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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Wild flowers from "seeds you planted"

Wild flowers from “seeds you planted”

20160518_193744I enjoy yardening.  That’s 3 parts lawn work, 2 parts gardening, mixed with equal but liberal amounts of dirt, sweat, rain, and sunshine.  The other day my wife was making me proud mowing the grass while I shoveled mulch onto the flower beds.  When she finished she walked over and commented on a group of wispy yellow flowers growing in one of the beds.  I looked and it suddenly struck me, these were flowers that had come back from last year’s wild flower patch.  During the late winter when I made my first weeding round, I had almost pulled them up, but hesitated when I saw how they were bunched in the same place I had planted wildflowers last spring.  This afternoon was the first time I had thoughtfully returned to those plants (9 straight weeks on the road will do that to you).  Obviously I was delighted.

As I pondered the flowers the thought stuck me, “these are from seeds you planted.”    In the wonder of that moment I realized that this was a nudge from the Lord.  I serve on the Care Team at our Church.  Dozens of volunteers meet with and minister to dozens of people every Sunday listening, loving, and caring for persons who need to know someone cares and especially that God cares.  Having been in a number of those conversations, I am intensely aware of how dependent I am on the Lord to provide the wisdom and Godly counsel that people need.  I can comfortably do the ‘listen, empathize, and love on people’ part.  It is how the Father has wired me and trained me.  But I don’t want to speak words that simply parrot clichés or worldly wisdom.  The practice of being quick to listen, quick to love, and slow to speak has proven to be an apt approach in care-giving for me.  For when I listen and love, the Holy Spirit either brings nuggets of wisdom from His Word OR He brings another person into the conversation who has that word.  In some cases the words of guidance I give are few, but the prayer that I am able to confidently offer is 0ften my primary contribution.

As I watched the flowers wave in the afternoon breeze I had a mental picture of the lives that the Lord touches through faithful care-giving.  While our care team has a specific time and place where we join in God’s work each Sunday, the reality is we have these opportunities throughout our week.  On some occasions we get to see the great work God does in a person, marriage, or family.  In other instances our follow up is limited to just a few contacts.  However, when we are faithful we can rest assured God is continuing the work.

The final scene of that mental picture is a truly glorious one.  As we stand there in heaven surrounded by the host of the redeemed, the Lord leans over and says to us, “these are from seeds you planted.”

And our joy knows no bounds.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be a blessing.

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With both parents in their late 70’s I have to admit that my anxiety level rises when the phone rings at an unexpected hour and it is from their number.  The other night that happened and I quickly picked up the receiver hoping everything was okay.  It was Mom and I could tell she was excited in a good way.

“You know Monday night is our bowling night.” she said.  “We’re on our way home just now, but I had to call.”

Relief is a beautiful thing and I reclined into it knowing that the call this time was going to be fun.  “So Mom, how did you do?”

“Well, I bowled a 212 and finished with a 500 series.”

“Wow, Mom, that’s incredible!”  By now we were both giggling like a couple of happy children.

I am convinced that our Heavenly Father loves it when His children laugh in pure, clean fun.  He created us with the senses to experience life and an amazing brain to process these things, so it seems only right that He enjoys it when we use them to experience joy.  Listening to my Mom giggle like a young girl again touched my heart and made me appreciate my parents anew.

It also reminded that our Lord’s love is not simply a theological dogma, but a practical, living, present reality that undergirds, overshadows, and fills all of life. It is there for all to experience, only a faith step away.

Have a blessed day today.  And be the blessing the Father created and equipped you to be.

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IMG_5222One of the thrills of my Mount Rainier trip was all the wildlife that I got to see and capture in my pics.  I shared a few stories already on Facebook, but now I have the pics that go with those stories.

I had never seen a Marmot before, but my experience this weekend would lead me to believe they are pretty common.  I think I saw six different ones and got pictures of several.  The most intriguing thing was that for two of them, I slipped up on them unaware and I got pictures of them gazing out over the beautiful view from their mountain top perches.  The first was on Saturday morning shown below.

Coming down the mountain I happened upon this Marmot taking in the scenery.  I happened upon a similar scene in Sunrise the next day.

