent hurricanes, I see those who braved the elements because they did not want to leave all of their "stuff"! And I have to admit, there is a lot of personal, not replacables, in my own fort.

But the bottom line counsel is this - and I need to take a dose of my own medicine, too - my treasure should not be that which I can possess so easily, nor lose equally well. It must be ever beyond my grasp, as well as, in my grasp, if you catch my drift! It must be that which I can have and yet, never lose. And I mean, "Never Lose!"

God's word says it this way, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-20)

Now, that is something that when you see it, you'll know that that was what you came looking for, even though you did not know it when you came.

Be encouraged today, and seek the right treasures. Go to your yard sales, but keep in mind that the real treasure is not found in the "stuff" piled there!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I've been cleaning out the garage this week, getting ready for the proverbial "garage sale" and it's often been like a treasure hunt, finding things I had not thought about for years. While going through one box of "stuff" that contained a stack of clippings I had saved for future reference, I was repacking them in another box for no-telling how long before repeating the process. Been there, done that? So, I'm a "pack-rat"! I just can't seem to get it out of my head that somewhere, sometime, I will need that scrap of paper, etc.

Case in point. As I was saying, I was repacking the clippings. What I did not notice at the time was one small yellowed paper slipped to the floor. As I saw it later, I picked it up and gave it a quick glance and put it into my pocket, as the others were already "out of touch". Later, when I cleaned my pockets, I saw it, read it, and it gave me a good laugh. Well, here it is:


"Your head is kind of round and hard, and your brains are in it and your hair on it...your face is the front of your head where you eat and make faces...your neck is what keeps your head out of your collar...your stumick is something that if you do not eat often enough it hurts and spinage don't help it none...your shoulders are kind of shelfs...your spine is a long bone in your back that keeps you from folding up...your back is always behind you no matter how quick you turn around...your arms you got to have to pitch with, and so you can reach the butter...your fingers stick out of your hand so you can throw a curve, and add up rithmatick...your legs are what if you have not got two of you can't get to first base...your feet are what you run on...your toes are what always get stubbed...And that's all there is of you except what's inside and I never saw it...The end."

Ah, the simplicity of the child's mind (obviously a boy), one who has had no permanent head damage from falls, one who has an inquisitive sense that wants to determine the elasticity of facial skin or perhaps has a sister that sits across the table at dinnertime, when he has been instructed time and again that "greens" are good for you, and to sit up straight with your shoulders back so your head doesn't roll off into your plate. He has obviously encountered "spineless" playmates that "fold" under pressure, and has spent a lot of time "watching his back" for retaliation from others more aggresive. He lives for baseball and has spent time on the "mound" facing would-be sluggers. He is active and tries to keep himself "trim" but may tend toward a little pudgy from the well-buttered bisquits. He is a whiz at math, and without a calculator even, but spelling bees are not his forte, as is his grammer not also. What? Ah, yes, he has a look to the future, to at least get on base, and trust those behind him to get him home, though he will do the running, and at times it means some pain when his lower digits encounter harder objects, like the bases or bodies of the basemen. Finally, he might be a doctor someday, but perhaps not in internal medicine.

Have I captured a touch of your past? We've all been there, in a, frankly, simpler time. How did we get so complicated? How have we lost touch with who we were? Oh, we are still the same, perhaps just grown up and amplifying the particular characteristics that were are part of who we were then. We still fight the food and waistline battle, and now it is us who try to get our little ones not to squirm, nor make faces that might "stick that way", or eat that "spinage that don't help it none". We are still running, trying to get to that base before the ball drops and the game is over. We stub our toes, hit our heads, and frankly, all "fold up" before the sun sets!

You might ask at this point, "where are you going with this disected recall of a simpler day?" Well, I started out just sharing about a clipping I had found, and really have just let the words happen, but as it often does, a "germ" of truth begins to sift out of that which I read and attempt to understand in the "greater scheme" of things.

First, don't lose sight of the simple. Good or not so good, it had less stress than the complications that are attached to what is termed "grown-up" life. Secondly, be patient and more understanding with your own children, for they may have lessons to teach you. You have the opportunity to build into their future an ongoing appreciation of their past. Thirdly, and most importantly, don't lose the faith and trust of your childhood. For all of the "watching your back" you may have done, your ability to exercise faith and true humility was a strong suit in your life. Remember the words of Jesus, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4)

Be encouraged today to let the child in you live again! Enjoy Christ and the day He has given you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lunch With God

Did you ever notice how much people who live together begin to resemble each other in attitudes, actions, and sometimes, even looks? Of course the looks are debatable but when the others are in play, the perception people have will temper the appearance. The matter of how we appear to others is a matter that matters to many people, perhaps more than we realize. And it is important if we are to make a difference in the lives of people. As I think through these ideas, I realize that I do want to appear the very best I can be at all times.

The song by B. B. McKinney, which he wrote in 1924, gives us a good challenge, "Let others see Jesus in you, Let others see Jesus in you. Keep telling the story, be faithful and true. Let others see Jesus in you." A statement which I have heard many times and have often used is, "you may be the only Jesus that someone may see." Indeed, we are told in Scripture that Christ lives in us if we are His, but do others ever see Him in us? First John 4:13 says it this way, "Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit."

There's a story I read that illustrates this point. --A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of Root Beer and he started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word. As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?" He replied, "I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? God's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!" Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, "Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?" He replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God." However, before his son responded, he added, "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Embrace all equally. Matthew records the Lord's words, "...when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? ye have done it unto one of the least of have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:37-40)

And how do we discover God, to lunch with Him? John's record of Revelation, chapter 3 and verse 20 tells us, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Think about it today, and be encouraged. God may be sitting on the next park bench, or He may be you, sitting down to share with someone who needs to eat lunch with Him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Actor or Re-actor?

The relational climate of our world today is filled with reactive conflict, and it is seen on every level from the casual vying for position on the road way to the "one-up-man-ship" ploys of the current political arena. It has gone far beyond anyone's claim that the other person "started it" and all share alike in the guilt. It has been so since Adam and Eve first started their excuses. She said "the Devil made her" and he said "the woman You gave made me". And so the "blame game" began. So how do we stop this "blame game train" and get off? May I suggest some keys to understanding it so that we can began to "act" and not "re-act". First, consider some principles that seem to apply.