Coming down the mountain I happened upon this Marmot taking in the scenery. I happened upon a similar scene in Sunrise the next day.

Even the Marmots appreciate the wonder of God's creation.  This fellow was on a rock outcropping on the side of Pinnacle Peak gazing out toward Mount Rainier.

Even the Marmots appreciate the wonder of God’s creation. This fellow was on a rock outcropping on the side of Pinnacle Peak gazing out toward Mount Rainier.

 

As I moved down the trail this fellow slipped down into the brush on the side of the mountain and began picking fruit off the plants.

One of several Marmots I got pictures of while hiking.  Early mornings are the best time to view the wildlife.

One of several Marmots I got pictures of while hiking. Early mornings are the best time to view the wildlife.

After taking this picture I looked around to see if I could identify what he was eating.  I saw what appeared to be blueberries and in my enthusiasm I quickly picked one and popped it in my mouth.  As it entered my mouth I realized I really didn’t know what it was I was about to ingest, so I quickly spit it out.  Visions of me writhing in the middle of a mountain trail because I had eaten a poisonous berry freaked me out just a little.

As I headed down the mountain I got into the forest and I came upon a couple stopped by the trail eating something.  The woman about my age asked me if I had eaten my share of blueberries.  THEY WERE BLUEBERRIES!

A juicy, sweet mid-morning snack along the trail.

A juicy, sweet mid-morning snack along the trail.

It was an absolute delight finding the blueberries ripe and within reach all along the lower part of the trail.

It was an absolute delight finding the blueberries ripe and within reach all along the lower part of the trail.

Finding the blueberries almost put me into sensory overload.  All five of my physical senses had been saturated.

The sights were phenomenal as I have tried to capture with these pictures.

The smell of the forest of fir and spruce brought on nostalgic thoughts of Christmas.

From the howling of the coyotes to the crunch of rocks underfoot to the bird song all along the trail my ears were filled with the sounds of nature.  What was missing was the man-made noise of cars and machines that so often fill our lives.  The deep stretches of quiet were also a welcome respite to my sense of hearing which had become numb from the ever-present sounds of civilization.

The chill morning air that caused my hands to seek my pockets or rub together was the first of many times my sense of touch was stirred.  Sitting on the mountain top a gentle breeze caressed my sweating brow.  As the day wore on and the miles hiked mounted, even the sore muscles reminded me I was doing something special.

So the blueberries were just icing on the cake.  The term ‘bursting with flavor’ literally came true as I snagged a second and then a third handful of plump berries and popped them in my mouth.

 

 

While I saw other marmots and lots of chipmunks through the day on Saturday, nothing prepared me for the 30 minute window early Sunday morning.  I took the trail from Sunrise up to the Sourdough Ridge and Wonderland Trail.  I started a little before 6 am.

The visitor center and parking lot at Sunrise on the northeast side of Mount Rainier.

The visitor center and parking lot at Sunrise on the northeast side of Mount Rainier.

I had my eyes peeled looking for wildlife.  I had come upon a nice herd of elk in the dark as I was driving up the mountain so I was already primed.  I scanned the beautiful valleys on either side of the trail as I headed toward Burroughs Mountain.

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I kept expecting to see a herd of elk or deer stroll across one of the meadows below me.

I kept expecting to see a herd of elk or deer stroll across one of the meadows below me.

I did not see them, but at about the same time of the morning that coyotes were howling on the trail in front of me on Saturday, one or two raised a cry somewhere down close to the lake in this picture.  I waited for a few minutes to see if they might break into the open, but they never did.

Coyotes began howling down around that lake a mile or so away.

Coyotes began howling down around that lake a mile or so away.

After this I was on high alert.  My head was on a swivel looking for wildlife.  In fact I switched to my “big” lens to reach out and capture close up pics if possible.  Shortly after the coyotes howled, as I approached the end of the Sourdough trail I saw movement ahead that appeared to be about the size of a dog.  I snapped pics thinking that a coyote had crossed in front of me but the exposure was all wrong as the fleeting shape was lost in the shadow while my camera adjusted exposure to the light beyond.