Newton's first law in layman terms is "An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless the object is acted upon by an outside force." Newton's second law of motion states that acceleration and direction depend in the applied force, and his third law says that every action has an equal and opposite re-action. If you throw a tennis ball at a wall it will bounce back, and given the right circumstances and an opposite wall, it would continue back and forth. In the matter of relationships between people, the laws, too often seem to apply. One person's vented anger seems thrown at another, is caught and returned in kind. Even the oft' quoted "I don't get angry, I get even" seems to support the law's application. How does one move from "motion" to "rest"? Some might excuse themselves at this point by saying, "well, if it's a law, I can't help myself, I have to react!" The law applies, but relationships are not bound by such laws because they have the variable of the human initiative to act independantly in any given situation.

The Scriptures in James 1:2-4 and 19-20 give us some wise counsel on the matter. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing...wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."
He would show us that "motion" to "rest" is a matter of choice. He does not have to retaliate "in kind", but can diffuse the proverbial bomb before it can explode and damage both parties, and perhaps others, as well.

Consider the example of the tennis ball. If it is thrown at a wall, what can be done to keep it from bouncing back? Simple. Cover the wall with an absorbent material, say, like cotton batting. It receives the force, the wall is not damaged, and the ball drops harmlessly to the floor. When you as a Christian "are the wall" and angry words are thrown, you can choose to have the "batting" of Christ's intervention and love that can receive the blow without retaliation. In fact, you can throw back love instead of wrath.

For example, wise parents of young children have heard the child shout a defiant "I hate you" but they do not strike back or even retaliate in kind. They knowingly receive the blows in patience, and soon the child's anger is forgotten in an atmosphere of love. Oh, that such would rule our relationships, that we might become the wrathless righteousness of God. Now, my poetic synopsis:

"I don't get angry, I just get even!"

Are words that betray a lack of good reason.

Conflict wages on with hurt on each side,

And sadness, not joy, floods in like a tide.

Now, Newton discovered a rule that applies,

To objects and motion, but to other implies.

He said of each action, its opposite will be,

Of equal proportion when re-action's set free.

But why in relations will we choose the pain,

When both sides will have only sadness to gain?

Is it not better to let the hurt fall,

And return for the evil a blessing for all?

"I can't," some would say, "it's just not my way!"

My point exactly, for in Christ we must stay.

With Him as our shield, our defense against all,

That thrown at us, catching, He'll let it just fall.

He's taken the hurt in every blow,

Absorbed all the pain, so forgiveness we'd know.

So hide in His armor, take His patient resolve,

Reach forth with His love, let re-actions dissolve.

May you, in your day with such conflict, be encouraged to "act" and not "re-act" and thus perserve the patience and joy of God's perfecting work in you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let Go the Lines

My mind is drawn lately to my coming retirement in a short few months. As I reflect back, it does not seem so long ago that I ventured forth on a journey that would ultimately take me around the world. After I graduated from high school, I joined the navy to see it, but never got outside the country except one cruise I took with a friend from a neighboring ship - around Catalina Island off the California coast, and that one I spent either "hanging over the side" or "sickly dozing in a chair" until we returned and docked. It seems life on the open sea, outside the calmer safe harbor, was not for this sailor, or was it?

The last commissioned hospital ship in the U. S. Navy ws the USS Haven, docked at Terminal Island naval base, Long Beach, California. When I finished training as a clerk in San Diego in 1961, I was transferred to become a part of the Haven's maintenance crew, whose work was to keep the ship "shipshape" for its medical staff and patient care. My duties entailed taking care of the crew service records in the Exec.'s office. I learned very early on, that the Haven was the naval base's hospital, and though she had sailed in the past, at the time of my assignment her engine's were permanently shut down and detached from her "screws". Even necessary maintenance to clean her hull of barnacles required her to be towed to dry-dock, a somewhat humiliating "voyage". She was technically a ship built to sail, but landlocked with good reasons and important work, though not fulfilling the primary purpose for which she was built, to sail!

I served on a ship that did not sail anywhere, and I always felt the ship was less than fulfilled, though still in active service. As a part of the ship's company I, too, felt less that fulfilled, and after a year and a half applied and received orders for submarine school and duty on a sea-going vessel. A subsequent call to ministry changed those orders and set my feet on a different sailing track all together, and that which eventually led my family halfway around the world as missiionaries. It began with my decision to separate from duty on the Haven. Interesting to note that the name of the ship bespoke my status in a safer, "haven's harbor", too.

I've mentioned Oswald Chambers before. Well, he addressed this idea as he challenged the Christian to let go of the lines that keep him from following the will of God. He said, "When you know that you should do something and you do it, immediately you know more." Hence a continued spiritual discernment of God's will. "Docked" you may have a sacrificial work to do, but your spiritual destiny will remain undone. Christian, are you searching for God's will in your life? Know this, it will not be discerned by waiting until someone or something else cuts you loose. You must "let go the lines" to discover His will in truth. Stepping forth in faith will bring into focus your awareness of His new direction. The Apostle John brings challenge at this point: "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:17) "If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know..." (John 7:17) Here's my poetic rendering on the subject:

Oh Lord, I've willingly signed on,

To sail toward Your purpose true.

Help me know I'll not fulfill Your will

With work within just harbor's view.

Help me with vision far beyond

What mortal eyes would see,

And help me now "let go the lines"

That keep me safe from Thee.

As I continue to reflect on retirement and planned return to my home, I am again "letting go the lines" to sail into "some" unknown destinations, which is as it should be. In your own potential sailings, may you be encouraged by these few lines from mine.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Race Master's Run

As I read my daughter's blogs about their families' activities, getting the kids to soccer and such like, I can imagine the feeling that the kids have as their parents cheer them on from the sidelines. Reflecting on this, I was reminded about the film, "Chariots of Fire", that I saw years ago.

It centered upon the character of Christian runner and missionary Eric Liddell, portrayed in his Olympic Game run in 1924. The expression of joy and the words of testimony attested to him struck me with a very encouraging challenge. As he ran, there was a joy that broke out on his face, and he responded to a question about it, "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel God's pleasure." I have not been able to remove that image. It seems to come back to my mind every time my life enters that portion of my own race when I must again realize what, when, how, and why I am running. It seems to come in order to give me the extra burst I need when my stamina begins to wane from the press of the race.