Balancing rock above the trail.  I saw movement sink across the trail ahead of me just after taking this pic.

Balancing rock above the trail. I saw movement slink across the trail ahead of me just after taking this pic.

I cautiously moved through the area where the “coyote” had slipped across the trail.  I thought that I should be able to see him since the area opened up into the wide open, tundra-like topography of Burroughs Mountain.

Oddly enough I bumped into the Manager of the plant where I am working out on the trail just a few minutes after this.

My friend trail running early in the morning at Sunrise.

My friend trail running early in the morning at Sunrise.

We chatted a bit and then I turned to point back where I had just come from and the direction he was heading to tell him to keep his eyes open for a coyote.  And this is what we saw.

We at first thought this was a coyote that for some reason was following me.

We at first thought this was a coyote that for some reason was following me.

We walked toward him to make him decide whether he wanted to take on both of us.  Instead he decided since we weren’t going to get out of his way on the trail, he would just go around us.

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I believe he had caught a chipmunk just before I noticed him.  I had come upon him quick enough that he slipped into cover in the few trees there so I passed by.  But he had a home down the trail and we were simply in his way.  I was surprised at his total lack of fear of us.

With the big lens on I continued up the path.  I stopped at one point a few minutes later to change lenses to my smaller lens to take landscapes, but I felt a prompting to leave on the big lens.

Now let me interject briefly.  I do not think I am special above anyone else.  I am just a guy who loves the Lord and in my imperfect way, I try to follow and obey Him as best I can.  However I do believe that God loves His children and enjoys our taking delight in Him and His creation.  I personally believe God loves to hear His children laugh.  So when I, in joyful exuberance, asked the Lord for some good pics of wildlife, I had faith I would get those shots.  Now that was about 5 minutes before the encounter with the fox.  So when I got the nudge to leave on the big lens, I did.  As I tightened the big lens on my camera I looked up at the ridge overhead and this is what I saw.

Mountain goats above me on Burroughs Mountain #1.

Mountain goats above me on Burroughs Mountain #1.

At this point I am thanking the Father for the simple and fun blessings He has given me.  But He was not through yet.  About 5 minutes later I looked down the slope and there is a family of mountain goats.

Family of Mountain Goats on the side of Burroughs 1

Family of Mountain Goats on the side of Burroughs 1

IMG_5183 IMG_5181

At this point I was just plain thrilled.  I remember telling the Lord, I was satisfied, that He had provided more than I had hoped for.  But the surprises weren’t through quite yet.  As I finally neared the top of Burroughs 1 I happened to look up.  And there on an outcropping overlooking the broad valley below was a Marmot enjoying the view.

My first thought was, I guess humans aren’t the only ones who can appreciate a beautiful view.

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Here is the view he was gazing at.

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It was funny to me.  The Marmot reminded me of Mr Beaver in the CS Lewis book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”.  In the land of Narnia the animals talk.  As the shutter on my camera snapped, the Marmot turned to look at me as if to say, “Why are you disturbing my morning meditation?”  To which I apologized and quietly moved on.

Psalm 104 perfectly fit this day.

Verse 1 “Praise the LORD, my soul.

LORD my God, you are very great;

you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

Verse 18 says “The high mountains belong to the wild goats;

the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.”

Verse 24 “How many are your works, LORD!

In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

The final verses sum it up.

27 All creatures look to you

to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 He who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.
If you like the pics stay tuned for at least one more installment of Mount Rainer pics.  Sunrise over Sunrise was absolutely magnificent.  Pictures can’t fully capture it, but they do a pretty good job.  Until next time, look to the LORD and enjoy His gracious mercy and love.

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Do you have a specific calling from the Lord?  All followers of Jesus have the great commission which applies to the Church universal and we each have a gift or gifts that God has given us for the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Church.  However, I suspect that many of us are uncertain whether we have a specific calling from the Lord.  You see, this morning it just became very clear to me what my calling is even though I have been a follower of Jesus since 1983.  The fact that I just received this crystal clarity doesn’t mean I have not walked in my calling.  As I think of the times in my life that I have felt the most joyful, the most fulfilled, they have been when I was walking in my calling.  Before I go further I will tell you that my calling is to be an Encourager.