How many children live to see their lives bring a look of joy on the face of a parent? How much more as His children should we strive every moment, with every action gifted by the Father, to bring pleasure to His heart. The Scriptures give a picture: "...let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus...who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross...: Hebrews 12:1-2. Read Philippians 3:13-14 and I Corinthians 9:24-27 for a little extra on the subject. And here is my own poetic rendering on the subject:

My body is tired, my legs numbed in their piston-like push,

But on I plunge toward the goal set forth ahead.

The press close on my heels goads me ever forward,

Striving as one possessed, to claim the sought-for prize.

My eyes are tempted to turn and see behind,

But my mind reminds me to turn aside is to veer off course,

And thus lose ground to that,

Often unknown competitor whose breath I can almost feel,

Whose labored gasps I hear as he seeks to claim my focus.

When I feel as though I can endure no more,

And my strength draining the last dregs of energy from my cup,

Another Presence pulls beside, and then a little ahead,

Where He paces effortlessly,

A rhymn that flows unbroken, within my sight.

My mind and body respond with a new resolve,

Discovering His pace,

Allowed to rest my spirit in strong embrace.

Slowly at first, I grasp the meaning of this "race Master's" run.

It is not for His victory but mine, for His is already won.

My lungs about to burst with the depth of exhalation,

I am suddenly filled with the delight of His heart,

And running with renewed "joy of the journey"

I throw back my head, stretch forward my chest,

And utter the divine laughter of one who has seen God run!

In the running of your race today, I pray you see Him run, too! Be encouraged, runner!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our Magnificent Obsession

Recent blogs by my daughters about their families has stirred my thoughts toward such relationships. Few things visible on earth give a better example of the relationship one should have with God than that between children and their mothers. Even Dads cannot deny it. It is an envious position. So tied to her care and loving protection, the child has only to encounter a difficulty and she is the first thought, and that thought is obsessive in its magnitude, putting aside all other rational and attempts to calm and pacify. And on the other side, the loving mother will not fail to come to her child's aid, further affirming the child's obsessive trust.

Oswald Chambers, one I often refer to for his wisdom, relates, "The total being of our life inside and out is to be absolutely obsessed by the presence of God." He is our shield and protector against the unknowns of life. When we are threatened, He should be our first thought and cry. When we are in joy, His should be the first smile of affirmation that we seek. He is to be our magnificent obsession.

Another illustration I have often used to show our utter "protective custody" is found in imagining a solid rubber ball, in whose precise center a small dot is further imagined. In truth, that dot, which represents us, the totally surrounded by the equal and total presence of the ball. No outside influence may pierce to the center until it does so through the ball's mass. In the same way, being hid in Christ places us at the protected center of His care, and staying at the center is to be our obsessive lifestyle. Paul himself so stated it in this focus passage from Luke's recorded work, the book of Acts, chapter 17, verses 27-28: "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." In his letter to the Colossian church Paul writes that our "life is hidden with Christ in God." (3:3)

In these lines of verse, I've seen it this way:

Oh Lord, help me to seek Your face

With Presence felt through each day's race.

Help me to know 'mid joy or trial

Your Presence close in every mile.

When facing threat may my mind raise

To claim Your shield in my malaise,

And may in joy my first thought be

Your smile because I came to Thee.

Oh Lord, that I'd be Your possession

As I keep You my magnificent obsession.

Be encouraged, O child of God!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Keeping the Mountains in My Heart

In three and a half months I will retire after 44 years of ministry! Is it possible? Where did the time go so quickly? The last few weeks since I officially announced my decision to finish, pull up stakes and return to the Ozarks of my birth are also going so quickly that getting ready to go seems an impossible task to accomplish. But "going back to the mountains" of my beginnings is on my mind a lot, not only in trying to find a place to buy, but just because the "mountains" have never left my heart. For me the saying is true that "you may take the boy out of the hills but you can't take the hills out of the boy." Sometimes when I speak to children, I show them a "pretend limp" and tell them that I was raised in the hills and since I've been living in more or less "flat" country, I limp because early on I wore one leg off walkin' around the mountains at home. I tell them that we learned to plow "one direction around the hill" for if we turned around, the mule would fall over because his legs were shorter on one side than the other. Sometimes I get a "REALLY?" response that tickles me. Anyway, back to my thought. I'm not particularly fond of leaving friends and work here that I have grown to love, but daily more conscious and eager to "get on home" to the hills.

When I think about that, I am reminded of my desire that my spiritual roots would be so deep that even when I walk in the shadows of the valley or the humdrum of the "plains" of life, my heart's vision of the mountaintop with my Lord would be as believably clear. I know the truth is that more than any physical roots my spiritual ones belong in His Presence on those heights, with all the promises and joy they possess.

How is it then that I allow those feelings to evaporate so easily when I descend from heights into the valleys and plains of His will? The great Christian writer, Oswald Chambers, says of such, "we must learn to live in the ordinary 'gray' day according to what we saw on the mountain." It is an act of my will to keep faith with the mountain vision, even when every step reminds me I walk in lower realms. The vision that possessed Abraham was not the impossible here and now of worldly eyes, but the utter dependability of Him Whose sight and will are from a perspective even higher and more glorious than an Ozark mountain or an Everest ever could be! Thus, though my steps may falter a bit, my heart is challenged to ever walk strong and tall in Him Who is the Lord of the mountain, and the valleys, as well. Two passages are good reminders of the same idea. John 12:36 "While you have the light, believe in the Light..." and Romans 4:16-24, "faith of Abraham...before Him Whom he believed, even God, Who quickeneth...and calleth those things which be not as though they were...who against hope believed in hope...staggered not...being fully persuaded...if we believe..." Truly, regardless of where we are physically or spiritually, our faith in God makes any valley a mountain experience.

For those of you who do not come from "the hills", let me assure you you do, for where your heart draws you to your roots is your own Ozark mountains. They just look different! The same truth applies, however. Here's a few lines I've written on the subject:

Lord, my heart yearns for the mountains,

For it's there that vision's clear.

There the truth of God's a fountain,

Filling heart, erasing fear.

Now, I know my realm's the valley,

For it's there where hearts need light,

And I know that I must rally

My own heart to give theirs sight.

So, Lord, help me keep Your Presence

Like a mountain in my heart,

So when pressed by valley recrudescence,

I'll walk by faith to help theirs start.

Be encouraged, fellow valley pilgrims! "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." (Psalm 23)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

God's Orchestra

We're still "in the dark" at our house, amid a community of silence, broken now by the two generators going on at the homes on either side. Just a low drone, so no big deal. I hope they have not heard about more of an extended period before the power is restored. We figure that the only thing lost at our house is a "refrig" full of miscellaneous bottles we needed to throw out anyway. A few items in the freezer, but again no big amount for we don't stock up unless our kids and their kids are doing a proverbial "cattle" drive our way! That and of course our monthly contribution to the utility company will be smaller. I've adapted to a new routine. Instead of getting up and "devoting" and "blogging" right off, then getting ready for work, I now get up, pack up my "kit and caboodle" and fresh clothes, and head to the office, where I devote and blog, grab a bite and have a hot shower before work. We're making it. It's been cool enough through the day and night, and with flashlights a'plenty, we're ok.

I'm still dealing with the weather in my devotional thoughts. God is truly amazing in what He has created in the order of things. Even when I look at the storms that often strike fear in the hearts of some, the hand of a powerful yet merciful God is revealed. And man is very often the unwitting example of how God works in his creation. The next time you have a storm cross overhead, think about how a symphony orchestra does its work of exciting and then leaving a breathless awe at the tremendous music that was brought forth. I've tried to capture it in the few lines of a poem I wrote a few years ago.

At first a faintly instant light,

Then beams of light break through.

They light the dark like brightest day,

And give the sounds their cue.

Now faintly hear the rumble there,

The whispering leaves turn out.

And now they're bending from the force,

As rumble becomes shout.

Now hushed as though no breath at all,

They wait, their part to bring.

And now some barely can be heard,

And soft, lik bells that ring.

Its sound now grows, but more like drums,

It beats its measure clear.

And with it light and growing roar,

Crescendo in my ears.

Now then it stops, gone but for now.

It's left behind its trace,

A cooling breeze left from the storm,

And rain upon my face.

So, when the storm breaks over you and you begin to have fear, remember the Lord's words, "Fear not" when He orchestrated the calm of the seas. Be encouraged!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Light Campaign

The power is still down in our area due to the residue of "IKE's visit" among us. The evenings are quiet - no sounds outside except for an occasional dog barking or the train moving along the tracks about 1/2 mile distant. We are living under the beams of instant light as we move from room to room in our routine of meals, chores and bedtime prep. During these times I realize even more vividly how much we take the LIGHT for granted, or is it "granded" or "granite"? - actually, if you dissect those words, all could apply - GRANTED - a given, GRANDED - pretty great, "GRANITE" - like a rock! All of that aside, we do just assume that it will always be there when we need it. And when it is not, the shock of our limits hits us and we find ourselves at a loss.

My imagination catches hold and I can see a little of the kind of lifestyle our forefathers must have had with light that was not instant with the flip of a switch. The light of a coal oil lamp or lantern, carried to light the way, was all that they knew, and it was enough. How far we have come, yet how much we have lost in the years since then, when we consider how dependent we have become on the world's power sources. One of the significant issues today is the dependence we have upon foreign oil. Oh, if we could only advance and yet maintain our ingenuity and appreciation for the simple and less stressful way.

Spiritually, our dependence upon what the world considers "light" to be is also a paradox of dependence. We have shifted from our dependence upon the LIGHT that is GOD'S SON, and the truth that He illuminates to guide our lives in peace and joy. We have substituted for that LIGHT the world's dark wisdom that so captivates the minds of many, that their lives are ever on a downward spiral of self-destruction, with only confusion and saddness as the fruit.

I picture it this way. Imagine the light of day drawing to a close, with shadows lengthening until the source drops below the horizon, giving out one last burst of color on the clouds as if to say, I'll be back - look to the eastern sky! As night takes over, pinpoints of light flicker across the land, joining in the promise to illumine what they can until the commanding force of eastern light makes its new challenge. I wrote it this way in verse:

The shadows lengthen as light is forced to turn away,

To lose its hold, retreat from victory of the day.

Darkness born of shadows shuts the door,

And laughs at its success against an ancient foe.

But this general of night does not see,

Among his captives one spark,

That ignites the light of heart,

When struck against the dark.

And suddenly a rebellion of flames pierces his shroud,

Revealing a quivering army of shadows in fearful flight,

Among the dancing tongues of flame made light,

That rejoice again in victory, against the night.

In the midst of this world's present darkness, to coin the title made famous by Frank Peretti, you and I are the "sparks" to light the hearts! Keep your eyes on the eastern sky, for the Lord has told us that, "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. 24:27) So flame up, and watch the shadows tremble in fear, for the LIGHT in HIS FULNESS will soon appear in victory!

Be encouraged today!

Monday, September 15, 2008

He Who Commands the Winds Touches Me

The last few days has seen Hurricane Ike, a swirling massive wind storm the size of Texas, first fill the Gulf of Mexico, then make landfall on the Texas and Louisiana coastline, drive inward to Houston, then northward through Arkansas and Missouri, joining other wind patterns to drop rain farther north and east. Just the outer band touched our area of western Kentucky, with winds of up to 50 miles an hour, downing trees, damaging roofs, and cutting the power to thousands of homes, ours included, with a potential of 2-3 days before their restoration. Thank the Lord that unlike the ice storm last year, the temperature has enabled us to stay at home without dependence on A/C.

And we praise the Lord for what appears to be a very few deaths initially discovered after the storm's passing. The systems that have been developed to plot the storm's path and intinsity are an amazing gift to bring the necessary warnings that this might be the case.