Looking back on one of my formative God stories I realize that God spoke the call to me, but I concentrated on the wrong part of the word He gave.  In May or June of 1989 I awoke in the middle of the night knowing God was present.  I slipped out of bed and onto my knees ready to pray for whatever burden the Lord put on my heart.  But no desperate need arose for me to pray about.  I remember thinking / praying, “What is it Lord?”  Then I heard Him speak to my heart.  “I am going to have you say special things to special people.  And to prove it, I’m going to take care of your house today.”

For years I have paid more attention to the miraculous provision God made in providing a home for us out of the blue the next day.  But I am struck this morning by the truth of the calling captured in that first sentence.  “I am  going to have you say special things to special people.”

A few years later I experienced another profound revelation from the Lord.  I was feeling led to undertake a three day fast for the first time.  As I pondered this, a friend who attended a Pentecostal church approached me at work one day and said, “Dan, during worship in our service last night, the pastor had a word for you.  He said if you will fast for three days on water only, then the Lord will show you what you are to do.”  I was blown away.  Until that time, I had not mentioned to anyone what I was considering.  So during Holy Week that year I undertook a three day fast.  I will never forget it.  Most importantly I did receive a clear message from the Lord.  Funny thing, it was while I was mowing the lawn on Saturday toward the end of the fast.  The Lord said, “I have not called you to be a preacher and I have not called you to be a teacher, I have called you to be a man of prayer.  You will preach and you will teach, but first and foremost I have called you to be a man of prayer.”

You see I had the notion I was waiting for God to call me into the ordained ministry.  I loved Him.  I thrilled at reading and sharing the Word.  And I desperately wanted people to experience the new life in Christ, the abundant life in Christ that I had found.  My vision of calling and ministry was fairly narrow and was confined to becoming a minister in a church.  Even as my understanding grew, I did not grasp the fact that I had a calling and, with some degree of consistency, I was walking it out.

So the point of today is simple.  God has a general calling on your life which is to honor and glorify Him, but He also has a specific call on your life.  The following steps will help you find your specific calling.

1) Begin by asking Him to guide you and use you.  As you lean on and trust in Him, He will lead you to your calling.

2) What are you passionate about?  What brings you the greatest joy?  For myself and for many others, we are most alive and impassioned when we are doing what God has created us to do.

3) What are you good at?  The talents we possess are gifts from God.  They are given to us, first and foremost, to glorify Him.  They generally also help to provide for us, although that is not always true.  An example comes to mind.  Early in my faith walk, I told God I would gladly go into the mission field.  I pictured using my engineering skills during the day to help people in a third world country build wells and construct homes by day followed by bible studies and preaching at night.  But the call for me to actually go into foreign missions has not yet come.  It seems likely to me that one of the reasons is my struggle with languages.  For some, like our youngest children and my cousin Richard, languages come very easy, but not for me.  In lieu of actually going overseas on foreign missions, we have been able to support and encourage others who have that calling.

4) What do other people compliment you on?  Sorry, while this can include your mother, it has to be more than just her.  When we walk in our giftedness, it will bless others and some of those people will let you know.  I am not talking about stroking our vanity, but words of affirmation that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Our calling will in some way support the Great commission – the growth and building up of Christ’s body in the earth.  Don’t limit this to just the preaching and teaching of the Word though.  I know God is the great physician who ultimately heals us, however He most often uses doctors and health professionals to be His agents of that healing.  The difference between a person who is walking in their calling as a medical professional and a person who does not recognize what they do as a ministry is the motivation.  One seeks to minister to people and meet their needs through God’s strength and provision.  The other does not have this foundational truth driving them.  I have heard of doctors who pray with their patients through the healing process.  To me that is a great indicator that they are walking in their calling.

Just because you have a specific calling does not mean that these are the only ways God will use you.  He is the omnipotent Creator of the universe.  If you are available and obedient He is more than able to give you the grace in any and every situation you find yourself.  However, recognizing your calling and seeking to put yourself into positions to grow and use the talents you have is a sure path to fulfillment in God’s amazing economy.