Such forces of nature and their destruction cause many to question the power and will of God as sovereign and in control. But He is in control, make no mistake. We may not understand the purposes for which such is allowed, but our Heavenly Father gives provision in the midst of every storm. As I weigh my God's control in this and other times of weather's severity, I am reminded of the passage in Mark 4:39-41, "And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

As I began a prayer of praise to God, I realize that though we think we understand the science of the environment, and how to prepare, only One knows the digest of what, when, where and why of the forces "of nature" and controls them by His purposeful will. Spiritually applied, it is also His Breath of the Spirit that impacts my life for the good of His righteousness, the refreshment of the daily bread of His Word, the freedom found in sin's debt forgiven, new insights for living, a family of faith's support, and the promise of eternity. Truly I cry with the Psalmist in 146:5-6,
"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth forever."

Here is a few lines I have written to be an encouragement to you today:

Like clouds, Your breath blows where it may

To bring Your influence on my day.

One day You cause the snow to fall,

Like holy whiteness, my life's call.

Again, when needed, Your sleet of will,

The finished shine, my soul to fill,

And when my soul is parched and worn,

You rain Your living water's form.

You are our truest aid and hope,

Nothing from man can help us cope.

For oppressed You're justice; for the hungry You're bread,

For the prisoner You're freedom from bondage's dread.

You're sight for the blind, the stranger's rely,

For widows and orphans, You are their supply.

Those bowed You exalt, the righteous You love,

With promised forever in Your kingdom above.

Praise God and be encouraged!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Author Is Always Present!

Last evening we had the privelege of attending a Gideon's dinner honoring pastors and their wives, a group in which we were included as a "pastor to pastors" in the area. After a good meal and fellowship, the program began with introductions and the normal scripture reading and prayer and then, a special guest testimony was shared by a man whose life had been rescued by a New Testament placed within his reach by a Gideon he never met. Having lived a life of crime from an early age, he had come to the place where he was serving a 125 year sentence in prison, when through drug use and its affect upon his mind, he was remanded to a mental asylum. While here, facing a life of utter despair, he discovered a Gideon New Testament that had been slipped into his cell for him to read. Reading it and discovering Christ's love through it so turned his life around that when he was sent back to prison, he began pursuing his new life in Christ, sharing with other prisoners, and ultimately received a parole. Since that time 17 years ago, he and his wife, with whom he was reunited, have been ministering to prisoners all over the land. It was a truly inspiring testimony.

The testimony was followed by excellent special music by local ministers, and then the guest speaker, a staff member of Gideon's International, rose to speak. He also spoke of testimonies throughout the world, where individuals who were encountered by the Bibles given them by Gideons had their lives changed. Startling statistics were shared with us regarding the number of Scriptures which are being given out in such a way. Imagine 2.4 copies being distributed every second of the day, 365 days out of the year. Do the math! 144 a minute, 8640 an hour, 207,360 a day, 75,686,400 a year!

Now at this point in his sharing, I come to a very important point. He made the point that God, being "omnipresent" or everywhere, is always a very real and present God. Further, that His Word found recorded on the pages of the Bible, as His Word, can be seen as a "living" extension of His mind, heart and will. He then made this statement that immediately captivated our minds. He said, "The Bible is the only book that has ever been written which has the Author present every time it is opened and read!" Let that soak in for a while!

Do you realize that very often when we open the Bible and read, we do not really acknowledge its Author anymore than we do any other book that we might pick up and read? This perhaps is the reason that our reading of Scripture makes little impact upon our lives, though we may read it every day. Paul tells us in his second letter written to his young disciple Timothy, chapter 3, verses 14-17, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." When he says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, it is terminology that indicates it is God "breathed". God used the agency of man to record it in the midst of his circumstance, but it was "breathed" into man's mind and heart! In no other book could the multiple writers from different ages, over a span of hundreds of years, put together such a harmonious record of history and doctrine, were it not for the very present Author of it all, there to inspire its transcription!

Now, my challenge to you! Start or continue reading from Scriptures every day, but do so with this admonishment - first acknowledge through prayerful meditation the presence of the AUTHOR, and ask Him to help you understand and apply what you read! I will if you will! Well, I will if you don't, but I urge you to join me!

Be encouraged!

Friday, September 12, 2008

How Can We Know The Way?

Imagine the audacity or impudence of one who declares that something is or is not God's will! "How can such be possible?" Cries the world with such vehement expression that one should obviously understand that they are an expert on such matters, though they just as strongly declare that they do not believe in nor follow the "God" to which they refer. The roots of such cries that claim faithful believers in Christ are intolerant when they live and voice their faith in God and His purpose, spring forth truly from their own intolerance of those, first of all, who don't agree with their particular mindset, and secondly, because they feel a personal insecurity and lack of purpose when they measure themselves against the honest God seekers!

Well, I do believe we CAN KNOW GOD and HIS WILL! Knowing God is not in my power. The reason is because the very term, the very nature of what is called "God" is of necessity above my human ability to comprehend, much less to "KNOW" as I do another human being. The key to knowing was and is for God's action and initiation. How then can I know Him? He has given to us the whole story of His entrance into the affairs of His created order through that record which He, alone, could have commissioned and inspired to be written and brought together, the Holy Bible! As I read it, I learn what He is like and how I am to personally become acquainted with Him. I learn that His nature is PERFECTLY GOOD and therefore I can trust His will to be PERFECTLY GOOD for His created order, including me. I then learn what this PERFECT GOD says is the way I, too, can seek the GOOD and PERFECT way for my life. Not just a series of "Shalt's" and "Shalt Not's", but a relationship where His love and counsel is "placed" in me and moves through my acceptance and response toward His Goodness.

No one should be in conflict with one who is living and seeking such a life, for it has only goodness, righteousness and justice as its goal, not just for the seeker, but for all, for God has revealed that He wants all to enjoy His love and the life He has given. His plan and purpose is inclusive of all who will seek it.

The question still remains, perhaps, of how I can know the will of God. Let me use this illustration to help in this question. You sit in your car, preparing to move forward into the dark night before you. You've completed the checklist of important functions to move ahead. The motor is running, the lights on, and the shift in the drive position. Now through your mind questions may surface. "What lies out beyond the reach of the headlights? How can I be sure this way is clear and right to proceed? How will I determine the turns and unforeseen obstacles that may block the way?" The answer is simple but profound. When you move forward, the light will move accordingly, giving you adequate illumination to continue the journey mile by mile.