Have a blessed day today and may you flourish in the place where God puts you.

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I’ve heard it said that the first ability we need to cultivate in our relationship with God is availability.  Being ready and available to do what He says in His word and what the Holy Spirit nudges us to do is foundational to growing and thriving as a Jesus follower.  Last night I was reminded of that in a very powerful way.  I had a conversation with a gentleman I worked with briefly 15 or so years ago.  After not seeing Al since that time we met again here in Washington where we happen to be working on a project together.  Over dinner he shared a bit of his faith story and it surprised me that I likely played an unknown role in his spiritual awakening.

Our faith conversation started when I mentioned that I had been in church all my life, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I realized that God was interested in a real, living relationship and not just some dry, ritualistic participation in church.  He mentioned that his story was similar and his awakening to that fact began during his one of his visits to my plant in Calhoun, Tennessee around 2000 – 2001.  He said he was sitting in a meeting and he noticed Proverbs 3:5-6 written up in the corner of a blackboard in the conference room.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

He said he was at a point in his life that he was very successful.  He didn’t have any needs being unmet.  He described a life that many people long for – a happy marriage of almost 30 years, two great daughters, good health, a great job he enjoyed, financially sound – in short, a life that he was satisfied with.  But something about that verse on the blackboard just poked at him.  I call it a Holy Nudge.  And it began a search.  From that moment he began to seek out what it meant to trust in the Lord with all your heart and to submit to Him.  Well what happened to him is what God promises to everyone who will seek Him with all their heart – He found that living, vibrant relationship with God that has molded and shaped his life since then.  He responded to God’s nudge in that small conference room and his life has been changed from a good life to a great life in union with His Heavenly Father.

My heart swelled because I remembered my days at that plant.  I worked there for 17 years.  One of the lessons I learned while there was the vital importance of responding to Gods’ holy nudges. I can vividly remember two holy nudges early in my time at Calhoun that shaped my faith walk and put me into a position to be used in my friend’s life… whether I knew it or not.  One was a failure on my part that God has redeemed.  The second is part of that redemption and directly impacted my friend, Al.

I had only been at the mill a couple months when I was asked to attend a four-day communication workshop being held at a nearby hotel.  The leader’s name was Sid.  Sid was a large, jovial guy who liked to ask probing questions.  He began the week by telling us that he had recently had a serious health scare as the doctors had told him that he had the big C – Cancer.  But just a week or so earlier he had gotten the all clear from the doctors – no more cancer,  he was fine.  Later that first day Sid had us perform an exercise of sharing our “lifeline” with the class.  We took 10 minutes to draw a chart that represented our life to the current date.  We were to identify 2 or 3 defining moments and share them in a succinct manner.  He shared his lifeline first and mentioned the low point of thinking he might die of cancer and then his line turned up when he was told he was cancer-free and that life was going great.  As I drew my life line it had a major positive step change when I met the Lord at age 23 and I spoke briefly about that.  I remember that Sid challenged me pretty strongly about my step change.  Thinking back I remember I felt intimidated by the force of his challenges and felt even a bit like I was being attacked for my faith.

I was probably a bit more demur the next two days of the workshop.  On Wednesday afternoon, Sid said he was shutting down the workshop 30 minutes early and he was opening up a bar tab for us so we could stay and chat.  It was at this point that I got a very clear Holy Nudge to stay and speak with Sid.  I remember it vividly because I argued with God a bit about it.  I rationalized that since I wasn’t a drinker, I would feel out of place.  I was working on a piece of furniture for the house and I reasoned that I could use the extra time to make good progress on my project.  Even though God was nudging, I was coming up with reasons NOT to do what He was asking.  I even remember telling myself that as hostile as Sid was, he probably was only going to belittle my faith some more.  To my chagrin, I have to tell you that I walked out and went home to my project.  I can tell you now that I felt bad about it as I wiped stain on the entertainment center.  I even paused more than once to pray for Sid.  But I felt the conviction of the Lord as I was substituting a “religious act” instead of following God’s Holy Nudge.

The next day was the last day of the workshop.  I think I may have even told the Lord that I would stay and speak with Sid after the class or something like that.  The day started fine, but just before lunch Sid told us that he wasn’t feeling very well and that he was going to end the class early.  He mentioned that he had experienced angina a few years before associated with a heart attack and that he was feeling angina this morning.  He was going to head over to the emergency room to get it checked out.  I remember I volunteered to drive him, but he had already made arrangements.  I headed home and I can honestly say I was really praying for Sid now.  But I also expected that everything would be fine since he was heading straight to the hospital.

At work the next day, Ben, the assistant plant manager swung by my office to see if I was okay.  I relayed to him that I had enjoyed the class, but that I was concerned about Sid since he had headed to the hospital.  Ben realized then that I had not heard the news.  Sid had a massive heart attack at the hospital that evening and did not survive.  I realized that I had been in a position to offer Sid God’s Words of Grace the evening before he died, but I had rationalized and walked away.  I was ashamed and saddened to my core.  I had grieved the Holy Spirit and I missed an opportunity to obey the One Who gave His all for me.

Thankfully, God’s grace and forgiveness extends to us even when we fail Him.  Over time His forgiveness brought restoration to my broken soul.  I knew I had sinned greatly.  I knew I directly disobeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  But the same Holy Spirit reached out to me, lifted me up out of my sorrow and self-pity, and spoke life to me again.

It was probably a little less than a year later when I was asked to supervise a large team of maintenance personnel on a multi-day paper machine outage.  I was a 30 year old engineer who had never really worked on tools like a craftsman, and yet I was supposed to direct, coach, and support the efforts of about 2o maintenance technicians performing a dozen or more jobs.  The work was going over the weekend of Palm Sunday.  The first day was Saturday and honestly, that day is pretty much lost to my memory.  I vaguely remember feeling overwhelmed more than once with the large amount of demands that I struggled to keep up with.  As I drove in to the plant on Sunday morning I remember clearly speaking out my frustrations to the Lord.  I even said, “Lord, here it is Palm Sunday and I am heading to work and I won’t be able to make it to church.  That’s just not right.  I won’t even be able to have a real time of prayer since I’ll be so busy.”

The Lord spoke to my heart, “Pray with your Team.”

“What Lord?”

“Pray with your Team.”

Rationalizations rose up in my mind… “I barely  know these guys… Am I allowed to do something like this? … What will they think?”

But then I remembered Sid.  I remembered what disobedience felt like.  And I remembered that I had committed to the Lord after ignoring the Holy Nudge with Sid, that I would obey when He clearly asked me to do something in the future, no matter how crazy it might sound.  Well His voice was crystal clear this time.  So I gave the results to Him and I obeyed.

I didn’t have much time to think about it, I just did it.  I handled the normal safety topic and explanation of jobs the same as I had the day before, but as I ended I then shared briefly that my preference on a Sunday morning was to be in church rather than working in the mill.  Also since I believed God was present with His followers everywhere, including when they had to work at the mill on a Sunday we could take the time to acknowledge Him while at work.  I then let the men know that I would like to start our work day with a word of prayer and that it was fine if anyone didn’t share my belief.  They could stay while I prayed or head on out to the job.  Noone moved.  Then we prayed.  I felt the Spirit of the Lord take it from there.  I’m not sure exactly what I prayed, but I know I was being obedient and that God was pleased.

That started a pattern that has remained a part of my life.  I have had a number of leadership roles.  Not every meeting results in a Holy Nudge to pray with the group… but a surprising number have.  The Lord led me to start and lead a number of prayer groups and bible studies during lunch periods and before work as well.  As Al was telling me his story last night, I was moved to tears.  One of the other habits I got into was using the blackboards and dry erase boards during our lunch time bible studies and prayer times.  And sometimes I would get a Holy Nudge to leave a verse behind… just in case.

You almost never know how your obedience impacts someone else’s life.  Thank you Lord for giving me a glimpse of this one.

Obey immediately when He gives you a holy nudge and rejoice in being a partner in the Father’s work.

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What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?  It’s  probably not what most of you just thought of.  The answer I am looking for is what you do as you are going to do the thing you likely thought of.  You walk through an open door.