Sometimes the journey of a Christian is made in sheer obedience without a clear vision of where the path leads. Allowing Jesus to lead and following Him faithfully is the right decision to make, in spite of one's logic to the contrary. The question that remains is, "how can we know the way He is leading us, that we may obey it?" The answer rests upon two significant facts of faith. One is the utter dependability of Christ to give a true seeker what is needed, when it is needed. The other is the seeker's willingness to consistently act upon what is given, when it is given. The counsel that well-known Christian missionary Oswald Chambers gives sheds this light. "I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God." We must learn to trust Christ. And we are not totally blind in doing so, for we also have this confirming fact available. He will not lead us in anyway that is contrary to His word. Hence the imperative to be growing in our understanding and familiarity with it. The Christian life is a journey in His light, not unlike that of driving at night, and moving ahead a mile at a time.

Consider Abraham in Hebrew 11:8. It's recorded: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whether he went."

Here's a bit of verse I composed on the subject:

It's night and I've such a long way to go,

The road that I travel is one I don't know.

How can I proceed with such limited sight,

Contrasting the journey, I've so little light.

It occurs now so simple, why then should I fear?

When I move the light moves and enough is then clear.

My Christian life journey is made in such light,

A pilgrimage through the unknowns of earth's night,

But I have the true Light that's always before,

And He knows the unknown and, Oh, so much more.

He bids me move forward, His light in the lead,

And He'll never remove it, when I seek and proceed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9 - 11, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

As I sat today reflecting on the week and its particular demands, tomorrow's date, 9-11, began to surface a combination of memories, musings, and meaning. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when that day's events began spilling forth from the live newscast. My wife had already gone and had arrived at the school where she was teaching at that time. I was getting ready to leave and make some contacts in connection with my mission work, and was standing in the living room, eating a quick bite of breakfast and watching a morning news channel. Suddenly a live feed was shown of the skyline in New York City, and I saw a plane fly into one of the World Trade Center towers, resulting in an explosion of fire and smoke that seemed to radiate from all sides of the structure. It was a shock to see it live, and though I was eager to find out what happened, I was also eager to be away, making a determined mental note to pray for the victims of what appeared to be simply another regretable, though certainly devastating accident. Needless to say, as yet another plane appeared and repeated the first's contact on the other tower, coupled with reports that were being updated moment by moment, I never left the house. I was rooted in continuing disbelief that such could happen on our country's soil. But many of you perhaps had a similar experience on that day!

I recall being struck with a combination of sadness, relief and pride during the next few days, as reports of the death toll, the survivors and the heroes that surfaced during the aftermath of those collapsed twin skyscrapers. It seems that in spite of the tragic loss, there was a renewed spirit of compassion, sacrifice and prayer that pervaded the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere. With the passage of time, that spirit has faded in many, and though 9-11 did amplify a major humanitarian movement that continues during the more recent hurricane destructions, the spirit that produced a solid response of care has waned.

The very next summer we took a vacation trip with a stopover in New York City. While there, we went to Ground Zero, then fenced off as clean-up continued. Two blocks from the site was the church where President George Washington attended, and which contains the original pew used by his family. We were struck by the appearance of the six foot iron fence which surrounded the front of the building. The whole length of it was covered by all of the memorabilia related to the tragic event which happened the year before. Pictures, banners, posters, ribbons, other pleas for prayer, and reminders of loved ones who lost their lives in the tragedy were hung there!

As I stood there, I was struck by this thought. Indeed, though the nation seems to be bent so often on a wide road away from any recognition of the Sovereignty of God in the affairs of man, there is a point at which man comes to the end of his resources. When he is desperate for a power and understanding greater than his own, he then will look to that symbol which represents for him the closest representation of God he can find. Sitting relatively unscathed from the nearby crumbling towers, it became the beacon of hope in the crisis. Sadly, as the years have passed, many who did not experience personal loss of family or friends, have lost the fervor of those hours, and though the memories may surface from time to time, an ongoing turn to such a "beacon of hope" has returned to the wide road away from such.

What is the answer? How can the spirit be restored to our nation? How can compassion return to the hearts of those who will again sacrifice themselves for others after the example of Christ. It must begin with me and an intimate and fresh dedication to my Saviour and Lord, that walking "in Him" might grow His passion in me. Oh, to see a return to such a life and its blessed resource of compassion and courage.

This last week I received an email from a friend that contained a narrative of prose that I believe has some merit to it, as related to the whole 9-11 of our remembrance. Read it and be encouraged and challenged!

When the 9 – Eleven call comes to a nation –
who will answer?
When the lifeline’s life is on the line –
what happens?
When the rescuer needs to be rescued –
who comes to the rescue?
When the EMT has an emergency –
who responds?
When the force faces force – what force
is enforced?
When its already been a full day and the
night goes on – how do you go on?
When people are hurting but you’re hurting too -
who is healing?
When it seems that the whole world is on fire –
where does the fire fighter start?
When buildings crash and flames break out –
who goes in?
When the pounding of your heart is louder
than the sirens – which call do you answer?
When all human help has failed –
Who is still there, eternally the same?
When that day comes – Who is your 9 – 1 – 1?
--R. Charles Blair, Oct. 11, 2001,
for Civil War Days, Columbus, KY

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"...wonderfully made": My Tears

The last few weeks I have been having some trouble with my left eye. You know the feeling, like there is grit of some kind in it so that when I close the lid, I get the sensation of sandpaper. The optometrist that I saw gave his diagnosis, describing that which results from the eye drying out during the night because the position of my face on the pillow causes the eyelid to remain slightly open, allowing the drying effect, and resulting in the barest of damage to the surface cells. Fortunately, these I was told, replicate rapidly and repeated damage is avoided by the introduction of drops that assist the tears in keeping the eye moistens. His diagnosis and treatment has been affirmed, and I'm taking care to keep the "tears", both natural and man-made, at work. It doesn't sound "macho" but, hey, it's working. As I considered this re-acquaintance with the subject of "tears", I recalled a study I did and thought you might find it encouraging.