Now one of the reasons this didn’t come to mind is because we do it all the time.  I think it is safe to say we pass through dozens of doors every day.  My father raised my brothers and I to be courteous of others and to be gentlemen.  (Truth in reporting, any shortcoming in this area is not due to a lack of effort on Dad’s part, but stubbornness on mine or my brother’s side.)   What did sink in is that doors represent an opportunity.  If I am walking with a group, I will quicken my pace as we approach a door so I can hold it open for others.  In particular, Dad taught me to hold a door open for ladies and children.  What to do for other men was never really clear in my mind…  As I ponder it a moment I have to chuckle as I think of the number of awkward moments as I would approach a door at the same time as another guy and we would both wave the other through.  As we would stand there pedestrian traffic would back up waiting for us to decide.  Many times we would decide to walk through at the same time and then it really got interesting as we now weren’t sure what to do.

A door is simply the access point from one area to another that a person can pass through.  In our home we have doors into the bedrooms.  As I slip out earlier than my wife on most mornings I ensure that the door is closed to minimize the noise that would disturb her sleep and to let the grandsons know not to go inside just yet.  One of the things we liked about our home before we bought it was the welcoming front door.  It is attractive and inviting.  However it also has a deadbolt and is sturdily built.  For friends and visitors our door is opening and welcoming.  But for intruders and persons of ill-intent the door is a barrier.

I can think of many other doors I’ve seen and passed through in my life.  For some of those there is a lot of emotion tied to them – job interviews, the doors of the church as I headed in to await my new bride at the altar, classroom doors at school for the first time, the office door of an unhappy boss, the door of a new shop, emergency room doors.  There are other doors I have not passed through and, for some I hope I never have to – the doors of a courtroom where I am a party to the litigation, into a jail cell, a police station, the door at a home for an employee who has been injured or worse on my watch.

Scott was my best friend in high school.  We did all the things best friends do; we argued some, we played a lot, we had each other’s back all the time, and we grew from boys to young men together.  My job out of college took me several states away and Scott and I didn’t get to connect as often, but when we did it was always great to catch up.  It’s funny, I remember reading Scott’s last letter a number of times… the handwriting was the same, his sense of humor still showed through, and my heart was warmed by the friendship we still shared even though we were hundreds of miles apart.  Shortly after Scott’s 40th birthday my wife called me at work. She had just gotten word that Scott had died in his sleep the night before.  I can honestly say that was one of the hardest blows I have ever suffered.  Scott knew about my faith and he had said he was happy for me, but we had not really taken the time to grow in our faith together.  I still miss my friend, but it is not a sense of gone forever since I am confident that we shared a faith in God and in the completed work of Jesus.

Two and a half weeks ago, I found out on Facebook that Scott’s mom, Liz, was very ill and in her final days.  My heart went out to her husband and her family.  Obviously I prayed for them and their comfort.  I also prayed for the easing of Liz’s pain.  But I also could not suppress a sense of joy as I prayed for Liz.  I can still picture her as the beautiful, young mother who always had a smile even as she foiled another one of Scott’s and my schemes.  I can hear the sweet southern lilt in her voice as she said, “Now boys you know that you’re not supposed to…”  As I prayed for Liz in the days leading up to her passing the recurring picture I had was of Liz approaching a large door.  I could feel the mixture of emotions as she was sad to be leaving her beloved husband, children, and grandchildren, but I could feel the excited anticipation of seeing Her Lord face to face and being reunited with her son, Scott.

I attended Liz’s funeral a week ago.  To me it was a perfect blend of sad farewell, celebration of a life well-lived, and the joy of graduation to something greater.  The memory of it lingers with me.

Additionally the picture of the Final Door remains.  They say that death is one of the two certainties in life.  It is inescapable.  For each one of us we will face that Final Door.  Do you know what is beyond that final door for you?  Do you have an understanding based upon first hand knowledge of someone who has been there and come back?  There is One who is an authority.  The bible says Jesus conquered death and the grave.  Over 500 people saw Him physically returned after He was crucified.  Many of these followers died martyr’s deaths refusing to give up on the truth of having seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.  His promise is life, eternal life, to all who would put their trust in Him.

I encourage you in the privacy of your own home, in your secret place to look into what I am telling you.  Pick up a bible and read what it says.  Begin in the gospels.  Ask God to show you truth.  Comment back to me if you would like to start a conversation.  God wants to enter into a relationship with you and He wants to give you a surety about what you will see on the other side of that Final Door.  Today, right now is a good time to nail that down.

If you already know Jesus and to you the Final Door is simply the passage to your final home, then rejoice with me in the grace God has given us tell someone today about the hope you have within you.

Take care and have a most blessed day.

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As I rose this morning I wondered if the storm that crashed in upon us at dusk last night would result in a glorious sunrise this morning.  I hurriedly got dressed as an excitement rose within me to commune with the Father and see what the morning light ushered in.  Surprisingly, my excitement only rose when I looked out the window and saw the fog.  Grabbing my bible and hot tea I headed outside.

This morning’s post requires a little background before I get to the good stuff.  I am in a new phase of my life.  At the beginning of this year after almost 32 years of constant employment and increasingly responsible positions within three different companies, I found myself unemployed.  The way the separation transpired left me with unanswered questions and a fair amount of emotional loose ends to work through.  I had the basis of a plan already formulated, but I had not done much work in setting the plan in motion when the separation arrived.  So even as I moved into a time of soul-searching I also moved into hurry-up mode to become an independent consultant in my field of expertise.  Today, five months later I have made more progress on the soul-searching side, but both are progressing.

Which brings me to the lesson in the fog.  Our church is currently going through a series called “Without a Doubt”.  We are looking at God’s faithfulness in life’s most trying times.  As Pastor P said several weeks ago every person is in one of three stages in life.  Either they are in a storm, they are coming out of a storm, or they are getting ready to enter a storm.  Last night’s storm dumped a lot of rain and that moisture created the fairly dense fog this morning.  Storms do that.  Their impact can linger even after the deluge has passed.

The fog after the rain.

The fog after the rain.

Enveloped by Fog.

Enveloped by Fog.

As I prayed this morning I realized that since I came to faith I don’t believe I have doubted God’s love.  I have experienced periods of uncertainty about what the results would be in a storm, uncertainty whether my response would be right and good, uncertainty whether I would stand in the God-honoring way I desire, but I haven’t been uncertain that God is or that He is sovereign.  Digging deeper though, I have been uncertain that God’s love would manifest itself in a way that I could bear.  It was not whether God loves or that He would be with me.  Those are unshakeable truths.  But I recognize in myself the weakness of thought and action that leaves me yearning for more of Christ and less of me.

At that moment I raised my hands and looked up into the grey mist all around and above and I praised the living Lord.  Immediately I thought of what was on the other side of that grey mist – a glorious sunshine that was bright, golden, and warm.  A light that is life giving.  A light that is always there.  A light that I am certain is there.

It dawned on me in that moment that God’s love is the same as the sun.  It is always there… it is life-giving… it is bright, golden, and warm.  My doubts and uncertainty are swallowed in the certainty of God’s love.  It is a redeeming love.  Even if I lose all, God’s love can and will redeem what is lost (See Job 42:10).  Even if the way is dark, God’s love is the light of dawn speeding toward us.  Even if my faith slips and my response misses the mark, God is faithful and just to forgive us and restore us because of His love.

I had two key take-aways from the message this weekend that apply in every storm and in the fog.  First, if the situation we are in is not good, then God’s not finished.  Second, in the times when I cannot see God’s hand, when I can’t understand what is going on, I can always, ALWAYS trust His heart.  Let the storm come.  Let the fog roll in.  Let the darkness settle upon us.  In all things and in every situation God is there, God is light, God is life and God is love!

As I finish this blog I look out the window and within the past five minutes the fog has lifted.  I think I will take that as I sign I got it right.

The fog has lifted!

The fog has lifted!

AWESOME!  He is SO GOOD!

Rejoice today my friend.  God’s love is precious and it is near.  Take hold of His hand today and let us rejoice!

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