My tears,
My tears by creation flow,
An artesian spring welling-up from life's encounter,
A signal of release, of sorrow's increase,
A balm to return rejoicing's inner peace.
My tears.
My tears the Scriptures show,
A true heart's humble offering to access heaven's mercy,
A taste of anger's bread, of deep repentance shed, *
An aqueous burial producing a joy-laden spread. **
My tears.
My tears from body source grow,
A salty solution pressed out to cleanse the sighted eye,
A chemical protector, a dread disease deflector,
A liquid dilution, foreign substance ejector.
My tears.
My tears the emotions know,
A fluid partner that joins me in laughter and anguish,
A comrade of bitter grief, of anger's forbidden reef,
The waves of mirth that wash and bring relief.
My tears.
* Psalm 80:5; 6:1-10 ** Psalm 126:5

As I meditated on the passage from Psalm 139:14, "I will praise Thee: For I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well", emotion of awe began flooding my mind, with resulting tears of realization that God had purposely made me with all the complexities and interactive designs that this body possesses; physical, mental, and emotional. And those very tears were the very example of al the parts in partnership.

As I began to explore their makeup, God's creative handiwork became even more amazing. Consider it, the Lord thought of all of the needed intricacies to give the eyes for sight, but He also put in place a mechanism that could protect their delicate nature from outside forces that would attempt to cloud and destroy their vision and its benefits to the body. Connected by nerves in and around the eye that serve as warnings of impending danger, the lacrimal glands flood the eye with a salt and protein solution that fights bacteria, immunizes against infection and washes away the worldly taint. Of equal and yet higher significance is their connection to the brain centers which control emotions in their varied array. The tears become an automatic catharsis to both release and temper the results of joy and laughter, grief and anger, fear and shame. In so doing, this physical wash of emotion works the body's best advantage in each, bringing its own healing balm.

Truly, Oh Lord, I praise Thee for this You have so wonderfully made, and given to me as a welcome companion in this life, until one day You alone will wipe them clean in Your kingdom.
(Revelation 7:17)

By the way, "big boys" should cry if they want to insure the health of their eyes! Have a good day. Be encouraged!

Scars as Channels of Blessing

I have my moments of struggle, but I try to face every day with a resolve to make the best of what I'm given to bear. I've been heard to say that what is more important than our circumstances is our attitude toward it. Complaint will make it worse. Cheer will dull its pain and even produce a positive result that helps others in similar condition.

As my mind pursued this deeper, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 8, verses 1 to 3: "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves."

We are often tempted to believe that Christians who seem to have everything going for them, and who are equally liberal in their giving to meet whatever needs come their way, are those who have never had a "down" day nor had any part in their own prosperity. Their lives appear flawless and unscarred by the trials we may have known. In truth, often these blessed who become blessings have done so through severe experiences that have gouged their permanent scars on their lives.

Paul's counsel to the church in this passage gives the secret to liberality in its understanding and yieldedness to God as the Source of supply, reaped and heaped through patient and willing humility mirroring the Lord (Note: II Corinthians 8:9 "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." So pray that you might fill such an image as well.

I wrote these lines to illustrate the process:

Trial cuts a river channel in each life.
With each stroke of the bruising pick, with every scoop of anguish borne,
The place scars deeper, hinting at an open wound that will not heal.
Oh, how can such scarring and marring
Of life's land ever bless, or bring refreshing rest?
But yield, oh life, to this great pain,
For through the channel God sends His rain.
Fountains of His love spring forth to flow in abundance,
Directed through each scar to quinch the thirsty world that awaits,
And the depth of the wound controls
How much may flow or how little may go.
Then miracle, oh life, the living water borne through your scars
Also cleanses and cools your pain.
So, sing out for joy, oh life, as suffering digs deep into your soil,
For deeper wounds bring more abundance
Of life's living, eternal, and refreshing source.
Dear ones, when the trials come to you, they are allowed by the Sovereign Father, not to punish and bring you down, but to polish you as His prized trophy that gives hope to others who also walk through the valleys. Be encouraged today. He is still on the throne, come what may.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Master Tuner of Life

Yesterday was Sunday and I had a dramatic monologue presentation to make that required me to sing. Normally that's no problem, except that Friday my throat was beginning to show definite signs of irritation that signals a cold, or infection of some kind. I went to the doctor on Saturday and was given a perscription. Sunday dawned and I was coughing and almost afraid to try to sing, but putting it into the Lord's hands, I donned my costume and we left for the church some 30 miles distance. As I sometimes do when I don't match the face on my driver's license, I let Virginia drive and I popped the CD into the slot and tried my song for the first time. Though more of a baritone pitch than my normal tenor, I made it and felt easier about the morning, which seemed to go off without a hitch. Praise the Lord for His tuning of the ol' instrument!

On reflection, it occurs to me that a great truth of God's Word is the way Christ can take a life that is so filled with weakness and sin, and make of it something that is truly grand. (Not that I consider my voice so grand, but follow the spiritual application in spite of that, if you will!) When we consider our unworthiness to enter into the glorious Presence of the King, we are in awe as to how such can happen. We are like a piano that is so out of tune (now you see my personal application) it cannot play the notes of a song without discord. The only recourse is to call in the expert to make the necessary adjustments to put it back in tune, to once again sound out the beautiful notes that are written for it to play. Oh, the delight when the Lord, the great Tuner of our lifes' instruments, in the time when they are out of tune, will come and with great care bring them back into harmony once again.

Here are some lines I penned to sum up the thoughts:

At times, when in my journey, my music plays off-key,
I find the discord grates upon my sensibility.
It's then when desperation drives my soul to cry for aid,
And the Tuner comes to fix the instrument He's made.
With care, He tightens all the strings just so, in perfect harmony,
And then I take the stage again, to play what He gives me.
Oh, Lord, my Master Tuner and the Writer of my song,
Please help me daily keep on key, and not on discord's wrong.

Take encouragement, dear friend, when your life instrument does not seem up to the day's task. The Master Tuner is always on call.

On an added "note", Jude 24, too, has some encouragement as our attention focuses on the ultimate presentation before the King! "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy."

Have a good day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Living In the Eye of the Storm

The latest reports regarding the movements of Hannah and Ike have turned many minds to the plight of those who have fled from the potential devastation of these powerful hurricanes. When I try to imagine millions of displaced persons, my mind is numbed. Living where I do so far inland from the ocean, I can only try to empathize and reach out in whatever way available to bring some ease, and many are doing that and others will join them. Pray for the displaced hurting and the work that can bring hope and resource to so much need in these times.

As I reflected upon how the hurricanes and tornados have uprooted lives, brought fear and grief's loss to many, I am reminded that spiritually, as well, there have been great storms raging that seek to shake us into submission and doubt, away from the strong foundation of our faith. But for those whose faith anchor is firmly planted in the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ, such storms can not shake His grip and purpose.

In the eye of a hurricane is a great calm. So it is with the believer in the midst of the world's violent winds. Christ gives us His peace in the center of the storm. When all about us is being torn and uprooted, He stands quietly strong as a shield that keeps heart and mind from fear, when that heart and mind stay upon Him, when that life keeps to the center and does not venture far from His side.

The underlying truth of His power found in peace and calm is in evidence in the very laws established in nature. Consider that the law of gravity is invincible yet silent, and other such laws are in silent cooperation to keep nature's violence in check. The Lawmaker Himself has made it so, and the parallel in our spirits is no different, for here He also continues to be our quiet but invincible and unshakable ground of faith. Oh, that we would never stray from His side, but continue to stand strong with whatever storms betide.

When the violent storms around me
Bring me fear I won't survive,
When my life's so tossed and shaken,
And no peace seems to arrive,
Then I realize the Maker
Of the winds, He knows my form,
And He gives His peace for living
Within the eye of every storm.

Some scriptures that direct our minds to such are found in these Old Testament passages:
Job 34:29 "When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?"
Psalms 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God."
Isaiah 32:17 "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever."
Proverbs 1:33 "But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."

May this Lord's Day be the "eye of the storm" for you! Be encouraged!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Capturing That Which Has Captured Me!

I woke up at my usual 5:30 this morning. I find it the best time to think - it's quiet, and though it's just the two of us in the house, and she's still getting her beauty sleep (which works in her case, so more power to her), there seems to be more noise when "the world is awake"! I've had a little cold coming on but I'm determined not to let it get the best of me. I am going to "capture the day which has captured me"!

Thinking of that phrase reminds me of one of my most favored passages of Scripture. Paul, writing his "epistle of joy" to one of his special churches - Philippi - records these words of encouragement to them in Chapter 3, verses 8-14. I'll condense it. He begins by saying that since coming into personal and intimate knowledge of Christ in his life, he has considered every thing else in comparison, a waste of his energies. That rightness which he had pursued on his own with no realized perfection, though he "lived according to the law" with a zeal unmatched by many, he then realized was freely won by Christ and given him by faith's belief and dependence. Verse 12 then states his pursuit. "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." (Hence my words "capture that which has captured me".) He goes on to say that he has not yet arrived, not perfect yet, but pursuing it with a single-mindedness, forgets what is past and stretches toward what is ahead, the "mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (vs 14).

How shall I illustrate? Paul was in the habit of using examples out of the "olympics" of his day, so let's go there. To be a member of the olympic team you must apply and qualify. If you don't begin in this way, you are never able to run in the "big race". The entrance and qualification required of one who would pursue the "golden prize of God's high call" is faith's belief and dependence on Christ, Who has already won the race and gained the prize perfectly. With His Spirit's entrance into our "heart and life", we step out upon the "olympic" field of life to run with His strength. "Apprehended of Christ Jesus", we press forward to "apprehend" the prize. When I watched the runners in the recent olympics come to the finish, I saw them push their chests forward at the last moment to improve their win. We are to allow Christ in us to push so forward daily, not being weighted by any past miss-step, that we might "capture more of Him Who has captured us"!

I can think of no life whose character and action and impact is greater or more desirable than that of Jesus Christ. That's the kind of life I'd like to live, but since He is perfect in every way, for He indeed is God, I know that in and of myself it is impossible. However, since He is God and willing and capable of "living in me" I can pursue with promised possibility the character and action that I see in Him. I must let Him walk and talk and act and feel as the leading partner in my life.

The miracle which takes place when I do such, is that all that which my "renewed mind and heart" finds interesting, or challenging, or enjoyable about my family, my friends, my work, my play takes on a renewed and better priority, too! "I capture that which has captured me!"

When I capture He Who has captured me
There is reward that one can see.
If He Who captures seeks my best
And if I yield to His life's quest,
I will discover in His Spirit's embrace,
That I can win gold in my life's race.

You know, I'm feeling better already! Be encouraged!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stepping Out Into New Territory!

I am somewhat like the comedian who told the story of how he broke into the "PC world" of writing. He said he learned how to "save his words" but did not know where they went, and he learned how to "get them back", but did not know where they had been. Then, when he tried to print out what he had written, the computor said it could not find the printer, so he typed and entered the words, "It's that box to your right!" It responded that it still could not find it. Frustrated, he picked up the monitor and turning it toward the printer, exclaimed, "See, there it is!" BEEN THERE? DONE THAT?

Well, this is my first "blog" and walking through all of the setups and layouts, etc., I wonder how I ever got myself into this. I know, it wasn't my fault! It was my youngest daughter's! She's got the "blog-blight" and once she "infected" her sister, proceeded to pass it on to me. "But Dad," she'd say, "it's simple and after all, you like to write!" Yeah, but what she doesn't seem to realize is that this is a long way from a number #2 lead pencil and a "Big Chief" tablet. (I'm telling my age, but admit it, some of you out there know exactly what I am referring to.) Now, I know my brain works a lot faster than I do, and I have managed to work fairly well with my pcs, but get real! This that is advertized to save time is sure taking a whole lot of it up just getting ready to write anything. With the ol' #2 and Big Chief, you pick it up, perhaps sharpen it a little, flip the page and create! And WAH-LA! It prints it out as you go! To delete, just reverse the #2 and rub! WAH-LA again! It's gone!

Well, I've vented! I suppose its all a part of the infection as it begins to take over and infest the gray matter! I wonder if there's an antibiotic you can take to ease the symptoms? Maybe if I can find that #2 and chew on the eraser, it will ease the twitch I seemed to have developed.

Well, maybe my encouragement for you today is to realize you're not the only one that a "blog-bug" has bitten!

May God bless your day is my prayer!